Mari Sandoz was born on Mirage Flats, south of Hay Springs, Nebraska in 1896 as the first of six children. As the eldest child, Mari was given much of the responsibility of caring for her two sisters and three brothers. Young Mari bore the brunt of her father’s explosive temper, but she also shared in many of his exploits as a claim locator, trader and pioneering horticulturist.
John Gneisenau Neihardt was born in a one-room cabin in Illinois in 1881, the third child of Nicholas Nathan Neihardt and Alice Culler Neihardt. In 1886, the family moved to a sod house in northwestern Kansas, and then to Kansas City in 1888. In 1891, he moved with his mother and sisters to Wayne, Nebraska after his father left the family.
John J. Pershing was born on September 13, 1860, in Missouri. He was the first child born to John Fletcher Pershing and Ann Thompson Pershing. John had eight younger siblings, but only five survived to adulthood: May, Elizabeth, Grace, Ward, and James. His father owned a general store and also served as postmaster of Laclede, Missouri. Later, Mr. Pershing would purchase land and began farming.
Julius Sterling Morton was born in the state of New York, on April 22, 1832, to Julius Dewey and Emeline Sterling Morton. J. Sterling, as he came to be known, was the eldest of three children. Morton’s father operated a general store, but in 1834 decided to try his business fortunes farther west and moved the family to Michigan where he became a prosperous produce commission businessman.
Grace Abbott was born in Grand Island, Nebraska on November 17, 1878, to Othman Ali Abbott and Elizabeth Meleta Griffin Abbott, both of whom were raised as abolitionists, believing that slavery was a sin. She is the sister of Edith Abbott, who is also a well-known social reformer who worked hard protecting the rights of children. Her father was Nebraska’s first Lieutenant Governor.
Gilbert Monell Hitchcock was born in Omaha, Nebraska on September 18, 1859. His father, Phineas W. Hitchcock, was prominent in Nebraska politics, and served as United States Senator from Nebraska between 1871 and 1877. He was educated in the city’s public schools and for two years attended the gymnasium (high school) in Baden-Baden, Germany.
George W. Norris was born in 1861 in York Township, Sandusky County, Ohio. When he was only three years old, both his older brother and his father died leaving his mother, Mary Magdalene Norris, to raise and provide for George and his six sisters. At the time, Mary Norris was forty-six years old and pregnant for the twelfth time. The Norris family farmed and lived in near poverty.
Edward Joseph Flanagan was born in rural west central Ireland. He was the eighth of eleven children, a gifted, frail child who often devoted the long hours of tending his family’s sheep and cattle and reading and prayer. Although poor, his parents were determined to provide Edward with education sufficient for him to become a priest.