NEBRASKAland

Nebraskaland May 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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May 2019 • Nebraskaland 47 do hear." Two more long days passed before he received his long-awaited letters from home. Rasp's own letters over the next few months show us something that historic photographs don't capture: how 1880s Omaha looked, sounded and smelled to a rural Nebraskan of the time. Rasp's portrait is vivid, though not always fl attering. "Every thing here is coal smoke and dirt and people," he wrote soon after his arrival. "It is dusty just as soon as it quits raining," he added later, "and the dust here is the worst dust I ever saw. It is all stone and manure. Streets that ain't paved, 2 feet deep of mud." Omaha was just beginning to pave its main streets. Rasp marveled at the "great steam roller" working in front of the college. But he soon tired of all the noise. "I am getting so I hate to hear an engine," he wrote on May 9. There must be at least 50 at work beside[s] the factories, and they never stop, night or day. It is puff -puff - puff -puff -toot-toot-toot-braw- b raw- b raw- p u f f- p u f f- p u f f- puff ." He was overwhelmed by the crowds and anonymity. "I have seen more people since I came here than every person I ever saw before I came and with a few exceptions I never see the same person twice …" The nationwide bicycle craze was underway and Rasp saw so many that "I am sick a looking at them." Omaha was fi lthy by a country boy's standards. On May 16 he promised to come home on a visit "and quit breathing smoke and drinking fi lth." A few days later he added that "the water is full of sewerage. I haven't drank a drop of water for a week. I don't drink anything but coff ee. The coff ee hides the fi lth …" The Rasp family was deeply religious, and Frisby was shocked by Omaha's vice. "Every other store is a saloon," he wrote before adding a quick reassurance: "but I never even looked in one …" "This is an awful wicked town," he noted several days later. "The saloons run on sunday [sic] and most all work goes right on." A "bad house" operated next door to the college, and another brothel stood on the corner across from his boarding house. Even local newspapers, he wrote, claimed that if you shut down all the saloons, brothels, and tobacco shops, half of Omaha's businesses would be gone. Even so, when Rasp toured the county jail he seemed disappointed to report that "there was nobody in yesterday." Rasp was an ardent tourist of local institutions. He marveled at the steam printing press at the Omaha Republican ("the fastest printing I ever saw"), witnessed "1000 carloads of lead and the biggest engine I ever saw" at the lead smelting plant, toured the city's electrical power plant (another "largest engine I ever saw," powering lights that are "40 times as good as gas"), and rode the elevator in a six-story hotel ("it is a beauty"). For all his complaining he seemed to be enjoying himself. He just didn't want to stay. "I wouldn't live in the City always for anything," he wrote. "Get an education there and a good start in life and then let me have a farm." Which is pretty much what he did. After graduation he worked as a bookkeeper in Omaha for two years and later served as a business college instructor in York and a pastor in Wayland, but spent most of his life on a farm near Gresham. He and his wife, Mattie, raised seven children on the farm, and Rasp died there in 1948. His daughter Naomi Rasp Frederickson donated his letters to History Nebraska; edited and introduced by Sherrill Daniels, they were fi rst published in Nebraska History Magazine in 1990. Visit History Nebraska's website at history.nebraska.gov Omaha's post offi ce in 1888. History Nebraska RG2341-0-247 d h " T l d d b f h i d hi l k d i Omaha, 1888 By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska

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