HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE STATE
Earliest Records.-- The earliest records of Nebraska are the rocks and the soil. These indicate that this part of the planet has at times been the bottom of a sea and at other times has been elevated above the water; that at one time the region had a climate of tropical warmth and at a later time was covered in part by a thick sheet of ice. The remains of former plants and animals which testify to these conditions are abundant within the state.
Prehistoric People.--Recent investigations indicate the presence of prehistoric men in Nebraska at a period several hundred, perhaps thousands, of years ago. The remains and implements of these people have been found at many places along the Missouri river and in the Bad Lands. Study of these remains now being carried on promises in the near future a far greater knowledge of these people than we now possess.
The Nebraska Indians.--The Otoe, Omaha, Ponca, Pawnee. Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes of Indians were found in Nebraska by the first explorers. These numbered altogether about 40, 000 people and lived chiefly by hunting, partly by primitive agriculture. War was the normal condition existing between these tribes. The traditions of these Indians indicate that they had migrated to the Nebraska region within a few hundred years of the time they were found by the first explorers.
The First White Men.--Francisco Vasquez Coronado and his party of thirty Spanish cavalry were the first white men to visit this region. Their visit was in the summer of 1541. French fur traders and trappers began to venture up the Missouri river about the year 1700. In 1739 the Mallet brothers, with a party of eight Frenchmen, named the Platte river and traveled nearly the entire length of the state on a journey from the Missouri river to Santa Fe. They were followed by many other French fur traders during the next sixty years.
Struggle for Possession of Nebraska.--Spain, France and England all claimed the Nebraska region at different times, basing their claims upon discoveries and explorations. In 1763, at the close of the Seven years' war, France ceded all her claims east of the Mississippi river to England and west of the Mississippi to Spain. Nebraska was thus a part of the Spanish province of Louisiana from 1763 until 1801, when Napoleon bought back the region from Spain and in 1803 sold the entire region to the United States.
Early American Exploration.--Lewis and Clark were the commanders of the first American expedition to visit Nebraska in the years 1804-1806. In the year 1811 the Hunt party of Astorians skirted the Nebraska shores on their way to Oregon and in 1813 seven of the party crossed the mountains and followed the North Platte down to its junction with the Missouri. In 1819 Major Long with a party of twenty men traveled from the Missouri river up the Platte to the head waters of its south fork near Denver. During the years 1807-1820 Manuel Lisa, of Spanish descent, but a citizen of the United States, became the leading fur trader and explorer of the Nebraska region.
The First Military Post.--Fort Atkinson was established in the years 1813 and 1830 and abandoned in 1827. It was upon the site of the present village of Fort Calhoun in Washington county, 16 miles above Omaha. It had a population of over 1, 000 people and was the site of the first school, the first library, the first brick-yard, the first sawmill, the first grist-mill and the first extensive farming by white men within the state.
The Early Missionaries.--Moses Merrill and his wife, Eliza Wilcox, were the first missionaries to the Nebraska Indians. They arrived in Bellevue in 1833 and continued their work as missionaries and teachers until Mr, Merrill died in 1840. Rev. Samuel Allis and John Dunbar arrived at Bellevue in 1834 and continued as missionaries to the Pawnee tribe for the next twelve years. Father De Smet, a
Catholic missionary, first came to Nebraska in 1838 and for the next thirty-five years gave his services to the Indians west of the Missouri river.
The Overland Trails.--On April 10, 1830, Sublette and Jackson, with ten wagons and one milch cow, started from St. Louis for the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming and returned in the fall. ln 1832 Nathaniel I. Wyeth went over the same road to Oregon. Their route was up the valley of the Little Blue and Platte rivers and made the beginning of the Oregon trail, which for the next forty years was the greatest wagon road the world has seen. Other trails across Nebraska were the California trail, starting from Bellevue or Omaha and traveling up the north bank of the Platte; the Denver trail from the Missouri river to Denver and the "steam wagon road" or Nebraska City cut-off, from Nebraska City up the West Blue to the Platte and on to Denver. These trails were traveled by thousands of wagons every year until the construction of the Pacific railroads.
