BARNESTON -- A group has incorporated itself to preserve the only physical link to the Big Blue Reservation.

After years of stopping and starting on the preservation project of an old farmhouse in Barneston, “The Otoe-Missouria Home Place at Barneston” group has taken on the project.

“It is to me just a step in the right direction to have a stand alone group that is dedicated just to preservation of this building along with that the telling of the story that it represents,” founding group member Lori McAlister said.

She and the other founding members, Matthew Jones, Laureen Riedesel and Kathy Paul went to the site of old farmhouse Saturday for a workday.

The members believe that the farmhouse was made from different parts of the three-story Indian Mission School built in 1874-1875 in Barneston.

The school that served as a kind of consolidated school for Otoe children on the reservation had as many as 30 pupils at a time from as far away as six miles.

The details of what happened to school building are not clear. It may have been destroyed by natural disasters or dismantled.

The Otoe tribe eventually moved to Oklahoma. In the 1980s, a group of women raised money to save the farmhouse from destruction.

As part of their workday, “The Otoe-Missouria Home Place at Barneston” group members spent their time not only winterizing the home, but also analyzing the structure for clues to link it to the school building.

From the windows to plaster to stairway, Riedesel is quite certain that the farmhouse has pieces of the school in it.

“This is what is left of a whole history of this area.” Riedesel said. “This is the one remnant we’ve got that goes back to reservation days even if it is kind of a conglomeration.”

McAlister said the goal of the group is to preserve the structure so it reflects the farmhouse and the Indian Mission School and to use it as platform to tell the Otoes’ story.

“It is usually not enough to say once upon a time there was something here,” Riedesel said. “It is hard to get people to realize if we want to be able to tell that story we need to hold on this.”

Another goal for the group is to eventually get the structure put on the National Register of Historic Places.

Anyone interested in the project can contact McAlister at 402-802-2099 or mcalisters@windstream.net.