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Real estate is an ageless, timeless business that is closely related to all of the phases of living.

Its story is important here because through the years it has been mysteriously interwoven into the History of Platte County.

The story of Nebraska land as we know it had its beginning when the pioneers pushed back the frontier in the new territory, formed early settlements, and laid out towns along the proposed route of the transcontinental railroad.

The first of these settlements west of Omaha was located near where the Loup intersected the Platte River.

A town called Columbus was laid out and a town house was erected there in 1856.

The first settlers in Platte County staked out claims and erected cabins on the Loup and at Shell Creek which established their legal rights of private ownership of land and the right of use of water and timber.

In that first year crops were planted for food, and provisions were made for right of ferry at the Loup. Thus trade in Platte County had its beginning.

As the new settlers arrived some of the first pioneers disposed of their land for money or other property and business began to develop. Columbus expanded commercially as capital made its appearance. Toward the end of 1857, the ownership of private property was classed as both individual and collective.

The promotion of private property was necessary for the establishment of society. Progress was made as cooperation in the large and far-reaching enterprises of the time started to take shape.

The effects of an era of high finance, speculation and wild cat banking spread over the territory as new businesses were being launched in Columbus --- and town lots were at a premium!

The organization of County Government was started in December of 1857, and as the need arose, laws were made and men were appointed to enforce them.

The first laws concerned the regulation of public and private property and their related businesses. With the opening of new settlements in the county, land surveying became a fashionable career, and the locating of claims an important business.

Following this came the establishment of religion and political organization. This meant new corporations in the scattered settlements.

The first settlers who came in 1856 were interested in the welfare of the people, and as members of the Columbus Company they all contributed to the establishment of the town of Columbus and were prime movers in the early settlements in the county. As land agents their efficient work in the locating of claims and the protecting of the property rights of emigrants had been commended.

Among the names of individuals and companies who have located claims and homesteads, sold land and city lots, engaged in insurance, abstracting and real estate from 1856-1949 were: The Columbus Company, Speice and North, Becher and Price, now Becher, Hockenberger and Chambers Company, Samuel C. Smith, The Nebraska Real Estate and Trust Company, The Columbus Real Estate and Improvement Company of 1888, Elliott and Speice, now Echols, Speice, Boettcher Company, Walker and Ryan, Ryan and Byrnes, The Atlas Land Company, The P. F. Luchsinger Real Estate and Insurance Company, The Columbus Realty and Investment Company, Byrnes and Gietzen, G. H. Gray Real Estate and Insurance, F. O. Gottschalk Insurance, J. H. Moeller Insurance, and Byrnes Insurance Agency.

The first land company was the Columbus Company which was organized early in 1856 and continued for several years.

In 1857 it consolidated with the Pawnee Company, and for a short time that year had an office in Florence, Nebraska. This company

The History of Platte County Nebraska

was also known as the Columbus Land Company.

The original members of the company were the thirteen founders of Columbus. In 1857 the Columbus Land Company was moved from Florence, Nebraska, to Columbus. Its purpose was to help the early settlers locate land claims. John Reck was the president and J. P. Becker, secretary of the company. The company was incorporated in 1873.

From The Platte Journal, April 23, 1873:


Article I. We, the undersigned, hereby form ourselves into a corporation for the purpose of buying, selling and improving real estate in the County of Platte, and State of Nebraska.

Article If. Said corporation shall be known by the name of the Columbus Land Company.

Article III. The principal place of transacting the business of said corporation shall be at Columbus, Platte County, Nebraska.

Article IV. The capital stock of this Incorporation shall be twenty thousand dollars, which may be increased at any time by a vote of two-thirds of the stock issued to any amount not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars said stock shall consist of shares of one hundred dollars each.

Article V. All shares of stock of this Incorporation shall be paid for in full when issued.

Article VI. The indebtedness of this Incorporation shall not at any time exceed two-thirds the amount of paid-up stock issued, and in no case exceed twenty thousand dollars.

