The name, James Potter, may not be familiar to you. But by the end of this post, I truly hope you also appreciate the contributions that this Nebraska historian made to our state.
The past few weeks, I have been feverishly working on my Nebraska book. I just turned in the pictures this week, and now I am on to finishing the text. That part involves some research – an aspect that I usually enjoy. Although occasionally you uncover unexpected information. I was thumbing through my large collection of business cards that I have collected through my Nebraska travels and decided to do some follow-up.
Three years ago, I traveled with my immediate and extended family up to the Northwestern part of Nebraska. We had a great trip! At the time, I was only two months into writing this blog. Although I had been writing for a mom blog, I was new to travel blogs and to writing about Nebraska.
During our time there, I went to the Fort Robinson Museum. The on-site historian had been a part of the Nebraska State Historical Society for over forty-five years. I do not remember all of the words of our conversation. But I do remember thinking that this man knew more about Nebraska than I ever dreamed of knowing. Plus I remember how very kind he was. I am certain that I asked him a gazillion questions about Nebraska. He patiently answered each one.
Besides our time spent in the Crawford area, my husband, our two oldest boys and I made a trip over to Chadron. Our main destination was the Museum of the Fur Trade, still one of my favorite Nebraska locations that I have visited to date. While we were there, I started talking to the director, a historian in her own right. (Notice a trend here?) She too was incredibly fascinating to visit with, and she also happened to originally be with the Nebraska State Historical Society. Her name was Gail DeBuse Potter -yes, James Potter’s wife. I remember wishing that I could be invited to their house for dinner. The knowledge that both of them had about Nebraska was astounding. Even more significant than their historical expertise was their graciousness in sharing what they had learned.
A few years ago, I had read in passing that there was a new director at the Fur Trade Museum, but I had not followed up with finding out why. Since I was researching that location tonight, I decided to find out more information. In the process, I discovered that Ms. Potter had retired at the end of 2014. I also found that James Potter had a sudden heart attack this past August and had passed away at the age of 70. Even though I had limited contact with the man, he still has continued to impact both my blog direction and even my writing.
Through his years at the Nebraska State Historical Society, Potter wrote numerous articles and several books. Below are a few of his titles. You can search for more at NebraskaHistory.org
First Telegraph Line Across the Continent: Charles Brown’s 1861 Diary (Potter was one of the editors)
From Our Special Correspondent: Dispatches from the 1875 Black Hills Council at Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska
Standing Firmly by the Flag: Nebraska Territory and the Civil War 1861-1867
I am grateful to the Potters that they devoted their lives to preserving Nebraska history. My sympathies to Gail and the rest of the Potter family as you have to be feeling his loss far more than anyone else right now.