the Hufnagel "Pieta"
The Pieta, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus in her arms has been restored and is housed in the main part of the museum. It originally came from St. Mary’s Church in Orleans. A Mr. Hufnagel ordered this piece from Germany and donated it to the church in about 1878. A successful bachelor farmer also donated the land for the first Catholic cemetery west of Orleans.
How it All Began
The Harlan County Museum is presently located in Orleans, Nebraska, and has been there since the 1970’s. Some of the artifacts from the area were previously stored in the basement of the local library. There came a time when the then library board wanted to take back their space for library activities. Local citizens joined with the Nebraska State Historical Society to form a board to create a county museum in the former Opera House/Movie theater which is its present location. The original planners of this project were Winnie and Ernie Kuhl and his son. During the process they formed the Harlan County Historical Society, a branch of the state group of the same name.
The main towns and villages that make up Harlan County and the displays at the museum are: Alma, Republican City, Ragan, Carter, Mascot, Huntley, Orleans, Stamford, and East Oxford. Rural areas are included as well.
This area was centrally located in Harlan County on a path from Kearney to Norton, KS and from Red Cloud to Lexington.
Between 1879-1884, settlers homesteaded around Turkey Creek and the original Pioneer Crossing site some of the first settlers were Andrew Wilson, Adolph (Pete) Wilson, Andrew Magnuson, and Pete Linstrum. Andrew Wilson received his final patent on his land in 1884.
Memorial Day through Labor Day
1:00–4:00 p.m., Thursday thru Saturday afternoons
420 S. Harlan Ave
Orleans, Nebraska 68966
Appointments Welcomed Call us at (308) 483-3725 or (800) 762+5498 to schedule a private tour of the museum during off season hours.
Working Blacksmith Shop
A working Blacksmith shop is put into operation on special occasions. It is located to the back of the museum property. There are many other things to experience at the Harlan County Museum. So, stop by on your way through Harlan County.
Harlan Historical Society
Long before the Historical Society was established, a group of family members were collecting and saving artifacts at a place called Pioneer Crossing, Nebraska. These items are now on display in Orleans. The beginnings were a long time dream of Phillip Ferdinand. In 1958 Phil Married Grace Powell Rawson Ferdinand. They had a common goal of preserving history. In 1964 Grace inspired Phil to write the book “Life Around Pioneer Crossing” and start to put together the Pioneer Crossing Museum, one of his visions and dreams.
First, they remodeled a round top farm shop to display the artifacts. After Phillips passing in 1967 Grace married Clarence Sheffield and continued to host the museum.
In 1973 To fulfill a retired preacher’s dream built the roadside Chapel to compliment the museum
Ruben Log Cabin
Outside the main building, there are several other structures that have been preserved. The Ruben Log Cabin that was built by Andrew Ruben on his homestead west of Orleans is set up there. School District 76 was organized in 1893. The school was located west of Alma on the Conrad and Jack Boehler ground. This building is part of the Museum complex. The Harlan County Historical Society purchased this building in 1976 for $1,000.00