NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library




Early historians differ as to the origin of the name Nebraska. It is an Indian name, probably of Omaha origin, meaning wide with a shallow brim. According to early records, the river was named by the Mallet brothers in 1739, although Father De Smet. maintains that it was named by French Canadians.

The region between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, east and west, and the thirty-seventh and forty-third parallels of latitude, north and south, was known as the Nebraska country as early as 1840.


This country is part of the Louisiana Purchase which the United States acquired from France, April 30, 1803.

This land comprised roughly the territory bounded by the Mississippi River on the east, the Rocky Mountains on the west, the British possessions on the north, and the Gulf of Mexico on the south.

In 1682, Sieur de La Salle explored the Mississippi River and claimed the country for France. It was called Louisiana in honor of Louis XIV, the reigning king.

In 1763, France ceded Louisiana to Spain, and in 1800, Spain returned it to France. The boundaries were defined by a treaty between the United States and Spain in 1819; a treaty between the United States and Great Britain in 1783 and a commission in 1899-1900.

The purchase contained nearly eight hundred ninety-one thousand square miles of land and water or approximately five hundred sixty-two million acres, for which the United States paid a sum of fifteen million dollars, or a fraction less than three cents per acre.


This land is now divided into thirteen states. Besides Nebraska, the others are: Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, one third of Colorado, Montana east of the Rocky Mountains, South Dakota, North Dakota, three-fourths of Wyoming, and all but the northwestern section of Oklahoma.

The original Nebraska Territory included a small strip east of the Rocky Mountains ceded to Spain in the Treaty of 1819. This is now a part of the states of Colorado and Wyoming.


The surface of Nebraska is a plane with a gradual slope from west to east and from north to south. North of the Platte River is the Pine Ridge, defined as a low chain of mountains one hundred miles in length. This ridge forms the northern boundary of the Box Butte Plain, which extends to the North Platte River and comprises Sioux and Box Butte Counties, the southern part of Dawes County, and the northern part of Sheridan County.


The elevation drops a thousand feet from five thousand feet in the west, and rises to four thousand feet in the east. This plain has an area of approximately five hundred square miles, with a slope from north to south.

A range called the Wild Cat borders about fifty miles of the south side of the North Platte River. Among its peaks the two highest are Hogback Mountain, five thousand eighty-two feet, and Wild Cat Range, five thousand thirty-eight feet.

The Cheyenne plain lies south of the Wild Cat Range, between the forks of the Platte. It is one hundred miles long and forty miles wide. It attains an elevation of fifty-three hundred feet on the western border of the state in the northwest part of Kimball County. This is the highest land in Nebraska.

The elevation of Benkleman in the southwest is two thousand nine hundred sixty-eight feet; of Rulo, in the southeast, eight hundred forty-two feet; of Harrison in the northwest, four thousand eight hundred forty-nine feet; of Dakota City, in the northeast, one thousand one hundred two feet. The elevation of Kimball, one. hundred miles south of Harrison, is four thousand six hundred ninety-seven feet; Plattsmouth, nine hundred sixty feet; Kearney, two thousand one hundred fifty-two feet.

The total distance covered is three hundred thirty-six miles. Owing to the uniformity of the southward slope, no tributaries of importance come to the Platte from the south. In relation to its south border, the bed of the Platte is a bench rather than a valley. The sand hill region occupies fifteen thousand square miles between the ninety-eighth and one hundred second meridian on the north border and extends southwesterly and southeasterly between two irregular lines running from the two northern corners to the southern border of the state, but its features are less marked in the south than in the north. The sand hills are in the northerly part of the region. There is an artesian flow of water in thirty-five counties.


The average temperature of the southwest varies two degrees below that of the southeast. Its decrease toward the north is about two degrees for each one hundred miles in the east and south and less in the northwest.

The annual precipitation varies. Twenty-five years ago it was thirty inches in the southeast, about one

Nebraska History

half that amount on the western border, with about eighteen inches in the northwest.

The increase northward is about one and one-half inches to fifty-four miles in the northeast.

Westward, along the north border of the state, it decreases one inch in fifty miles to about eighteen inches. The moisture comes mainly from the Gulf of Mexico; sixty to seventy percent of the rainfall is in the growing months, from April to August.


At the time the white men were making inroads into the New Territory the greater part of Nebraska was occupied by Indians who acted as a direct force against its early settlement.

The settlers from 1854 through 1856 were faced with all of the primitive conditions of a wilderness. Their work was slow and deliberate, and within a century the result of their effort showed the greatest changes in civilization to man anywhere on the face of the globe.

Touching briefly on some of the conditions that led to this state of progress around 1950, we turn the pages of history back to the early period of exploration.