The Steamboat Years.--The Western Engineer, which brought Major Long's party on its exploring expedition in September, 1819, was the first steam vessel to navigate Nebraska waters, Other steamboats took part in the Aricara expedition in 1823. In 1832 the steamboat Yellowstone began the first regular annual fur trading voyages up the Missouri river, stopping at points on the Nebraska coast.. From 1850 to 1860 steamboat navigation along the Nebraska shores was at its height, forty or fifty different steamboats being in the Missouri river trade. With the construction of railroads the steamboat business rapidly fell off until now only a few ferry-boats and one or two steamboats a year navigate the Missouri along the Nebraska shores.
Conditions in Nebraska from 1830 to 1854.--Frontier conditions of the most rugged nature ruled in Nebraska between these years. A few steamboats plied the Missouri river between St. Louis and the head of navigation. The overland trails from the Missouri river to the mountains and Pacific coast were traveled by caravans of emigrants and freighting wagons each summer. A little group of Christian missionaries and teachers were laboring among the Nebraska Indians. A few white fur traders and buffalo hunters followed the streams and crossed the prairies. Fort Kearny, on the Platte river, opposite the present city of Kearney and Bellevue, on the Missouri river, were the only two white settlements of any size within the present state. The dominant figures in the Nebraska landscape were the buffalo, the coyote, the prairie dog and the Indian.
Beginnings of Political Government.--The Nebraska region was part of the territory of Indiana from October 1, 1804, to July 4, 1805. From July 4, 1805, to December 7, 1812, it was part of the territory of Louisiana with its capital at St. Louis. It then became a part of the territory of Missouri until the year 1821 when Missouri was made a state and Nebraska became a part of the unorganized region commonly called the "Indian country." By the act of June 30, 1831, congress defined the boundaries of the Indian country and enacted laws excluding white men and regulating relations with the Indians. The Indian superintendent at St. Louis was made governor over the "Indian country."
Nebraska Name and Organization.--The name "Nebraska" first appeared in literature about the year 1842. Lieutenant John C. Fremont explored the plains and mountains in that year. His report speaks of the "Nebraska river, " the Otoe Indian name for the Platte, from the Otoe word "Ne-brathka, " meaning "Flat Water." Secretary of War William Wilkins, in his report of November 30, 1844, says "the Platte or Nebraska river being the central stream would very properly furnish a name to the (proposed) territory." The first bill to organize the new Nebraska territory was introduced in congress December 17, 1844, by Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. This bill failed to pass. In 1848 Douglas introduced a second bill, which also failed. In 1853 a third bill was likewise defeated. In 1854 a fourth Nebraska bill, now called the "Nebraska-Kansas bill, " was passed after prolonged and bitter struggle and signed by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. This prolonged struggle between the slave states and the free states for dominance in the Nebraska region led to the organization of the new Republican party and the border conflicts which hastened the Civil war.
The First Nebraska Government.--Francis Burt, of South Carolina, was the
first governor of Nebraska territory. He arrived at Bellevue October 7, 1854 and died there October 18. Thomas B. Cuming became the acting governor. A struggle between the new town of Omaha and the old town of Bellevue for the territorial capital was determined in favor of Omaha by Governor Cuming, who called the first session of the territorial legislature to meet there January 16, 1855.
The Early Territorial Period.--The questions of most interest in early territorial Nebraska days were the settlement of the country, the laws relating to land and currency, the proposed Pacific railroad, the rivalry between north and south Platte regions, the organization of the Republican party in 1858, as a rival of the Democratic party, the defeat of the first effort to make Nebraska a state. The population grew slowly from 2,732 in November, 1854, to 28,841 in 1860.
The Later Territorial Period.--The election of Abraham Lincoln for president in 1860, the Civil war which followed and the appointment of Alvin Saunders as governor of Nebraska territory by President Lincoln in 1861, constitute a dividing period in Nebraska territorial history. The chief events in this later period were the raising of the First Nebraska regiment under Colonel John M. Thayer for service in the union army; the enactment of the free homestead law, taking effect January 1, 1863; the beginning of construction upon the Union Pacific railway in 1865; the fierce war with the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians on the plains which broke out in August, 1864; the passage of the enabling act by congress on April 19, 1864, permitting Nebraska to become a state and the fight over statehood between the Republican and Democratic parties centering in the election of June 2, 1866, where victory was won for statehood by the close vote of 3, 938 for to 3, 838 against.
From Admission as a State March 1, 1867, to the Adoption of the Constitution of 1875, November 1, 1875.--This is the formative period of the new state. Among its principal events were the relocation of the capital at Lincoln, July 29, 1867, the impeachment of Governor David Butler in 1871, the first period of railway construction, including the completion of the Pacific railroad to the ocean and the entrance of the Burlington and Northwestern railroads into the region, the hard times and grasshopper period beginning in 1873, the establishment of the state university and agricultural college February 15, 1869, and the first great wave of homesteading immigrants who settled most of the desirable land in the eastern half of the state and sent adventurous pioneers into the remotest parts.
From the Adoption of the Constitution in 1875 to the Farmers' Alliance Revolution in 1890.--This period is marked by the complete settlement of all parts of the state except a few million acres of sand hills; by a rising demand for rail road regulation and political conflicts with railroad companies; by the removal of the Sioux, Pawnee, Ponca and Otoe Indians from their old Nebraska homes to new locations in Oklahoma and South Dakota; by continuing conflicts between the grangers and the cattlemen for possession of the land in western Nebraska; by the beginnings of the world-wide struggle between organized capital and organized wage-earners exemplified by strikes in the city of Omaha in 1882 and the great Burlington strike in 1888; and finally by the organization of the Farmers' Alliance, Its entrance into the political field, first victory in the election of 1890 and the social revolution which has followed.
From the Social Revolution of 1890 to the Present Time.--In this period two dominant notes of Nebraska life sometimes blend in harmony, sometimes clash in discord, --the first one the great growth of industrial wealth and the application of new machines and method to the production of that wealth; the second, the rising spirit of democracy with its demand for reconstruction of industrial institutions and government and the extension of direct political power to the people. Some of the events which illustrate these two contemporaneous movements in the state have been the drought and hard times from 1891 to 1897 with the extension of state aid to the drought stricken regions; the development of alfalfa and winter wheat and sugar beets as Nebraska crops; the application of the sulky plow, the twine binder, the steam thresher, the tractor, the cream separator, the silo and motor engine as machines for the production of physical wealth from the farms; the development of irrigation and soil culture as new methods in
farming; the creation of the South Omaha stock yards as a great public market and the large increase in home manufactures for the conversion of raw into refined forms of wealth; the growth of co-operative unions among farmers, the organization of manufacturers' associations and the closer organization in all lines of business interests; the enactment of democratic laws, such as the Australian ballot, the direct primary, the initiative and referendum, commission form of city government; public ownership of school text-books and guaranty of bank deposits, the rapid rise in the price of land, the growth of tenant farming, the great increase in bank capital and deposits and the present conflict of rival theories and plans for distribution characterize the spirit of the present time.
Nebraska in the World War.--On April 6, 1917, the congress of the United States declared that a state of war existed between this country and Germany. The Nebraska legislature on February 3rd of that year, anticipating that war was near, had already pledged its unanimous support to President Wilson. Nebraska furnished 47,801 men for the war. She also furnished General John J. Pershing, whose home is in Lincoln. as commander-in-chief of all the American armies in Europe. For the various war causes, the purchase of United States bonds, the Red Cross and others, Nebraska furnished near $300,000, 000. About one thousand Nebraska soldiers died in the service, and her men fought in all the great battles in Europe and served in ships in every part or the world. The greatest contribution Nebraska made to the war was, perhaps, the food supply. The surplus feed which supplied the allies and the American soldiers was produced in six or seven American states, of which Nebraska was one. Nebraska furnished Base Hospital 49, consisting of 400 men. and women stationed at Atlereye, France. This hospital made the best record of any of the American hospitals in Europe, and cared for many thousands of the badly wounded during the last campaign of the war.
Election of Samuel R. McKelvie as Governor. The Nebraska Civil Code.--Samuel R. McKelvie was elected governor of Nebraska in November, 1918, and re-elected in November, 1920. Among the principal events of his administration have been these: The adoption of a Civil Code Commission consolidating about twenty separate branches of the state government under six heads appointed by the governor; a public highway system which has expended about $10,000,000 of state and federal aid funds in creating about ninety principal public highways over the state;. an act which provides for the redistricting of all counties into new school districts; the appropriation of $5,000,000 for the erection of a new state Capitol.
