Willa Cather

Willa Cather

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Willa Cather was born in Winchester, Virginia, in 1873. Brought up on a farm in Nebraska, she was educated by her mother before attending the University of Nebraska. She later moved to Pittsburgh where she found employment as a high school teacher.

In 1898 she became a journalist and began working for the Pittsburgh Daily Leader (1898-1901). This was followed by employment as associate editor of McClure's Magazine (1906-1912).

Cather published a book of poems, April Twilights in 1903. This was followed by a collection of short-stories, The Troll Garden (1908). Her first novel, Alexander's Bridge appeared in 1912. This was followed by My Antonia (1918). One of Ours (1922) a novel on the First World War won the Pulitzer Prize. Other novels by Cather included A Lost Lady (1923), The Professor's House (1925), Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), Shadows on the Rock (1931) and Lucy Grayheart (1935).

In her later years Cather devoted herself to literary criticism, including the important, Not Under Forty (1936).

Willa Cather died in 1947.

All human history is a record of an emigration, an exodus from barbarism to civilization; from the very outset of this pilgrimage of humanity, superstition and investigation have been contending for mastery. Since investigation first led man forth on that great search for truth which has prompted all his progress, superstition, the stem Pharoah of his former bondage, has followed him, retarding every step of advancement.

Then began a conquest which will end only with time, for it is only the warfare between radicalism and conservatism, truth and error, which underlies every man's life and happiness. The Ancient Orientals were highly civilized people but were dreamers and theorists who delved into the mystical and metaphysical, leaving the more practical questions remain unanswered, and were subjected to the evils of tyranny and priestcraft. Those sacred books of the east we today regard as half divine. We are not apt to think as we read those magnificent flights of metaphor that the masses of people who read and believed them knew nothing of figures. It is the confounding of the literal and the figurative that has made atheists and fanatics throughout the ages.

The modern novel, the motion picture, and the radio are a menace to human culture, declared Willa Cather, the author, in a lecture last evening on "The Talk About Technique'' at the Bowdoin College Institute of Modem Literature.

Regarding the novel in general, Miss Gather said that she had rather pessimistic feelings. The present-day novel was largely used as an aid to travelers, she said, to assist them in passing the time while riding from place to place.

"The novel, as we know it today, is the child of democracy, and is not a high form of art. A novel today partakes of all of our infirmities. The novel is too easy to write and too easy to read. You join a group of a dozen friends and you will find some one who cannot pass on music or a painting, but who does not hesitate to criticize a novel, and most of the group feel that they could write one.

"In critical magazines, at dinners, and at women's colleges one hears much talk about technique, but you never hear it mentioned or talked of by writers. Young critics and young professors usually have much to say about it to their classes.

"Atmosphere was just as effective before it had a name. It is only the writer's personal relation with the locality. It should be felt and not heard. The writer's relationship to his material is not only his emotional and moral relationship, but also his spiritual. Every thoughtful writer has to decide on his relationship as necessarily as the architect has to figure the strain on a bridge. It is really a technical matter in which the fine artist excels and the clumsy one remains clumsy.

"Technique, as it applies to a novel, is full of faults, as nearly all great novels have great blemishes from the standpoint of technique. Novels live by their plusses, not by their minuses. They live because of what they have, not because of what they lack. You cannot improve on the technique of a great writer, because his faults are necessary. Laboratory methods are best in science, but have not place in art."

The first two are part of the so-called "prairie trilogy," which catalogs the experiences of a family of Swedish immigrants on the American prairie. The last depicts the clash between the Roman Catholic Church and the Native American tribes of the Southwest, namely the Hopi and Arapaho peoples of New Mexico, in which she portrays their own native spirituality in a positive light. Predictably, the Christian missionary priests are divided between the greedy, corrupt ones and the more saintly examples of the faith.