This vast tract had been owned by two European powers for more than three centuries. It was first claimed by Spain in 1541 and ceded to France in 1682. Spain got it back again in 1762, and France regained it in 1800. Then Napoleon sold it to the United States for fifteen and one-half million dollars.

Following this acquisition of Louisiana in 1803, many expeditions were made into the new country under the sponsorship of the Federal Government.


These expeditions which began under the American flag in 1804, and were under government supervision, were made by the military and scientific explorers, fur trading companies, steamboat and overland trail travelers, missionaries, frontier hunters and trappers. By 1860 every part of the territory had been reached by the men on these expeditions. They also gave to the world printed reports on its resources. This was the epic period of Nebraska History. Its hitherto unknown regions of wild animals, Indians, vast grassy plains, sand hills, lakes, valleys, mountain ranges, picturesque buttes and badlands were penetrated by daring frontiersmen. Thrilling conflicts, great hardships, heroic deeds and severe suffering marked Nebraska's period of exploration and early settlement.


A world renowned literature tells the story of these Nebraska years and its creation is. still in progress. Its glories are found in Henry W. Longfellow's poems, Washington Irving's "Astoria," Mark Twain's volumes on the West, the papers of Lewis and Clark, Major Long, Lieutenant John C. Fremont and Lieutenant G. K. Warren's volumes written by Bayard Taylor on his travels and by Captain Chittenden on fur trade and steamboat travel, reports of frontier missionaries, the "Overland Trail Narratives" and the epic poems of John G. Neihardt and others.

EVENTS OF 1804-1875

The outstanding explorations connected with this period of Nebraska history were: Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1807; Fur Trade and Steamboat Travel, 1807-1860; Lieutenant Pike and the Astorian Expeditions, 1807-1813; Major Long's Explorations, 1819-1820; Fort Atkinson Foundation and Farming, 181g1827; Missionary Work, 1833-1850; Overland Trail Emigration, 1832-1869; Explorations of Prince Maximilian and George Catlin, 1832-1834; Lieutenant Woodbury's Expedition in the South Platte Region, 18471848; Lieutenant G. K. Warren's Exploration of the Sandhills Region; 1855-1857; F. V. Haden and O. C. Marsh Geological Surveys, 1850-1875.

Among the explorers the Astorian Expedition, organized by John Jacob Astor's American Company in 1810, traveled up the Missouri River in the spring of 181 1 to the Arikari Village, then located just above the mouth of the Grand River, now near the northern border of South Dakota, then followed the Overland Trail westward crossing the Tetons in the Jackson Hole Country south of the Yellowstone National Park. This route led to the Oregon Trail about where Fort Hall was afterward located in Southern Idaho.

In the year 1812-1813, a number of the outgoing Astorian Expedition returned, following the line of the Oregon Trail as it was afterward established, except that this group followed the Platte River to its mouth and then descended the Missouri River to St. Louis. In 1830, Jedediah S. Smith, David E. Jackson and William Sublette, famous explorers and trappers and partners of General William H. Ashley in the organization of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1822, took ten loaded wagons and two dearborns from St. Louis to the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains. They were probably the first vehicles on wheels to travel this route. However, it has been said that about 1827, General Ashley had drawn a mounted cannon over the same route to his hiding place in the mountains.

In 1832, Captain Bonneville, the hero of Washington Irving's famous story, took twenty wagons over the trail. He started from Fort Osage and struck the Platte Valley twenty-five miles below Grand Island and along the Little Blue River, a route which in 1842 became an established short cut. In the same year the expeditions of Nathaniel J. Wyeth and William Sublette followed the Big Blue to its headwaters and thence across to the Platte. Wyeth's party was the first to traverse continuously the entire length of the trail with the exception of the Captain Bonneville party. Occasional small parties of Oregon emigrants passed over the trails during the decade of 1830-1840, but Doctor Elijah White's party of one hundred and twenty began the important emigration in 1842. It abandoned its wagons at Fort Hall. The next party numbering one thousand, took the first loaded wagons through the Columbia River in 1843. The emigrant movement from 1842, until the gold rush to California began in 1849, distinguished this route and named it the Oregon Trail.

Independence, Missouri (near Kansas City), was the eastern terminal of the Oregon Trail, and it entered

The History of Platte County Nebraska

Nebraska near the southeastern corner of Jefferson County.


The Mormons started the first important travel over the Council Bluffs Route through Columbus in 1847, and it became general in 1849. This route was known as the California Emigrant Road.


Until the Union Pacific Railroad was built in Nebraska in 1865, travel in the Nebraska Territory was confined to wagon roads and to the steamboats on the Missouri River. The boat Western Engineer, which in 1819 carried Long's Scientific and Exploring Expedition from Yellowstone to Council Bluffs, was the first boat to run up the Missouri River beyond the Nebraska line.

In 1859, a steamboat reached a point just below Fort Benton, the head of navigation. About 1860, two boats, the Chippewa and Key West, landed at Fort Benton the first to reach that point. Steamboat traffic on the Missouri was reported heaviest during the ten year period ending in 1868. By that time the railroads were built as far north as Omaha. The river traffic became greatly reduced by the time the Northern Pacific Railroad reached the river at Bismark in 1873, and was nearly abandoned when railroads were built to Pierre in 1880, and Chamberlain in '88'.


Soon after Nebraska became a Territory in 1854, the Federal Government began to build wagon roads through it. These roads were primarily for mail and military purposes, but also to facilitate general travel. On February 17, 1855, Congress made its first appropriation of fifty thousand dollars for a road to run from a point opposite Council Bluffs, now Omaha, to the new Fort Kearney. On March 3, 1857, a second appropriation of thirty thousand dollars was made for a road from the mouth of the Platte River to the mouth of the Niobrara.

The first road was constructed in the years 1856, 1857 and 1858. The main work was in bridging water courses; some grading was also done.

At that time the Elkhorn Bridge was the principal structure on the road and Congress refused again, over persistent local petitions, to appropriate money to bridge the treacherous Loup River at Columbus. In 1860, a short line ran from Nebraska City to the Platte River. This line crossed the Salt Creek eight miles south of Lincoln and was built by local enterprise. The original road crossed the Salt Creek at Ashland.


A mail route between Nebraska City, Bellevue, Omaha and Fort Calhoun was established by an act of Congress on August 3, 1854. The first mail was received at Omaha from Council Bluffs in May, 1854, by Alfred D. Jones, the first postmaster, who was appointed to the office on May of that year.

In the fall of 1854 a four horse tri-weekly coach began to carry mail from Council Bluffs to Omaha. A post office was established at the village of Table Creek, later the town of Nebraska City, on December 20, 1853, when a man named John Boulware was appointed postmaster. This was recorded as the first post office in Nebraska.

On March 14, 1855, the name of this post office was changed to Nebraska City and Charles H. Cowles was appointed as postmaster.

The contract for the first mail through the territory now comprised in the State of Nebraska was given to Samuel Woodson. It was to be carried once a month from Independence, Missouri, to Salt Lake City, Utah, from July , 1850, to July , 1854. In 1858 this service became weekly.

In April, 1860, Russell, Majors and Waddell, through the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Company, established the famous pony express. Relays of men on horseback carried telegrams and important letters from St. Joseph, Missouri, to California.

The telegrams were forwarded by wire from Placerville, California, to San Francisco, and the letters were taken from the pony line at Sacramento and forwarded by boats on the Sacramento River to San Francisco. The entire trip was made in about ten days.


The first ferry line across the Missouri River to Nebraska was probably established about 1842, by Peter A. Sarpy. Bellevue was its first terminus. William D. Brown established a ferry across the Missouri River at Council Bluffs around 1851.


The Union Pacific was the first railroad in Nebraska. Its actual construction was started in Omaha in 1865, and was completed to the western border of the state in 1867. In that year the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad reached the Missouri River at Council Bluffs. This was the first railroad built to the Missouri River opposite Omaha.

Until it was finished the material for the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad was transported by steamboats on the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.


The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was the second railroad built in Nebraska. It was begun at Plattsmouth in the spring of 1870. The track was completed to Lincoln by the end of July that year and the trains began to run on schedule around August I. The point of junction with the Union Pacific at Kearney, Nebraska, was reached September 2, 1872.

A grant of public land of two million four hundred forty-one thousand and six hundred acres of approximately twelve thousand eight hundred acres per mile was given to this company by the Federal Government as a bonus. The Union Pacific Railroad was the only other railroad in Nebraska which received a federal grant of land, but the "internal improvement" lands --- a half million acres---were granted by the Federal Government to Nebraska at the time of its admission to the Union as a State in 1867. These lands were given to various local railroad companies by the State to encourage the construction of railroads within its boundaries.

Nebraska History


To prove that Nebraska was successful in this attempt the railroad statistics during the first decade of the 1900's show that there were then over sixty-one hundred miles of single track in the state which were owned by nine railroads including: the Chicago Burlington and Quincy; the Chicago and Northwestern; Union Pacific; Missouri Pacific; Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha; Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific; St. Joseph and Grand Island; Omaha Bridge and Terminal; Missouri Valley and Blair Railroad and Bridge.

At that time there were also over two hundred miles of double track and several miles of yard tracks and sidings making a total of close to eight thousand miles.


Although some attempt had been made to pass railroad legislation during its early years, the first actual laws for the regulation of railroads were not passed until 1885. At that time the State Legislature authorized the Secretary of State, the State Auditor and the Attorney General to act as a Railroad Commission. However, this plan did not work out, so in 1887, the Legislature established "A Board of Transportation" with the addition of the State Treasurer.

