NEBRASKA WOMEN IN 1855.
By Harriet S. MacMurphy. Read before the Society January 12, 1897.
Sometimes one among them attracts
passing notice, and of such in Nebraska was Nekoma, daughter of an
Ayeoway (Iowa) chief, who became first the wife of Dr. Gayle, and
later of Peter A. Sarpy, and whose only child, Mary, was the
mother of the La Flesehes, women of more than ordinary ability in
the Omaha tribe. A stately woman she, as the early settlers tell
of her, quiet and dignified, able to command respect of even such
a fiery-tongued despot as Sarpy, the then ruler of Indian and
white man alike, through the mysterious power of the Great
American Fur Company. And well she might, for it was reported of
her that she once carried him, when sick with the mountain fever,
many miles on her back to a place of aid and safety.
There are two other classes of women who have silently labored and endured on these great western plains, and passing away have left scarcely a trace; the women of that strange French-Canadian or Creole race that came down the lakes from Canada, or up the rivers from the Gulf, following their water-loving lords, who built rude cabins beside the streams and constructed flat boats on which they crossed from shore to shore, westward bound; and the wives of that still stranger people, the Mormons, who wearily trod the westward trail which they had been taught to believe led to the land of promise. If we could but embody them how strangely they would appear at this day, following behind the two wheeled cart, often, which bore all their worldly wealth, and at eventide stopping beside the sunflower lined roadside to cook the meal of bacon and bread over the tiny fire made from rosin weed and buffalo chips.
While they were silently doing their part in this beginning of the settlement of a new country, the pioneers who should take final possession of the land and build lasting records of their presence, were advancing from the east, and in this westward march women again were taking a place.
First in the procession were the missionaries; and the names of Merrill, Dunbar, Allis, Gaston, Platt, Hamilton, and others are conspicuous in the records of those early days. It is noteworthy, too, that the missionary women are oftener mentioned
in the annals of that time than other women, probably because
their duties as teachers brought them into public notice. Several
admirable articles from the pen of one of them, Mrs. Alvira Gaston
Platt, appear in the records of this society.
As, owing to the location of the Presbyterian mission and the trading post of the American Fur Company at Bellevue, it was the scene of the first gathering of any considerable number of white people, we must look here first for the women who made the history of that period.
Rev. Mr. Hamilton was in charge of the Presbyterian Mission, and Mrs. Hamilton and the Misses Amanda, Maria, Elsie, and Mary Hamilton bore most prominent parts in the home and social life of that period. The mission house, in which they resided, was the one building of any size and degree of comfort for some time, and within its walls Father Hamilton received and Mrs. Hamilton entertained many and varied guests. Here came the first Governor of the territory, Francis Burt, stricken with disease even before his arrival, and was cared for by these pioneer women, who assumed cheerfully every duty presented to them, until he succumbed to the burden of anxiety which, enfeebled by the hardships of his journey from South Carolina, he was not strong enough to endure.
From Judge A. N. Ferguson have been obtained some interesting reminiscences of his mother's participation in those early events. Judge Fenner Ferguson, who had been appointed the first chief justice of the territory, left Albion, Mich., accompanied by his wife and three sons, in October, 1854, and coming up the river from St. Louis on the steamer Admiral, arrived at Bethlehem, a little town in Iowa opposite Plattsmouth, in November. They were obliged to land there on account of the low water and go thence by wagon to Kanesville, some miles further up. Their destination was Bellevue, but until the old agency building could be fitted up for them they boarded at the Pacific House in Kanesville. The agency building had one room below, an attic above, and porches in front and rear. Just beyond them lived Isaiah and Rachel Bennett, who kept an eating house, and there meals
were obtained until they could set up their own household
goods and provide for themselves.