Willa Cather was born on a farm in Back Creek Valley (near Winchester, Virginia). Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather (d. 1928), whose family had lived on land in the valley for six generations. Her mother was born Mary Virginia Boak (d. 1931), and she had six younger children: Roscoe, Douglass, Jessica, James, John, and Elsie. Ώ] In 1883, Cather moved with her family to Catherton in Webster County, Nebraska. The following year the family relocated to Red Cloud, Nebraska, the county seat. There, she spent the rest of her childhood in the same town that has been made famous by her writing. She insisted on attending college, so her family borrowed money so she could enroll at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. On her first day she dressed as her "twin" brother William Cather. While there, she became a regular contributor to the Nebraska State Journal.

She then moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she taught high school English and worked for Home Monthly, and eventually got a job offer from McClure's Magazine in New York City. The latter publication serialized her first novel, Alexander's Bridge, which was heavily influenced by Henry James.

Cather was born into the Baptist faith but converted to Episcopalian in 1922, having attended Sunday services in that church as early as 1906. ΐ]

Cather insisted on being referred to as William from a very early age. Α]

The Best Years (story)

The Best Years is a short story by Willa Cather, first published after her death in the collection The Old Beauty and Others in 1948. [1] It is her final work, [2] and was intended as a gift to her brother, Roscoe Cather, [3] [4] who died as it was being written. [5] Set in Nebraska and the northeastern United States, [6] [7] the story takes place over twenty years, tracing the response of Lesley Ferguesson's family to her death in a snowstorm. [8] [9]

The short story carries images or "keepsakes" from each of her twelve published novels and the stories in Obscure Destinies. [10] In keeping with her own literary tradition, the story has been described as being steeped in a "sense of place", where "land and physical realities" work alongside (both influencing and being influenced by) the characters and their emotions. [8] [11] It also deals with what Cather described as the "accords and antipathies" of family relationships, including those between generations, [12] [13] [14] [15] and the feelings of loss that accompany these relationships. [16] [17] [18] It has been described as her "final achievement" in pursuing the mystery genre, [19] and as "a rich portrait" by scholar Ann Romines. [20] It has been said to be "richer in domestic feeling than anything else she ever wrote", [21] but it has also been completely ignored by some scholars, [8] or seen as "a slackening into self-indulgence", [22] "minor", [23] "bad" or centered on "sentimental" "self-pity". [24]

The story draws heavily on Cather's own life, [25] [26] and is among her most autobiographical of stories. [27] [28] Her friend and teacher, Evangeline "Eva" King, is the model for the character Evangeline Knightly. [29] [12] According to Cather, after she moved with her family to Red Cloud, Nebraska, King, as a principal of the high school, was "the first person who interviewed the new county pupil" and "was the first person whom I ever cared a great deal for outside of my own family." [30] It has also been suggested that her brother, James Cather, served as a model for the character of Bryan Ferguesson similarly, her brother John "Jack" Cather may be the basis for Vincent Ferguesson, [31] and Roscoe Cather is Hector. [5] Her own childhood home—in particular, the attic [32] —is also depicted in the story, chiefly as small and overcrowded. [33] [34]

While much of Cather's writing has been described as male-centered, "The Best Years" continues her end-of-life tradition of exploring mother-daughter relationships through the lens of women, rather than men, with careful use of a female protagonist. [35]