In November, 1890, the State Supreme Court declared this act unconstitutional and thus put an end to the board. The State Legislature of 1891 tried direct control by passing a bill reducing freight rates, but Governor James II. Boyd defeated it by his veto. In 1893 a similar bill was passed and in 1894 it was annulled by the United States Circuit Court.

In 1906 an amendment to the Constitution was adopted providing for an elective commission of three members who organized for business on April 9, .5907.

The 1907 Legislature passed a law prohibiting the issuing of free passes by railroad companies and another reducing passenger rates on all roads in the state. During the past forty years the rates have been raised and lowered according to the times and restricted passes for transportation are issued to railroad employes and their families by railroad companies.

Other railroad legislation has been passed from time to time by the State Railway Commission.


The Missouri Compromise, so called because it was enacted by Congress in 1820, as a condition on which Missouri should be admitted as a slave state, and provided that there should be no slavery in the remainder of the Louisiana Territory north of the parallel of 36° 30' --- the extension of the southern boundary line of Missouri --- was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. This bill sponsored by Stephen A. Douglas was signed by President Franklin Pierce on May 3°, 1854, and the Nebraska Territory was added to the map of the United States. Slavery was forbidden by the Territorial Legislature although fifteen slaves were found in the Territory by the census of 1860. The issue raised by this bill resulted in a split Democratic Party in 1860, and Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States on the Republican ticket.


The territory which was included in Nebraska formed a part of the "Indian Country" which in 1834 had been set apart by an act of Congress for the exclusive use of Indians and from which white people, other than Indian agents and traders, were interdicted by law. When this law was passed there were two hundred seventy-five people within the territory, two hundred of these were at Fort Kearney and seventy-five along the Missouri, mostly at Bellevue.

According to the first census, the white population was two thousand seven hundred and thirty-two in November, 1854, but this count was heavily padded. Many of these inhabitants had staked out claims and lived in Iowa. The population in September, 1855, showed over four thousand inhabitants. This was still padded, but in that year a great influx of people had arrived, taking claims. They lived. along the Missouri River and the population center had concentrated at Omaha.

Thus the territory was at the beginning of its political era. The South ruled the Democratic Party, then in power, and aspirants for office in the South were sent North to fill the appointive territorial offices.

Francis Burt, a South Carolina politician, became the first Governor of Nebraska Territory, but he died from the effects of the long journey to his new home on October 18, 1854, just two days after taking office. The Secretary of Iowa, Thomas B. Cuming, became Acting Governor and political organization was quickly effected under his administration.


Upon his arrival in the new territory Governor Burt settled Bellevue as his provisional capital, but Acting Governor Cuming called the first legislative assembly to meet at Omaha instead of Bellevue on January 16, The first session was held in a brick building located on Ninth Street, between Farnam and Douglas Streets. This building had been erected for the capitol by the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company. At this session the assembly confirmed the location of the capitol at Omaha and passed the laws necessary for establishing a government.

The assembly also adopted the Iowa Criminal and Civil Codes.

The first Territorial Legislature of Nebraska convened at Omaha, Nebraska, at 10 am. January 16, 1855, and was the scene of great excitement.

The senate elected Hiram P. Bennet of Pierce president pro tem. A committee on credentials was appointed and a recess taken until 2 p.m. at which time a joint session was held to hear the first message of the first Legislative Assembly in Nebraska from Acting Governor Thomas B. Cuming. At this session the following persons were present having been authenticated by the committee on credentials: Council: Burt County --- B. R. Falsom; Cass County --- Luke Nickolls; Dodge County --- T. G. Goodwill, A. D. Jones, O. D. Richardson, S. E. Rogers; Douglas County (including Platte) --- M. H. Clark; Forney County --- Richard Brown; Pierce County --- A. H. Bradford, H. P. Bennet, C. H. Cowles;

The History of Platte County Nebraska

Richardson County --- J. L. Sharp; Washington County --- J. C. Mitchell. House: Burt County --- J. B. Robertson, A. C. Purple; Cass County --- J. M. Latham, William A. Kempton, J. D. H. Thompson; Dodge County (including Platte) --- E. R. Doyle, J. W. Richardson; Douglas County --- A. J. Hanscom, W. N. Byers, William Clancy, F. Davidson, Thomas Davis, A. D. Goyer, A. J. Pappleton, Robert Whitted; Forney County --- W. A. Finney, J. M. Wood; Pierce County --- G. Bennet, J. H. Cowles, J. H. Decker, W. H. Hail, William Maddox; Richardson County --- D. M. Johnson, J. A. Singleton; Washington County --- A. Archer, A. J. Smith. Council 13; Representatives 26. Total 39.