One of the good results of the mission school was already apparent in the education of quite a number of Indian girls, who were glad to further obtain the benefits of association with white people by living with them, and Mrs. Ferguson obtained the services of Susan Fontenelle, who had been educated at the mission schools there and further south. Susan Fontenelle's mother was the daughter of an Omaha chief, and her father, Lucian Fontenelle, was the grandson of a French marquis. Her relatives in New Orleans were among the most patrician of the patrician residents of that old city, but Susan's father, imbued with a spirit of adventure, had wandered away and become a famous trader among the Indians, married among them, and dying, left his children with their strange heredity to make of themselves what they could. About the time she lived with Mrs. Ferguson, her brother, Logan Fontenelle, the last chief of the Omahas, a man of much more than ordinary ability and intelligence, while on a hunt was killed by the Sioux. His body was brought home to Bellevue and buried as near as possible to the site of the building which had been his father's trading post. Mrs. Ferguson and several other women attended this funeral, and were she alive she might tell a most interesting story of this strange mingling of civilized and savage ceremonies. It was the custom of the relatives of deceased Indians, particularly of women, to make loud outcries over the body from the time of the death until several days after the burial, and also to cut their flesh until the blood flowed. These wierd cries and bodily sacrifices were greater in proportion to the rank of the deceased, and as Fontenelle was the chief, the whole tribe united in the ceremony. Then, as he was possessed of white blood and had been a great friend of the white people, they attempted to show their respect by participating in the last rites. Commodore Stephen Decatur read the burial service of the Episcopal church as the body was lowered into the grave, and Mrs. Sloan, a Pawnee half-breed, vehemently protested that it was a most un-
seemly thing for him to do. What were the thoughts of
these women who had but lately come from pleasant homes where the
beloved dead were decorously laid away to rest, as they watched
this strange sight?
When Susan Fontenelle's father lay on his deathbed he exacted a promise from the famous Father de Smet, who was with him and who had married him, to go to his sister in New Orleans with his last request that she take his only daughter and educate her; but she refused, and Susan was left in the care of the mission schools. She married Louis Neal, and after a life of strange vicissitudes has returned to Bellevue to spend her last days, her daughter attending Bellevue College. To the writer she said a couple of years ago: "When I was about sixteen and living at St. Joseph with some white people who had been very good to me, a steamboat came up the river and on it was a cousin of mine from New Orleans. They told her I was there and wanted her to come and see me, but she refused, and said slighting things of me and of my mother. When I was told of it I wished that she might sometime be worse off than I was, and I think my worst wishes were realized, for they did lose all their property and suffer very much, I heard long after." Mrs. Neal shows even yet traces of the gentle breeding of her ancestry in her quiet grace of manner and ready tact.
Mrs. Ferguson was the target of much curiosity on the part of the Indians. Often the daylight would be suddenly obscured, and she would look up to see the dusky faces flattened against the window panes curiously regarding her. The shoes she wore were a great curiosity to them. One day a stalwart Indian, with his blanket wrapped around him, came up on the back porch and taking one of the pans which lay on a bench put it under his blanket and started off. Mrs. Ferguson saw him, and going out demanded it and finally took it from him. He started off, but suddenly turned and strode back rapidly. She ran in and slammed the door to in great fright. A crash, a shaking of the door, and then - quiet. When at last someone ventured out the mark of the Indian's tomahawk was found where he had hurled it into the door.
A beautiful little kitten was given
Mrs. Ferguson, and as cats were scarce it was greatly prized. It
suddenly disappeared and no search could find it. Some time after
an Indian walked in wearing the remains of kitty in the form of a
tobacco pouch the head ornamenting the front.
Mrs. Ferguson was the only woman present at the issuing of the first paper in Nebraska, the Palladium, but there is no record of a woman's column in it.
Just about the same time that Judge Ferguson's family arrived came also from Michigan Mr. and Mrs. J. Sterling Morton. They were married in Detroit and started westward the same day to make for themselves a home in the new territory. Their first one was a log cabin of two rooms situated just beyond that occupied by the Fergusons. Here the young bride assumed the duties of her household with a gay heart and boundless hope. Judge Ferguson tells how she used to feed the Indians, but insisted on adding her quota to their education by obliging them to use the knife and fork which she always placed with the plate set out on the porch for them. A lady also tells of the interest and admiration Mrs. Morton excited when she appeared at a ball at the Douglas House in Omaha. "She was so bright and beautiful in her pink silk dress; every one fell in love with her."