Article VII. The affairs of this Incorporation shall be managed by a board of five directors, who shall be elected by the stockholders; the said directors shall elect from their number a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Article VIII. All certificates of stock and deeds of conveyance shall be signed by the President and Secretary, and countersigned by the Treasurer.

Article IX. The time of commencement of this Incorporation shall be on the 27th day of January, 1873; the time when its corporate powers shall terminate shall be on the 27th day of January, 1883.


Leander Gerrard G. W. Hulst
Julius A. Reed Abner Turner
E. J. Baker Charles A. Speice
P. B. Bonesteel James E. North
N. G. Bonesteel V. Kummer
J. P. Becker Samuel C. Smith
H. P. Coolidge

Filed for record at the Platte County Court House, April 23, 1873.

The Homestead Law was passed in 1862. In 1869 the firm of Speice and North was organized by C. A. Speice and James E. North. The purpose of the business was to help the settlers locate homesteads. This firm continued in the real estate and insurance business until 1892 when James E. North became Collector of Internal Revenue.

In 1870, Gustavus G. Becher opened an insurance agency which later became the Becher and Price Insurance and Real Estate Company, and is now known as the Becher, Hockenberger and Chambers Company.

In the early 1870's I. N. Taylor and Leander Gerrard formed a partnership known as Gerrard and Taylor, to locate settlers on homesteads. Around 1875, I. N. Taylor returned from Omaha and opened a land office in Columbus. At that time he had several thousand acres of land listed for sale in Cumings County.

In 1879, Samuel Church Smith established the Union Pacific Land Office in Columbus. He sold railroad land.

In 1887, The Nebraska Real Estate and Trust Company was formed by Doctor D. T. Martyn, George Lehman, Israel Gluck, Andrew Anderson, and Marcus White.

In 1888, The Columus (sic) Real Estate Improvement Company was incorporated by John P. Becker, David Schupbach, C. H. Davis, Jonas Welch, H. P. H. Oehlrich and Adolph Jaeggi.

In 1900, Gustavus Becher Speice and Hanson S. Elliott formed the Elliott and Speice Company. Later Jackson C. Echols became a member of the firm. It then became known as Elliott, Speice, Echols Company. In 1913, Walter A. Boettcher entered the firm and from 1913-1949 it has been known as the Speice, Echols, Boettcher Company.

Around 1900, Frank T. Walker and Stephen J. Ryan formed a partnership in the real estate and insurance business known as Walker and Ryan. It terminated in 1908 when F. T. Walker moved to Omaha.

In 1909, Stephen J. Ryan and John C. Byrnes formed a partnership in real estate and insurance which lasted until Mr. Ryan's death in 1925.

In 1919, The Atlas Land Company was incorporated with A. C. Thompson, C. N. Thompson, C. C. Goodrich, W. M. Condon, Edward W. North and P. E. McKillip as incorporators. Their office was located in Columbus.

In 1919, P. F. Luchsinger organized the P. F. Luchsinger Real Estate and Insurance Business. In 1934 Fred C. Luchsinger became the man

Real Estate

ager of the company which was in business until the early 1940's.

In 1920, The Columbus Realty and Investment Company was organized. The incorporators were: D. A. Becher, Henry Buss, H. F. Brodfueher, G. W. Viergutz, George W. Galley, John J. Galley and John Backenhus.

In 1930, G. H. Gray became the President of the First Investment and Securities Company, and in 1932, became the owner and manager of the G. H. Gray Real Estate and Insurance Company.

In 1932, Fred Boehm started the Fred Boehm Real Estate Company.

In 1932, The Gottschalk Insurance Company was organized by F. L. Gottschalk and F. O. Gottschalk. F. O. Gottschalk is owner and manager of the company.

In 1946, John C. Byrnes, Jr., became the owner of the Byrnes Insurance Agency. This business was started by his father John C. Byrnes in 1905.

In 1925, John C. Byrnes formed a partnership with Leo M. Gietzen and the business was conducted under the name of Byrnes and Gietzen until 1933. It then became the Byrnes Real Estate and Insurance Company and was managed by Miss Mary Byrnes from 1938-1946.



June 24, 1874

Mr. John Browner is putting up a neat residence on his excellent farm two miles northeast of the city.

October 21, 1874

Mr. Henry Loseke is making a kiln of seventy-five thousand brick (about twelve thousand of them froze the other night). He intends to build a large dwelling house in the spring.

Mr. Will Winterbotham's dwelling house approaches completion. When finished, it will be commodious, neat and comfortable.

Hugh Compton will erect a brick house at the corner of Olive and Twelfth Street next spring.

March 31, 1874

Phillip W. J. Echols has moved to the Michael Welsh's farm a few miles northeast of the city.

June 3, 1874

The Valley of Shell Creek has wonderfully improved in the last year. From J. P. Becker's mill two miles west, the following persons have built fine brick residences: J. Held, C. Reinke, H. Lusche, E. Ahrens, W. Weathe, and Mr. Erb have completed residences of wood. J. P. Becker has also made some improvements at his mill, consisting of a purifier, manufactured at Quincy, Illinois, and a conveyor which enables them to have control of the bolting apparatus. They now make the very best of flour. The crops on the bottom land look finely and promise an abundant harvest.

January 6, 1875

Mr. John P. Becker is erecting a flour and grain warehouse south of the railroad tracks near his office. Mr. Becker is an enterprising man.

April 7, 1875

Messrs. Schutte and Pohi are erecting a business house on Thirteenth Street, between Olive and Nebraska Avenues, to be used as an implement depot.

April 21, 1875

H. COMPTON'S NEW BUILDING. Mr. Hugh Compton has begun the work of clearing off the ground for his new business house on the corner of Twelfth and Olive Street, and opposite the Hammond House. It will be thirty-three by forty feet fronting west on Olive Street. It is designed for two business rooms. It is to be of brick, and one story high. Mr. Hugh Hughes is the contractor, and as a matter of course, we expect to chronicle in due time the erection of one or more business houses creditable alike to the city and to our enterprising townsman, Mr. Compton.

April 21, 1875

Mr. Edward Sheehan has completed a new restaurant one door south of Ryan's Grocery, which adds considerably to the improvements in that part of the city. His new building is twenty by twenty-four feet, two stories high, with a one story addition for kitchen. It is planned to suit his business, and as he has been enterprising enough to spend a goodly sum of money upon it, it is to be hoped his increased patronage will enable him to make enough to justify him.

March 31, 1875

F. Brodfeuhrer intends shortly to put up a new business house to make room for his growing custom, and will put in a large increase of stock consisting of first class watches, clocks, and fine jewelry of all descriptions, also violins, pistols, guns and ammunition. Besides himself, he has two excellent workmen.


The factual records of the Real Estate transfers made in Platte County from its organization have been recorded in books which are filed in the Registrar of Deeds office at the Platte County Court House.

If a title is clouded it requires a legal procedure to clarify it. In some states all Real Estate sold goes through escrow before the sale is completed.

Lots I, 2, 3, 4, , 6, 7, and 8 in Block 204 of the original City of Columbus, now known as St. Anthony's Church Property, is an illustration of the History of the recordings on each piece of Real Estate.

April, 1906

The highest price paid for Platte County Farm land up to April 1906 was that received by John M. Curry

The History of Platte County Nebraska

on April 18, 1906 when he sold his eighty acre farm in Columbus Township to Fred G. Stenger for one hundred dollars an acre.

December, 1906

The second farm in 1906 which sold for one hundred dollars an acre was the one hundred sixty acres of Doctor A. Heinz located in Columbus Township one-half mile east of the Curry land. It was sold to Joseph Schaecker, Sr., in December of that year.

