paper, of February 27, 1858, announces that in the coming months of April, May, June, and July two thousand wagons, hauled by sixteen thousand cattle, hitched up with two acres of ox yokes and driven by two thousand ox drivers would start across the Plains. The item promises to the citizens a season of grand opera, when "Bellows Falls, or the Glory of a Bovine Jehu" would be presented nightly.
   The Nebraska City News leaves in unexplained ambiguity the question whether the advantage of the Nebraska City over the Leavenworth route lay in distance or in the superiority of oxen over mules: "The ox trains leaving Nebraska City in May reached Fort Kearney, unloaded and made four days travel back toward Nebraska City when they met mule trains from Leavenworth that left there in April."
   A curious illustration of the dependence of the people upon even impracticable water transportation as late as 1858 is afforded by a statement in the Advertiser that a small steamboat had ascended the Big Nemaha as far as Falls City -- twenty-five miles -- coupled with the remark that, "this can not fail to prove gratifying to the enterprising citizens of this flourishing and prosperous young city."
   The mode of taking pleasure trips, as well


Courtesy Nathan P. Dodge, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Twenty-three miles northwest of Omaha, 1854. Drawing by George Simons, whose uncle, Norton Simons, owned the Bellevue ferry.

as that of commercial transportation, in those ante-railroad days is illustrated in an article puffing the steamer Wautossa which appeared in the Omaha Times, June 17, 1958: "The Wautossa arrived here 'up to time' on Sunday morning last. Captain Morrison finding, at our levee and at other landings near here, a large quantity of freight, awaiting shipment for points above, consented to extend this trip to Sioux City. The Wautossa departed for Sioux City on Tuesday morning, having on board pleasure parties from Nebraska City, Council Bluffs, and Omaha. A band of music accompanied the party. The trip can not fail of being a pleasant one to all on board."
   Travelers at this time report a great deal of gold on the road from the mines to Nebraska City. The Nebraskian59 notes that two hundred miles of the route to the mines is over a military road, constructed by the federal government, and gives much space to glorifying that route and the importance of the gold fields. A panoramic view of the North Platte route ten thousand feet long was exhibited in Omaha as an advertisement. Cottonwood Springs in those days was counted "ten days from Omaha." May 23, 1860, the Omaha Republican reports that crossing Loup fork at Columbus can be accomplished "in a very few minutes." about four-fifths of the emi-

   59 February 25, 1860.



grants through Omaha cross the Platte at Shinn's ferry. The correspondent says that since leaving Fort Kearney there had not been less than fifty to one hundred teams in sight at any time. Residents estimated that two thousand five hundred to three thousand teams had already passed along this route that season, and, allowing about five persons to a team, estimated that from ten thousand to fifteen thousand people had gone over that road to the during the spring in question. There were plenty of antelope and other kinds of but no buffalo were to be seen.
   The Republican of August 15, 1860, notes that many adventurous individuals are building boats at Denver for the purpose of navigating the Platte, and thereupon gives this sage counsel: "We would advise all that such an enterprise is attended with great difficulties, and often, results in the total abandonment of the boat after many weeks of fruitless endeavor to reach the Missouri," The Nebraskian 60 says that not less than twenty Pike's Peak wagons pass its office daily, and thirty were counted one afternoon; and the same paper of April 28th says that teams are passing Fort Kearney at the rate of two hundred a day. In the same issue there is a statement that the rate for freight from Omaha to Denver is $9 per hundred pounds, and that there is much of it lying at Omaha awaiting transportation. In this paper James E. Boyd & Co. advertise that they keep a general merchandise store and a stable capable of accommodating forty horses on the north side of the Platte river directly opposite Fort Kearney, and the Genoa ferry is advertised to carry teams across the Loup fork "at the town of Genoa, eighteen miles west of Columbus, where there is a good crossing from bank to bank." O. P. Hurford also advertises a ferry over the same stream at Columbus. In this interesting issue of the Nebraskian we find also a notice of the organization of the Missouri & Western Telegraph company at St. Louis, of which Edward Creighton of Omaha, was treasurer, and Robt. C. Clowry of St. Louis, secretary and superintendent.61 It is announced that the company intends to construct a telegraph line to Omaha and Council Bluffs immediately, and to extend it westward to the Pike's Peak region.
   The News 62 notes that the Messrs. Byram will send out two or three heavy trains a week to Pike's Peak guarded by thirty armed men. On the 9th of August, 1862, the News avows that the round trip to Denver from Nebraska City is two hundred miles shorter than from St. Joe or Leavenworth and fifty miles shorter than via Omaha. The following is a good illustration of the importance which the northern route from Omaha had assumed by the summer of 1859:
   The secretary of the Columbus Ferry Company at Loup Fork informs the Omaha Nebraskian that the emigration across the Plains, up to June 25, was as follows: 1,807 wagons, 20 hand carts, 5,401 men, 424 women, 480 children, 1,610 horses, 406 mules, 6,010 oxen. and 6,000 sheep had crossed this ferry at that point. This statement includes no portion of the Mormon emigration but embraces merely California, Oregon, and Pike's Peak emigrants and their stock, all going westward. The returning emigration cross at Shinn's ferry, some fifteen miles below the confluence of the Loup Fork with the Platte. Many of the outward bound emigrants also crossed at the same point so that it is probable that not less than 4,000 wagons have passed over the military road westward from this city since the 20th of March.63
   The Advertiser, 64 which at this time was fervently loyal, insisted that traffic should be diverted from Nebraska City as a punishment for disloyalty to the cause of the Union. The Nebraskian65 avows that a traveler met seven hundred teams in one day between Loup fork (Columbus) and the Elkhorn river. About five hundred of these would keep the north route and cross the Loup at Columbus; the other two hundred would cross the Platte by Shinn's ferry, "and take the tortuous route on the other side of the river." Another traveler reported that the whole region about Buffalo and Elm creeks is a valley of death, strewn white with buffalo bones over the whole width

   60 April 14, 1860.
   61 Charles M. Stebbins of St. Louis, was president.
   62 May 25, 1861.
   63 Dakota City Herald, August 13, 1859.
   64 October 19, 1865.
   65 May 19, 1860.



of the Platte bottom and fifty miles in length. The same paper, June 2, 1860, says that up to that time an average of thirty-five teams and three men to a team had crossed the Missouri river at Omaha on the way to the mines. The Press66 of Nebraska City says:

   There are four principal routes to the gold mines: the Omaha route crosses the Papillion, the Elkhorn, and Loup Fork, three large and bad streams, and a great number of smaller ones, and the Platte, the worst river to ford in the West, and is six hundred miles long. The St. Joe and Leavenworth route crosses the Soldier, Grasshopper, Nemaha, Walnut, Big Blue, Sandy, Little Blue, and many other tributaries of the Kansas, at points where there are no bridges and are difficult to ford -- distance, six hundred and fifty to seven hundred miles. The Kansas City route, up the Kansas and Arkansas rivers is a bad and difficult road. From Kansas City to the mouth of Cherry creek it is nine hundred miles. The Nebraska City route runs along the divide between the southern tributaries of the Platte and the northern tributaries of the Kansas and crosses but one stream of more than a few inches of water on the whole route. There are good timber, water, and grazing along the whole line. It is about five hundred miles -- the road has not (nor have any) been measured, but we judge from the time of travel; ox teams have come from Auraria to Nebraska City in twenty-five days.
   The Huntsman's Echo,67 published at Wood River Center, Buffalo county, shows that our own heyday of monopoly of transportation is no new thing:

    The people of the Pike's Peak mining district, together with all concerned, and the rest of mankind, will be pleased to learn that after being swindled, gouged, imposed upon, and literally robbed in the matter of mail facilities and service by that arch-monopoly, Jones, Russell & Co., for near two years they are now provided by the department, at American rates, a mail from Omaha, by this place and Fort Kearney, once a week and back. The Western Stage Company, the most accommodating punctual, and reliable in the mail service, has the contract and have already sent out one mail.
   Query: Did this editor have a pass?
   The Nebraska City News 68 notes that a daily mail line overland to California, via St. Joe, has recently been established. The Press,69 of Nebraska City, quotes an item from the last Nebraskian stating that the telegraph line between Omaha and Fort Kearney has just been finished and that news by Pony Express will doubtless come from Kearney by wire in future.
   The Nebraska City News70 reports that grading is going on across the river for the Council Bluffs and St. Joe railway; and the same paper,71 describing the Salt Lake traffic from Omaha, says that in two days over a month six hundred and thirty-two large government wagons, each carrying on an average five thousand pounds of freight to Colorado merchants at the mines, passed through Nebraska City. The Nebraskian72 says that "five trains of sixty wagons each, loaded with freight and Mormon poor, have left for Salt Lake, and five more are to 90, making six hundred wagons in all -- the last to go this week. There are already two thousand emigrants on the Plains and two thousand yet to leave." Freight on a cotton mill for Salt Lake had already cost $1,500 as far as Omaha.
   In the spring of 1865 there was bitter complaint by the partisans of the Omaha route because travelers were not protected from the Indians. It was charged that anywhere between the mouth of the Elkhorn and the forks of the Platte the North Platte route was ignored by the military and was in a state of outlawry. After passing Port Kearney travelers north of the south fork were at the mercy of the Indians for a distance of two hundred miles. It was charged also that Brigadier General P. R. Connor telegraphed on the 24th of May, 1865, to Captain S. H. Morer at Omaha as follows: "Please notify all trains coming west that they must cross the Platte at Plattsmouth. They can not cross the Platte east of Laramie, and I have not the troops to escort them on the north side." The Republican at this time charges Morer, Colonel Livingston, and General Connor with favoritism for the Plattsmouth route. On the 27th of

   66 February 31, 1860.
   67 September 13, 1860.
   68 May 4, 1861.
   69 November 1, 1860.
   70 March 1, 1862.
   71 June 28, 1862.
   72 August 14, 1863.



May, 1865, a meeting was held at Omaha for the purpose of raising a subscription of $50,000 for building a bridge across the Platte in the interest of the North Platte route, and among those on the subscription committee were Edward Creighton, Ezra Millard, and Dr. George L. Miller.
   Representatives of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad company took a lively part in the protest against the change of the route of the Union Pacific railway to the southern, or ox-bow line; and on the 21st of December, 1866, Dr. Miller, in the Omaha Herald, assists J. Sterling Morton in his attack in the Nebraska City News on Secretary Harlan's decision that the Burlington company might go outside the twenty mile limit to locate its land grant. The Herald complains bitterly that to do so "withholds from occupation and sale three million acres of the best lands in Nebraska." The Burlington company objected to the Union Pacific's change of line because it lapped over its own land grant.
   On the 25th of October, 1867, the News says that there is a tri-weekly stage from Nebraska City to Lincoln doing a large business -- "the only regular line of stages from the Missouri river to Lincoln." The Republican 73 says:

   The Burlington & Missouri River railroad has been located as far west as a point opposite Plattsmouth, and surveys have been made from that place west with a view to a connection with the Union Pacific at, or not greatly beyond Columbus. The proposed extension of that line west of the Missouri river is to be in the valley of the Platte and Lincoln City has never been thought of as a point. Besides we venture the assertion that no intelligent man in Nebraska believes that the Burlington road will ever be built west of the Missouri river in any direction. It will seek a connection with the Union Pacific at Omaha, where it can compete on equal terms with the other roads running through Omaha, and will not be guilty of the folly of inviting the opposition of the Union Pacific by seeking to tap it at some point west of this city.

   The only excuse for the Republican's prophetic blindness is consideration of the fact that its mistakes had a great deal of company of the same sort at that time. The Republican observes that the Chicago & Northwestern Railway company at one time contemplated a connection with the Union Pacific at Columbus or Kearney, crossing the river at Decatur sixty miles north; but, seeing that the Mississippi & Missouri (Rock Island) would form a connection with the Union Pacific at Omaha, the Northwestern changed its route to that city where it could compete on equal terms with its rival. The Republican laughed unrestrainedly at the statement that the Northwestern would go to Lincoln.
   On the 4th of December, 1867, the Republican speaks of a famous early transportation company as follows: "The old Northwestern Stage Company is known by every man, woman, and child in Iowa and Nebraska. . . Its coaches rolled over every road. For years it was the only means of intercommunication -- even as late as two years ago.".
   The Brownville Advertiser 74 gives an interesting sketch of the effect of these freight routes upon the almost sole industry -- agriculture -- in the course of a complaint of the sloth of Nemaha county in competition for the trade of the lines:

