The first place chosen for a settlement in Platte County was a tract of land lying on the south side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. It was laid out late in the summer of 1856 by the Columbus Company, a body of men who had lived in Columbus, Ohio, and organized the company at Omaha, for the purpose of building a town on the principal trail or route to the Pacific coast; the future city was given the name of Columbus and became the seat of government of Platte County. How the Columbus Company selected the site through its advance agent, the personnel of the pioneer town builders and their vicissitudes of the first few years of their residence here, has already been told in the chapter entitled "The Pioneers."
William Millar, a civil engineer, and his assistants, came on from Omaha in July, 1856, and laid out and platted the Town of Columbus. The original plat is still in existence, though in a dilapidated condition; and is a part of the plat book on file in the county clerk's office. The certificates of the civil engineer and officers of the company are given below:
"I hereby certify that from the 28th of July to the 8th day of August, 1856, I surveyed and marked the outline of the land claimed by the 'Columbus Company,' laid off and staked the corners of the lots on the outlines of the blocks from No. 1 to section No. 258, and that I afterward drafted and supplied a plat of which this is, I believe, a correct copy.
"WILLIAM MILLAR, "Omaha City, 8th Jan., 1857.
"Know all men by these presents we the undersigned, A. B. Malcolm, president, and James C. Mitchell, secretary of the Columbus Company, hereby donate all the streets and alleys as marked and designated on the plat of the within named town for the use of the public.
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 261
"Done by order of the board of directors of said company this
8th day of January, A. D. 1857.
"A. B. MALCOLM,
A. D. JONES.
JAMES C. MITCHELL,
THE FIRST BUILDING
The first permanent structure erected in the settlement was a crude and very primitive, rough log building, roofed with grass, and was made to answer all the purposes of a dwelling, storage house and fortification. This was long known as "the old company house," which was later donated to the settlement and was used as its first schoolhouse. In 1861, when abandoned by the school board, the building was purchased by Charles A. Speice for the munificent sum of $20.25, and a short time thereafter converted into stove wood. The old grass covered cabin was also known as the town hall and stood on the block now occupied by the brewery, in the southeast part of the city. In the meantime several houses had been constructed, principally of logs, and on the 1st day of August, 1857, John Rickly had in operation, near the ferry on the Loup, a short distance west of the town, the first saw and grist mill in the county. The mill was run by steam and was operated by the Ricklys until February, 1860. During that month a destructive freshet swept away the lumber and undermined the mill. Rickly was expecting at the time additional machinery from the East for his grist mill. While looking after his scattered lumber he had but just returned from his search when he was told that his mill was burning. Starting for the scene of the conflagration and upon arriving there, he found the information only too true. The mill was burned to the ground and the machinery for the grist mill was never replaced. The sawmill, however, was kept in operation until 1872, having been moved to the town, as the country was, up to that time, quite thickly wooded. It is said that when the Pawnees first came in sight of this mill, when in full blast, they fled in dismay, warriors, squaws, pappooses and all, to their village, twenty miles distant, reporting that an evil spirit had conspired with the pale faces and had prepared an engine of torture and death for them; that the demon had actually taken possession and was breathing out fire and hot breath from his nostrils and eating great logs with his iron teeth.
262 PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
Among others mentioned as having come to Columbus and its vicinity in 1859, were the Galleys. James H. Galley later became a merchant in Columbus and remembers how the town appeared upon his arrival. Meeting that affable gentleman at his comfortable home, by appointment, the writer induced him to furnish for this chapter all details that his memory would permit relating to Columbus and its people, as he found them in 1859. Agreeably thereto, he said:
"When I came here, Jacob Baker was running the American Hotel. F. G. Becher was the only merchant and kept with his father, Gustav, a little general store, in a building which stood on Seventh Street and Washington Avenue, on the south side. It was a log cabin, in which they had a little of everything and the postoffice. I also remember that Vincent Kummer, John Rickly, Peter Becker (John P.), Charles A. Speice, Jacob Ernst, Jacob Lewis, John Wolfel and Michael Weaver, were here at that time. John Reck lived about a mile and a half east of Columbus. Charles Bremer, J. E. North, John Browner and A. J. Arnold also were here. All these persons had families except Speice, Becker and Browner. However, they afterwards were married.
"Pat Murray and George W. Stevens lived a little west of Columbus and the latter taught the first school here in the 'town house,' which stood on the corner of Eighth Street and Washington Avenue. The building later was moved to Tenth and Murray and used by the Latter Day Saints for church purposes.
"The first person to go into business after I arrived was John Rickly. He had the first sawmill in Columbus, which he had moved from the Loup into town and placed it on Seventh Street, one block further east of where Becher had his store. Rickly's store building was a frame. I think the next one to go into business was 'Pete' Becker.
"Dr. C. B. Stillman was here when I came. He had his drug store and office in a lean-to, built at the rear of the priest's house, which was a log building. Charles A. Speice had a log house, which stood on the last site of St. John's Catholic Church, and Doctor Stillman moved into that; Speice and Becker had gone to some one of the southern states to work during the winter at carpentry. That was before Speice was married. Becker had a small frame building on Seventh Street, which was then the business thoroughfare of the town. He kept groceries and provisions. George Francis Train's hotel stood where the Meridian is now located, on the corner of Twelfth and Olive streets. The hotel was a two-story frame struc-
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 263
sure, quite commodious for those days, and considered one of the palace hostelries of the county. Dances and entertainments of various kinds were held there. Speaking of Train, I remember of hearing him in the little old schoolhouse when he lectured and told about the Union Pacific Railroad going through here. He took the blackboard, and with a piece of crayon, delineated where the lines would go out from this point. His prophecies in almost every instance became facts.
"All business in Columbus was on the south side until the Union Pacific Railroad was built through Columbus. I was engaged in business there until 1866. After the railroad was completed, the first business structure on the north side of the track was constructed by Bonesteel Brothers (Norris and Philip), on the corner of Platte and Thirteenth streets, now occupied by Theodore Friedhof's mercantile establishment.
"I first engaged in business with Vincent Kummer, who was the first treasurer of Platte County. I sold out in 1867 to William B. Dale and one Willard. Then I went back to the farm, on section 27, in Columbus Township, which had been my home in the county from 1859 till 1862. In the latter year I enlisted for the Civil war, and it was after I returned that I formed a partnership with Kummer, in the spring of 1866. I remained on the farm until 1873, when I put up a business building on Eleventh Street, between Olive and North, and opened a dry goods store. The building was a one story brick. With me, as a partner, was my brother Samuel. The two of us also had a mutual interest in farming.
"By the year 1873 there were quite a number of buildings on the north side. Hugh and Robert Compton were in one, where they had a stock of groceries and shoes and kept the postoffice. A. J. Arnold had a jewelry store.
"In the year 1859, as I remember, Jacob Ernst was the only blacksmith and Michael Weaver was working at his trade as a carpenter. Speice and Becker were also carpenters, but as I have said, they were in the South working at their trade. Michael Weaver was also a cabinet maker and made coffins from cottonwood lumber for my father and mother. The pioneer furniture dealer and undertaker was Henry Gass, Sr., whose representatives still continue the business. His establishment was on the south side, opposite the courthouse.
"Dr. Samuel A. Bonesteel, a cousin of the merchants, was, I believe, the second physician to locate in Columbus. He married a
264PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
sister of L. W. Weaver, the coal dealer. Doctor Owen was the next and then came Dr. Edward Hoehen, about 1867.
"The first harness maker was Dan Faucett. The pioneer hardware man was H. P. Coolidge, whose store was on the corner of Eleventh and Olive streets. He was also a tinsmith. Robert McIntire opened the first livery stable.
"The first school building erected by the board of education was located in the First ward. When abandoned for its original purpose, the structure was sold to the Catholic people for a church. This pioneer schoolhouse, which was the successor of the old company house, stood on a spot about two blocks east of the courthouse, on Tenth Street. It was a one-story frame. This was the first church building in the town and served as a place of worship for St. John's parish several years."
COLUMBUS INCORPORATED AS A TOWN
In order to improve streets, lay sidewalks, police the town and place it under a legal form of government, the board of county commissioners at an adjourned meeting held March 2, 1858, was presented with a petition by Commissioner Gustavus Becher, on behalf of John Reck, John Miller, C. B. Stillman and thirteen other citizens of Columbus, praying for the incorporation of the Town of Columbus. On motion the prayer of the petitioners was granted and the following measure consummated:
AN ACT TO INCORPORATE THE TOWN OF COLUMBUS
Section 1. Be it ordained by the commissioners of Platte County: That the town site claimed by the Columbus Company, upon which Columbus is located, is hereby declared to be a town under the name and style of Columbus.
Sec. 2. That said town is hereby made a body corporate and is invested with all the privileges and attributes conferred by an act passed by the Territorial Legislature entitled "Incorporation of Towns."
The said Town of Columbus and its successors shall be known by that name in law and have perpetual succession; sue and be sued; defend and be defended; in all courts of law and equity and may grant, hold, purchase and receive property real and personal within said town and lease, sell and dispose of same for the benefit of the
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 265
town and may have a common seal and may alter the same at pleasure.
Sec. 3. The corporate powers of said Town of Columbus shall be vested in a board of trustees to consist of five members to be elected by the qualified voters residing within said town.
Sec. 4. John Reck, Vincent Kummer, John C. Wolfel, Peter Meyer and Franck G. Becher are hereby appointed trustees of said town until their successors are elected and qualified.