When it was decided to make Omaha the capital Mr. and Mrs. Morton went from Bellevue to Nebraska City and there began in truth the home which they had purposed to make before they left the more luxurious ones of their youthful days. Arbor Lodge was the result, and a more beautiful object lesson could not have been given to the women of later Nebraska than this. She made not only the interior of the four walls she called home beautiful, but she widened home to embrace beautiful yard and trees and shrubs, vines and flowers. She loved nature and taught her children to love it with her. She spent days in the woods with them, and the trees that beautified their home bore pet names that commemorated familiar household events. When more mothers teach these simple, natural pursuits to their children, and share them with them; when the beauty of tree
and grass and flower and the delight of making them grow
is learned by women, we shall begin to escape from the unhealthy
environment which dwarfs us physically and mentally, we shall have
strong bodies and healthy minds and a broader outlook into
Mrs. Morton has left behind her a better monument than even the beautiful one which surmounts her last resting place, in the lesson which she taught of collaborating with Mother Nature in making a bit of earth beautiful and abiding in it with love.
As we have journeyed with Mrs. Morton to Nebraska City we will take a glance at some of the women who assisted in planting homes there in those days. Mrs. John McMechan, whose husband laid out Kearney City, which afterward became Nebraska City, was one, and Mrs. Geo. H. Benton had the honor of giving birth to the first child, a boy. Sarah Kennedy was the first bride, becoming Mrs. Geo. W. Nuckolls. Mrs. John Boulware was one of the very oldest settlers, and one the memory of whose good deeds many a settler still cherishes. Mrs. James Pitch endured the hardships of pioneer life, and there were quite a number of others, as Nebraska City was among the first and most numerously settled of the towns which sprang up along the Missouri river.
Plattsmouth, lying between Nebraska City and Bellevue, was also settled very early, and Mrs. Wheatly Mickelwait, Mrs. Wiles, Mrs. Walker, Mrs. O'Neill, Mrs. F. M. Young, Mrs. Wm. Gilmour, Mrs. J. McF. Hagood, Mrs. Todd, Mrs. Kirkpatrick were among the first. Miss Sarah Morris was the first bride, becoming Mrs. Elza Martin.
Omaha, although not first among the river towns in point of settlement, was destined soon to surpass them all, as it became the capital of the territory, and here we find in the person of Mrs. Marguerite C. Cuming
the wife of Thos. B. Cuming, first acting governor of the territory.
Only about six months married,
Secretary Cuming, for such he had been appointed by President
Pierce, with his bride left Keokuk late in September, 1854, in a
light covered wagon containing a supply of provisions and a man
and wife in his employ. Mrs. Cuming was only eighteen, and with
the enthusiasm of youth she regarded the trip as a pleasant
adventure, as, indeed, she seems to have done the whole of those
first years in Nebraska. And with reason, for, surrounded by the
watchful care of her energetic and brilliant lover-husband, with
her mother, her brothers, and her sister beside her, occupying a
position which afforded much of the pleasure of life and the
responsibilities of which were rendered easy to bear by the joint
co-operation of her family, those first years were a pleasant
dream, rudely dissipated by the death of the idol of her youth,
whose too lavish giving of himself to his work had sapped his life
forces before anyone was aware of the strain upon him.
Arrived at Council Bluffs they were obliged to remain there until better quarters could be provided within the limits of the territory, and they boarded at the LaClede House, Governor Cuming, as he shortly became, going back and forth to Bellevue, where Governor Burt was located.
