We arrived in Alliance following mile-long merchant trains, cutting through the deserted Nebraska plains.
Coach load after coach load of coal was speeding by alongside us, as the railroad and highway run parallel to each other.
The streets were almost deserted. It was late morning in late August and you could already feel the heat. We were returning to Chicago after having reached our goal: Mount Rushmore.
I had done some research ahead of time and found that there’s a quaint village in Alliance, or rather the reconstruction of an early 20th century frontier village: Dobby’s Frontier Town.
We put the adress in our GPS and arrived in a residential area. It felt like we’d come to the wrong place, because all around us there were one or two story houses with gardens.
We found ourselves wondering whether the GPS might have got it wrong and then we caught a glimpse of the little stage coach. It was the right place! I recognized the coach from the website, so we parked and took a closer look.
There were some people working on a building and immediately one of them came over to us. It was Craig, who greeted us and welcomed us to the frontier town. He invited us to take a tour with him: he was definitely a great tour guide and could give chapter and verse on the hows and whys of this village.
Dobby – Craig explained – had always wanted to build a frontier village and began collecting old pieces of houses and shops that were being dismantled.
The tour was impressive. We saw the shoemaker’s shop, the sheriff’s prison, the saloon [with a brothel, above], as well as the village emporium, which reminded me of Nancy from “Little House on the Prairie”.
You are allowed to go into every building and see and touch all the memorabilia and the historical artifact collected over the years.
We were impressed by the number of farm tools on display…and there’s even a gas pump!
What struck me about the reconstruction was the attention to details. In the saloon, for example, the floor was covered in sawdust, just as it would have been years ago when the patrons spat tobacco on the ground and came with muddy boots. They used sawdust because they needed something that could be removed and replaced to ensure the room remained [almost] clean.
Craig was a great tour guide. He explained that the barber shop also served as a dentist’s surgery [thanks to a multiple-use chair] and the funerl parlor also served as a doctor’s surgery.
Dobby’s Frontier Town is continuing to expand. The volunteers who run the village [now that the founder, Dobby, has died] are dedicated to building and furnishing new buildings with the donations still being received from numerous local people.
Every year, in late September, the village comes alive again with the “real-life” characters who work and spend their days like they would have in an early 20th century frontier town.
If you’re passing through Nebraska, we’d recommend visiting Alliance: a city full of surprises!