Chase County, located on the southwestern border of the State, was established in 1873. It is bounded on the north by Keith, east by Hayes, south by Dundy, and west by the State of Colorado, and contains 936 square miles, or 599,040 acres.
It is watered by Whiteman's Fork, Stinking Water and other tributary streams of the Republican River.
The County is yet unorganized and very sparsely settled, cattle raising being the chief pursuit of the inhabitants. There are no towns in the County, and no reports have been made of population or taxable property.
Custer County was established by an Act of the Legislature, approved February 17, 1877. It is located in the central part of the State, bounded on the north by unorganized territory, cast by Valley and Sherman, south by Buffalo and Dawson, and west by Lincoln County and unorganized territory, containing 2,592 square miles, or 1,658,880 acres.
The Middle Loup River and its branches, water the northeastern portion of the County. Clear and Mud Creeks water the central, and the South Loup and branches, the southeastern portion of the County. The Loups are good mill streams, and furnish a moderate supply of timber.
The surface of the country consists largely of high, rolling prairie, about ten per cent. being bluff and five per cent. valley.
Very little is done in the way of agriculture as yet, although the soil is generally well adapted to the growth of small grain. Stock raising--for which the country affords every advantage--is the leading industry.
The County was organized in the Spring of 1877, by Commissioners appointed by the Governor for that purpose.
The taxable property in the County reported for 1879, was as follows: Number of acres of land, 1,308, average value per acre,18
$1.50; money used in manufactures, $250; number of horses, 835, value $14,395; number of mules twenty, value, $536; number of neat cattle, 23,900, value $150,231; number of sheep, 4,161, value $4,161; number of swine, 183, value $218.25; number of vehicles, 171, value, $3,401; moneys and credits $425; mortgages $685; furniture $1,958; property not enumerated, $2,723.50; total, $180,746.25.
In 1879 there were two school districts, two school houses, and sixty-one children of school age in the County.
The population of the County in 1879, was 696, of whom 415 were males, and 281 females.
There is plenty of Government land in this County, suitable either for stock raising or farming.
The County Seat, is located on the South Loup River, about twenty-eight miles north of the town of Plum Creek, on the Union Pacific Railroad. It is the supply depot for the numerous cattle ranches in the vicinity, and at certain seasons of the year is a very busy place.
TUCKERVILLE, GEORGETOWN, DOUGLAS GROVE, NEW HELENA, and LENA are Postoffices in the County.
Douglas County was created in the fall of 1854, by proclamation of Acting Governor Cuming, and the boundaries were re-defined by an Act of the first Territorial Legislature, approved March 2, 1855. By an Act approved February 7, 1857, Sarpy County was formed out of the southern part of Douglas County, and the boundaries of the latter fixed as they exist at present. It is located on the middle-eastern border of the State, and is bounded on the north by Washington and Dodge Counties, east by the Missouri River, south by Sarpy County, and west by the Platte River, which separates it from Saunders County, and contains about 321 square miles, or 195,440 acres, at an average elevation of 1,000 feet above the sea level.
WATER COURSES.--The Missouri River washes the eastern and the Platte River the western border of the County. The Elkhorn River, the principal interior stream, flows from north to south through the western portion of the County, affording some excellent mill privileges. A cut-off from the Platte, some five or six miles long, unites with the Elkhorn in the southwestern part of the County. Rawhide Creek is a beautiful stream emptying into the Elkhorn in the northwestern part of this County. Big Papillion Creek, a fine stream with numerous branches, furnishing sufficient water power for light manufacturing purposes, rises in Washington County, and flows in a general southeasterly direction through the eastern portion of this County. Little, or West Papillion Creek, draining the central portion of the County, and East Papillion Creek, draining the eastern tier of townships, are tributaries of the Big Papillion, and flow in the same general direction. Mill Creek is a small stream in the northeastern part of the County, emptying into the Missouri, at Florence.
CHARACTER OF THE LAND.--The second bottoms or table lands of the Missouri are generally from one to two miles wide, and rise in gentle undulations from the low flood plains toward the bluffs, which are usually low and rounded from the northeast corner of the County down to Omaha, below which they are quite steep and broken, and the bottoms narrower. From the bluffs of the Missouri westward to the Papillions, the uplands are considerably rolling, with long sloping knolls, but nowhere, scarcely, is the surface so broken as to prevent plowing. The three Papillion Creeks, running from north to south, and from two to four miles apart, the first one about five miles west of the Missouri, have beautiful valleys, with a great deal of rich, level bottom land. The central portion of the County consists principally, of gently undulating prairie, while the western portion is taken up with the wide, level bottoms of the Elkhorn and Platte Rivers, a tract of country reaching from the northern to the southern boundary, and from six to twelve miles wide, comprising some of the finest and most desirable agricultural lands in the State. A coast-like range of bluffs, rising from seventy-five to one hundred feet above the bottoms, extend along the east bank of the Elkhorn, from the heights of which a magnificent view of the beautiful level valley country can be had as far as eye can reach.
The soil is a very deep, rich alluvial in the valleys, and on the uplands it is a rich, black vegetable mould, ranging from eighteen inches to two feet in depth. Wheat, rye, barley, oats, flax, corn, etc., are profitably grown, and Irish and sweet potatoes, melons and garden vegetables of all kinds are raised to perfection, both as regards to quality and quantity.
The number of acres under cultivation in the County in 1879 was 44,150. Of the principal crops planted 7,425 acres were in wheat, the average yield being fourteen bushels per acre; rye, 745 acres, average seventeen bushels; oats 6,596 acres, average thirty-three bushels; barley 1,445 acres, average twenty-one bushels; corn 25,709 acres, average forty bushels; and potatoes 560 acres, yielding from 100 to 250 bushels per acre. Grasses are abundant and nutritious. Immense quantities of hay are annually put up on the meadows of the Papillions and their tributaries, and on the prairie, which always finds a ready market at Omaha.
FOREST AND FRUIT TREES.--Formerly there were a number of fine groves of hardwood in the eastern portion of the County and along the bottoms of the Missouri, not much of which, however, is now left standing; but there is considerable natural timber yet along the Platte, Elkhorn and the Papillion, and where the original groves were cut off fine young timber is springing up. The artificial timber is well grown, and in proportion to the number of farms opened out, it will compare favorably as to quantity with any County in the State.
There are thrifty Orchards in the County that have been in bearing for some years past, and each year an increased quantity of fruit trees are planted, promising at an early day an abundance of the choicest fruits. Wild plums, grapes, gooseberries, and raspberries are plentiful along the streams.
HISTORY.--Lewis and Clarke's famous expedition up the Missouri camped on the Omaha Plateau, as appears from their Journal, on the 27th of July, 1804. At that time the ever-shifting channel of the Missouri ran close up to the high bank at the foot of Farnam street, covering the level bottoms which, until within a year or two, reach out a half mile or more from the bank, and upon which have been erected the Union Pacific Company & machine shops, the Smelting works, railroad tracks, warehouses,
a large distillery, extensive lumber and coal yards, and various other business establishments.
The next white person to visit this locality appears to have been a man named T. B. Roye, who established an Indian trading post with the Otoes, on the plateau where Omaha now stands, in 1825.
The first attempt at permanent settlement by the whites, within the present boundaries of the County, was made by the Mormons, in 1845. Several thousand of these people, driven from Nauvoo, Illinois, crossed the Missouri from Iowa, during the years 1845 and 1846, and made a settlement on the banks of the river six miles north of Omaha, which was called "Winter Quarters," the name of the place being afterwards changed to Florence. Here they broke up and cultivated a large tract of land, long afterwards known as "the old Mormon field," which yielded them a bountiful crop of sod corn, potatoes and vegetables, and timber being plentiful, substantial log houses were built, and their prospects for the future looked encouraging. Their numbers were constantly increased by new arrivals, and before many months had elapsed, "Winter Quarters" was considerable of a town.
The Indians, however, objecting to the Mormons cutting their timber, the Indian Agent ordered them to quit the reservation, which they did, in 1847, by recrossing the Missouri and settling in the bluffs on the Iowa side, where they established the town of Kanesville, named in honor of a Mormon Elder named Kane, the name of the town being changed, in 1853, to Council Bluffs.
Early in the Spring of 1847, before abandoning Winter Quarters, the Mormons fitted out an expedition, consisting of one hundred and eight wagons, with from four to six men to each wagon, which was sent West under the leadership of Brigham Young, to look up a favorable location for the permanent settlement of the main party. This expedition arrived at the top of the hill overlooking the now famous Salt Lake City, on the 24th day of July of the same year, and on the 28th the ground for the Temple was selected and a city two miles square laid off. A number of this pioneer party, after planting crops, returned and took back their families the same year.
The largest emigration of Mormons that left Kanesville was
in the year 1853, but they continued to emigrate in large bodies for several years later, some with cattle trains, others with hand carts. The cattle trains were made up principally of cows, which were worked as oxen, thus doing the double service of pulling the loads and supplying the emigrants with milk on the way. The hand-cart trains consisted of small carts loaded with provisions, clothing, bedding, &c., which were pushed or pulled along by the men and women, none but the smaller children, or sick, riding.
To William D. Brown, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, it is generally conceded, belongs the honor of being the first white settler to stake a claim on the plateau now occupied by the City of Omaha. Mr. Brown was one of the many who started for the gold fields of California in 1849 and 1850, and stopping on his way at Council Bluffs, then called Kanesville, he established a ferry across the Missouri for the accommodation of the large California and Oregon emigration of that day. In 1852 he equipped a flat boat for this purpose, which received the name of the "Lone Tree Ferry," from a solitary tree that stood at the landing of the boat on the west bank of the river, just east of where the Union Pacific machine shops now stand.
In the Spring of 1853, Mr. Brown staked off a claim which embraced most of the original town site of Omaha, and on the 23d day of July of the same year, a new ferry company was organized, taking in Mr. Brown as a member, under the title of "The Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company," whose object was to increase the ferrying facilities and to establish a town on the west side of the river.
The new Company consisted of Dr. Enos Lowe, President; William D. Brown, Tootle & Jackson, S. S. Bayliss, Joseph H. D. Street, Henn & Williams, Samuel R. Curtis, Tanner & Downs, and others.
A substantial steam ferry boat, named the "General Marion," was purchased by Dr. Lowe in Cincinnati, Ohio, which arrived at Council Bluffs in September, and commenced running regularly as a ferry boat across the river from that point, in May, 1854.
Months before this, however, and before the passage of the organic act opening up Nebraska for settlement, crowds of hungry land speculators and sharpers had congregated in and around
Council Bluffs anxiously waiting when they could pounce upon the choice sites bordering on the river, especially in the vicinity of the contemplated town, and notwithstanding the Indians had forbidden the whites from settling on their lands, a number of men crossed the river on the ice in January and February, 1854, and staked off claims along the river within the present limits of the County. But as soon as the ferry boat commenced running, an immense rush was made for the west side of the river, and in a month or two a large portion of the County was staked out in claims, but not one in ten of these claims was ever settled upon or improved by the claimant, who held the lands merely for speculative purposes.
Immediately after the passage of the bill admitting Nebraska as a Territory, May 23, 1854, the Ferry Company proceeded to lay out their contemplated town. The beautiful plateau upon which Omaha now stands was selected for the town site, and Mr. A. D. Jones, assisted by C. H. Downes, surveyed the same, which occupied the greater part of June and July. Omaha was the name given to the new town by the Company, at the suggestion, it is said, of Jesse Lowe, now dead.
The city was laid out in 320 blocks, each being 264 feet square; the streets 100 feet wide, except Capitol avenue, which was made 120 feet wide, but which was given no alley in the blocks on each side of it. The lots were staked out sixty-six by 132 feet, with the exception of business lots which were made only twenty-two feet wide. Three squares were reserved--Capitol Square, 600 feet; Jefferson Square, 264 by 280 feet, and Washington Square 264 feet square. A park of seven blocks, bounded by Eighth and Ninth, and Jackson and Davenport streets, was laid out, but was afterwards given up to business purposes.
In 1856 another town company was organized under the title of "The Omaha Town Company," which included in its members most of the members of the "Ferry Company." This Company secured lands lying contiguous to Omaha, which they laid out as additions to the city, the survey being known as "Scriptown."
The first house in Omaha was commenced sometime in January or February, 1854, by Mr. Tom Allen for the Ferry Company. It was a large log house, and was used when finished, as a hotel, store, and for the accommodation of the public in general.
It stood in Jackson Street, opposite Twelfth, and was known by the high-sounding name of St. Nicholas, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. P. Snowden were its first tenants.
The second house in the city was built by M. C. Gaylord, a carpenter, about the first of July, 1854. It was made of pine flooring, and stood on the hill near the present site of Creighton College. In this house Mrs. Gaylord gave birth to a son in November following, which was the first child born in the city. Mr. Gaylord who was sick at the time, died shortly after the birth of his son, and his was the first death among the settlers. He was buried on the ridge a short distance from the house, and in June, 1877, while excavating for the Creighton College, his remains were taken up and re-buried.
The "Big 6," was the name given to the third house on the town site, which was built by William Clancy, in the forepart of July. It was a large shanty, built of Cottonwood boards banked on the outside with sod, and stood on the north side of Chicago street, between thirteenth and fourteenth. Mr. Clancy opened here a general assortment of merchandise suitable to the times and place, and the "Big 6" soon became a very popular resort.