Willa Cather

Willa Cather ranks among the most recognized female American authors. She is known for her depictions of prairie life in her novels. Early days Willa Cather was born on December 7, 1873, in Back Creek Valley, Virginia. She was the eldest child of four, born to Charles Cather, who was a deputy sheriff, and Mary Virginia Boak Cather. In 1883, the family moved to join Willa's grandparents in Webster County, Nebraska. The following year, they moved to Red Cloud, where her father opened a loan and insurance office. Willa’s mother was vain, mostly concerned with fashion, and tried to turn Willa into a "lady." Willa defied the norms for the way girls behaved by cutting her hair short, and wearing pants instead of dresses. While they were in Red Cloud, she met Annie Sadilek, whom she used for the character Antonia, in My Antonia. In 1890, Willa graduated from Red Cloud High School. She then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, so she could study for the entrance exam at the University of Nebraska. She was accepted, worked on the school magazine, and published articles and play reviews in the local papers. In 1892, Willa published her first short story, “Peter,” in Boston magazine. She graduated from the university in 1895, and returned to Red Cloud until she was offered a position at Home Monthly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1905, a collection of short stories, Troll Garden, was published. It found the attention of S.S. McClure, who offered Cather a position at his New York publication, McClure's Magazine. She moved to New York in 1906, and became the managing editor. On her own In 1912, Cather left the magazine to do her own writing. She published Alexander’s Bridge the same year. In 1913, Cather published O Pioneers, and in 1917, she wrote My Antonia while living in New Hampshire. In 1923 Cather won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours and in the same year A Lady Lost was published. In that novel, she used the memory of Lyra Garber, the beautiful wife of a prominent banker in Red Cloud. During that time, her novels focused on the destruction of provincial life and the death of the pioneering tradition. The Professor's House was published in 1925. The novel reflects Cather's own sense of alienation within the modern world. In Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), Willa drew from the life of Archbishop Lamy, the Catholic French missionary to New Mexico in the 1850s. Cather created Bishop Latour, who ministered to the Mexican, Navajo, Hopi, and American people of his diocese. Some consider the book to be her best work. Busy to the end Cather maintained an active writing career, publishing novels and short stories for many years, until her death on April 24, 1947. She was buried in New Hampshire. In 1973, Willa Cather was honored by the United States Postal Service with her image on a postage stamp. She also was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

Literary Success in New York City

Willa was extremely successful at McClure’s. She ghostwrote a notable biography of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, which was credited to researcher Georgine Milmine and published in several installments around 1907. Her position as managing editor earned her prestige and the admiration of McClure himself, but it also meant that she had significantly less time to work on her own writing. On the advice of her mentor Sarah Orne Jewett, Willa left the magazine business in 1911 to focus on fiction.

Although she no longer worked for McClure’s, her relationship with the publication continued. In 1912, the magazine published, in serial, her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge. The novel was well-reviewed (although Willa herself would, later in life, consider it a more derivative work than her later novels).

Her next three novels cemented her legacy. Her “Prairie Trilogy” consisted of O Pioneers! (published in 1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). These three novels centered on the pioneer experience, drawing on her childhood experiences of life in Nebraska, the immigrant communities she loved there, and her passion for the untamed land. The novels included some autobiographical elements, and all three were celebrated by critics and audiences alike. These novels shaped her reputation as a writer who used plain but beautiful language to write thoroughly American romantic literature.

Dissatisfied with her publisher’s lack of support for her novels, Willa began publishing short stories with Knopf in 1920. She would eventually publish sixteen works with them, including her 1923 novel One Of Them, which won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel. A subsequent book, 1925’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, also enjoyed a long legacy. At this point in her career, Willa’s novels were beginning to move away from epic, romantic tales of the American prairie to stories that leaned into the disillusionment of the post-World War I era.

Women of History: Willa Cather

Willa Cather (1873-1947) is one of America’s greatest novelists. While she is primarily known for works that celebrate the Western United States—such as My Ántonia, One of Ours (for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923), and Death Comes for the Archbishop—she also has a Boston connection that ties into the collections of The Mary Baker Eddy Library:

Late one brilliant April afternoon Professor Lucius Wilson stood at the head of Chestnut Street …. He crossed Charles Street between jangling street cars and shelving lumber drays, and after a moment of uncertainty wound into Brimmer Street. The street was quiet, deserted, and hung with a thin bluish haze…. 1

These lines reflect Cather’s impressions of Boston, where she lived on and off for over a year from late 1906 to 1908. She came to the city as a staff editor for McClure’s Magazine. She was working on a series titled “The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science.” This series was republished as a book in 1909 and has had an enduring influence on biographies and perceptions of Eddy, in spite of its many historical inaccuracies. This is perhaps due in part to Willa Cather’s contested role as the series author or copy editor.

