University of Nebraska-Lincoln

George Cather Ray Collection

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission has generously provided funding for the preservation of these materials as a part of the George Cather Ray Microfilming Project.

The George Cather Ray Collection held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries is largely comprised of original papers and documents created and saved by George P. Cather, Frances (Franc) Smith Cather, and G. P. Cather, Willa Cather's uncle, aunt, and cousin.

The collection documents the daily lives, work, and interests of members of the Cather family and is a valuable resource for information on homesteading, farm life, railroads, land surveying, politics, and college course work and social life, particularly in Nebraska.


G. P. Cather
G. P. Cather, Company K of the Fifth Nebraska National Guard.

During World War I, G.P. Cather served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He traveled on the U.S.S. Manchuria and arrived in Europe in September 1917. At the front, he served as a lieutenant of Company A, 26th Infantry. Cather died on 28 May 1918 while fighting along the Marne in France and became the first Nebraska officer to die in battle

Many Cather scholars assert that the letters G.P. wrote to his mother, Franc, inspired Willa Cather to create the character Claude Wheeler, who appears in her novel entitled One of Ours. The novel is about a Nebraska boy's disenchantment with his prospects and his eager service in World War I.

G.P. Cather's letters tell of his experience in the Great War and his earlier life: homesteading in the Nebraska sandhills, serving in the United States Navy, and attending college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Grand Island College.

George P. and Franc Cather
George P. and Franc Cather, G.P.'s parents (ca.1910)

The Cather children: Oscar, G. P. Frank, Blanche, and Carrie. (ca 1910)

The Cather children

If you have questions about this exhibit, please contact the Archives & Special Collections

This page was last updated February 23, 2012.