NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library

Red horz. bar

Past & Present of Platte County, Nebraska - Volume I

Red horz. bar


Past and Present of Platte




In 1634 the first white man set foot upon the territory west of Lake Michigan. Jean Nicolet, agent of the Company of One Hundred, an association legalized by the French king, ventured thither on a mission of trade, to induce the Indians of that region to send their furs to the lower country. Here he became advised of the fact that there existed "the country of the Illinois," through which the streams flowed into a mightier river to the southwestward. But the French agent did not get sight of the Wisconsin; his explorations were confined to a comparatively small area in the vicinity of Green Bay.


  The time at length arrived when was to be revealed the mystery which had so long enshrouded the "great water." The existence of the river could no longer be doubted. Its exploration above the uppermost point reached by De Soto was only a question of time. Nicolet heard of the mighty stream, but mistook it for the sea. In 1658, two fur traders, who had reached Lake Superior, were told that the ferocious Sioux dwelt on the banks of a great river to the westward. And as early as 1665, at what is now known as Ashland Bay, in Wisconsin, a Jesuit missionary -- Claude Allouez -- talked with wild warriors from the mysterious "Messippi." The same priest four years afterward, while on a visit to the Indians on Fox River, of Green Bay, was assured that the wide rolling river was not far away; that it had its source a great way to the north and flowed southward, they knew not whither. And in 1667, the intrepid La Salle, if he did not actually see the magnificent stream, floated, it is claimed, down one of its principal eastern tributaries. The exploration therefore of the Upper Mississippi could not longer be delayed.
Vol. I-1





  Louis Joliet and James Marquette joined hands to solve the problem of the ocean river of the West -- the one a fur trader of the St. Lawrence; the other, a Jesuit missionary at (old) Point St. Ignace, on the north side of the Strait of Mackinaw. The travelers were provided with a simple outfit -- two birch-bark canoes, a supply of smoked meat and Indian corn and a limited amount of baggage. They embarked with five Frenchmen, beginning their voyage May 17, 1673. They paddled along the northern shores of Lake Michigan then up Green Bay to its head, when they entered the mouth of Fox River. Ascending that stream to Lake Winnebago, they were soon once more in the river they had left, and on the 7th of June they reached a village of the Mascoutins, in what is now believed to be Green Lake County, Wisconsin. Here they obtained two savages as guides to the Wisconsin, as no white man had ever penetrated farther westward than the point they had now reached. On the 10th they again embarked and were not long after at the "portage," between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, which they crossed. They launched their canoes on the last mentioned stream. Here their Indian guides left them. They could not be induced to venture into a region inhabited by a people, as they believed, the very incarnation of ferocity. With a delight and an exultation which can readily be imagined, the adventurous Joliet, after descending the Wisconsin to its mouth, floated out upon the bosom of the Mississippi.

  Down the current of the river journeyed the Frenchmen, passing in succession the mouths of the Rock, the Des Moines, the Illinois, when they were finally "aroused by a real danger. A torrent of yellow mud rushed furiously athwart the calm blue current of the Mississippi, boiling and surging and sweeping in its course logs, branches and uprooted trees. They had reached the mouth of the Missouri." Then they proceeded on, passing the more placid Ohio, and still onward they paddled their canoes until they reached the mouth of the Arkansas, where they rested. Joliet was satisfied that the Mississippi discharged its waters into the Gulf of Mexico, and he resolved to return. Painfully they made their way back, toiling up the stream until they reached the Illinois. Hoping by this river to find a shorter route to Lake Michigan, the explorers entered it, ascending to a "portage," which took them to the stop on which the City of Chicago now stands, where they beheld with joy the outstretching inland sea, then known to them as Lake Illinois, now Lake Michigan. Down



its coast they wearily paddled their frail canoes, until finally, in September, they again reached the head of Green Bay. Here Marquette remained to recruit his exhausted strength, but Joliet proceeded to the St. Lawrence to make known his important discoveries to Count Frontenac.


  The work left unfinished by Joliet -- the discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi -- was accomplished by the indomitable La Salle. The discovery of a water route to China, the planting of colonies in the West, the building of a fort at the point where the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico -- these were the magnificent schemes revolving in his mind while at Fort Frontenac, Canada. Having first obtained a royal commission for perfecting the discovery of the great river, La Salle, with the necessary companions and stores, ascended Lake Ontario, entered the Niagara River, and, passing around the falls, selected a spot at the mouth of a stream now known as Cayuga Creek, on the American side, about two leagues above the cataract where he commenced building the "Griffin," a bark of sixty tons. This craft, after many delays, was finally fully equipped, and spreading her sails, boldly stood on her way westward -- the first vessel to navigate Lake Erie. This was in August, 1679.

  A pleasant and rapid run brought them to the mouth of the Detroit River. Thence they passed into Lake Huron, and after a rough voyage upon that lake, the "Griffin" was safely moored in the Straits of Mackinaw. In September, La Salle passed westward into Lake Michigan and cast anchor, finally, near one of the islands at the entrance of Green Bay. From this point the vessel was sent back with a rich cargo of furs, under orders to return with provisions and supplies, to be conveyed to the head of Lake Michigan. But the "Griffin" and her crew were never more heard of. She probably foundered and all on board perished. La Salle, with fourteen men, after parting with his vessel, started up Lake Michigan in four canoes deeply laden. After terrible hardships he reached the head of the lake, and, circling around it, paddled his way into the mouth of the river St. Joseph -- called by him the "Miamis."

  From this river La Salle crossed to a branch of the Illinois, down which he floated to the main stream, on whose banks, below what is now Peoria, he finally rested. Leaving all his companions except five, he then determined to return to Canada to bring forward sup-



plies. This return trip was undertaken on foot in the month of March, 1680, and has been commented upon for the daring and hardihood necessary for its successful accomplishment, but more especially as to the route pursued. La Salle followed up the Illinois, crossed over to Lake Michigan and was soon at the mouth of the St. Joseph. Here he was assured of the fate of the "Griffin" by two men whom he found; so he pushed onward with his party through the unknown wilds of what is now southern Michigan. Finally, the Detroit River was reached and crossed and the persevering Frenchmen, taking a direct line thence to Lake Erie, came to its northern shores at a place not far from Point Pelee, he having sent two of his men from the Detroit to Mackinaw. Upon the lake he embarked in a canoe made as best he could, and in it reached the Niagara River in safety. Thence he made his way without accident to Fort Frontenac, at the foot of Lake Ontario, after sixty-five days of incessant toil from his place of starting on the Illinois -- the most arduous journey perhaps ever made by Frenchmen in all their expeditions, either in the valley of the St. Lawrence or the Mississippi.


  Previous to La Salle's leaving the Illinois, Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan friar, had been sent down that river to explore it to its mouth, and, after reaching the Mississippi, to move up that river and report his discoveries, Hennepin journeyed as far as the Falls of St. Anthony, which he named, and returned after much suffering and many narrow escapes by way of the Wisconsin River to Lake Michigan -- wintering (1680-81) upon the Straits of Mackinaw, and finally, in the last mentioned year, reaching by way of Lake Huron and the lower lakes, the river St. Lawrence in safety.

  On the 6th day of February, 1682, there stood. at the mouth of the Illinois River gazing out upon the silent waters, La Salle. He had returned from Canada by way of the lakes to the point where he then was, his destination being the mouth of the Mississippi. Although fully satisfied that the great stream flowed onward to the gulf, yet, as before mentioned, he was resolved to complete the work begun by Joliet and explore it to its mouth. Boldly he and his party embarked in their canoes. Onward they floated, every stage of their adventurous progress being marked with strange sights, but they hesitated not. They had many adventures with the savages; many hardships to encounter; many obstacles to overcome; but finally, in



