Photo by Kaycee Anderson
His nose has been missing for half a century, but that is changing now, as the Ft. McPherson statue is getting a facelift. For 85 years, the statue has stood at his post in the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon, the last soldier of the 400 who manned the fort in the late 1800s, watching over the route that settlers took along the Platte River to reach the West.
The historic fort once sprawled over 40 acres southeast of what is now Maxwell. In as much as possible, soldiers protected settlers from danger.
A memorial statue was erected in 1928, but about 50 years ago, a shotgun blast took its nose off.
Artist Mary Tanner is reconstructing the soldier’s nose this month under the supervision of the Lincoln County Historical Museum and director Jim Griffin.
A resident who lives near the statue told Tanner the nose was shot off as she and her husband were moving into the house. She said their upstairs windows were also blasted.
But now, in the 150th anniversary year of the founding of the fort, Tanner is repairing the nose, along with the top four inches missing from the gun barrel in the soldier's hands.
Tanner is experienced at such repairs. A decade ago, she restored the face of the Sioux lookout monument that now stands at the corner of the Lincoln County Courthouse.
The stone for the nose comes from the entrance of the old St. Pat’s school building on East Fourth, which was recently demolished. Tanner acquired several pieces of Bedford stone that are a good match with the original stone of the statue.
She carved a replacement nose in the studio and this week she will rent a scaffold to affix the new nose to the face.
Tanner said that Bedford stone is highly resistant to fractures, flaking and splitting. It is dense, evenly cut and carves nicely.
The statute will also be cleaned. It should be more cream-colored when it is finished, she said.
She said the statute is in good shape otherwise.
In a related project, Tanner is carving a three-foot-tall replica of the tower of the front of the old St. Pat’s school, also using stone from the old school's entrance.
An official 150th celebration is underway at the Lincoln County Museum, capped by 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment re-enactors from Kearney who will bring the Fort to life on Aug. 17-18, depicting the time from 1863-80 when Ft. McPherson helped pioneers and settlers deal with hostile Indians, outlaws and the deprivations of severe weather.
A "lantern tour" will be held Aug. 17 at the museum, with replicators appearing along a lantern-lit pathway, recalling and depicting life at the fort. Tickets for the tour are $5. Seats are limited.
On Aug. 18, the re-enactors will depict fort operations in daylight.
Also, the Lincoln County Historical Museum has a permanent display of artifacts from the fort, including an interactive four-foot-square replica of the buildings, as well as guns, brass and uniforms.
• July 25, Humanities Nebraska speaker Marla Matkin will tell Libbie’s Story (Libbie Custer) at 7 p.m. Free admission.
• Aug. 1, Pawnee Indian Scout expert and author Dr. Jean Lukesh will speak on her book Wolves in Blue and the Pawnee Scouts stationed at Ft. McPherson at 7 p.m. Free admission.
• Aug. 8, Matkin returns to talk about Frontier Military Posts (And the Women Who Called Them Home) at 7 p.m. Free admission.