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Denton Community
Historical Society


Pioneer Park

George S. Harris arrived in Lincoln in 1871. He was employed as a land commissioner for the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad. The Harris family prospered. George's son, John F. was a member of the New York City stock brokerage. John wanted to leave a memorial to his parents as Lincoln pioneers. Lincoln had only one park, Lincoln Park, at 8th & D Streets, at that time. In 1928 John Harris decided on a park, and he called his former classmate George Woods and asked him to get a tract of land in or near Lincoln for a memorial to his parents. 

Woods secured 500 acres southwest of Lincoln. Chet Ager, as Park Superintendent, drafted plans for the park. Ernst Herminghaus, landscape architect, drafted a proposed layout. John Harris was so impressed with the plan that he purchased an additional 100 acres. He decided not to name the park solely in his parents' honor but in honor of all pioneers. He named the park Pioneer Park. 

City Engineer D. L. Erickson drew up a topographical map. Architect William Tucker drew plans for the park and the golf course. Lincoln Mayor Verne Hedge accepted the gift in January of 1929. Many people in Lincoln feared the park was to far from Lincoln and would be used by only a few people. 

During the 1930's Lincoln's economy was helped by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Under the WPA, Ellis Burman designed the Smoke Signal statue. The statue is fourteen feet and weighs five ton. It is a huge bronze statue of an Indian sending smoke signals that is on one of the park's knolls. 

At the dedication services in September 1935, more than 100 members and chiefs of the Omaha, Winnebago, Sioux, and Ponca tribes camped on the site. Throughout the ceremonies, many of the Indians sat on their horses on the top of the hill, which faces west and the setting sun. 

John Harris also commissioned the bronze casting of a buffalo. The buffalo was designed and sculpted in Paris by George Gaudet. The statue was tossed about during its trip across the ocean. Later the statue was lost by the railroad, narrowly avoided a collision, and finally almost collapsed a wooden bridge across a local creek. Today the buffalo is located in the circle at the park's entrance. 

Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps planted thousands of trees. A dedication was planned for June 2, 1929, featuring Paul Whiteman and his band. Because of a week of rain which made the park extremely muddy, Whiteman and his band gave a concert at the Burlington Station. The other festivities planned were postponed. The park and golf course were officially dedicated May 17, 1930. Today the park has 800 acres and is listed by the U.S. Department of Interior/National Park Service's National Registry of Historic Places.

The Elk statue is a gift to the citizens of Lincoln from Leonard J. Stransky and Angeleen E. Stransky. 

Mr. Stransky was a prominent Lincoln grocer, owning Trixes IGA Foodliner from 1940 to 1974. A property owner with extensive real estate holdings in Lincoln, and a major financier in the stock market.

It is their wish to dedicate this elk to the natural beauty of Pioneers Park.
Mountain Monarch by Rich Haines - 2001.

Photos provided by 
Teresa Sullivan 4-11-2003

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Webmaster - Kathie Harrison
Denton Community Historical Society of Nebraska