The Nebraska State Historical Society has made its first music videos! In the Spring 2013 issue of Nebraska History, Peru State College professor Dan Holtz writes about “The Folk Songs of Great Plains Homesteading.” But why just read about folk songs when you can also hear them? NSHS has created three videos providing examples of classic homesteading songs mentioned in the article.
Describing “Little Old Sod Shanty on My Claim,” folklorist Roger Welsch writes, “This song, better than any other, expresses the problems, good humor, loneliness, and faith of the sod-house settler.”
“Nebraska Land” laments the fickle Great Plains weather and the hardships of drought. This song was sometimes known as “Dakota Land” and “Kansas Land.”
The most heated of homesteading songs were the political ones, often directed at groups that farmers felt were oppressing them, such as railroads and politicians. Political songs are usually not as well known they were based on events of the time, making them more difficult for later audiences to understand. “Hayseed,” however, is clear enough. A song of the populist movement, it called for respect and fair treatment from the government and big businesses.
Holtz states that these songs “give us worthwhile portraits of the economic, political, social, and personal lives of the homesteaders.” We hope that these videos help you better connect with the work, dreams and struggles that helped build the Nebraska we live in today. The music in the videos was taken from Dan Holtz’s CD “Welcome to Historic Nebraska!” Call 1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-3447 to order.
- Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant