125th Anniversary of Sandhills Tragedy: “Little Girls Lost”


haumann-familyWhen visitors arrive at Thedford during the sixth annual Follow the Rails Art Trail, October 14- 16, the Thedford Art Gallery may be the focal point inside for art, but walk down the block to the south of the gallery and see a life size bronze, ‘Journey of Angels’ sculpted by local rancher, Linda Egle.  A smaller replica of this bronze is inside the gallery, on loan from Lori Hall of Thedford and co-owner of Midwest Partitions. The sale of the replicas helped to cover some of the expenses for the life size bronze.

125 years ago 2 little girls started a journey that would end a miraculous survival and a tragic ending.  Matilda, known and Tillie, age 8 and Henritta, known as Retta, age 4 left their sisters home to walk to their own homestead located 5 miles north of what is now Thedford, NE.  The little girls did not arrive home and a search party was instantly formed.  The little girls were lost to the Sandhills.

Three days after wondering from the trail little Retta was found 25 miles east of her parent’s home.  Retta was found alive but suffered from exposure and dehydration.  Tillie was found a week later, some 75 miles from home curled up under a rose bush.  Tillie did not survive.

Retta lived on raised a family and is now buried in Idaho.  Tillie is buried in the Thedford cemetery. Cherrie Beem-Callaway, a Humanities speaker, presented the story of the sisters at the dedication of the historical marker located at the Thomas County Courthouse in Thedford.

Egle has had the dream of the sculpture for several years. She is a nationally renown artist, with other bronzes at Cody, WYO, Valentine and Elkhorn, NE to name a few sites. The state Historical marker that was dedicated earlier this year, shares the narrative of the two sisters lost in the hills. Their nephew, Dave Haumann and wife Vada and their three children, Alan, Janice and Warren raised their families here. Great grandchildren Luke and Hope McIntosh are the 6th generation of Haumanns that still call Thomas Co. home.