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Pieces of Dodge County history preserved in longtime museum

August 26, 2018

SCRIBNER — Nona Wiese has cultivated a love of local history that spans decades — even centuries.

Wiese is the curator of the Musbach Museum in Scribner, which opened in 1973 when Amos Musbach purchased the former Milligan store building erected in 1884 and donated it for that purpose.

“I always liked (history) because when I grew up, you listened to your grandparents (say), ‘Remember when we did this? Remember when we did that?’ ” she said. “You would try to picture it in your own mind. I always listened to stories like that.”

Wiese developed an affinity and respect for history from her father.

The Great Depression’s grueling financial struggles forced her family to move to Anaheim, Calif., where her mother’s cousin lived.

“It was so hard and so dry,” Wiese said. “She (mother) had to sell all of her treasures. On the way to California, the treasures that we did have were packed in a trailer. ... The trailer went over the side of a mountain and we lost everything.”

The loss of possessions forced her parents — Herb and Emma Osterloh — to start over. Her father worked and her mother watched neighborhood children for a few years. But Nona’s asthma and her mother’s homesickness led to the family to return to Nebraska to live on her grandparents’ farm between Hooper and Scribner in early spring 1939.

The Osterlohs moved from acreage to acreage while Wiese’s father worked as a carpenter in Fremont and her mother sewed and raised chickens and eggs to earn money.

“I remember my dad picking my sister and I up after Sunday school at St. Paul’s (Lutheran Church near Hooper) and the car radio was on. They announced that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor,” she said. “I’ll never forget that.”

After graduating from Scribner High School in the late 1940s, she stayed in her hometown and operated the linotype machine at the Rustler newspaper. She married Lloyd Wiese in 1953, and they had three children, Lisa, Jon and Tom.

“When I was small, I moved a lot. I had friends and I could stay,” she said. “I’ve always been community-minded.”

She worked for Norfolk-based Consumers Public Power District’s local and Oakland offices for 25 years. Then she worked part time at German Mutual Insurance.

There she gained an appreciation of hearing rural customers’ tales from life on the farm. Fixing a broken-down tractor or fence. Corralling pigs that escaped from their pen. Gathering with neighbors.

“I had customers come in from the country, and I would really enjoy talking to those people,” she said. “I didn’t grow up as a farm girl. I learned a lot of stories from all these farmers who would come in.”

Two years after Scribner celebrated its centennial in 1971 and Musbach donated the building, Wiese became the youngest museum board member. She is the last original one left. While the board converted the first floor into a museum and renovated the second floor into apartments for income, Wiese learned Scribner history from Jeanne Klamt, who worked at Scribner Grain.

“That’s what kept everything going for a lot of years,” Wiese said, noting that the need for modern repairs eventually closed the upper floor.

Every nook and cranny of the first-floor museum — now supported by the city — is a historical gem. Wiese knows the back story of virtually each piece — from a hand corn sheller to a Crowell band uniform worn in the early 1900s.

Some items, including an 1879 corn planter and 1833 German trunk, came from Musbach. Most have been donated by community members or natives.

“I always think that people wanted to save their history,” Wiese said.

Tom Zahourek, museum board member from Scribner who burns exhibit images onto DVDs and creates spreadsheets of records, considers Wiese’s role as curator as valuable.

“If I can’t find it, she’s going to know it in the back of her head,” he said. “Her resources are impeccable.”

Not only is Wiese involved in local history, but also throughout Dodge County. She helped form the Eastern Nebraska Genealogical Society and serves on the Louis May Museum board.

As the years pass, Wiese, 87, wants to share her knowledge with others, including board members such as Zahourek and Georgiene Ebel.

Ebel assists Wiese with museum operations.

“I’m looking forward to leaving it in good hands when I leave the board,” Wiese said.

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