"I well remember one trip over to Omaha while still at Council Bluffs," said Mrs. Cuming. "I had been persuaded to drive over with some friends, the Misses Rockwood, Judge Larrimer, and a newspaper man, Mr. Pattison, I believe, and getting caught on this side in one of those severe windstorms which we used to have. They said it was not safe to try to cross the river, and we took refuge in a house by crawling through the window. The house had just been built by General Thayer, who was still in Council Bluffs. I waited very patiently, for I felt certain when my husband returned from Bellevue, he would come for me. Some provisions had been stored in the house, as General and Mrs. Thayer were expecting to move in in a few days, and we appropriated some of them and prepared supper. The rest of the party were groaning over the necessity of staying there all night when we heard a shouting, and looking out saw three or
four forms approaching, illuminated by pitch torches
which they were carrying. It was my husband, my brother, and our
man. Mr. Cuming insisted on starting back immediately,
notwithstanding the protests of our male companions, and we were
soon off, jumping quickly over the treacherous quicksands until we
reached our boats, and crossing in the face of the wind under
their vigorous rowing. Those who had told Mr. Cuming on the other
side that he couldn't get across were soon astonished to see us
Mrs. Cuming tells the following story of their inexperience as cooks: "One of our number, who had just gone to housekeeping, invited us to spend the day with her. She had obtained some beans and consulted her cook book as to the way to cook them, but unfortunately these were bake beans and she got the receipt for Lima beans, which said boil about half an hour. She put on the beans according to directions, but they refused to be tender as they should at the expiration of the half hour, so we all sat and waited for those beans until we were so hungry! We were still patiently watching them bubbling up and down in the water when our carriage arrived with word from Mr. Cuming that there was an alarm of Indians and for all to come immediately to the Douglas House, so we left our dinner still boiling and drove. into town. The proprietor of the Douglas House had a hungry crowd to feed, none of whom, it was very evident, came from Massachusetts, the land of baked beans."
In 1855 Governor Cuming built the house on Dodge street, near Nineteenth, which, with some additions, remained the home of Mrs. Cuming until about ten years ago. It was a palace for those days, and Governor and Mrs. Cuming set out trees and shrubbery and made a garden, so the grounds also were soon conspicuous for their beauty. The gradual slope, with the outlook upon the river and the hills in the distance, made it a lovely location, and the generous hospitality of the governor and his family made many a pleasant occasion, upon which the settlers of those times look back with affection. When, a few years ago, the old house was torn down and the grounds graded, removing
the trees and obliterating the old landmark, there was
many an expression of regret.
"I well remember," said one gentleman, "New Year's day, 1856. Several of us called upon Mrs. Cuming and her mother and sister Fanny, afterwards Mrs. C. W. Hamilton, who were keeping open house. Mrs. Murphy had made a delicious egg-nog, the first tasted since we came to the territory, and we had a merry time."
Mrs. Cuming, in speaking of the privations of those early days, said: "I did not realize them then as I have done since, for I personally had so few of them to endure. I remember being complimented on our delicious coffee, and I took it as a tribute to my skill, when the fact was the most delicious Mocha and Java came to us from Mr. Cuming's uncle in New York by the sack, such as is hard to get even now. Thirty dozen eggs came in one day, and when I asked my husband why he bought so many he said we might not have another opportunity to get more during the winter. I afterwards found he paid a dollar a dozen for them." Probably those eggs went to the making of that egg-nog.
There were many social functions in those days; receptions, balls, dances, given at the Douglas House, or the State house, which was down on Ninth Street, between Farnam and Douglas, or upon the steamboats, which always made the occasion of their landing the opportunity for a ball in their spacious saloons. The majority of those who participated in them had been accustomed to all the elegancies of social life in the east, and while they laughed at the unavoidable crudenesses of house and banquet table and orchestra, they imparted after all an atmosphere of ease and elegance that was noticeable even then, and with it all was that hearty comradeship which is one of the delights of a new country, and which once participated in is never forgotten. The universal statement to the writer was, "There has never been much hearty sociability since in Nebraska as in those early days."
Many of the women who came were brides, and wedding gowns and delicate silks adorned these occasions, and from the first lady of the territory through the list they graced their silken attire.