the early part of April, the great gulf opened before them. They had reached what the sad followers of De Soto had seen one hundred and fifty years previous -- the mouth of the Mississippi. Thereupon the whole country drained by the Mississippi was taken possession of in the name of the French king. In the autumn of 1683, La Salle, by way of the Illinois, once more returned to the St. Lawrence. Thus Europeans explored, from the Falls of St. Anthony to the Gulf of Mexico, a country to which La Salle gave the name of Louisiana. "We have given the name Louisiana to this great discovery," said Hennepin to the King of France, in 1682, "being persuaded that Your Majesty would not disapprove that a part of the earth watered by a river more than eight hundred leagues in length, and much greater than Europe, which we may call the Delight of America, and which is capable of forming a great empire, should henceforth be known under the august name of Louis, that it may thereby have some show of right to aspire to the honor of your protection, and hope for the advantage of belonging to you." The vast area watered by the Missouri was, as yet, an undiscovered country. "As we were descending the river," wrote Marquette of his voyage down the Mississippi, in 1673, with Joliet, "we saw high rocks with hideous monsters painted on them and upon which the bravest Indians dare not look. They are as large as a calf, with head and horns like a goat; their eyes red; beard like a tiger's and a face like a man's. Their tails are so long that they pass over their heads and between their forelegs under their belly and end like a fish's tail. They are painted red, green and black. They are so well drawn that I cannot believe they were made by the Indians. And for what purpose they were made seems to me a great mystery. As we fell down the river and while we were discoursing upon these monsters, we heard a great rushing and bubbling of waters, and small islands of floating trees coming from the mouth of the Pekitanoni (the Missouri) with such rapidity that we could not trust ourselves to go near it. The water of this river is so muddy that we could not drink it. It so discolors the Mississippi as to make the navigation of it dangerous. This river comes from the northwest and empties into the Mississippi, and on its banks are situated a number of Indian villages.... The Indians told us that by ascending the Pekitanoni, about six days journey from its mouth, we would find a beautiful prairie twenty or thirty leagues broad, at the end of which, to the northwest, is a small river, which is not difficult to navigate. This river runs toward the southwest for ten or fifteen leagues, after which



it enters a small lake, which is the source of another deep river, running to the west, where it empties into the sea." Such was the first description ever given to civilized man of the country of the Missouri; vague and indefinite it is, but bearing some resemblance to the region as it was afterward seen.

  The hope entertained by Father Marquette was to find communication with the California Sea, "in order to be able to publish the gospel to all the nations of this New World, who have so long been plunged in heathen darkness." This avenue he was led to believe might be found through what are now called the Missouri and Platte rivers, for from the Indians he had learned that by advancing up the Missouri five or six days, "you come to a beautiful prairie twenty or thirty leagues long, which you must cross to the northwest. It terminates at another little river, on which you can embark, it not being difficult to transport canoes over so beautiful a country as that prairie. This second river runs southwest for ten or fifteen leagues, after which it enters a small lake, which is the source of another deep river running to the west, where it empties into the sea." The brave Christian worker was not correctly informed as to the geography of the region beyond Nebraska, but his spirit shines out as one of the most glorious in the annals of devout endeavor through the pages of his journal. Such men are the rare exemplars for the people of all time to shape their lives by. Patient, hopeful, courageous, sincere, the name of Marquette is one to be cherished because of what he was, as well as what he did.

  The first effort at cartography in the West was made by Father Marquette in 1673. This crude map contains a much closer resemblance to the later and more scientifically designed charts than does that of any of the early maps to the regions attempted to be described.

  "We found," says the historian of La Salle's voyage down the Mississippi in 1682, "the Ozage (Missouri) River coming from the west. It is fully as large as the River Colbert (Mississippi), into which it empties, troubling it so that from the mouth of the Ozage the water is hardly drinkable."

  From the St. Lawrence, La Salle returned to France to make arrangements for colonizing the country he had explored. In July, 1684, he left Rochelle with a fleet of four vessels for the mouth of the Mississippi. Being ignorant of the coast, his vessels went too far westward and landed at Matagorda Bay, Texas. This was February 14, 1685. He was fully one hundred and twenty leagues away from the great river he was in search of. His expedition proved a



failure, for one of his vessels was shipwrecked, and on the 14th of March his principal associate determined to abandon the project of establishing a colony. He left La Salle without mechanical implements and other necessary articles to commence operations within an uncultivated region. He was in an unknown country, on an inhospitable shore, surrounded by savages and exposed to the most imminent dangers. A fort was erected to protect them on the Rivere aix Vaches, which was named St. Louis, in honor of the French king. Early in 1686, La Salle decided to return to Canada, taking with him seventeen persons, and leaving twenty at Fort St. Louis, including men, women and children -- the wretched remnant of the one hundred and eighty persons who had accompanied him from France. On his journey from Fort St. Louis, La Salle was assassinated by one of his own men, and his colony left behind was afterward broken up, nearly all perishing miserably at the hands of merciless savages. Thus ended the first attempt at colonizing Louisiana.

