Tuesday, June 20, 2017

One Night in Wilber

Traveling the Oregon Trail Backwards, a Road Trip Adventure, Part 7

This article is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.

Two women traveling alone with our children, we arrived late at night in Wilber, Nebraska. We’d crammed a lot into the day, having toured the ranch, driven past Scotts Bluff, and visited Chimney Rock before making the rest of the journey here. Part-Czech, my traveling companion (a relative) and I had set a trip goal of sleeping in the Hotel Wilber, so we pushed past exhaustion to reach this citadel. 

We made our way inside the massive brick building with stately columns and a red heart painted in a Czech folk style on the front door. Raised voices from a nearby bar had us hurrying the last couple of steps inside the building, but what we found inside displayed a touching faith in humanity.
Hotel Wilber in Wilber, Nebraska; seen from the east. The 1895 building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It currently serves as a bed-and-breakfast. Image by Ammodramus (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A wallpapered lobby with original wood floors, antique furniture, and lace at the windows greeted us, but the owner was nowhere in sight. We retrieved our room keys from a pre-arranged location and made our way up the elegant staircase to the second floor. After locating our own rooms, we went down the hall, admiring the other rooms. A local family of Czech origin had decorated each one with precious antiques, and the doors had been left open to show them off. We had the place to ourselves, apparently. The pride in ownership and degree of trust the owner displayed by leaving these rooms open to view spoke well of the town.

Platted in 1873 and named for founder Charles D. Wilber, an Illinois geologist and friend of President James A. Garfield, Wilber is both a farming community and county seat. Prestigious visitors to the town include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather; suffragette Susan B. Anthony; movie star Robert Taylor; and then-presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed a decree proclaiming Wilber the Czech capital of the United States. The town celebrates its heritage every August with Czech Days, the largest ethnic festival in Nebraska. Parades, an art show, dancing, museum displays, authentic costumes, Czech food and drink, bands, and an old-world atmosphere attract 40 to 50 thousand visitors. We’d arrived too early for that event but treated ourselves to sausages at the Wilber Meat Market before leaving town.

Road-weary and with cranky children, we debated whether or not to stop at the Sod House Museum before leaving Nebraska. I’m so glad we didn’t skip it. This road trip memoir continues next month with our visit to that museum. Meanwhile, whether or not you are of Czech ancestry, I thought you might enjoy this video of the current Miss Czech America singing "Going Home" at the Miss Czech Slovak US Pagaent. The music is by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.


Note from Janalyn on this series:
I seem to approach everything backwards, and traveling the Oregon was no exception. A few years ago I set off from Washington state to a family reunion in Missouri, following the route of the Oregon Trail backwards. The trip sparked an idea for an Oregon Trail series which finally came to fruition with the release this spring of Hills of Nevermore (Montana Gold 1). My historical romance series is set in Montana during its gold rush, and each of the heroines travels part of the Oregon Trail.

Last chance to download a free ebook by award-winning author Miralee Ferrell in the 
Hills of Nevermore Launch Special.

Hills of Nevermore

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish circuit preacher bent on helping her survive? 

In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands face-down in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Certain she has angered God in the past, she shies away from Shane.

Addie Martin, another widow, invites America to help in her cook tent in Virginia City, the new mining town. Even with Addie’s teenage son helping with America’s baby, life is hard. Shane urges America to depart for a more civilized location. Neither Shane’s persuasions nor road agents, murder, sickness, or vigilante violence can sway America. Loyalty and ambition hold her fast until dire circumstances force her to confront everything she believes about herself, Shane, and God.

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Hills of Nevermore explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

Read the first two chapters free.

About Janalyn Voigt

My father instilled a love of literature in me at an early age by reading chapters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe and other classics. When I grew older, and he stopped reading bedtime stories, I put myself to sleep with tales I 'wrote' in my head. My sixth-grade teacher noticed my interest in storytelling and influenced me to become a writer.

I'm what is known as a multi-genre author, but I like to think of myself as a storyteller. The same elements appear in all my novels in proportions dictated by their genre: romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy. Visit http://janalynvoigt.com


  1. I'm always interested in the places that this journey took you!

  2. Janalyn, always nice to raed another one of your travel adventures.

    Hills of Nevermore was a captivating story to read with the historical adventures, twists and turns interwoven with faith, romance and love.

    1. My pleasure, Marilyn. Thanks for you comment about Hills of Nevermore. I'm happy you enjoyed the story.

  3. Thanks for this very interesting post.

  4. What a cool, old place! I'm going to have to remember this and visit it if we ever get up that way again.

    1. Staying in the Hotel Wilber was a highlight of this trip. I'd love to go back and catch the Czech festival.