Mrs. Murphy, Mrs. Cuming's mother,
ended her days in Nebraska in the same house that she and her
daughter had dedicated to a governor's hospitality, and Mrs.
Cuming has always been and still is a resident of the city which
her husband first called into prominence. Although the affliction
of his death and the blindness of her mother withdrew her much
from society, she is nevertheless identified even in later days
with some of the most delightful hospitality of the metropolis of
Another official of the first territorial staff was Hon. Experience Estabrook, who was appointed attorney general. He came from Geneva Lake, Wis., in 1855, and was followed by his wife and two children a few months later. They first occupied a house belonging to Dr. Miller, who, with his wife, was absent on a trip up the Missouri in a government steamboat to give his professional services to the soldiers in an epidemic of cholera. Like a true pioneer, his wife had gone with him.
With all possible haste General Estabrook built a house on his own lots at the corner of Tenth and Capitol avenue, that they might get away before Dr. Miller and wife returned. It was built of cottonwood boards nailed up and down to the framework, had one room, with brush and hay roof, and no floor. Dry hay was scattered over the ground and carpets laid over that, and when the rain penetrated the primitive roof and dripped on the carpets and hay they were carried out and hung up, and dry hay substituted. Partitions were made by hanging up other carpets. In this house they lived until a more comfortable one could be erected. At that time Henry Estabrook, since become an orator whose silvery eloquence does honor to Nebraska, was a baby.
Within these primitive surroundings Mrs. Estabrook became famous for her generous aid to every one who needed help. "I hope," said Mrs. Poppleton, another of those pioneer women who has left her impress upon those times, "that you will tell of Mrs. Estabrook that she was always helping someone. She was famous for her cookery, and everyone was made welcome to her table."
Thus do the women of those times bear
testimony to the good deeds of each other.
Mrs. Estabrook still lives and still is known as she always was for the quiet unostentatious doing of good.
From Mrs. Lyman Richardson comes the following most interesting sketch, and although she with her family did not come until just after the period prescribed for this article, their experiences as portrayed by her are so interesting a picture of those times that I give them entire. Mrs. Richardson was a daughter of John T. Clark, and the three sisters spoken of were Miss lmogene, who still resides in Omaha; Miss Dora, who married Rev. Algernon Butte; and Miss ---, who became Mrs. King.
"We arrived in Omaha early in May, '56, after a trip of twelve days on a steamboat, from St. Louis. The trip was a very pleasant one, though at times a little monotonous, as we traveled up stream, and were frequently on a sand bar several hours at a time. We had lovely days and beautiful moonlight nights, and to four young girls, without a thought or a care, life seemed fall of joy and pleasure. When we landed there were it number of young men at the landing to see for themselves if it was really true that four young ladies were to be added to the few already here.