January 21, 1910

A city council will hold a meeting tonight to consider an ordinance providing for a special election to vote bonds for the building of a new city hall. It is proposed to vote an issue of fifteen thousand dollars. The site now proposed will be at the corner of Eleventh and Platte Streets, across the street --- east from the electric light plant (Swift Company). The question of the proposed extension of water mains will also be brought up at the meeting tonight.

February 4, 1910

Doctor C. D. Evans has sold his eighty acre farm on the Meridian line north of Columbus to Carl Ewert, a well known Platte County farmer, the price being eighty dollars per acre.

February 11, 1910

J. C. Freydig has sold his residence property near the high school building to Eilert Mohlman, the consideration being four thousand dollars.


Patent (title) for N1/2W1/4 Sec. . 1, 1E given by U.S. Government to C. B. Stillman, Mayor of Columbus, in trust, on March 6, 1862.

Real estate transfers as follows:

C. B. Stillman, Mayor, to Chas. A. Speice, lots 3 & 4, 1860.
C. B. Stillman, Mayor, to S. B. Curtis, lot 6, 1860.
C. B. Stillman, Mayor, to Deborah & Henrietta Malcolm, lot 2, 1860.
C. B. Stillman, Mayor, to Francis Simon, lot 5, 1861
Francis & Sophie Simon to N. R. Hays, lot 5, 1861.
C. B. Stillman, Mayor, to John S. & Ansel Briggs, lot 8, 1860.
C. B. Stillman, Mayor, to Vincent Burkley, lot 1, 1860.
C. B. Stillman, Mayor, to Celeste Fifield, lot 7, 1860.
Noval R. Hays & Wf to Edward McGovern, lot 5, 1865.
Vincent Burkley & Wf. to Andy Devany, lot 1, 1865.
John S. Briggs & Wf. to J. E. North, lot 8, 1869.
Deborah Malcolm to A. B. Malcolm, lot 2, 1869.
J. E. North & Wf. to Luther H. North, lot 8, 1872 (dower, Und. 1/2).
A. B. Malcolm to Chas. A. Speice, lot 2, 1872.
James E. North et al to Anna E. Hunt, lot 8, 1878.
Anna E. Hunt to Wm. A. McAllister, lot 8, 1880.
Andrew Devany to Thos. Griffin, lot 1, 1882.
Celeste Fifield to Chas. B. Speice, lot 7, 1884.
Belinda Curtis to Will K. Speice, lot 6, 1884.
Edward McGovern to Katherina Speice, lot 5, 1885.
W. A. McAllister to Mary Clark, lot 8, 1886.
Mary Clark & hus. to Katherina Speice, lot 8, 1887.
Thos. Griffin to John Conley, lot 1, 1902.
John Conley to Wm. C. Borneman & Wf., lot 1, 1906.
Wm. C. Borneman & Wf. to St. Anthony's Church, lot 1, 1913.
G. B. Speice, trustee to Heinrich Moeller, lots 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 1910.
Heinrich Moeller to John F. Dischner, all but lot 1, 1912.
John F. Dischner to St. Anthony's Church, all but lot 1, April 8, 1915.


One of the oldest business firms in Columbus is the Becher, Hockenberger, and Chambers Company.

The firm was founded in 1870, by Gustavus G. Becher, who came to Columbus in 1859. His father, Gustavus Becher, Sr., and his brother, Francis G. Becher, preceded him here. They arrived in 1857. His father had the first store in the town, and his brother was at one time the manager of the American Hotel.

Gustavus G. Becher served as lieutenant and later as a captain in the Pawnee Scouts; He served as the Platte County Treasurer and as Platte County Assessor.

In 1870, he-started in the insurance business. In 1877, V. T. Price became a partner in the business, and the firm was known as Becher and Price.


Left to right: George Rambour, Jr., Gus B. Speice,
and Phil R. Hockenberger, 1949.