    The truth is farmers, more than anybody else, would be benefited by a good road to Fort Kearney. The market for farm produce is now west of us in Colorado and the forts. The thousands of gold hunters in the mountains are fed from the Missouri valley. There is no county in Nebraska that produces more than Nemaha. The surplus is gathered up by freighters, but they do not pay as much here by 20 per cent as in Nebraska City simply because the road from here needs a little mending. Freighters pay 25 cents a bushel for corn at Nebraska City and only 15 and 20 cents here. A bridge, or a good ford, across the Blue, at or near Beatrice, would be worth thousands annually to Nemaha, Richardson, Pawnee, Johnson, Clay, and Gage counties.
   The Advertiser further complains that:

    Ten times as much of the travel across the Plains leaves the river from Omaha and Nebraska City as from Brownville. Ten times as many freighters start for Denver, Julesburg and the forts from Omaha and Nebraska City as from this county. The route from

   73 August 28, 1867.
   74 August 22, 1863.



here to Fort Kearney is naturally better than any other; in distance it is shorter thin most other routes; the road is comparatively level; no large streams except the Nemaha to cross; plenty of good water and pasture, and between here and the Leavenworth road at Sandy you are never out of sight of timber. Had about two good bridges been built five years ago a large portion of the vast emigration to the mines would have passed over this route. We vainly hoped that the government would see the importance of this route and would aid us in making a good road. Meanwhile the tide of travel influenced by interested parties became fixed to other roads.

   In August, 1862, the Scientific American copied from the Nebraska City News an account of the trip of a steam wagon -- the Prairie Motor -- which had started for Denver, "drawing three road wagons containing five tons of freight, two cords of wood, and all the wagons were crowded with excited citizens." The article goes on to relate that there were five regular stage routes between the Missouri river and the West, all of which concentrated at Fort Kearney, and that the stage fare for a single passenger from Nebraska City to Denver was $75, and the time taken for the trip one week, traveling day and night. "The citizens of Nebraska in view of these facts have regarded the introduction of the steam wagon with enthusiasm as a great improvement upon the common slow and expensive system of animal teaming on the prairie road. On the 28th of July last they met in mass convention at Nebraska City and requested the authorities of the county to construct a road to its western limits suitable for the steam wagon so as to make Nebraska City the focus of the steam wagon line." The Nebraska City News 75 relates that, "General Brown's steam wagon which left here last week, has, we regret to learn, met with an accident. About twelve miles from the city one of the cranks of the wagon shaft broke and stopped further progress for the present . . . The wagon had got over the last rise of ground and was about to start on the long divide which runs clear through to Kearney when it broke. The accident will cause a delay of about three weeks. General Brown left immediately for New York with the broken parts to have them replaced. Messrs. Sloate and Osborne, the engineers, remain here and will push immediately forward when the new shaft arrives." But the experiment was abandoned at this stage.
   Since Nebraska was, in law and in fact exclusively "Indian country" prior to the time of its organization as a territory -- 1854 -- it had no roads except such as had been laid out in the natural course of travel, and no bridges except such as might have been voluntarily built by travelers over the smaller streams. The first appropriation for a highway within the present Nebraska was made by act of Congress, February 17, 1855, which authorized the construction of "a territorial road from a point on the Missouri river (opposite the city of Council Bluffs), in the territory of Nebraska to New Fort Kearney in said territory." On the 3d of March, 1857, Congress appropriated $30,000 "for the construction of a road from the Platte river via the Omaha reserve and Dakota City to the Running Water river," under the direction of the secretary of the interior. Appropriations were made for roads within the original territory, but not within the present state, as follows: February 6, 1855, $30,000, "for a military road from the Falls of the Missouri river in the territory of Nebraska to intersect the military road now established leading from Walla Walla to Puget Sound." July 22, 1856, $50,000, "for the construction of a road from Fort Ridgley, in the territory of Minnesota, to the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, in the territory of Nebraska." On the 3d day of March, 1865, an appropriation of $50,000 was made for the construction of a wagon road from the mouth of Turtle Hill river to Omaha, and from the same point to Virginia City, Montana. The main motive for the construction of these highways in the Northwest was national, that to provide for transportation of troops and supplies into the country where British influence at the earlier dates and the Indians all the time were most to be feared. Encouragement and accommodation of local settlements was no doubt an important but secondary consideration.

   75 August 2, 1862.







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