Nebraska Authors

Merrill J. Mattes

Born Congress Park, IL

Died 1996-08-04
Englewood, CO

Mattes joined the National Park Service in 1935 as a Park Superintendent (Scottsbluff National Monument, 1935-1946). During his time in Scottsbluff he was also acting custodian and historian for the Fort Laramie site. From 1946 to 1966 he was regional historian at the Midwest Region NPS Center in Omaha. He later worked for the NPS in San Francisco, CA and Denver, CO.

Mattes is best known for his books The Great Platte River Road, 1987 and Platte River Road Narratives, 1988. Taken together the two works are a foundation of modern historical research on the trails. He helped found the Oregon-California Trails Association in 1982.

Places Lived

Scotts Bluff, NE (1935-1946)
Omaha, NE (1946-1966)
San Francisco, CA
Denver, CO
Englewood, CO

Author Of

  • Nonfiction


History-Western U.S.; Oregon Trail; National Park Service


Master of Arts in History, 1933, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS


Park Superintendent
Historic Preservationist
Consultant for documentary film The American Experience: The Donner Party, 1992

Places Worked

National Park Service at Scotts Bluff Nat'l Monument, 1935-46
Midwest Region of the National Park Service, Omaha, 1946-1966
NPS Western Center at San Francisco, 1966-72
Denver NPS Service Center, 1972-78


Nebraska 150 Books honor for The Great Platte River Road, 2017
Nebraska Centennial research grant from Woods Foundation, 1962
Nebraska Civil Servant of the Year, 1958
U.S. Dept. of the Interior Distinguished Service Award, 1959


Authority on Fort Laramie National Historic Site
Planner for historical museums at 6 or 7 parks
Member of many western history organizations


The Great Platte River Road. 1987.
Platte River Road Narratives: A Descriptive Bibliography of Travel Over the Great Central Overland Route to Oregon, California, Utah, Colorado, Montana and Other Western States and Territories, 1812-1866. 1988.
Colter's Hell and Jackson's Hole. 1961.
Indians, Infants and Infantry. 1960.
The Pony Express: From St. Joseph to Fort Laramie. 1989. (with Paul Henderson )

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Merrill J. Mattes

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)