  Any further attempt at colonization of the Lower Mississippi was interrupted by a war between the Iroquois and the British colonies on the one side and the French of Canada on the other, commencing in 1689, which was terminated by the peace of Ryswick in 1697. However, several Canadians attracted by the beauty and fertility of the country had, meanwhile, established themselves during this period along the shores of the great river. Settlements were also formed in the Illinois country, east of the Mississippi. As soon as peace was reestablished on a solid and permanent basis, the French court bestowed its attention upon the affairs of the New World. On the 27th of February, 1699, Iberville, with a small colony consisting mostly of Canadians, entered the Mississippi from the gulf. In May he planted his colony on the Bay of Biloxi, within the limits of the present State of Mississippi. Sauvolle was the first governor. He was succeeded by Bienville.


  On the 17th of September, 1712, the entire province of Louisiana, including the vast country between the Rocky Mountains on the west and the Alleghanies on the east -- in short, the entire area drained by the Mississippi, was granted to Anthony Crozart, a wealthy French merchant. Of course, within his grant was the whole of the territory now constituting the State of Nebraska. Crozart agreed to send every year two ships from France with goods and emigrants. In



his grant, the river "heretofore called Mississippi," is named "St. Louis." The "Missourys" is called "St. Phillip," and the "Ouabache" (the Ohio and Wabash united) is named "St. Jerome." Louisiana was made dependent upon the general government of New France (Canada). The laws of Paris were to be observed and enforced in the province. Crozart's patent extended sixteen years but was resigned after five years. A short time after its relinquishment, the colony of Louisiana was granted to the Mississippi Company, projected by the celebrated John Law, with authority to monopolize all the trade and commerce of the province -- to declare and prosecute wars and appoint officers. The company built Fort Chartres, about sixty-five miles below the mouth of the Missouri, on the east side of the Mississippi. Miners and mechanics were encouraged to emigrate, and the City of New Orleans was founded in 1717. Settlements now began to extend along the banks of the "mighty river," and the Illinois country received a considerable accession.

  Dutisne, a French officer, was sent from New Orleans, in 1719, by Bienville, the governor of Louisiana, into the country west of the Mississippi. He visited a village of the Osage Indians, five miles from the Osage River, at eighty leagues above its mouth. Thence he crossed to the northwest one hundred and twenty miles, over prairies abounding with buffaloes, to some Pawnee villages. Fifteen days more of westward marching. brought him to the Padoucahs, a brave and warlike nation. Here he erected a cross with the arms of the king, September 27, 1719. If Dutisne did not actually set foot upon what is now the State of Nebraska, he could not have been very far away on that day.

  "On the 10th (of October, 1721), about 9 o'clock in the morning, after we had gone five leagues on the Mississippi," writes Charlevoix, "we arrived at the mouth of the Missouri, which is north-northwest and south-southeast. I believe this is the finest confluence in the world. The two rivers are much of the same breadth, each about half a league; but the Missouri is by far the most rapid and seems to enter the Mississippi like a conqueror, through which it carries its white waters to the opposite shore, without mixing them; afterward, it gives its color to the Mississippi, which it never loses again, but carries it quite down to the sea."

  "The Osages,'' continues Charlevoix, "a pretty numerous nation, settled on the side of a river which bears their name and which runs into the Missouri about forty leagues from its junction with the Mississippi, send, once or twice a year, to sing the Calumet amongst



the Kaskaskias, and are actually there at present. I have also just now seen a Missouri woman, who told me that her nation is the first we meet with going up the Missouri, from which she has the name we have given her, for want of knowing her true name. It (the Missouri nation) is situated eighty leagues from the confluence of that river (the Missouri) with the Mississippi."

  As early as 1719, the Spaniards in New Mexico, alarmed at the rapid encroachments of the French in the Upper and Lower Mississippi valleys, made strenuous exertions to dispossess them. In order to accomplish this, they thought it necessary to destroy the Missouri nation, who were in alliance with the French. Their plan was to excite the Osages against their neighbors -- the Missouris -- and then take part in the contest against the latter. An expedition was fitted out in 1720 at Santa Fe. It was a moving caravan of the desert. The Spaniards were led to the very tribe they would have destroyed, supposing them to be the Osages. The result was that all were killed except one, who succeeded in making his escape. This boldness of the Spaniards caused the French under M. de Bourgmont to erect a fort on an island in the Missouri, above the mouth of the Osage River, which post was called "Fort Orleans." But the stockade was attacked after its completion and occupation, and all the garrison slain; by whom was never known. The builder of Fort Orleans, before its destruction, passed many leagues up the Kansas River, and made firm friends of the Padoucahs, who had previously been seen by Dutisne. The Indians had previously traded with the Spaniards in New Mexico.

  The first information extant of the tribes of Indians inhabiting the Missouri River above the Missouri nation, is that given by Charlevoix in 1721: "Higher up we find the Cansez (Kansas); then the Octotatas (Otoes), which some call Mactotatas; then the Ajouez (Iowas) and Panis (Pawnees), a very populous nation, divided into several cantons, which have names very different from each other. . . . All the people I have mentioned inhabit the west side of the Missouri, except the Ajouez, which are on the east side, neighbors of the Sioux, and their allies." It is evident that during the first half of the seventeenth century the country now forming the State of Nebraska was inhabited along its southern border by the Kansas Indians; that the Platte River, then called the Rivere des Panis, was the home of the Pawnees, who had also villages to the northward, at a point a considerable distance up the Missouri River. But to the westward, on the headwaters of the Kansas River, of the Platte



River and of the Niobrara, lived the Padoucahs -- a tribe long since extinct.

  In the beginning of her history, the State of Kansas is more fortunate than her sister state north. We know to a certainty that as early as 1719, Dutisne visited her territory and that Bourgmont was there in 1724. Now, while it is almost as certain that what is now Nebraska was visited by Frenchmen not long subsequent to this period, yet the names of these visitors we shall never know. They were traders, hunters and trappers from the Mississippi River and from Canada. They cannot be called explorers, much less colonists. They left no record behind them of the Missouri country and its various tribes.

  The Mississippi Company, in 1732, surrendered their charter to the French Government. Then it was that the "Mississippi bubble" burst. The company had held possession of Louisiana for fourteen years and left it with a population of 5,000 whites and half as many blanks. The French king, on the 10th day of April of that year declared the province free to all his subjects, with equal privileges as to trade and commerce. But, though the company of the West did little for the enduring welfare of the Mississippi Valley, it did something; the cultivation of tobacco, indigo, rice and silk was introduced; the lead mines of Missouri were opened and in the Illinois country the culture of wheat began to assume some degree of stability and importance; but the immediate valley of the Missouri still remained wholly in possession of native tribes. For the next thirty years very little transpired in the upper portions of Louisiana worthy of especial mention. St. Genevieve, on the west side of the Mississippi, within the present limits of the State of Missouri, was founded, and during the year 1762, the first village was established on the Missouri River within the same state, named "Village du Cote," now St. Charles. In the same year the governor general of Louisiana granted to Laclede and others a charter under the name of the "Louisiana Fur Company," which, among other things, conferred the exclusive privilege of trading with the Indians of the Missouri River. But just before this time, momentous events had transpired in Canada. This country was conquered by the English and as we shall now see, Louisiana became the property of other powers.


  By the British conquest of Canada in 1760, the Province of Louisiana alone remained to France, but even this it was not in a position



to hold. Therefore it was that, on the 3d of November, 1762, she ceded it to Spain, shorn, however, of its eastern half, which fell to the English. The entire region of the Missouri River, including of course, all that is now the State of Nebraska, was thenceforth for thirty-seven years Spanish territory. But Spain did not at once take possession of her portion of Louisiana, as the sequel shows. On the 15th of February, 1764, Laclede's company established itself on the present site of St. Louis, where he founded that city and gave it its name. Two years after this, Don Antonio d'Ulloa, the Spanish governor, arrived at New Orleans, but was so coldly received that he departed without having produced his credentials. Two years after, a company of Spanish troops took possession of St. Louis in the name of the King of Spain, and in 1770, French sway was at an end in so much of Upper Louisiana as lay west of the Mississippi; for in that year a lieutenant governor arrived at St. Louis and extended his authority over the whole region. But Great Britain did not long remain the possessor of the country east of the Mississippi, for by the definite treaty of peace, signed September 3, 1783, the United States was declared to extend from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the Mississippi River, and from a line along the great lakes on the north southward to the thirty-first parallel and southern border of Georgia. Still, the territory now constituting the State of Nebraska was no part of the United States. The vast region bordering upon the Missouri (beginning a short distance above the confluence with the Mississippi) and watered by its tributaries, remained a possession of Spain, and the home of savage nations, visited only by the vagrant trader to traffic in furs with the different tribes. These traders were mostly Frenchmen. Sometimes they would have houses and remain stationary for one, two and even more years, but sooner or later, they all departed from the country.

  On the 1st day of October, 1800, by a treaty concluded at St. Ildefonso, between Napoleon and the King of Spain, the colony or Province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it was then held by Spain, was re-ceded to France. This treaty was confirmed and enforced by a treaty at Madrid, March 21, 1801. Thus, after holding Louisiana thirty-seven years, Spain yielded its ownership to its original claimants, and subsequently the French flag waved over delighted New Orleans. Nebraska was again French territory. The year 1803 saw, however, another change. France ceded Louisiana to the United States, on the 30th of April, and the whole valley of the Missouri,



even to the Rocky Mountains, was now under the ownership of our own country.


  On the 31st of October, 1803, an act of Congress authorized the President of the United States to take possession of Louisiana and form the temporary government thereof. By this act the Government was vested in such person and persons and exercised in such manner as the President of the United States might direct. But the authority of the General Government really dates from March 10, 1804, on which day Amos Stoddard assumed the duties of governor of Upper Louisiana. On the 26th of that month, Congress erected Louisiana into the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana. The division line was the southern boundary of Mississippi Territory and the thirty-third degree of latitude. So Nebraska was then a part of the District of Louisiana, the latter being all of the French cession west of the Mississippi River, except the present State of Louisiana. The government of this large district was committed to the officers of the Territory of Indiana.


  An act of Congress, passed March 3, 1805, changed the "District of Louisiana" to the "Territory of Louisiana." The act made provisions for a governor, secretary and two judges. It was detached from the Territory of Indiana, and erected into a separate territory of the second class, so that then what is now Nebraska, became a portion of the "Territory of Louisiana." President Jefferson appointed James Wilkinson governor, and Frederick Bates secretary. St. Louis was made the capital. The judges were Return J. Meigs and John B. C. Lucas. These, with the governor, constituted the Legislature.

  In 1808 the Missouri Fur Company was established. Its principal members were Pierre Choteau, Manuel Lisa, William Clark, Sylvester Labadie, Pierre Menard and Auguste Choteau. The capital of the company was $40,000. The first expedition under its auspices was dispatched under the command of Maj. A. Henry and his success was gratifying. He established trading posts on the Upper Missouri, on Lewis River, beyond the Rocky Mountains and on the southern branch of the Columbia.




  By an act of Congress, passed June 4, 1812, the "Territory of Louisiana" became the "Territory of Missouri," within the bounds of which was the present area of Nebraska. It provided for a governor and secretary and the legislative power was vested in the governor, council and House of Representatives. The members of the House were elected by the people. They sent to the President of the United States the names of eighteen persons, and from these the chief executive, with the advice and consent of the Senate, selected nine persons, who formed the council. The judicial power was vested in a Superior Court, in inferior courts and in justices of the peace. The judges were appointed by the President. On the 19th of January, 1816, the Legislature passed a law making the common law of England the law of the territory.


  For nearly thirty-three years after the admission of Missouri as a state into the Union, the country now included within the boundaries of the State of Nebraska was practically without a government. But as there were substantially no American settlements to be governed, the want of any power to restrain and regulate the affairs of white people was of little or no consequence. However, before half that time had elapsed, the country was attached to the United States Judicial District of the State of Missouri, as the sequel shows.


  The Otoe Indians (a tribe of the Pawnees -- "Panismahas") were doubtless the Octotatas of Charlevoix, who placed them in 1721 above the Kansas Indians, upon the Missouri. Lewis and Clark say they were once a powerful nation, and that their home was originally on the Missouri not far above the mouth of the Platte. Then they migrated up the last mentioned stream, where these explorers found them in 1804. From this position (some thirty miles up the Platte) they came back to the Missouri and established villages where the City of Omaha is now situated, but they soon returned again to the Platte, near their old homes. Again abandoning their homes on the Platte, they once more established themselves on the Missouri, this time at a point a few miles south of the present location of Nebraska City.



  On the 15th day of March, 1854, the confederate tribes of Otoes and Missouris ceded to the United States "all their country west of the Missouri River, excepting a strip of land on the waters of the Big Blue River, ten miles in width and bounded as follows: Commencing at a point in the middle of the main branch of the Big Blue River, in a west or southwest direction from Old Fort Kearney, at a place called by the Indians the 'Islands;' thence west to the western boundary of the country hereby ceded; thence in a northerly course with said western boundary ten miles; thence east to a point due north of the starting point and ten miles therefrom; thence to the place of beginning. Provided, that, in case the said initial point is not within the limits of the country hereby ceded, or that the western boundary is not distant twenty-five miles or more from the initial point, in either case, there shall be assigned by the United States to said Indians for their future home, a tract of land not less than ten miles wide by twenty-five miles long, the southeast corner of which tract shall be the initial point above named. And such portion of such tract, if any, as shall prove to be outside the ceded country, shall be and the same is hereby granted and ceded to the confederate tribes of Otoe and Missouri Indians by the United States, who will have said tract properly set off by durable monuments as soon after the ratification of this instrument as the same can conveniently be done." The limits of this reservation to the Otoes and Missouris were changed by a treaty held December 9, 1854, and proclaimed April 19, 1855, as follows: The initial point of their reservation, in lieu of the one previously fixed upon, was put a distance of five miles due east of the last mentioned point; thence west twenty-five miles; thence north ten miles; thence east to a point due north of the starting point and ten miles therefrom; thence to the place of beginning. This tract included 16,000 acres in the south part of what is now Gage County, and the southeast corner of Jones County, Nebraska, including also a strip adjoining on the south, in Marshall and Washington counties, Kansas. The tribes number less than five hundred persons. The western portion of the reservation has been appraised for sale.

  The Pawnees, it will be remembered, ceded in 1834, to the United States, all their lands south of the Platte River. On the 6th day of August, 1848, a treaty was held with the four confederate bands (then living on the south side of the Platte for fear of the Sioux, but whose possessions were on the north side). By this treaty they relinquished to the General Government all that tract of land described as follows: Commencing on the south side of the Platte five miles



west of Fort Childs (afterward Fort Kearney), thence due north to the crest of the bluffs north of said Platte River; thence east and along the crest of said bluffs to the termination of Grand Island, supposed to be about sixty miles distant; thence south to the southern shore of said Platte River; and thence west along the southern shore of the said Platte River to the place of beginning. This was the last treaty made with the four confederate bands of the Pawnees until after the organization of Nebraska Territory. Under a treaty dated September 4, 1857, these Indians sold more of their lands and were shortly afterward removed to their reservation in the valley of the Loup Fork River, which reservation contained 288,000 acres. The number of persons living in June, 1861, was 3,414. During the Indian troubles of 1864, the Pawnees furnished scouts to the Government, but this enraged the Sioux, who behaved with their accustomed treachery, and after making peace with the Government, again turned on the Pawnees, killing them without mercy and stopping their improvement. The grasshoppers also came in to their destruction, and June 10, 1872, Congress authorized the sale of 118,424 acres for their benefit. October 8, 1874, the Pawnees agreed to move to a reservation in Indian Territory, and they were taken there the following year. They have a perpetual annuity of $30,000, and an educational appropriation by Congress of $22,600.

  As early as the first quarter of the eighteenth century, the "Mahas," now known as Omahas, had their homes upon the north side of the Missouri, at and near the mouth of the Sioux River. They subsequently crossed over to the Niobrara, in what is now Nebraska. Being pursued with a relentless fury by the Sioux, they moved down the Missouri, so that it may be said in general terms, the country west and south of that river and adjoining it, but above the mouth of the Platte, was Omaha territory, as claimed by that tribe. A treaty was made with this tribe by the United States, March 16, 1854, the first article of which reads as follows: "The Omaha Indians cede to the United States all their lands west of the Missouri River, and south of a line drawn due west from a point in the center of the main channel of said Missouri River due east of where the Ayoway River disembogues out of the bluffs, to the western boundary of the Omaha country, and forever relinquish all right and title to the country south of said line: Provided, however, That if the country north of said due west line, which is reserved by the Omahas for their future home, should not on exploration, prove to be a satisfactory and suitable location for said Indians, the President may, with the consent of said



Indians, set apart and assign to them, within or outside of the ceded country, a residence suited for and acceptable to them. And for the purpose of determining, at once and definitely, it is agreed that a delegation of said Indians, in company with their agent, shall, immediately after the ratification of this instrument, proceed to examine the country hereby reserved, and if it please the delegation, and the Indians in council express themselves satisfied, then it shall be deemed and taken for their future home; but if otherwise, on the fact being reported to the President, he is authorized to cause a new location, of suitable extent, to be made for the future home of said Indians, and which shall not be more in extent than 300,000 acres; and then and in that case, all of the country belonging to the said Indians north of said due west line shall be and is hereby ceded to the United States by the said Indians, they to receive the same rate per acre for it, less the number of acres assigned in lieu of it for a home, as now paid for the land south of said line." The treaty was proclaimed June 21, 1854, and the following year they were removed to their present reservation of 345,000 acres in the northeastern portion of the state, between the Missouri and Elkhorn rivers. In 1879 they numbered 1,050.

  By a treaty between the Iowa Indians and Missouri band of Sacs and Foxes, proclaimed February 15, 1837, these Indians were assigned to a home upon a small strip of land on the south side of the Missouri River, lying between the Kickapoo northern boundary line and the Grand Nemaha River, and extending from the Missouri back and westwardly with the Kickapoo line and the Grand Nemaha, making 400 sections, to be divided between the Iowas and Sacs and Foxes -- the lower half to the latter, the upper half to the former. By a treaty made May 17,1854, the Iowas were restricted to the following territory, which was to be the future home of those Indians: Beginning at the mouth of the Great Nemaha River, where it empties into the Missouri; thence down the Missouri River to the mouth of Noland's Creek; thence due south one mile; thence due west to the south fork of the Nemaha; thence down said fork with its meanders to the Great Nemaha River; and thence with the meanders of said river to the place of beginning. The boundaries of the lands belonging to the Missouri band of the Sacs and Foxes were changed by a treaty, they getting a portion of the Iowa reservation just mentioned.

  The Santee Sioux numbered in 1879, about eight hundred and are located in Knox County, on the Missouri River, near the mouth of



the Niobrara, on a reservation of 115,200 acres. They are mostly amenable to educational influences.

  The Winnebagoes, a remnant of a once numerous and powerful tribe, live on a reservation of 128,000 acres, at the Blackbird Hills on the Missouri River, in the northeastern part of the state, adjoining the Omaha Reservation. They number about one thousand six hundred. They came from Wisconsin and Minnesota. In the War of 1812 they took sides with the British. After a number of treaties, in 1863 they removed to Crook Creek, in Dakota, above Fort Randall. The locality was unsuited to them, and from disease, famine and hostile tribes they suffered greatly. They came to the Omaha Reservation and appealed for protection. In May, 1866, they removed to Winnebago, and in 1869 were assigned to the care of Friends. Their late history is one of constant disaster, although they are quite favorably disposed to accept civilizing overtures.




  The exploration of the region drained by the Missouri, in 1804, paved the way to more commercial undertakings. In 1805, Manuel Lisa, a wealthy Spaniard, with a party in search of trading grounds, reached the lands north of the Platte. The beauty of the scene caused him to exclaim "Bellevue," by which name the spot has since been designated.

  In 1810, the American Fur Company, that monster monopoly under control of John Jacob Astor, established a post at Bellevue. Francis De Roin was placed in charge of the business there and after some years of service was succeeded by Joseph Robiaux. The latter was followed by John Cabanne.

  In 1842, Col. Peter A. Sarpy became agent of the American Fur Company at Bellevue, and for thirty years was the leading spirit of the region. To this place the Indians for hundreds of miles around brought their furs and exchanged them for such luxuries as the white man had acquainted them with.

  One year previous to Colonel Sarpy's arrival, the United States Government transferred the agency, formerly at Fort Calhoun, or Old Council Bluffs, to Bellevue.

  In the fall of 1846, the Presbyterian Board of Missions sent Rev. Edward McKinney to select a suitable place for the founding of a
Vol. I-2

Home page Return to the Table of Contents   Continue to next page Next page

Use your Browser's Back button to return to the previous page.

Online library

© 1997, 1998 Ted & Carole Miller
and 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project