The press was fascinated by Christian Science and its founder. Eddy, who had grown wealthy through her own efforts as a teacher and author, was now in her 80s and was still leading her growing church from her home in Concord, New Hampshire. Many wondered how a woman had come into such a position of power.

Georgine Milmine, a journalist from upstate New York, decided to investigate, focusing her interviews on those who could provide sensational but rarely true recollections of Eddy. Archival evidence indicates that in late 1904 Milmine went to New York City, to see Ida Tarbell of McClure’s. Tarbell, author of the highly successful series “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” was renowned for her skills as a “muckraker” exposing scandal and corruption. She was not certain that Milmine had the journalistic skills required for writing a series for McClure’s, but felt the materials had possibilities. 2

Tarbell’s connection with McClure’s came to an end in May 1906, when she and a number of other senior staff members had a major disagreement with magazine founder S.S. McClure, resigned, and left the magazine. Cather, who had been interviewed by McClure himself in Pittsburgh that March, was on the job in New York as an associate editor by mid-May. 3 She was a gifted writer, though with limited experience as a journalist. Chaos reigned at the magazine, with the departure of so many key staff members. The Eddy series was in no way ready for publication, but the first installment was scheduled for January 1907. Cather was one of several McClure’s editors to try their hand on the series, and the only one who was kept on it until its conclusion in 1908. 4

Cather was soon settled in Boston’s Beacon Hill, on Chestnut Street. Eddy and Christian Science were still very much in the news. A lawsuit against Eddy had been filed in March 1907, intended to prove her mental incompetence and give the management of her considerable assets to her sons and other relatives characterized as “Next Friends.” Interest in the court case no doubt fueled interest in the McClure’s series—and sales of the magazine. (The hostile and biased tone of the series reflects the fact that Cather was working with and obtaining documentation from the “Next Friends” legal team. Correspondence between Cather and the lawyers is found in the William E. Chandler papers at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, New Hampshire.)

The fever pitch broke in August 1907, when a group appointed by the court interviewed Eddy to see if she was, in fact, senile. She proved her competence beyond a shadow of a doubt, and the suit was withdrawn shortly after. The last of the series’ 14 installments appeared in June 1908, and by then Cather had left Boston. She only remained with McClure’s a few more years, until she was able to leave journalism altogether and pursue her lifework as a writer of fiction.

What was Willa Cather’s role in the McClure’s series on Eddy and Christian Science? Was she Georgine Milmine’s ghostwriter? Or was she her copyeditor? Cather was a very private person she had little to say about this and her few statements about the series are contradictory. 5 Library visitors who are interested in exploring this mystery are invited to research in our “Milmine Collection,” which consists of documents and work papers related to the series “The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science.” More information on the lawsuit and on the McClure’s series may be found in Gillian Gill, Mary Baker Eddy, 418-520, and Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), 255-291.

Listen to “Mark Twain, Mary Baker Eddy, and the news”—a Seekers and Scholars podcast episode that includes discussion of Willa Cather, featuring Dr. Ashley Squires.


Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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Willa Cather Foundation responds to governor’s letter

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The Willa Cather Foundation said ”there is no Willa Cather National Heritage Area” in response to the governor’s letter Wednesday objecting to an effort to designate parts of south-central and southwestern Nebraska as a federally recognized National Heritage Area to try boost tourism.

Gov. Ricketts and other state leaders announced their opposition to the creation of a National Heritage Area in Nebraska in a letter to Willa Cather Foundation Executive Director Ashley Olson.

Recently, the Kansas Nebraska Heritage Area Partnership announced their intent to seek a National Heritage Area designation for 49 counties in Nebraska and Kansas.

Ricketts said he was concerned that the designation requires approvals from Congress and the National Park Service. He said the designations come with “unquantifiable and unknowable risks for the future.” Adding that conditions and requirements for federal management can change at any time without input from states.

Ricketts said the effort was led by the Willa Cather Foundation as a way to promote tourism and local development. He said state and local officials should maintain control as they look for ways to promote Nebraska’s heritage and tourism.