William P. Snowden, in the fall, built a log house on the west side of Tenth street, between Howard and Jackson. This was the fourth house erected on the town site, and upon its completion, a grand "house-warming" sociable was given by Mr. and Mrs. Snowden, which was attended by all the settlers, and many from Council Bluffs.
P. G. Peterson, the first Sheriff of the County, built the fifth house, a small, one-story frame structure, which then stood at the southwest corner of Farnam and Tenth streets.
S. E. and Wm. Rogers built the next house, on the south Bide of Douglas street, between Tenth and Eleventh.
In the latter part of 1854, Mr. A. D. Jones built himself a residence in the south part of town, in a lovely grove, known as "Park Wilde."
About the same time Cam Reeves built a residence near the large spring south of town, near where now stands the Cold Spring Brewery. Mr. Reeves opened the first stone quarry in the County,
near his claim, and supplied the stone for the foundation of the old State House, Capitol and other prominent buildings.
The frame residence, still standing on the south side of St. Mary's avenue, between Twenty-first and Twenty-second streets, was built in the fall of 1854, by the author, and was occupied by him for fifteen years.
The old State House, built by the Ferry Company for the meeting of the first Territorial Legislature, was the first brick building erected in the city. It stood on Ninth street, between Farnam and Douglas, and was used as a State House until the completion of the Capitol building, in the Winter. of 1857-8. The brick for this building was hauled from Council Bluffs.
The Douglas House, a large frame building, which stood on the southwest corner of Thirteenth and Harney Streets, was the first regular hotel opened in the city. It was commenced in the fall of 1854 and opened to the public on the evening of January 14, 1855, with a grand ball. This house was headquarters for the politicians and speculators for a long time, and for several years did an immense business. In 1879 the old building was removed to make room for a fine brick, containing five large store rooms.
The City Hotel, a frame building still standing on the southwest corner of Eleventh and Harney streets, built by Ed. Burdell, was opened as a hotel next after the Douglas House. In this house a ball, or reception was given, in January, 1855, in honor of Mark W. Izard, the second Governor of the Territory, on his arrival in the city.
The Western Exchange Bank building, a fine brick, on the corner of Twelfth and Farnam streets, was built in 1855, by Jesse Lowe. The Western Exchange Bank, the first banking house in the city, opened in this building early in 1856, and was a flourishing institution until the fall of 1857, when it went under in the great money crisis, with the rest of the wild-cat banks of the day. The building is now occupied by the banking house of Caldwell, Hamilton & Company.
The Pioneer Block, on Farnam, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets, built in 1856, by Dr. Henry, H. H. Visseher and A. Root, was the first brick block in the city. This block was destroyed by
fire in the spring of 1877, and replaced the same year by much finer buildings.
The frame residence at the southwest corner of Dodge and Eighteenth streets, was built by Secretary Cuming, in 1855-56, and his widow, a most respected lady, still resides there.
The first lumber yard was opened by the Hon. William A. Gwyer, his lumber arriving by steamboat, July 10th, 1856. Mr. Gywer [sic], this year, built the Farnam House, now called the Donovan, on Harney street, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth.
The second lumber yard was opened in the spring of 1857, by J. N. H. and N. T. Patrick.
Dr. Lowe's brick residence, at the southwest corner of Harney and Sixteenth streets, was built in 1857.
The Herndon House--built by Dr. G. L. Miller, Lyman Richardson and others--at the corner of Farnam and Ninth Streets, the largest brick hotel in the city, until the Grand Central was built, was commenced early in the spring of 1857 and finished in 1859, as a company enterprise. It was a commodious house, elegantly furnished and fitted up with all the conveniences of a first class hotel, and when opened to the public it at once became the fashionable resort of the city. In 1870 the building was rented to the Union Pacific Railroad Company for offices, and in 1875, the Company purchased it for $42,000.
Several other brick houses had been erected in the city by this time, also a large number of frame dwellings, hotels and business houses.
Among the places of note in the early days of the city was the "Apex" saloon, on Harney street, been [sic] Twelfth and Thirteenth. In the summer of 1856, two horse thieves were tied to a liberty pole in front of this saloon and soundly whipped, previously having had their heads shaved, after which they were kindly permitted to leave for parts unknown.
The first general merchandise store in the city and County was opened by Tootle & Jackson, on Farnam Street, early in the spring of 1855.
Shields & Carr opened another general store the same spring, as did also Megeath, Richards & Co., John R. & H. B. Porter and others. The Messrs. Porters' store was destroyed
© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller