Nebraska Center for Writers

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ORSAMUS CHARLES DAKE was perhaps the first Nebraska writer to base his work on Nebraska's history, landscape, and people. Born in Portage, New York in 1832, he was ordained as a minister in the Episcopal Church in 1862, arriving in Nebraska a year later, where he founded Brownell Hall in Omaha. In 1865 he founded a church in Fremont. His first book, Nebraska Legends and other Poems was published in 1871. One of the key poems in the collection is "Weeping Water," based on a battle between the Omaha and Otoe tribes, a battle so fierce that the widows and children of both tribes were said to have wept over the dead, their tears forming the stream known as Nehawka or Weeping Water. In Nebraskans (1972), AC Edmunds describes Dake as "of small stature but of a compact and perfect build; possessed of strong mental and muscular developments. His whole soul is wrapped in the love of literature, and his religious training and experience give caste to all his Productions." He would later be appointed as the first teacher of literature at Nebraska State University, among a total faculty of five, each drawn from a different religious denomination. According to a remembrance by HH Wilson, a former student, Dake taught creative writing at the university: "It was one of his duties to listen to, and criticize our youthful literary productions and I can now appreciate better than I could then how irksome this task must often have been. However through it all, he was patient and, by his discriminating criticism, was a great aid in developing style of expression. Perhaps his most lasting influence upon the students that came in contact with him grew out of the fact that his work as a professor inspired us with an ambition to become acquainted with the best that had been written. He, himself, had a keen appreciation of the master pieces of literature and he succeeded in no small degree, in communicating his enthusiasm to his students." He died in Lincoln in 1875. [Source: Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days]

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Nebraska Center for Writers