Henry Hockenberger entered the firm around 1880 as a clerk. In 1882, Mr. Becher bought the interest of Mr. Price and the firm was known for nine years as Gustavus Becher and Company.

In 1891, when Leopold Jaeggi and Henry Hockenberger became members of the firm, it was known as Becher, Jaeggi, and Company.

In 1900, Edwin Hull Chambers bought the interest of Mr. Jaeggi, and the firm name was changed to the Becher, Hockenberger, and Chambers Company.

Around 1913, the firm was incorporated under that name.

That year, the founder of the firm, Gustavus G. Becher, retired, and his son, Gustavus G. Becher, Jr., succeeded him. Henry Hockenberger became the president of the firm at that time, and Edwin Hull Chambers became the vice-president.

In 1922, Gus G. Becher, Jr., succeeded Mr. Chambers as vice-president, and in 1932, on Mr. Hockenberger's death, Mr. Becher became the president.

Philip R. Hockenberger came into the firm in 1922


Real Estate

as treasurer, and in 1932, became the vice-president. In 1937, he succeeded Gustavus G. Becher, Jr., as president.

Other officers at that time were: Gustavus B. Speice, secretary; and Stella G. Chambers, treasurer.

George Rambour, Jr., and Gustavus Becher Speice became members of the firm around 1940, and in 1946, Alfred Becher entered the firm.


The Opera House --- 1878

The Columbus Music Hall Association was organized May 28, 1878. The incorporators were W. H. Hunneman, Speice and North, I. Gluck, V. Kummer, Mrs. Rose Kummer, Michael Schram, F. Brodfeuhrer, Wadsworth and Slaerffer, Charles Schroeder, E. W. Toncray, A. N. Briggs, Doctor A. Heinz, and Francis G. Becher.

The capital stock was five thousand dollars. In September, 1878, the Opera House was completed. It was a large wooden building, located in the southeast part of town (now Tenth Street and Twenty-third Avenue, nee Orpheus --- and now the Eagles Hall).

The seating capacity was five hundred. The stage was fully supplied with curtains, scenery, etc. The cost of the building as it stood in 1878 was over four thousand dollars. J. E. North was the president of the company, and C. A. Speice was the Secretary.

The articles of incorporation of the Columbus Music Hall Association were filed for record at the Platte County Court House May 28, 1878.


The purpose of this organization was to keep, maintain and lease the Columbus Opera House. The capital stock was to be six thousand dollars divided into shares of one thousand dollars each. The incorporation date was May 12, 1882. The incorporators were:

John Stauffer A. Heintz
Charles Schroeder William A. Schroeder
Carl Reinke R. H. Henry

Filed for record June 7, 1882, at the Platte County Court House.

February 8, 1879
Samuel C. Smith
Agent for Union Pacific Lands
In Platte, Polk, Butler, Colfax, and Boone Counties
General Real Estate Agency and Notary Public
Special Attention Paid to Buying and Selling
Lands and Town Lots
Making final proof on Homesteads and Preemption
Prepared with a large number of plats showing
Vacant Government Lands- for Homesteads, Timber.
Claims, Preemptions
Office One Door West of Hammond House,
Columbus, Nebraska


Purpose of this company was to buy, sell and improve real estate and to borrow money thereon in any county in Nebraska. The principal place of business was the City of Columbus, however.

The Capital Stock was eighty thousand dollars, but could be increased. The indebtedness was not to be over two-thirds the Capital Stock.

This was the first company to mention (in its incorporation) to have a company seal. The seal bore the inscription "Nebraska Real Estate Trust." The organizers were: David T. Martyn, George Lehman, Israel Gluck, Marcus H. White. Signed June 2!, 1887.


Left to right: Charles Reinke, Henry Hockenberger, Leopold Jaeggi, Gus Becher, Jr., Louis Held, Gus Becher, Sr., and Edwin H. Chambers, before 1900.

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