"My father had succeeded in renting a house of four small rooms, with a lean-to for a kitchen, from Mr. J. I. Redick, and it stood where the Millard Hotel now stands. The ladies all called on us after a few days. Mrs. Conking, with her sister Fanny, now Mrs. C. W. Hamilton, Mrs. Hanscom, Mrs. Peck. wife of our physician, Mrs. John McCormick, Miss Lide Patrick, now Mrs. Joseph Barker, and others. We had brought a servant girl with us from St. Louis, who had promised to stay with its one year, but she married in less than three weeks, so we had to cook, wash, iron, and do the housework. As we were novices in it all, it came pretty hard on our dear mother, who, of course, had a general oversight of the work. Later in the season we were able to procure 'help' by going up to Florence and persuading a very incompetent girl to remain over a trip; the Mormons were start-
ing their trains three times a year from that point. She did the rough work, which was a great help, and in that way we had more time on our hands. Our piano was still boxed at the warehouse, and after much persuading and many pleadings we were allowed to have it, though it necessitated the removal of every piece of furniture in the warehouse. As it was a large, old-fashioned, square piano and occupied two-thirds of our room, it barely left space enough at one end to open and close the only window in the room. I can't tell whether I looked oftener at the notes or the window, as there was very frequently a dusky face flattened on the window pane, and there was no escape, as every one in the house was so darkened. All we could do was to lock every door and call out, 'puck agee,' which meant 'go away,' but they seemed to enjoy our fright and great discomfort, especially the squaws, with the little papooses strapped to their backs. One day a pane was broken, and I think the only glazier in the town was sent over to replace it. He came in barefooted, and entered into conversation with much interest, and as he was leaving he said: 'If you're going to the party to-night, I'd like to dance the first set with you.' I replied I had not yet made up my mind whether I would go or not, but sure enough, he was there. Of course I was engaged for every dance, so had not the pleasure of his society. A few days after we had another dance, given by Armstrong & Clarke in their new furniture warehouse that stood where the Dewey & Stone Company now is. It was a house-warming, and I remember I danced a 'hoe-down' with Governor Cuming, who dared me to do it. That night we took two of the girls home with us to stay all night. We were limited as to bed accommodation, and so had to occupy the floor and sleep under the piano. As I was the slimmer of the two, I had to sleep back of the pedals, and my friend in front. But for all the discomforts-we slept soundly, and were ready for the evening. Knowing a boat was looked for, we were discussing what we should wear, when we heard the whistle. Oh, the cove-oyster soup, steamboat sandwiches (much like railroad 'tid-bits' of the same name), and the canned peaches, were a supper for the gods, to say nothing of the goddesses!
"Our house, which was prepared in St.
Louis, and still stands at Capitol avenue and 17th street, was
finished, and we moved in, thinking and feeling as if we were in
another place, with such palatial surroundings. Father had a high
board fence around three sides of the place, so it was called 'The
Fort.' Such good times we have never had before or since. Three
daughters were married in the old house, and I recall many lovely
morning walks there while it was building, and the beautiful wild
flowers picked on the grounds.
"'God bless us every one,' says Tiny Tim, 'and may we live long and prosper,' we and our families."
Mrs. Geo. L. Miller was one of the band of cultured young women who, with their husbands, cast their lot in a new country, and lived to see the land of the Mahas become Omaha, the only city of its name on the continent. Mrs. Miller has passed through all the vicissitudes of life in a new land from the little house on the open prairie to the great stone castle which will be her home for the remainder of her life, probably, and she has many a pleasant reminiscence of those passing years.
Mrs. Joseph W. Paddock came in 1854, and she, too, has been identified with all the years of Omaha's growth.
Mrs. Jno. M. Thayer was another of the pioneer women in this new territory and state, where she lived to share with her husband the responsibilities and dignities of his career as a general, a governor, and a United States senator.
Mrs. A. J. Hanscom was among the first women to occupy a home of her own in the new land. She came with her husband from Detroit to Council Bluffs in 1849, and in 1854 they built a home on their preemption claim near where Fort Omaha formerly was.
At a very early day Miss Sears came with her family to Council Bluffs, where she met the young attorney, Mr. Andrew J. Poppleton, and in 1855 they were married and went to housekeeping in a few rooms in the brick building on the site where the United States National Bank now stands. They at once proceeded to the building of a home of their own on the block at Fifteenth and
Capital avenue, where they resided until the
encroachments of business necessitated the removal to a site
further northward, where a lovely home was built that will be
doubtless for Mrs. Poppleton, as it has been for Mr. Poppleton,
her last earthly abode. But she yet reverts with pleasure to their
first home and the enjoyment of planting the trees and vines which
for years adorned it.
Mrs. George Mills and her daughter Maggie, who afterwards became Mrs. Dick McCormick, were among those who came in 1855.