On Thursday, the Willa Cather Foundation responded to the opposition with the below release:

There is no Willa Cather National Heritage Area

In a public letter to Willa Cather Foundation executive director Ashley Olson on Wednesday, Governor Ricketts expressed his opposition to “the Willa Cather Foundation’s plans to seek a National Heritage Area designation for portions of South Central and Southwestern Nebraska.”

Recent headlines suggest clarification is needed. The Willa Cather Foundation is not seeking designation as a National Heritage Area. Rather, a bi-state group of volunteers in north-central Kansas and south-central Nebraska has been working to explore the merits of a National Heritage Area designation and plan for a feasibility study that would seek feedback from local stakeholders, landowners, and residents in the region. This group is called the Kansas-Nebraska Heritage Area Partnership (KNHAP).

KNHAP is a grassroots organization connecting communities and attractions between forty-nine north central Kansas and south central Nebraska counties while acting as a catalyst for economic development through cultural heritage tourism. Volunteers from rural areas in both states serve on the committee exploring potential feasibility of this project in the region. Olson is one of thirteen volunteer committee members of KNHAP.

Olson and the Willa Cather Foundation became intrigued with the idea of seeking a National Heritage Area designation after a group of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students completed a research project that sought to examine ways to increase economic development through a more regional approach to cultural heritage tourism. In January 2020, over thirty organizations in Nebraska and Kansas signed a letter of support for the initiative, including the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism the Nebraska Tourism Commission the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln the Kansas Trails Council Humanities Kansas Humanities Nebraska, the Nebraska Forest Service, and History Nebraska. The stated mission is simply “to connect communities and attractions, instill pride of place, and promote immersive experiences for residents and visitors”

“I joined the KNHAP meetings in 2018, although the idea has roots in Nebraska, this process has been a true collaborative effort. This is the only group that is working between both Nebraska and Kansas to be a catalyst for economic development through heritage tourism while engaging over forty organizations, agencies, and partners to date.” stated Luke Mahin, Republic County Kansas Economic Development Director and Co-chair of KNHAP.

In 1984, the first National Heritage Area, Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Area, was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. In his dedication speech, Reagan referred to National Heritage Areas as a marriage of heritage conservation, recreation, and economic development. Every administration since Reagan has had a hand in creating the 55 existing NHAs in the United States. Six NHAs were designated by President Trump in 2019.

In a statement, Olson affirmed that the Willa Cather Foundation remains focused solely on its mission to promote Willa Cather’s legacy through education, preservation, and the arts. As it relates to tourism, she noted, “We value the relationships we’ve built with community leaders in rural Nebraska and Kansas and we look forward to continued collaboration to promote this region and its cultural attractions to visitors.” She also emphasized the Foundation’s commitment to open dialogue with residents of Red Cloud, Webster County, and beyond. “Ultimately, we too are a local business and we want to help elevate the historic sites we have to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more money, not just with us, but with our regional neighbors too.”

Willa Cather Foundation

First efforts

In 1903 Cather published a collection of poems, April Twilights. In 1905 a collection of short stories, The Troll Garden, was issued. Neither collection really displayed her talent. Her first novel, Alexander's Bridge, the story of an engineer's love for two women, was published in 1912.

With a moving story of the prairie, O Pioneers! (1913), Cather at last discovered her subject matter. This tale of Alexandra Bergson, daughter of Swedish settlers, whose devotion to the land and to her younger brother interferes with her own chance for happiness, is a major novel and an important source for Cather's later work. In Song of the Lark (1915), she presents the story of a young woman's attempt at artistic accomplishment in a small town. My Antonia (1918), generally considered her finest novel, is based on a successful city lawyer's memories of his prairie boyhood and his love for Antonia Shimerda, a bright Bohemian girl.

Cather's next novel, One of Ours (1922), about a man who goes to war in order to escape his midwestern farm environment, won the Pulitzer Prize. A Lost Lady (1923) tells the story of an educated, thoughtful young woman faced with the materialism (desire for wealth and material goods) of the post-pioneer period. The Professor's House (1925) is a study of the problems of youth and middle age. These three novels differ from Cather's earlier studies of prairie life in that the midwestern atmosphere is now described as a force working against the artistic dreams and intellectual development of the characters.

Visit Red Cloud, Nebraska, and see Willa Cather history and more

Among the quiet flow of the Republican River and the wind blowing across the tall prairie grass sits a sleeping giant. Red Cloud, Nebraska, is itching for you to visit, so the locals can show you that the community is more than a small town in rural America.

Red Cloud – a community of 1,020 named after the great Lakota chief – is the hometown of Pulitzer prize-winning author Willa Cather. But, it’s more, too. The south-central town is home to baseball lore, eclectic shops and some agritourism.

Red Cloud is an attractive town. You have to make it your destination, as it sits about three hours southwest of Omaha and about 60 miles south of Interstate 80. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Hastings.

It is worth making it a destination stop. We met a couple from Illinois, who were traveling to Wichita on a butterfly photography project. They included Red Cloud on their trip, because they had read Willa Cather’s books, and wanted to see her hometown. Pressed for time, they planned to take a short three-building tour of Cather’s history. However, they opted for the seven-building tour.

We also took the seven-building tour offered by the Willa Cather Foundation. It provides a look into Cather’s real and fictional lives. The tour gives you a look at the home she lived in for seven years as a youngster and young woman.

The seven-building tour takes you around town to buildings used in her books, as well. The Miner House on Seward Street served as the fictional “Harling House” in the novel, “My Antonia.”

The Red Cloud Depot welcomed visitors and new residents to the prairie community. Depots often played a role in Cather’s books.

The tour concludes with a stop at the Opera House. Built in 1885, the theater served as the location for several shows presented by Cather and friends. It still hosts performances, as well as serving as the Cather Foundation’s headquarters.

Plans call for a National Willa Cather Center to open in 2016. The center will be located next door to the Opera House. It will include shops, a research and archive area, as well as apartment space for visiting scholars.

Red Cloud’s history includes two Major League baseball players in the baseball Hall of Fame. Cy Young – yes, that Cy Young – worked and played for local teams back in the day. Dazzy Vance, who was a member of the famed Gashouse Gang for the St. Louis Cardinals, played several years in Red Cloud.

The history of Webster County is interesting to learn. The largest jaw bone fossil of a mastodon was found here. It’s on display at the museum.

The Webster County Museum is located in an old mansion. The original owners built it with 23 rooms. Additional rooms were added later by other owners.

The museum has a collection of some fascinating items – all of them donated by county residents. A dance hall is located in the attic area, where people would gather for social events, including dances.

The museum’s collection ranges from musical instruments – including a working phonograph player from the 1800s – to household items, such as washing machines and irons.

Downtown Red Cloud may be small, but it has some interesting businesses. A gift store and antique store share the street with Twisted Sisters. This store is about eclectic as eclectic gets.

It is home to refinished furniture, unique clothing and handbags. The sisters (in-law) can make cut out designs from almost any material, including metal and wood. The store sells homemade products, such as salsa and salt.

It’s also probably the only place in Webster County where you can decorate your house to feel like you’re at the beach. After looking at some of the beach décor, I almost felt like I could sit back and feel the ocean breeze.

Besides offering great home décor options, Twisted Sisters offers a great cup of java or smoothie. I had a pineapple smoothie, while Lisa had a berry one. They are naturally made. They are also quite tasty.

Red Cloud is home to two bed and breakfast inns – the Cather Second Home and the Red Cloud Bed and Breakfast at the Kaley House.

We stayed at the Cather Second Home. This was the first house owned by the family. They had rented the original house. The house was in the family from 1903 until the mid-1940s. The bedrooms are named after towns in Cather novels. We stayed at the Haverford room.

We loved the two porches that ran the length of the front of the house. We enjoyed spending a nice evening on the main level front porch watching the fireflies light up the night. That brought back a ton of childhood memories of living in Kennard and Oakland (Nebraska).

The Kaley House B&B rescued one of the town’s beautiful mansions. Jay Yost bought the home several years ago, when the previous owner needed to sell it. Jay and his sister, Sally, stayed in the home when they were kids when their parents had to work late. The mansion is located on the street that Cather coined “Quality Street,” because the town’s wealthiest citizens lived along the street.

Jay loved the house and told the owner (Mrs. Bohrer) that he wanted to own the house one day. Sally, who manages the B&B, said the house always scared her as a kid. His wish came true when Mrs. Bohrer needed to sell the house.

Since then, the Yost family has made major improvements to the home, and turned it into one of the most beautiful B&Bs we’ve seen. Lisa is already planning a return trip, so we can stay at the Kaley House.

I was excited to see one of the world’s largest round barns, which is about five miles east of town in an area once known as the town of Amboy.

The Starke Round Barn may be the tallest round barn in the world. It has three levels to it. The barn was built in 1902-03, and has been in the family (or an offshoot of the original builders) since then. Conrad Starke built it. In 1929, the Rasser family (nephews of Starke) bought the property at auction. It has been in the Rasser side since.

The barn is an amazing view. It is 130 feet in diameter. The center silo, made from brick, is 65 feet tall. The main level was used for storing equipment. The top level was for storing hay. The bottom level was eventually used as part of a dairy operation.

Today, the barn is home to visitors and tours. The owners host events, such as company and social picnics. A side building is used to prepare food, and can hold more than 50 people for dinners.

We visited a little red schoolhouse, since we were in the area. The District 37 one-room school educated farm children 1872-1959.

Red Cloud offers some good dining choices at very reasonable costs. We enjoyed a great lunch at the Red Brick Café, along the main street. The café does have a limited menu, usually offering one warm special and a better cold food selection. We opted for chicken salad as a salad. It was delicious.

The café is located in a renovated book store. Book shelves line the walls, and a casual lounge area near the front door gives the impression it’s a city coffee house. I like the ambiance of the café.

The café’s owners sell the books for the previous owner. I think some of the books should find their way to the county museum. I loved checking out an old collection of encyclopedias.

Dinner at The Palace reminded me of the restaurants we had in Oakland as a kid. The prices for a steak or prime rib dinner would freak out Omaha restaurateurs. $22 for a king-sized prime rib dinner? Try double that for an 8-ounce dinner in Omaha.

I had the smoked brisket special. It was delicious. I topped it with a bit of barbecue sauce. The roasted potatoes and fresh green beans added to the tasty meal.

Lisa had a ham and cheese sandwich that reminded her of a cordon bleu chicken.

We capped our day in Red Cloud with a drive in the country.

We stopped at the Republican River, just south of town. Families with small kids were playing in the shallow water and on sandbars. As they were wrapping up their fun, some teenagers were getting ready for an evening of tubing the river.

The beauty of the river is difficult to describe. When you see the trees lining the shallow streams, and the sand bars popping up out of the water, it’s just nature. It’s amazing.

Sunset at the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie was breathtaking. The tall prairie grass blowing in the wind resembled a green ocean. Prairie grass for as far as your eye could see. This is what the pioneers and Native Americans had to see to in the region.

It was a beautiful way to top off a great weekend visit to Red Cloud. The prairie grass looked golden in the glow of the sunset.

We had a wonderful time visiting Red Cloud. It may be the hometown of Willa Cather, but it has much to offer visitors. We recommend putting it on your list of places to visit.

Check out more information about some of our visits to some of the above:

For more information on Red Cloud and its attractions, please visit the following sites:

Disclaimer: Thank you to the Willa Cather Foundation and heritage development for the complimentary stay at the Cather Second Home, admissions to attractions and lunch at Red Brick Café. However, all opinions and views are ours.

Watch the video: Willa Cather documentary (August 2022).