The building erected by the ferry company was located on Lot 7, Block 124, in Omaha, Nebraska.

At the conclusion Acting Governor Thomas B. Cuming's message for a permanent organization of the council was effected by the election of J. L. Sharp; President; George L. Miller of Omaha, Chief Clerk; S. A. Lewis of Omaha, Sergeant-at-Arms; N. R. Falsom, of Tekamah, Doorkeeper.

The House elected the following: A. J. Hanscom, Speaker; J. W. Paddock, Chief Clerk; G. L. Eayre, Assistant Clerk; J. L. Gibbs, Sergeant-at-Arms; B. B. Thompson, Doorkeeper.


The first Legislative Assembly was made up of a council of thirteen members and a House of Representatives of twenty-six members. The second assembly increased the numbers of the House to thirty-five, and the fifth assembly increased them to thirty-nine. These additions were first made effective in the third and sixth assemblies and no more were made during the territorial period.


The stormy session of the fourth assembly was disrupted on account of an attempt to remove the capitol from Omaha. Those who wished its removal were in the majority so after a bitter session with the members opposed to its removal, the assemblymen went to Florence, Nebraska, where the legislative session was continued. However, its enactments were not considered as valid.

A special session of the fifth assembly was called to meet September 21, 1858, when its members were requested to do the work neglected by the members of the fourth assembly, and especially to reenact a criminal code to replace the one repealed by the third assembly.

This is the only special session on record of a territorial assembly.

On October 4, the special session merged with the regular session without any change of organization. At the continuous session a new criminal code was adapted from that of New York and a civil code procedure from the state of Ohio.


A liquor license law was passed to take the place of the prohibition law passed by the first assembly which had not been enforced.


The twelfth and last territorial assembly was in session from January 10, 1867, to February 18, 1867.

The regular sessions were held annually. There were twelve territorial assemblies and thirteen sessions altogether.


There were four Territorial Governors. Francis Burt of South Carolina who arrived in Nebraska October 7, 1854, and died October 18, 1854; Mark Izard of Arkansas, who served from February 20, 1855 to January 12, 1858; William A. Richard of Illinois, who was governor from January 12, 1858, until May 2, 1859; Samuel W. Black of Pennsylvania served from May 2, 1859, to February 24, 1861; and Alvin Saunders of Omaha from May I, 1861, to March i, 1867.

The thirteen territorial years were filled with intense rivalries and conflicts. The first of these was the conflict over the location of the capitol. In this Omaha won out over Bellevue.

During those years there was a constant rivalry between the settlers of the North Platte area and those of the South Platte area. The South Platte had the largest population but the North Platte elected the Governors who vetoed the bills for removal of the capitol from Omaha.

The people of the South Platte wanted to be annexed to Kansas but the Territory of Kansas did not want them. The first years of the Nebraska Territory were profitable years. Speculators laid out townsites and sold lots. Wildcat banks, having no real capital, were started by the Legislature. These banks created nearly a half million in paper money and loaned it to the settlers before the panic of 1857 when most of them failed.


The first political party in Nebraska was the Democratic Party. It was divided on the slavery issue.

The Republican Party was organized in 1858. It was united in opposing slavery.


The most important acts of legislation passed by Congress for Nebraska in 1862 by President Lincoln were: The Free Homestead Act, giving each settler one hundred sixty acres of land. The first homestead in Nebraska under this act was taken by Daniel Freeman in Gage County. This law came into effect January I, 1863. The Pacific Railroad Act, under which the Union Pacific Railroad, and later the Burlington Railroad, were built across the state of Nebraska. The Agricultural College Land Grant Act, under which agricultural colleges were founded in Nebraska and other states.

In 1864, the Sioux and Cheyenne War was fought on the Nebraska frontier which resulted in the loss of many lives and destruction of much property.

After the Civil War was over, settlers came in increasing numbers and after their settlement, the first steps were taken for forming the new state of Nebraska. There was then about an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. This balance did not occur again until the late 1890's. By the margin of one hundred votes Nebraska adopted statehood in 1866, and elected a Republican ticket.

Nebraska History

After Nebraska became a state the more important problems included: A struggle between the cattlemen and corn and wheat farmers; the law of 1870-1871 made it possible for the homesteaders to raise crops without fencing. Later laws were made regulating land, finance and transportation.

Other issues included marketing, free schools, changing forms of government, public roads, taxation, banking, woman suffrage and prohibition.


The South Platte held a majority in the legislature of 1866. A bill to relocate the capitol was introduced and passed. The capitol commission consisted of David Butler, Governor; T. P. Kennard, Secretary of State; and John Gillespie, Auditor. They met on July 29, 1867, on the present site in Lincoln and selected it as the capital city of Nebraska. The first capitol was built there at a cost of seventy-five thousand dollars.


Twenty-five men have served Nebraska as Governors from 1867 to 1950. David Butler was three times elected -- 1866, 1868 and 1870. In 1871 he was impeached and removed from office for illegal use of funds. William James served out his term, 1871-1872. Governor Butler transferred to the State lands owned by him which more than repaid the funds he had used. He was elected to the State Senate in 1882.

Robert Furnas became Governor in 1872 and served until 1874; Silas Garber was elected Governor in 1874 and re-elected in 1876; Albinus Nance served from 1878-1882; James W. Dawes, 1882-1886; John M. Thayer of Grand Island, 1886-1890; James E. Boyd, 1890-1894; Silas A. Holcomb, 1894-1898; W. A. Paynter, 1898-1900; Charles H. Dietrich, 1900-1901 (resigned) ; E. P. Savage, unexpired term, 1901; John H. Mickey, 1902-1906; George L. Sheldon, 1906-1908; A. C. Shallenberger, 1908-1910; Chester H. Aldrich, 1910-1912 ; John H. Morehead, 1912-1916; Keith Neville, 1916-1919; S. R. McKelvie, 1919-1922 Charles W. Bryan, 1922-1924; Adam McMullen, 1924-1930; A. J. Weaver, 1930-1932; Charles W. Bryan, 1932-1934; Roy L. Cochran, 1934-1940; Dwight Griswold, 1940-1946; and Val Peterson, 1946-1950.


From 1890-1917 Nebraska, with the rest of the nation, experienced a series of successive changes which affected both its political and social life.

The History of Nebraska records 1890 as the year that ended the period of settlement of free land, and the beginning of a new school of economic thought. About this time the large corporations were amassing great wealth. World government had extended into business and policies were being formed to regulate factories, land and trade. 1892 marked the year of the first national convention of the new Populist Party in Omaha. The basis of its political program was centered around "land, finance, transportation -- including telegraph and telephone exchange, taxation, further restriction of foreign immigration. Labor -- adoption of the eight hour labor law. Civil service -- applicable to all those in government service, and 'extension of powers of government'."

The Democratic and Populist parties elected William Jennings Bryan as their presidential candidate in 1896. This renowned advocate of the "Peoples Rights" was thrice defeated for President. However, he was appointed as Secretary of State by President Woodrow Wilson, and resigned that post when the United States entered World War I.

In 1898 the nation was engaged in the Spanish-American War, and after the turn of the century business showed an upward trend.

Following a reform in Republican politics, John H. Mickey, a Republican, was elected to the office of Governor in 1902 and reelected in 1904. The Populist Party fused with the Democratic Party until it lost its early enthusiasm. The Democratic Party had broken away from Bryan and nominated for President a representative of the gold standard and the corporations' interests.

Alton B. Parker and Theodore Roosevelt became the leaders of the Republican Party on a reform program. In 1906 a progressive Nebraska representative of the Republican Party, George L. Sheldon, was elected Governor. During his two years in office, free passes on the railroad were abolished, passenger fares reduced to two cents per mile, a state Railway Commission created, a direct primary law enacted providing that candidates for office should be named by the voters instead of by conventions.

In 1908 A. C. Shallenberger, Democrat, defeated George L. Sheldon for reelection. The railroad and liquor interests opposed Sheldon-and a new issue, the guarantee of bank deposits, had arisen.

As Mr. Shallenburger championed these causes he won many Republican votes. During his term in office the Saloon Act, which required all saloons to be closed between 8:00 p.m. and 7 a.m., was passed. Again the liquor interests defeated Shallenburger for reelection.

A Republican, C. H. Aldrich, defeated the Democratic candidate in 1910. W. J. Bryan defeated for President by the help of the liquor interests in 1908, became a strong champion of prohibition.

In 1912 a Democrat, John H. Morehead, was elected Governor. He was reelected in 1914, the year the European World War was started. Workmen's Compensation Act was passed, a regulation of the state budget, and an act for prevention of fraud in stocks and bonds.

Keith Neville of North Platte was elected Governor in 1916. The leading issues in this campaign were war legislation, and a prohibition amendment to the Nebraska Constitution. Governor Neville preferred liquor licenses but pledged his support to whichever policy should be adopted by the voters.

The years of 1917-1929 covered the period of World War I and expansion. War was declared on April 6, 1917, with United States Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska opposing the war program. The war caused a crisis in public opinion and politics in Nebraska.

Once war was declared Governor Keith Neville rapidly moved to the aid of the President and the Ne-

The History of Platte County Nebraska

braska State Council of Defense was created by a special act of the legislature.

In this war program Nebraska contributed 47,801 men for the Army and Navy, of whom one thousand died in service. Two hundred forty million dollars of Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps were purchased. According to the population, this was more than any other State in the Union. The Nebraska Base Hospital Unit Number 49 had a high record for life saving.

Nebraska gave John J. Pershing, as Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces. The state became a world market in food and factory supplies.

After the World War Samuel R. McKelvie, a Republican, was elected Governor of Nebraska with a majority of Republicans in the Legislature. Legislation enacted during this term included the Civil Administrative Code, which reorganized the state government. It provided for a state constitutional convention to revise the Constitution, it levied a one and one-half mill tax to build a new state capitol, it ratified national prohibition, and woman suffrage, it declared the English language the official language of the State and forbade the teaching of any child any subject in any other language until after the eighth grade.

Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, came into being as a holiday. This was the era of high prices in food and other products, building booms, and high priced land. It was the beginning of the installment plan of buying. Machine farming replaced the old style of horse farming. Bank deposits increased and many new banks were chartered.

A recession started in 1921. Banks called in loans and the cattlemen suffered, but by 1923 business was again on the upward trend.

In 1922 Charles W. Bryan, Democrat, was elected Governor. In 1924 Adam McMullen, a Republican, succeeded him in the office. In 1926 Arthur J. Weaver, a Republican, became Governor. During his term of office the banking situation was highly critical.

In 1909 the legislature passed the Bank Guaranty Law which required all State banks to pay an annual tax to create a bank deposit insurance fund. When a bank failed the depositors were paid in full from the insurance fund. The assets of the failed bank were then converted into cash and placed in the fund. At first this system worked out but after the business boom of World War I speculation increased and bank loans were made freely. Many banks closed their doors, which resulted in the study of the banking situation by a special committee appointed by the Governor.

After twenty years of existence, on March 3, 1930, a special session of the legislature repealed the Bank Guaranty Law of 1909. In its stead was passed a law for two-tenths of one per cent on average deposits for surviving State banks. This was called "A Final Settlement Fund."

Charles W. Bryan was again elected Governor in 1932. In this legislature the Governor tried to reduce state expenses.

Roy L. Cochran followed him as Governor in 1934 and served six consecutive terms in the office, 1934-1946. He was a civil engineer and had previously been head of the State Highway Department. During his time in office, roads and irrigation were developed. Social Security, relief and unemployment were the chief political and economic questions. During the decade 1929-1939, Nebraska alone was in the fourth major financial depression. The problems during Governor Cochran's administration were very difficult.


In 1937, during this period, the Unicameral Legislature championed by Senator George W. Norris, was started.

The State Planning Board also had its beginning in 1937. A department for State Relief was started in 1935 and a program of irrigation and water power was carried out in the State.

In December, 1941, war was declared. In 1942 Nebraska again organized for a second World War. Defense organizations were set up. Again bond sales soared. Men registered for war service and war industries were started in the State. The war ended in 1945. Governor Dwight W. Griswold was elected for a term in office and was followed by Governor Val Peterson, a Republican, who was elected in 1946 and reelected in 1948.

During the war period prices on food quickly advanced and farmers again found a world market for their produce. Following the development of power in the State, new factories sprang up all over the State in 1946 to meet the demand for manufactured goods.

During the last six months of 1949 the trend of business in Nebraska was affected by a slowing up of manufacturing and other business. This recession was general throughout the United States.

After ninety-three years of settlement, organization, government, expansion and wars, Nebraska remained a State of small towns where life still revolves around the clubs and lodges.


Through the years, influences from the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards have sifted in and the effect of the daily papers, magazines, motion pictures, radio, television, the automobile, the streamliner, and the airplane, together with the influences of the church and school, have helped to shape Nebraska's cultural pattern.

Despite the depressions and droughts, many Nebraskans today are concerned with the issues of conservation, of water resources, defenses against soil erosion, new and better ways of farming, the development of public power projects, and a new industrial era.

The two most important annual gatherings of the State are the State Fair at Lincoln, where town and country meet, and the Ak-sar-ben at Omaha, which has been renowned for its beauty and pageantry.

In many of the counties of the State, County Fairs are also held. These affairs combine holiday festival and farm institutes where the crowds look with interest at their local exhibits of live stock, grains, vegetables, flowers, modern implements and farm machinery. All of these were a part of the Nebraska of 1949.

Nebraska History


January 6, 1875

Several Columbus citizens left Monday morning on a visit to Lincoln to witness the organization of the Legislature.

A copy of the Notice March 3, 1875, from Columbus Journal reads as follows:


An act to provide for calling a convention, to revise, alter or amend the constitution of the State of Nebraska. It is called to meet at the Capitol on the second Tuesday in May, 1875, said convention shall consist of 69 members, and the members thereof apportioned and elected from the several counties as follows: Burt; Cuming; Dakota; Dixon; Colfax one; (Stanton, Wayne and Cedar one; Platte; Madison one; Antelope, Boone and Greeley, one) ; (Holt, Pierce and Knox, one) ; (Howard and Merrick, one) ; (Lincoln, Keith, Cheyenne and territory north of Dawson and West of Valley Co., one) ; (Richardson and Nemaha Co. one) ; Douglas Co. seven; Richardson Co. four; Otoe County four; Lancaster Co. four; Saunders Co. three; Cass Co. three; Dodge Co. two; Washington Co. two; Nemaha Co. two; Gage Co. two; Saline Co. two; Seward Co. two; (Webster, Kearney and Adams Co. two) ; Pawnee Co. one; Johnson Co. one; Butler Co. one; Polk Co. one; York Co. one; Clay Co. one; Hamilton Co. one; (Thayer and Nuckolls Counties one) ; (Franklin, Phelps and Gosper one) ; (Red Willow, Frontier, Chase, Dundy, Hitchcock, Dawson and territory west of Frontier Co. one) ; (Furnas and Harlan Counties one) ; Sarpy Co. one.

Section 2. The members of said convention shall be chosen by the electors of the state qualified to vote at any general election, at an election to be held on the first Tuesday in month of April, 1875. Such election shall be conducted according to the laws then in force respecting elections and notices of elections of members to said convention shall be given by the officers whose duty it is to give notices of election for members of the legislature.

Section 3. The votes cast at said election shall be canvassed, and returns made, in the same manner as shall then be provided by law for canvass and return of votes in elections for members of the legislature, and certificates of election thereto, in the same manner as members of the legislature are entitled to receive the same; and in case of contested election to the convention the contesting candidates shall pursue the same course, and be governed by the same rules, as provided by the law then in force concerning contested elections for members of the legislature.

Section 4. The members chosen to said convention shall meet in the hall of the house of representatives on the day before mentioned, at the hour of three o'clock P.M., and before entering upon their duties shall each take oath of affirmation to support the constitution of the United States, and faithfully discharge their duty as members of said convention. The said convention shall he the judge of the election and qualification of its own members and the said members, shall be entitled to the same privileges to which members of the legislature are entitled.

Section 5. The members of said convention shall elect one of their number president. They shall also elect a secretary, an assistant secretary, and such other officers and employees as the business of the convention may require. The members of the convention and the officers and employees thereof, shall be entitled to receive the same compensation and mileage as provided by law for the payment of the officers and members of the legislature. The amount due to each person shall be certified by the president and countersigned by the secretary of the convention, to the auditor of state, who shall issue warrants upon the treasury, and the same shall be paid as other warrants are paid.

Section 6. The Secretary of State shall attend said convention, at the opening thereof, and it shall be his duty of all other public officers, to furnish said convention with all such statements, books, papers, and public documents in their possession, or pertaining to their office as the convention may order or require. The Secretary of State must furnish the convention with such stationery as they may require. The printing ordered by said convention shall be executed by the contractors for public printing in the same manner as printing ordered by the legislature. The journal of said convention, and the debates of its members, shall be printed and distributed as journals of the Senate and House of Representatives are now distributed.

Section 7. The amendments, alterations, or revisions of the constitution agreed to, shall be signed by the members of said convention, and, together with the journal of debates, be filed in the office of the Secretary of State. The amendments, alterations, or revisions of the Constitution shall be published in such manner, and in such quantity, as shall be ordered by the convention.

Section 8. The amendments, alterations, or revisions of the Constitution shall be submitted to the people for their adoption or rejection, at an election to be called by said convention, arid every person entitled to vote by the laws in force at the time such election is held, may vote thereon, and said amendments, alterations, or revision of the constitution shall not take effect unless adopted by a majority of the electors voting at such election, and the votes cast at such election shall be canvassed and returns thereof made in such a manner as the convention shall prescribe. The convention shall also prescribe the way and manner in which the said amendments, alterations, or revisions of the Constitution shall take effect if adopted by the people.

Section 9. The Secretary of State shall designate some paper in each county where a paper is published, and all papers published in any foreign language, in this state, which shall give this act one insertion before the 1st day of April, 1875 shall, upon forwarding to the state auditor a copy containing such publication, be

The History of Platte County Nebraska

entitled to receive pay for the same, at the same rates allowed contractors for public printing of the laws of the state, which amount shall be paid by warrant of the auditor, drawn on the general fund of the treasury.

Section 10. The sum of $15,000 or so much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated, out of any money in the general fund not otherwise appropriated, to carry into effect the provisions of the act.

Section II. This act shall take effect, and be in force, from and after its passage.

Prior Page
Table of Contents
Next Page

© 2005 for the NEGenWeb Project by Ted & Carole Miller