Constitutional Convention--Woman Suffrage.--A constitutional convention met in December, 1919, and after a session of several months proposed forty-one amendments to the state constitution. All of these were adopted at a special election held September 21, 1920. The Nebraska state legislature, called in special session on July 31, 1919, unanimously ratified an amendment to the federal constitution permitting women to vote in all states of the union on equal terms with men. In addition to this Nebraska placed woman suffrage in her own state constitution by vote September 21, 1920.
HISTORY OF CAPITOL BUILDINGS OF NEBRASKA.
Nebraska has had four capitol buildings, two of which were constructed during the territorial period and two during the state period. The first territorial capitol building was constructed in Omaha by Iowa men and by Iowa money. This building was a two-story brick structure and was "33x75 feet and cost about $3,000." This building was a temporary makeshift, soon superseded by a more elegant and commodious structure also located at Omaha and erected in part by an appropriation of $50,000 from the federal government and in part by a municipal grant of $60,000 from the city of Omaha. The dimensions of this second territorial capitol building were as follows: "Extreme length, 137 feet; extreme width, 93 feet; height, 62 1/2 feet."
Throughout the territorial period there was constant agitation for the removal of the seat of government from Omaha to some other point in the territory. This purpose was finally effected in the passage of the removal act approved June 14, 1867. The new capital city was to be named Lincoln. On July 29, 1867, the new site was chosen. October 10, 1867, plans for the new capitol building were submitted and those of John Morris of Chicago adopted. The building to be immediately erected was 120 feet in length by 50 in width; height to top of cupola, 120 feet. The cost of this the first state capitol building was $75,817.59, which amount was derived front the sale of lots in Lincoln. This building was so poorly constructed that it began to show signs of decay as early as 1871. A severe storm in May, 1873, so damaged the capitol that it was necessary to expend $5,897 in repairs. Governor Silas Garber in his retiring address to the legislature in 1879 said: "For some time past the outer walls of the capitol have been considered unsafe. * * * The time, however is not far distant, * * * when steps should be taken for the erection of it new state house of adequate proportions."
The legislature of 1879 appropriated $75,000 to begin the construction of the west wing of it new capitol building. The architect was Wm. H. Wilcox and the contractor W. H. B. Stout. The total cost for building and furnishing the west wing was $83,178.81. This wing was begun in 1879 and finished at the close of 1881. The legislature of 1881 appropriated $100,000 for the construction of the east wing of the capitol and retained Wm. H. Wilcox as architect. Bids were. submitted on this wing July 12, 1881, by the following firms: Butler & Krone. $98,490; Robert D. Silver, $86,400; W. H. B. Stout, $96,800. The contract was let to Stout. The total cost of building and furnishing the east wing was $108,247.92, and was accepted by the board of public lands and buildings December 1, 1882. With the completion of the east and west wings of the capitol the legislature of 1883 authorized the board of public lands and buildings to ask for bids for the destruction and removal of the old capitol.
For the construction of the central portion of the new capitol the legislature of 1883, and that of 1885 authorized a levy of one-half mill. on the grand assessment roll for the years 1883, 1884, 1885 and 1886. W. H. B. Stout obtained the contract for the erection of the central portion of the capitol at the price of $439,187.25. The legislature of 1887 authorized it levy of three-fourths of a mill for the years of 1887 and 1888 to complete the capitol building. The same session of the legislature made provision for the sale of all unsold lots and lands in the city of Lincoln belonging to the state for the use of the capitol building fund. The sale of these lots added $78,870 to this fund. The total cost of the present capitol building was $691,428.80 The following descriptive data is appended:
Area of capitol ground
Cost of building
Cost of paving, walks and drives
Length of building, east and west
Width of building, east and west
Length of building, north and south
Width of building, north and south
Width of east and west corridor
Width of north and south corridor
Across base of rotunda, first floor (octagon)
Height of ball of dome above the first floor
Height of building
Height of ball of dome above intersection of Fifteenth and K streets.
Size of Chamber
50x81 feet, and 38 feet high
Size of Representative Hall 65x81 feet, and
38 feet high
Average size of executive offices, exclusive of vaults and closets
1, 244 feet