John H. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft, Nebraska ©Author Adventures
Elk of the Northwest ©Author Adventures

John Neihardt, Nebraskan Writer

John Neihardt (1881-1973) was born in Illinois and lived in various places in the Great Plains areas of the Midwest before moving to Nebraska when he was ten years old. He began writing as a teenager and, as he got older, his published poetry enjoyed a much wider audience.

In Paris, a student who was studying with the renowned sculptor, Auguste Rodin, read one of his books. She loved his poetry so much that she wrote to him and he wrote back! They kept exchanging letters and a year later Mary Martinsen moved to Nebraska and married John Neihardt.

Neihardt is most famous for the book Black Elk Speaks which records the beliefs, thoughts and visions of a Lakota medicine man. The book has remained a significant work of Native American history and a new edition was released in 2008. Read our web page about Black Elk here: Black Elk in Nebraska.

In addition to Native American culture, Neihardt wrote books of poetry about Nebraska and its inhabitants.

The Place

The John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, in Bancroft, Nebraska, is a place which showcases all things Neihardt and encourages young writers. Bancroft is a small village in northeast Nebraska and was a home to John Neihardt for approximately 20 years. During his time, the population was around double what it is there today.

“These things I shall remember by the way, and often they may seem to be the very tale itself, as when I was living them in happiness and sorrow. But now that I can see it all as from a lonely hilltop, I know it was the story of a mighty vision given to a man too weak to use it; of a holy tree that should have flourished in a people’s heart with flowers and singing birds, and now is withered; and of a people’s dream that died in bloody snow.” — John Neihardt

The Neihardt Center is the fifth stop on our Nebraska Author Adventures Trail.

Rebecca Blake Beech