Mrs. Alf. D. Jones came with her husband to Omaha in 1854, and endured the hardships as she also enjoyed the pleasures of those early days. Mr. and Mrs. Jones are still residents of Omaha, and upon the walls of their luxurious home is a picture of the first log cabin erected by Mr. Jones at a place called Park Idlewild, not far from the present home of Mr. Herman Kountze. Mrs. Jones was the first of the gentler sex to visit the first session of the territorial legislature, held in Omaha. She had arranged to go with Mrs. Thayer, who was detained, by callers. Her presence called forth from Dr. Bradford, a member from Nebraska City, the following lines which he indited on the spot and presented to her:
The first woman to settle permanently in Omaha was Mrs. Wm. P. Snowden, who came with her husband from Council Bluffs for the purpose of boarding the men who were burning the kiln of brick that went into the first buildings of the town. A house had been built on what is now Jackson and Twelfth streets by the Town and Ferry Company, and called the St. Nicholas, and this they occupied. Mrs. Snowden came to stay, as events
proved, for she is still a resident of Omaha, and with her
husband celebrated her golden wedding in this year 1897,
surrounded by their children and grandchildren, most of whom were
born and reared in Omaha.
Mrs. Elizabeth Reeves, later the wife of William S. Cannon, a merchant of Elkhorn, was the mother of the first child born in Omaha, William Nebraska Reeves at present residing in Valley county, this state. The first girl born in Omaha was Margaret Ferry, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Ferry, and she first saw the light of day in a tent on the valley of a creek known then as "Paradise Lost," about where Krug's brewery now stands. In the flight of years she has forsaken her birthplace for a home beyond the Rocky mountains.
Mrs. E. Reeves, Sen., was the first doctor in Omaha, and not only did successful professional work, but was most kind and benevolent to everyone needing it, and endured many hardships in aiding others.
Miss Adelaide Goodwill, now Mrs. Allen Root, was the first school teacher.
The first bride was Miss Caroline Mosier, who became Mrs. John Logan, and still resides in Omaha, a widow.
The first public speaker among women was Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, of Council Bluffs, who later become famous as the originator of the bloomer costume.
Among the very earliest settlers was Mrs. Wm. D. Brown, whose husband ran the first ferry between Council Bluffs and what is now Omaha, the land then being in the possession Of the Indians. Mr. Brown made a claim to land which comprised about what is now the entire site of Omaha in 1853, the greater portion of which he sold out to a ferry company. He died in the sixties, but Mrs. Brown lived some time after him, and still has descendants who are residents of Nebraska, one daughter having married Mr. Alfred Sorenson, who compiled a most excellent history of the early days of Omaha. Another daughter, Miss Nellie Brown, became a writer of some note and left some beautiful poems that were pen pictures of her native state. Mrs.
McKenzie is the only daughter of the family now resident in
Nebraska, and tells many interesting reminiscences of the early
Mrs. Thomas Davis and Miss Davis, daughter of Mr. John Davis, who afterwards became Mrs. Hermann Kountze, were among the residents of those days, Miss Davis being among the few young ladies who were the centers of attraction to the many young bachelors who had come west to seek their fortunes.
The first woman to succumb to the hardships of the new land was Mrs. Collins, wife of Rev. Mr. Collins, the first Methodist minister to be stationed in Omaha.
It would have been a pleasant task, were life only long enough and not so full of other duties, to gather into this article the stories which these pioneers have to tell of those early days, to see the smiles and tears chase each other across their faces as the pleasures and pains of those most eventful days of their lives were recalled, but to others I must delegate the continuance of this pleasant duty, which I have only begun, hoping that future pages of the records of the State Historical Society will contain many a pleasant reminiscence of those women who helped to lay the foundations of the commonwealth of Nebraska.
Some of them, who came in their youth with glowing anticipations, to build a home in the new, strange land, have gone ahead, but they lived to see much of the growth of a country marvelous in its rapidity, and many are yet spared to watch still further its development and prosperity. As their century draws to its close may its rapidly hastening events foretell to their senses, sharpened by the wisdom of years, the greater future which is coming to this land they have helped to give to the generation succeeding.
This is woman's century, and thus do the women of 1855 send greeting to the women of almost 1900.
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