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     Nebraska was claimed by Spain, France and England in the period of early voyages and discovery along the coast. The grants of the king of England to the Virginia and New England colonial companies ran "from sea to sea" and of course included this state, but these were purely paper pretenses. Spain sent an occasional military expedition out upon the plains at intervals of a century or more. But France, by her hardy sons of the forest and plains, first explored and made temporary settlement here. By virtue of this exploration and settlement Nebraska was part of the province of Louisiana,--and as such subject to the King of France,--from about the year 1700 until November 3, 1762, when by the secret treaty of Paris it was transferred to Spain. The king of Spain was the ruler from that date until October 1, 1800, when it was ceded back to France by the treaty of San Ildefonso. The Spanish governor, however, remained in possession until the time it was turned over to the United States which, for upper Louisiana, was March 10, 1804. From that date until October 1, 1804, this region was under a military government, under an act of congress, passed October 13, 1803, which authorized the president to take possession of the new territory and that all civil and judicial powers there should be vested temporarily in persons appointed by him. Under this act Captain Amos Stoddard, of the United States army was governor at St. Louis and had jurisdiction over Nebraska. From October 1, 1804, until July 4, 1805, our state was part of the District of Louisiana and annexed to the territory of Indiana, whose capital was then at Vincennes. William Henry Harrison was then governor of Indiana and with the judges for that territory, appointed by the president, enacted the laws for this region--the people having no voice in the matter. From July 4, 1805 until December 7, 1812, this was part of the territory of Louisiana, with a governor and judges of its own, appointed by the president, who enacted the law. From December 7, 1812, until 1821 it was part of the territory of Missouri. All free white males over
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Wreck of Missouri River Steamer



21 years old who had lived in the territory twelve months and had paid a territorial or county tax and whose homes were on lands to which the Indian title had been extinguished, were entitled to vote for members of a lower house of the legislature, which lower house in turn nominated eighteen candidates for an upper house of whom the president chose nine as members. The Indian title not being extinguished to Nebraska none of the few white men here could vote. From the date of the admission of the state of Missouri in 1821 until June 30, 1834 Nebraska was an unorganized, unattached, wilderness. The state of Missouri was cut out of the old Territory of Missouri, and apparently in the heat of the fight over the admission of the state the rest of the territory was forgotten. The only provision in the United States laws applying to Nebraska was the eighth section of the Missouri bill--"the Missouri Compromise"--which forever prohibited slavery. As Nebraska was not a part of any judicial or other civil district there were no courts in which suits could be tried and no sheriff or marshal with authority to serve writs. This virtually made
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The Yellowstone. The First Regular Steamer Plying on Nebraska Waters

"club law" the governing force in our state.

     The Indians settled their disputes according to Indian custom and white men theirs according to their own inclination. It was, in fact, the darkest period of our social history. Rival fur traders went everywhere carrying their vile liquor without hindrance. The Indians, debauched with drink, fought with each other, and sold their ponies and even their wives to get more liquor. White men were killed in the frontier brawls and the murderers went unpunished. After the withdrawal of the garrison at Fort Atkinson in 1827 disorders of all kinds grew worse. It was the period of unbridled competition. The fortunes made in the Indian trade had attracted a swarm of big and little adventurers. The American Fur Company, organized by John Jacob Astor in 1808, and maker of the foundation for the Astor millions of today, had come into the field to crush out all opposition. With the farsighted keenness of combining politics with business, characteristic of corporations,--and sometimes observed in these later days of Nebraska life,--the first move of the Astor company was to get an act through congress abol-



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Two Crows

ishing all government trading establishments in the Indian country. This act was signed May 6, 1822, and that very summer the American Fur company engaged in the Missouri fur trade with western headquarters at St. Louis. Some of the experienced St. Louis traders were taken into the company. In 1827 its strongest rival, the Columbia Fur company, which had Nebraska posts at the mouth of the Niobrara and at Council Bluff, was absorbed by consolidation. In 1831 the first regular steamboat line from St. Louis to the upper Missouri, stopping at Nebraska points, began business. The line consisted of the steamer Yellowstone and was owned by the American Fur company. It was now time for the new commercial giant to drive the rival fur dealers from the country. In the remote regions of the Missouri, beyond sound of the military bugles at Fort Leavenworth, this meant civil war and true to her historic destiny Nebraska was for some time the seat of war.

     The use of liquor by the rival dealers to draw Indian trade had become so notorious and appalling in its effects by this time that congress passed an act July 9, 1832, forbidding the introduction of ardent spirits into the Indian country under any pretense whatever. Leclerc, a rival of the American Fur Company, had managed to slip away from St. Louis with two hundred and fifty gallons of alcohol in keel boats before the new law had been officially proclaimed. When he arrived at Bellevue in the summer of 1832 Cabanne, the Nebraska manager for the fur company, resolved that it would never do to let so much liquor go up the river for a rival trader, sent his clerk Sarpy with an armed force and small cannon a few miles up the river from Bellevue to a spot where the channel ran close to shore. When Leclerc's boats appeared the cannon was trained on them and they were ordered to surrender on pain of being blown out of the water. They obeyed and their goods were brought to Bellevue and confiscated, while three of the Astor company's men who had deserted to Leclerc were put in irons. This assumption of powers of government by the big fur company led to an agitation against it at Washington and it compromised with Leclerc by paying for his property. At the same time the Astor interests began a campaign to drive out of business all the rival traders in the Missouri region, --and particularly the firm of Sublette and Campbell which started into business in 1833 with fair capital and the support of General Ashley then a member of congress from Missouri. The method was similar to that since employed by the Standard Oil Company and great packing house combinations--to sell goods regardless of cost until the opposition went broke. In a year's time the Sublette firm went out of business, and other rivals were glad to hunt other fields. When a few years later other companies again entered the Amer-