Sec. 5. An election shall be held on the first Monday in May and annually thereafter for the election of five trustees who shall hold their offices one year, or until their successors are elected and qualified.
Sec. 6. No male person who is a citizen of the territory may vote at any election in said town, provided he has been a resident of the same three months.
Sec. 7. The board of trustees shall have all the powers conferred by an act for the "incorporation of towns," and in sections 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 and all other powers granted in said act.
Sec. 8. Gustavus Becher, Michael Fry and C. B. Stillman are hereby appointed judges of election and Charles I. Stetson and John Siebert clerks of such election.
Unfortunately, the record containing entries of the proceedings of the men who conducted the governmental affairs of Columbus in its infancy, is missing. There is no record to show who was the first chief executive of the town, nor that of any other official. This hiatus in the city records covers a period from the initial incorporation of the place up to the year 1869. It is fair to presume, however, that those whose names figure prominently in the petition for incorporation, were appointed by the board of commissioners to act as officials of the town until an election could be held. This supposition is substantiated by the fact that the following entry was made in the record by the county clerk as having been adopted by the board at its session of June 15, 1858:
"It was ordered that C. B. Stillman be appointed to fill the vacancy in the office of trustee in the Town of Columbus, occasioned by the resignation of John Reck." At the same meeting Charles Speice, George W. Hewitt and C. B. Stillman were appointed judges of election for Columbus precinct, said election to be held at the house of F. G. Becher. In August, 1859, Vincent Kummer, Michael Weber and C. B. Stillman were appointed judges of election, and the board decided by resolution "that the mayor, aldermen, recorder,
266PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
marshal, treasurer and assessor of the Town of Columbus give bond respectively in the sum of $500. Michael Weber was appointed justice of the peace and Vincent Kummer, constable of Columbus precinct."
Tradition has it that C. B. Stillman was Columbus' first mayor. The names of the first trustees, appointed by the board of county commissioners, appear in the articles of incorporation.
COLUMBUS ABSORBS A RIVAL TOWN
The Town of Cleveland, situated about three miles northwest of Columbus, was laid out in 1857, George W. Stevens, William H. Stevens and Michael Sweeny being active in "building it up." It went down with the City of Neenah, Buchanan and other paper towns. The next grand scheme which exploded with a crash was George Francis Train's Credit Foncier. It was to be operated on the same gauge as the Credit Mobilier, and when the latter went down the former fell, and George Francis cleared out. Some of the land which he purchased at the time (1866), was for many years "in the courts." The certificates of stock were salted mostly among eastern capitalists. Several of them, however, were deposited with Leander Gerrard, and some of George Francis Train's notes were in his possession also, bearing the autograph of the eccentric agent, the peculiarities of whom were decided "dash" and confidence. He became proprietor of the Hammond House, set apart a room for the president of the United States and the chief executive of the Union Pacific, and otherwise conducted himself as no one else could.
David Anderson, who gave much valuable attention to the early times of Columbus and the Platte River Valley, had the following to say of the scheme: "At this convenient point in my story I will again introduce George Francis Train, who figured so conspicuously in those days. He did much to advertise Omaha and the Platte Valley. But the sequel shows that Train, like many others, had his existence among men, to all present appearances, at least fifty years too soon. The much that he did was just so much too much. He spent his prophetic zeal for the Union Pacific and the whole Platte Valley, but chiefly for Omaha and Columbus. Hundreds, nay thousands, rushed to these points, thinking to invest in his city lots. But Train's lots were never in the market, and well it was for people; otherwise people would have bought before the time. Train was seized with the one idea that the capital of the United States might,
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 267
could, and would and should be on the Transcontinental-International Highway and as nearly as possible in the geographical center of the Union. So he measured the maps in all directions of earth, heaven and hell. On the map of Uncle Sam he found Columbus within ten miles of the center; on the map of the world within one mile; and on the map of the universe exactly in the centre. It was, moreover, directly on the perpendicular line 'twixt the upper and the nether world, exactly under the zenith, and over the nadir -- felicitous spot on which heavenly light could fall on 'Next President, America,' and from which all corrupt congressmen 'who loved cards and wine and women,' might drop into the pit below. So he bargained for 800 acres of land and laid out the 'Capital Addition,' and began to locate the capstan, ropes and pulleys which would move the gubernatorial mansion of Nebraska, and the executive mansion of the Union, to Columbus. They did not move worth a cent, and are not an inch yet advanced on their long journey; for, as we said, George set his machinery at least fifty years too soon.
"As to the people of Columbus, their cool heads never became heated with these vagaries, and they kept on the even tenor of their way. Their expectations, however, were excited by the distinct intimations, if not the express promises of the controlling officials of the Union Pacific that Columbus should be the terminus of the first freight division of the road, and that here should be established a round house and repair shops, etc., etc. As it was with this understanding that valuable property was conveyed to T. C. Durant, trustee, for a mere nominal price, and the right of way given to the company through town and most of the county, and depot grounds in town were given to the road."
These local operations of Train's began in 1866. He bought all movable Cleveland and all the land between that embryo town and Columbus and moved the buildings to Columbus, and by that series of acts contributed toward the upbuilding of Columbus in a way, thus leaving nothing of Cleveland but a memory.
BECOMES A CITY OF THE SECOND CLASS
By a special act of the Territorial Legislature, approved February 11, 1865, the incorporation of Columbus was legalized, and on the 18th day of August, 1873, the town was incorporated as a city of the second class. However, the legality of the measure was questioned, and, in 1877 a special law was passed, bridging over the trouble.
268PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
The first and only city building erected by the authorities of Columbus was built and occupied in 1872. This was a two-story brick affair and stood in the city park, on Thirteenth Street, a little south of the present Soldiers' Monument. The building cost about two thousand dollars. The ground floor was devoted to the fire department's apparatus, and the upper floor was used by the council and city officers. About the year 1892 the council and city clerk abandoned the building for offices in the basement of the Commercial Bank. Later, another move was made to rooms above Gray's dry goods store. From here the council chamber and city clerk's offices were shifted to quarters in the second story of the North Opera House, where they remained from 1901 to 1911. In the year just mentioned, the east lower floor of the Elks' Club Building, on Thirteenth Street, was occupied. About the year 1894 the old City Hall Building was removed from the park and but few now living in the town have any remembrance that it ever stood there.
Some years had elapsed after the first settlement in Columbus before any concerted measures had been taken to organize a permanent body of men to fight the fire fiend, whose appearance in a community is never heralded beforehand. During the years in mind every man and woman in the little town was a self-constituted fireman and used whatever means found to be the most available to resist and overcome the destroying element when their property happened to be in danger. Buckets were always kept handy and when fire broke out, every one hastened to the place and worked vigirously and patiently, passing buckets filled with water, from hand to hand, the contents of which were thrown on the burning building by the person standing nearest it.
In the latter '60s, or early '70s, Pioneer Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 was organized, and on the 11th day of March, 1874, incorporated by G. G. Becher, E. A. Baker, Albert Konka, J. W. Martin, W. J. Collins, E. W. Toncray, Lafayette Pewtherer, F. E. Gillett, F. Schwarz, A. E. Pinkney, N. Millet, J. H. Winterbotham, Byron Millet, J. A. Baker, A. Friedline, J. Schram, Jacob Gregneis, J. Gross, Charles Schroeder, Charles Clark, Dr. E. Hoehen, F. Brodfuehrer, J. E. North, E. P. McCormick, Reinbold Brandt,
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 269
Henry Gass, Edward Straube, S. J. Marmoy, John Stauffer, E. W. Webber, John Fisher. At the time the company was practically organized, A. E. Pinkney was elected clerk; E. W. Toncray, J. A. Baker and F. Brodfuehrer, directors. A hook and ladder truck was purchased by the city at an expense of $1,800.
Columbus Engine Company No. 1 was incorporated April 30, 1874, by Charles Anderson, George H. Brindley, Ida Brindley, F. G. Becher, S. A. Burgett, H. P. Baker, Phil B. Bonesteel, William Becker, George W. Coolidge, H. P. Coolidge, L. M. Cook, C. S. Clark, William Coolidge, H. W. Davis, Daniel Faucett, John E. Godfrey, R. H. Henry, E. H. Jenkins, M. T. Kinney, Augustus Lochner, A. W. Lawrence, Fred Mathews, C. E. Morse, A. McKelvey, Alonzo Miller, Samuel Naylor, Patrick O'Toole, I. N. Orrell, A. L. Preston, E. C. Pinkney, John J. Rickly, John Robinson, Julius Rasmussen, Charles E. Rickly, O. P. Reed, Orlando Rose, Dan Ryan, Ed Sheehan, William Schilz, O. C. Shannon, J. O. Shannon, George Scott, Marshall Smith, John Schram, M. Schram, Jr., J. A. Turner, George Turner, Robert Uhlig, Charles Wake. Charles E. Morse, John E. Godfrey and Daniel Faucett were elected directors; John J. Rickly, clerk.
This company was organized August 22, 1873, and its engine arrived on the 25th of September following. Its first officers were: Chief engineer, J. B. Wells; first assistant engineer, D. D. Wadsworth; treasurer, John Compton; foreman, John Huber first assistant, A. M. Darling; second assistant, R. H. Henry; secretary, John J. Rickly. The foreman of the hose company was P. B. Bonesteel; assistant foreman, George Coolidge.
FIRST ANNUAL BALL OF THE FIRE COMPANIES
The first annual ball and supper of the companies was held on Thanksgiving evening, November 27, 1873. The members issued invitations and took a lively interest in the affair. During the evening the firemen in their splendid red and blue uniforms with their engine and hose cart, paraded the streets to enlivening music from a military band, giving the public a much better idea of the numbers and force of the organizations than they had previously entertained. A race between the Engine Company and the Hose Company was very lively and amusing and resulted in a tie. At night a dance was held, both halls being crowded. At midnight the dancers went to the Clother House and enjoyed a refreshing supper,
270PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
which had been prepared for them. The crowd then returned to the hall and danced until 4 o'clock in the morning. Seventy-four tickets were sold and the net proceeds of the ball was $126.80.
FIRE DEPARTMENT COVERS ITSELF WITH GLORY
The Journal of date June 24, 1874, states: "In the rear of the business lot adjoining the Journal office on the west, and Henry & Brother's grocery store on the east, Capt. D. D. Wadsworth had erected a packing house, which he and Guy C. Barnum filled with pork. There had been no fire in the building (for smoking purposes) for the past two weeks and it is yet unexplained how the establishment caught fire, but so it did, the flames being noticed first by James H. Galley at about 1 o'clock yesterday (Tuesday) morning. The alarm was immediately given, and nothwithstanding the lateness of the hour and many inconveniences to contend with, the fire department was on the ground before the bell began to ring, and in four minutes after the first stream of water they had the fire under complete subjection. The engine did her work nobly and it is calculated that during the short time she was playing upon the fire and the surrounding buildings, she threw 900 barrels of water from the fire well in the square on Eleventh and Olive streets. Quite a gale was blowing north at the time and if we had been minus our fire department, in all probability the fire would have taken a wide swath through the heart of the town, destroying everything before it.
"The rear of Henry's grocery is about sixteen feet from the packing house and the tar was coming out of the pine knots when the hook and ladder company mounted the grocery, formed their line and were working away with hooks and buckets when they were reinforced by the engine company, throwing a constant heavy stream of water, the effect of which gladdened every man's heart. There was one other fire engine on the ground which deserves mention -- a Babcock extinguisher, which in the hands of George W. Clother, did very effective service on the Journal building.
"Too much cannot be said in commendation of the engine, the engine company and the hook and ladder company, as well as the many citizens who did their best on this occasion. The owners of the property endangered have been put under obligations, which they can never fully repay. For our own part we cannot begin to express our gratitude to the fire department and citizens for the preservation of the Journal building and shall make no attempt to do so; we are
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 271
gratified to know that we advocated the organization of the fire department and that they had from us all along all the encouragement and substantial aid that it has been in our power to give and sure it is that after this first very successful encounter our splendid fire department will not lack for substantial aid to make further needed improvements; and now that the efficiency of our fire wells has been fully demonstrated it would be well to see to it that we have one on every important square in the city.
"There was upwards of three thousand dollars worth of meat stored in the packing house, but it is difficult to estimate what the amount of loss will be, as some which was damaged will be sold at a discount. There was no insurance. The loss will fall heaviest upon Mr. Wadsworth, who had most of his money invested in the establishment and whose loss at this time is peculiarly trying."
In 1886, the year in which the waterworks system was established, Columbus had a population of 2,500. The town had grown and prospered and begun to take on the proportions of a little city. With its schools, churches, public buildings, business houses and residences, meaning an outlay of large sums of money, the people began to realize the importance of safeguarding their property interests against destruction by fire. They realized that a system of waterworks had come to be an imperative necessity and when the question was put to them of issuing city bonds in the sum of $20,000 for the construction of waterworks, the taxpayers readily responded to their duties as citizens and declared at the polls, by a liberal majority of their votes, that the city's obligations should be placed upon the market and, with money obtained therefrom, a waterworks plant should be built for the City of Columbus. With the will and authority of the people to sustain them in their acts, the authorities thereupon caused to be printed and sold waterworks bonds, which were bought by Harris & Co., of Chicago, on the 17th day of April, 1886. A contract was entered into between the city and Charles Schroeder, he being the lowest among several bidders, for $20,300, and the work of construction on the improvement was at once begun. A group of circular wells, 20 feet in diameter and ranging from 36 to 40 feet in depth, were constructed and coupled together in one large center chamber; then by a 12-inch suction pipe, these wells were connected to the pumps. Many blocks of mains had been laid and in August
272PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
of that year the pumps and boiler were installed in the power house built for the purpose on a plot of ground in the south part of the city. This building is a one-story brick, but for the past six years has not been used for its original purposes, as the city has been obtaining its power for driving the pumps from the Columbus Light, Heat & Power Company.
From the wells the city has been furnishing its patrons with an abundant supply of deliciously sweet, pure and wholesome water. The commodity is forced into a large standpipe or steel tower, 110 feet in height, which affords a pressure more than ample to throw large stream of water upon any building in the city. From time to time improvements in the system have been made. At a special election held on July 1, 1910, an issue of $10,000 extension waterworks bonds were voted and the further sum of $10,000 in bonds were authorized to be sold by the electorate on July 1, 1913. An official test was made Friday, December 17, 1886, by attaching a hose to the hydrant southeast of courthouse block, when two good streams of water were thrown through a 7/s-inch nozzle, to a good height. The test proved to be entirely satisfactory, and today the City of Columbus has one of the best and -most satisfactory municipal waterworks in the state.
It is a well known fact that no waterworks system can be said to be complete without proper means of sanitary drainage. In this regard the city was a little bit slow in inaugurating the proper means for disposing of the refuse and accumulations always the result when waterworks become of general use in a community. About the time that the waterworks went into operation, certain of the Franciscan Sisters incorporated what was designated as the East End Sewer Company and built a series of drains, principally to benefit the Catholic institutions. Private individuals were permitted to run laterals and connect with these sewers at a certain price.
On the 1st day of July, 1891, the Columbus Sewerage and Drainage Company was incorporated by J. P. Becker, Herman H. P. Oelrichs, C. H. Sheldon, Jonas Welch, C. C. Gray, J. E. North and Gus G. Becher, with a capital of $5,000. Under amended articles of incorporation, the capital stock was increased to $10,000, on March 27, 1912. At that time H. P. H. Oelrichs was president. This company was organized, as its name would imply, for the purpose of
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 273
building sanitary sewers in the City of Columbus, and on the 1st day of December, 1891, its first piece of work was completed. This consisted of a main sewer, three-fourths of a mile in length, which empties into the Loup at the foot of North Street, its dimensions being 2 inches in diameter, with connections or laterals 8 and 10 inches.
The West End Sewer Company was organized in February, 1898, with the following incorporators: C. J. Garlow, J. G.Reeder, Theodore Friedhof, R. H. Henry, O. T. Roen and Gus G. Becher, with a capital stock of $10,000, the object and intent of the corporation being to furnish sanitary sewage for all the western part of the city. The contract was let to Dusell & Fauble of the City of Columbus, and was completed in the spring of 1899, with between four and five miles of sewer pipe, in size from 6 to 10 inches. The object was to have all of the persons taking stock, at once connect with the sewer, so as to cover operating expenses, but this was not done and owing to the small patronage the plant was not a financial success until a franchise was granted permitting the company to enlarge its territory and get into the business part, where business was more profitable. The plant has been extended from time to time until now it covers a large territory and furnishes accommodation to about two hundred patrons. It is on a sound financial basis. The outlet of the sewer when built was in the Loup River, but owing to the changing of the channel, it is now several hundred yards from the river bed and its outlet is a small channel fed from ponds west of the mouth of the sewer and carried on into the river. This has been a source of trouble since the river changed its channel.
The present officers of the company are: C. J. Garlow, president; Dr. Edward Johnson, vice president; A. R. Miller, secretary-treasurer; Dr. E. H. Naumann, W. A. McAllister and E. J. Niewohner constitute the other members of the board.
It was not until the year 1914 that the City of Columbus undertook to construct a system of storm sewers. On the 5th day of August of that year the electorate voted in favor of issuing $34,500 in bonds for the construction of storm sewers. Contracts were let for the construction, of the improvement, which consisted of 266 lineal feet of a double rectangular reinforced concrete sewer, 3 feet 8 inches by 4 feet each, through the right-of-way of the Union Pacific Railroad, and 3,400 lineal feet reinforced concrete sewer, 7 feet 4
274PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
inches by 4 feet, and 364 lineal feet of 2-ring brick sewer, 64 inches in diameter; 600 lineal feet of 10-inch outlet sewer pipe and 16 manholes, 16 catch basins, or in other words, 12 blocks, or about 3/4 miles of sewer, the outlet of which was the Loup River. The estimated cost of the work was $34,000, and by the spring of 1915 the contract was completed and the improvement turned over to the city.
The city council of Columbus passed an ordinance, which was approved June 9, 1914, for the paving of certain streets within the corporate limits. A special election was held on the 5th day of August following, to determine the wishes of the taxpayers in regard to the issuance of $30,000 in bonds for the construction of pavements at the intersections of the streets proposed to be paved. The question of improving the streets was a rather popular one and the bond issue carried. The district selected first to be paved is described as follows:
Beginning at a point at the intersection of the south line of the alley, extending east and west through block 56, of the original Town of Columbus, with the east line of Rickly Street; thence east on the south line of said alley to the intersection thereof with the east line of Quincy Street; thence north along said east line to the south line of Fourteenth Street; thence east on said south line to the west line of Kummer Street; thence south along said west line to the north line of Thirteenth Street; thence east along said north line to the east line of Kummer street; thence south along said east line to the south line of Thirteenth Street; thence west along said south line to the west line of Kummer Street; thence south along said west line to the north line of the alley extending east and west through block 115 of said original Town of Columbus, thence west along said north line to the intersection thereof with the east line of Quincy Street; thence north along said east line to the intersection thereof with the north line of the alley extending east and west, through block 86 of said original Town of Columbus; thence west along said north line to the east line of Rickly Street; thence north along said east line to the place of beginning--in all, twenty-nine blocks.
It was anticipated and estimated that it would cost between thirty and thirty-five thousand dollars to pave the intersections of the streets, which was assumed by the city. For the other part of the paving the money was raised by special assessment on the abutting property.
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 275
When Charles Schroeder and associates built a flouring mill in 1855, machinery for a Brush arc and incandescent electric light system was installed, having a capacity of 1,200 candle power. With more of the invisible, intangible and mysterious force than needed for the mill, Schroeder offered to sell the surplus to citizens who desired the service. Current for electric lights was turned on from this diminutive plant on the 23d day of December, 1885, and this was the beginning of the electric light system now in vogue in Columbus. Some years later Dr. Alphonso Heintz came into possession of the mill electric paraphernalia and started an electric light plant in a frame building on East Eleventh Street, and for several years furnished the city and private consumers with lights. On the 25th day of February, 1908, the Columbus Light, Heat & Power Company, with capital stock in the sum of $150,000, was incorporated, by William C. Ross, John T. Burke and John Parrish. This organization took over the Heintz plant, part of the consideration for which was stock of the Columbus Light, Heat & Power Company. The present large brick powerhouse, on the south side, was then constructed and the latest improved machinery and appliances placed within its walls. Early in the year 1909 the innovation and splendid modern electric lighting plant was in full operation and has been giving the public general satisfaction by its service, which is continuous. The officials and owners have their main offices in Omaha, from which place they control similar industries in other cities. Willis Todd is general manager, with headquarters at Omaha; W. G. McCully is the local manager and superintendent.
In the latter part of 1905 George A. Scott, O. T. Roen and C. J. Garlow took the first steps looking to the installation of a gas plant for Columbus. Several months were spent investigating different systems and consulting engineers and those familiar with the business. Every form of production by machinery of gas manufactured from oil, coal, gasoline, alcohol and coke was carefully gone into until they were satisfied that the most practical gas is what is now known as carbonated water gas, produced by a setting known as the Tenney-High pressure machinery.
On the 4th day of May, 1906, the persons above named presented an ordinance to the city councilmen asking for the right to construct
276PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
and maintain a plant in the city of Columbus. The failure of a former company to complete a plant under an ordinance granted, caused the council to be very slow in acting, and excited considerable investigation, but on May 2, 1907, the Columbus Gas Company was granted a franchise on promise by the applicants that the funds for the plant should, if possible, be raised at home, so that this would be purely a local industry. It was but a short time thereafter that a corporation known as "Columbus Gas Company" was organized, with G. A. Scott, O. T. Roen, C. J. Garlow, Daniel Schram and Theodore Friedhof as the incorporators and officers, with a capital stock of $50,000, divided into five-hundred shares of the par value of $100, of which enough should be sold to build and operate a plant.
Within a short time after the subscription books were opened, that is to say, on the 1st day of June, 1907, enough stock was subscribed to insure success of the enterprise. A location was secured and on the 18th day of July following a contract was let to the American Construction Company, of Newton, Iowa. Work of construction was at once commenced and the plant was completed and gas in operation in the mains already laid, in December, 1908.
The plant is located on a siding between Eleventh and Twelfth streets, just east of Washington Street, and consists of several large storage tanks, a duplicate setting complete, one gas and one steam, capable of manufacturing sufficient gas for a city of from ten to fifteen thousand population. The building is of brick, with large storage house for coke and coal. The steam is largely produced by heat from the by-product of the gas, known as tar, which is fed back into the furnace and furnishes a large percentage of the fuel. The gas is delivered under what is known as a high pressure, that is to say, that persons living at a long distance from the plant and even on small mains, get the same pressure and the same service that persons get living near the plant and on large pipes.
The gas is delivered to the consumer through what is known as a governor, which regulates the pressure and gives a steady feed into the burner all the time. The company adopted the prepayment system, which saves the price of a collector. The plant is operated successfully and is on a paying business. It has at the present time about four hundred and fifty patrons and is increased from fifty to seventy-five every year. The gas is considered by those who have used gas at other places as being of the very best quality both in light and heat units.
The present officers are: C. J. Garlow, president; R. Y. Lisco,
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 277
vice president; G. W. Phillips, secretary-treasurer. Dan Schram and C. N. McElfresh, with the foregoing officers, constitute the board of directors.
BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY
Soon after the telephone became of practical use the Bell Telephone Company obtained a franchise and began operations here, and still has an exchange, which takes care of a now limited business, confined to the towns and long distances. The independent company has all of the rural traffic.
INDEPENDENT TELEPHONE COMPANY
The Independent Telephone Company was organized in the summer of 1902. It was incorporated by A. Anderson, C. J. Garlow, T. J. Cottingham, G. T. Everett, J. G. Reeder, G. W. Phillips and two or three other persons, with a capital stock of $35,000, and was granted a franchise in the fall of 1902. It immediately began to build the system and install 'phones, so that by December 1, 1903, the plant was about ready to give service. The officers of the company were: C. J. Garlow, president; T. J. Cottingham, vice president; G. T. Everett, secretary; A. Anderson, treasurer.
The plant continued to grow and became very popular on account of the energy with which the business was prosecuted and its successful operating among the farmers, stock being sold to them to start with and a dividend guaranteed by the officers of the company. The plant has grown until it is now one of the most successful independent telephone plants in the state, with about fifteen hundred patrons and with the most up-to-date equipment on the market.
The present officers of the company are: C. J. Garlow, president; R. Y. Lisco, vice president; G. W. Phillips, secretary-treasurer; Fred Kluck, of Richland; and C. W. Louis, with the foregoing officers, constitute the board of directors.
MAYORS AND CLERKS FROM 1860 TO 1915
William B. Dale, 1868-70; C. B. Stillman, 1871; James E. North, 1872-74; R. H. Henry, 1875; Byrd Miller, 1876; Charles A. Speice,1877-78; J. P. Becker, 1879-80; J. R. Meagher, 1881-82; John M.
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 278
Macfarland, 1883-84; R. H. Henry, 1885; Carl Cramer, 1886; J. E. North, 1887-89; R. H. Henry; 1890; Henry Ragatz, 1891; David Schupbach, 1892-93; G. W. Phillips, 1894-95; G. B. Speice, 1896-97; E. D. Fitzpatrick, 1898-99; Louis Held, 1900; Henry Ragatz, 1901; R. S. Dickenson, 1902; John G. Becher, 1903; August A. Boettcher, 1904; R. S. Dickenson, 1905; G. W. Phillips, 1906-08; Louis Held, 1909-12; M. M. Rothleitner, 1913-15.
F. G. Becher, 1865-74; L. M. Saley, 1875; S. L. Barrett, 1876; John Schram, 1877-78; H. J. Hudson, 1879-81; A. B. Coffroth, 1882-83; David Dowty, 1884-87; G. Folbaum, 1888-91; D. N. Miner, 1892; William Becker, 1893-1915.
When the county was organized the commissioners divided it into three districts. The first district commenced at the southeast corner of the county, thence ran north twenty-four miles, west eight miles, south twenty-four miles and thence to the place of beginning. An equal eight-mile strip west was made the Second District and the remaining strip the Third District. Thomas Sarvis was appointed to represent the First District, George Spaulding the Second and Gustavus Becher the Third. From the First District was created Columbus Township, and in 1808 Charles A. Speice, George W. Hewitt and C. B. Stillman were appointed judges of election; polls at the house of F. G. Becher.
The present Columbus Township was declared to be by the board of commissioners at the time that body perfected arrangements for the township system of government to be Towns 16 and 17, Range 1 East. This subdivision of the county is irregular in shape, being partially made so by the Platte and Loup Fork rivers, the Loup Fork emptying into the Platte in section 33, making that part of the township between the two streams a decided peninsula. To the west and south of the township several sections are cut off between the Loup and Platte rivers to form a part of Butler Township. Parts of sections 2, 3 and 4 are south of the Platte River.
Lost Creek zigzags across this part of the county from the northwest to the southeast. The township is bounded on the north by Shell Creek and Bismark townships, on the east by Colfax County;
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 279
on the south by Polk and Butler counties; on the south and west by Butler Township; and on the west by Oconee Township.
Here are to be found some of the best farming lands in South Platte. One-half of the soil is rich black loam and one-half mixed with sand. There being abundance of water, the lands are well drained and the advantages of stockraising are numerous and have always been made use of.
Patrick Murray was probably the first person to begin farming in Columbus Township, and mention of his eventful life and that of his family already appears elsewhere in this work. This may also be said of other families locating in the township outside of Columbus. The history of the township is practically identical with that of Columbus, and those identified with its history already have been given their proper place.
Return to the IndexContinue to next page
Use your Browser's Back button to return to the previous page.
© 1997, 1998 Ted & Carole Miller
and 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project