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Henry Fontenelle

ican Fur Company's domain the latter by shrewd political work secured the revival of the office of Indian agent for the upper Missouri and the appointment of one of its own employes, Andrew Drips, as that agent. One hand of this great corporation was Politics, the other Business and each washed its fellow. A good example of its enterprising methods occurred in 1833 when McKenzie, manager of the company's business, finding great difficulty in smuggling liquor past the military Inspection at Fort Leavenworth, started a distillery at Fort Union near the mouth of the Yellowstone. The connection this fact has with Nebraska history is that Nebraska corn was shipped up the river by Joshua Pilcher, the company's agent at Council Bluff, to run the distillery. McKenzie writes repeatedly to Pilcher to load the Nebraska-grown corn on the steamboats as the squaw corn grown on the upper Missouri is not so good.

      Out of this maze of murder, intrigue, war, whiskey and throat-cutting competition there emerged June 30, 1834, an act of congress profoundly affecting the political and social future of Nebraska. It provided that all of the United States west of the Mississippi and not included in the states of Missouri, Louisiana or the territory of Arkansas should be called the "Indian Country." No person was permitted to trade in the Indian Country without a license from the Indian bureau. Any person taking goods there to trade without license forfeited his goods and a fine of $500. No person was permitted to make settlement in the Indian Country under penalty of $1,000 fine. No person, except Indians, was permitted to trap in the Indian Country or to hunt there except to obtain subsistence. No liquor was to be taken into the Indian Country (except by permit of the war department for use of troops) and no distillery might be operated there under severe penalties and right of search was conferred upon the military and Indian agents. The northern part of the Indian Country, including Nebraska, was annexed to the judicial district of Missouri and all United States laws for the punishment of crime were declared in force there. The military was authorized to remove from the Indian Country any persons unlawfully there. It was further provided that in any trial between a white man and an Indian concerning rights of property the burden of proof should be on the white man. And still further that no purchase, grant or lease from any Indian tribe in the Indian Country should be valid unless made by treaty of the United States.

     It will at once be noticed that here was a radical program aiming at nothing less than white exclusion from this vast empire of territory. We shall better understand it if we take note of another great government move-



ment going on at this time. This was the transplanting of the bulk of the Indian population in the older states east of the Mississippi to new homes west of that river,--and most of them west of the Missouri. In pursuance of this plan there were transferred between the years 1830 and 1840 to the country lying west of a line drawn north and south through Kansas City an Indian population of some 75,000. Of these the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles,--in all about 65,000,--had been located south of the Missouri Compromise line in what is now Oklahoma and Indian Territory. The Delawares, Kickapoos, Shawnees, Pottawotamies, Ottawas, Peorias, Kaskaskias, Piankashas, Weas, Senecas, Oneidas, Tuscaroras and Quapaws,--in all between 5,000 and 10,000,--had been settled in eastern Kansas and, with the transfer of the Sacs and Foxes and loways west of the Missouri, in southeastern Nebraska. Here was one of the greatest migrations of modern times carried on forcibly by the United States government. This large Indian population thus camped on the edge of the plains was of course an effectual block to white settlement. The act of 1834 was designed to make this permanent and to extend the protection of the government against white settlement to the other tribes, natives of the plains region, who made treaties with the United States. It looked forward to the formation of a great Indian state which should include all the country west of the Missouri river. President Andrew Jackson, in his annual message to congress, December, 1835, said:

      "A country west of Missouri and Arkansas has been assigned to the Indians, into which white settlements are not to be pushed. No political communities can be formed in that extensive region, except those which are established by the Indians themselves, or by the United States for them, and with their concurrence. A barrier has thus been raised for their protection against the encroachments of our citizens, and guarding the Indians, as far as possible, from those evils which brought them to their present condition. Summary authority has been given by law to destroy all ardent spirits found in their country, without waiting the doubtful result and slow process of their legal seizure."

      By solemn treaty engagements the government promised that the Indians should never be disturbed in their home and by the act of 1834 sought to make its engagements effective. We know what a rope of sand treaties and laws are against the adventurous spirits of a borderland. Meanwhile two or three points deserve notice before taking up the story of Nebraska's territorial organization. One is that the Indian population in the free territory north of the line of 36 degrees and 30 minutes was much less dense than that south of that line, and in the coming movement of white population west would offer much less resistance.

     Another matter deserving mention is that of two or three distinguished travelers whose work in this period served to make Nebraska famous over the civilized world,--while at the same time they preserved for later Nebraskans scenes and memories which, without them, would be lost to mankind forever. The first of these is George Catlin, dreamer and

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@ 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller