Location and Natural Features | Water Powers|
Grain and Fruit Raising | Early History
Early History of Fremont | A Reminiscence|
Organization | Means of Communication|
County Schools--County Poor
The County Agricultural Society
Fremont: Corporate History | Schools | City Park|
Fremont (cont.): The Press | Fire Department | Fires|
The First and The Last Murder | Societies
Business of Fremont | Banks | Shed's Opera House
Fremont (cont.): Hotels | Board of Trade|
Manufactories | Biographical Sketches
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
North Bend: Early History | The North Bend of Today|
North Bend (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Scribner: Biographical Sketches|
Pebble: Biographical Sketches
Hooper: Biographical Sketches|
Cuming Precinct: (Biographical Sketches)
Everett Precinct | Maple Precinct
Union Precinct | Webster Precinct | Elkhorn Precinct
List of Illustrations in Dodge County Chapter
Francis Burt, of South Carolina, the newly appointed Governor of Nebraska, reached Bellevue October 6, 1854. At the time he was laboring under a painful illness, and died on the 18th of that month. T. B. Cuming, Secretary of the Territory, thereupon became Acting Governor. His first official acts were the formal announcement of Governor Burt's death, and the division of the Territory into eight counties--Burt, Washington, Dodge, Douglas, Cass, Pierce, Forney and Richardson. Dodge County was bounded as follows: Commencing at a point on the Platte River, twenty miles west of Bellevue, thence westerly along the said Platte River, to the mouth of Shell Creek, thence north twenty-five miles, thence east to the dividing ridge between the Elkhorn and Missouri Rivers, thence southerly to the place of beginning. The voting precinct was established at the house of Dr. M. H. Clark, in Fontenelle. William Kline, Christopher S. Leiber and William S. Estley, were appointed Judges of Election, and William Taylor and E. G. McNeely, Clerks. The county was named in honor of Augustus Cæsar Dodge, a United States Senator from Iowa, and an active supporter of the Kansas and Nebraska Bill. In accordance with the proclamation of Acting Gov. Cuming, made October 21, 1854, an enumeration of the inhabitants of the Territory was made. The apportionment of Dodge County was one Councilman and two Representatives.
The eight votes cast at Fontenelle, on December 12, 1854, by which Dr. M. H. Clark was chosen to the Territorial Council, and Judge J. W. Richardson and Col. E. R. Doyle to the Lower House, constituted the first election ever held in Dodge County. In regard to their "constituents" left at home Dr. Abbott has the following: "The first Territorial Legislature convened at Omaha on January 16, 1855, and while Messrs. Clark, Robinson and Doyle were attending the Legislature, the town of Fontenelle and the county of Dodge were deserted by their inhabitants, until Col. William Kline, then and now a respected citizen of Fontenelle, and a half-breed Indian, named Joe, were the only constituents left to the honorable members of Dodge. .Col. Kline can truly be said to have had at one time in his life, the largest representation, according to population, of any gentleman in Nebraska, if not in the United States." In November, 1855, Thomas Gibson was elected a member of the house of Representatives from Dodge County. At the third election for members, Silas E. Seely secured forty-four votes and Thomas Gibson forty-one votes. Gibson contested Seely's seat, on the ground that Seely had not resided long enough in the legislative district. The legislature vacated the seat held by Seely on his certificate, but did not declare for Gibson, thus leaving Dodge unrepresented in the Lower House the winter of 1857.
Prior to the coming of the first settlers at North Bend, in the southwestern part of Dodge County, a town company had been formed by speculators in Omaha, and land disposed without even being seen, at quite fabulous prices. In November, 1856, after a colony had been induced to locate by the paper company, George J. Turton built a double log house. It was here that in November, the first election within the present limits of Dodge County was held, Mr. Turton being selected as Commissioner, Silas E. Seeley, Representative, and Robert Kittle and George Young, Justices of the Peace.
By legislative act of March 2, 1858, the eastern boundary of Dodge County was re-defined, and in January, 1860, it was so changed (the Elkhorn River being its limits) that Fontenelle, the county seat, was cut off. By an election, held the next month, the honor was transferred to Fremont. The southern boundary had already been changed to its present limits; the northern and western boundaries were left in peace. In February, 1867, a portion of the territory cut off by the act of 1860, known as the Logan Precinct , was re-annexed to the county. In March, 1873, slight changes were made in the boundaries, and in February, 1875, the Legislature prescribed the present limits.
The first meeting of the Commissioners' Court of Dodge County occurred January 6, 1857, the session being held in Fontenelle, at John Batie's house. William E. Lee and Thomas Fitzsimmons were on hand, while L. C. Baldwin, of Golden Gate Precinct, was absent. An order of business was adopted, after which the county was divided into three precincts. All the territory east of the Elkhorn River was fixed as No. 1; all between the Platte River and a line running west, starting from the Elkhorn River on the township line between Townships 17 and 18 to the western boundary of the county. No. 2; all north of said line and west of Elkhorn River, to be known as No. 3. The county was also divided into road districts.
On April 6, 1857, the Commissioners met, but, on account of the drowning of Seth P. Marvin, at the ferry, "without adjournment repaired to the river." The next day Robert Kittle resigned his office as Justice of the Peace. On May 30, Fremont Precinct was organized so as to include all south of township line between Townships 17 and 18, and east of range line between 7 and 8.
Soon after Fremont was platted by the town company in 1856, it became evident that Fontenelle was to be vigorously pushed for the county seat by its somewhat younger competitor. The excitement reached its climax during the winter of 1859-60, when Fremont was growing rapidly and pressing her claims more strongly than ever for the county seat.
The following letter, written two weeks before the passage of the act of January 12, 1860, cutting off Fontenelle, indicates some of the arguments which were being used to defeat Fremont's desires to be both included in Dodge County and obtain the county seat. E. H. Rogers, of Fremont, was then the Representative from the county in the Lower House; James Stewart , of Washington, and John Rick, of Platte:
FONTENELLE, Dodge County, N. T.,}
JAMES STEWART, ESQ., Member House of Representatives, N. T.:|
Dear Sir--I find an urgent letter, signed by a large majority of the citizens of the precinct, favoring the removal of the western line of Washington County, about eleven miles west of the guide meridian, or the township line between Townships 6 and 7. In the precinct south of us, or what is known as the Golden Gate Precinct, I understand they are to a man in favor of the removal of the western line of Washington County, and consider it immaterial whether it goes beyond the guide meridian or not. I learn a petition is circulating there and is well signed. In Logan Precinct, north of here, on the Elkhorn, where there are about twenty voters, they are to a man in favor of the removal of the western line of the county, and are somewhat indifferent as to its exact location, provided they go into Washington. A petition was sent them by Mr. Gibson (the father of Arthur Gibson), I understand, but has not yet been returned. This is the true state of feeling concerning this question in this part of Dodge County, and I think now four-fifths of the residents of the eastern portion of the county of Dodge favor the removal of the western line. In Fremont, I understand a counter petition is on foot, signed by men and boys, and, indeed, by any one who can write a name. Mr. Rogers is sending a score of letter into the county on the subject, but here there is little attention paid to it.
By next mail I will send you out petition; and, I trust, a bill will past relocating the western line of your county, so that we will be included, and thereby become the richest and best agricultural county in the territory. Any line west of here taking in Logan Precinct and Golden Gate Precinct, will suit a majority of the people interested in Dodge County. If this bill is put in for the township line between 6 and 7, my impression is it will be better to move the eastern line of Platte County so as to take the remaining twelve miles of Dodge (this making, as is deserved, Buchanan the county seat of Platte), and then, by moving the eastern line of Monroe nine or twelve miles east again, you will give Columbus a central point and the county seat of Monroe. Rick will doubtless favor this strongly. If I can be of any service further in this county boundary movement, let me know, as I am anxious for it.
In further explanation of the above letter, it may be added that Mr. Rogers was sent to the Legislature this year (1859), pledged to work against any attempt to change the boundary between Dodge and Washington Counties. There were eight delegates present at the nominating convention, Mr. Rogers' opponent was Thomas Gibson, then a resident of Fontenelle and therefore interested in removing the western boundary of Washington County so far west as to bring his village somewhere near the center and throw Fremont in a corner, and therefore out of all chances for becoming the county seat. The delegates from the Fontenelle region numbered four, and the delegates from the Fremont district numbered four when they entered the nominating convention. They voted by ballot, and what was the consternation of Fontenelle when the result was announced--five for Rogers, and three for Gibson! In haste and trepidation the Fontenellites returned homeward, and there each and every man formally swore that he had voted for Mr. Gibson. It is suspected that a delegate named Saint forgot himself and his candidate.
As remarked, by January, 1860, Fremont had so outgrown Fontenelle that the county seat was removed to the former place by crowding the latter out of the county. The first election after the selection had been made, was held on the first Monday of February, 1860, and resulted as follows: E. H. Barnard, Probate Judge; William S. Wilson, Sheriff; H. C. Campbell, Treasurer; J. F. Reynolds, County Clerk; George Turner, George Turten and Thomas Fitzsimmons, Commissioners.
It has been briefly mentioned that Logan Precinct, detached from Dodge County in 1860, was re-attached in 1867. There is a history indirectly connected with that measure which is noted all over the State. The accounts of the matter which appeared at the time in the Omaha papers are said by eye witnesses of a regular Louisiana embroglio to be quite underdrawn. It was during the year 1867 that the question of removing the State capital from Omaha and re-apportioning the State assumed a rank party flavor. The decision of scores of local matters all over the State hinged upon the support or non-support which legislators would accord to one faction or the other of these general subjects of agitation. Among other local measures, the re-attachment of Logan Precinct to Dodge County hinge upon these matters. There was not a man serving in the Legislature of 1867, who did not have some local purpose to serve. A numerous and powerful lobby was also on hand, like a busy stick stirring up an already crackling fire. The culmination of this fierce state of sectional flames occurred February 16, 1867.
It is unnecessary for the purposes of local narrative to go into details or discussions in regard to the rulings of Speaker Chapin, of the House of Representatives. He voted persistently with the minority--16 to 17--and his evident purpose was to block legislation by upholding dilatory proceedings. The House was kept voting upon points of order from noon until 10 o'clock P.M. There seemed to be a complete legislative dead-lock, without the barrier, in the shape of the Speaker, could be removed. Finally, Mr. Harvey, of Otoe County, who had been throughout the proceedings a leader of the majority, rose in his seat, recited the position of affairs, and declaring the course of the Speaker and minority, "unjust, unparliamentary, illegal and revolutionary," moved that the office of Speaker be declared vacant, and that Dr. Abbott, of Washington County, be declared Speaker pro-tem. The question had scarcely been put when the click of weapons was heard all over the House, which was densely packed, and a bloody conflict seemed inevitable. There was a general rush, many springing toward the Speaker's desk, and some trying to make an exit from the hall. Scores of ugly looking pistols appeared above the heads of the crowd, and Dr. Abbott, now of Fremont, testifies that he saw one representative (who had "already killed his man") handling two revolvers, just as if he meant to use them on the "fractious minority". The Sergeant-at-Arms Howard rushed for an old sword, nearly as long as himself, which hung up in one corner of the hall, and tearing it from its nail, proceeded to the Speaker's Desk, and held it aloft to enjoin peace and enforce the decision of the majority. Mr. Chapin drew his pistol, cocked it, and threatened to blow out that officer's brains, but didn't; for he and the minority, shortly afterward tumbled over the shoulders of the crowd, out of sight. Dr. Abbott assumed the chair, and overruled his predecessor's "points of order." Then as he believes, the majority, being only one in number over the minority, considered it safer to remain in the hall over Sunday and have their meals and refreshments sent in to them. They did so. On Monday afternoon, however, a compromise was decently effected. Logan Precinct was detached from Washington and attached to Dodge, although the measure was strongly opposed by Dr. Abbott. The State capital was removed to Lancaster in October, and re-christened Lincoln.
Fremont had been permanently selected as the county seat; but, it was not until six years thereafter, that the discussion in regard to the erection of suitable buildings took a practical turn. When the Commissioners adjourned April 18, 1886, it was to meet again at the Valley House on May 5, and consider plans which might be sent in for their erection. In June, the plans and specifications of John Ray were accepted--Lots 1 and 2, Block 155, having been selected for the site of the county buildings. The court house, a good two story brick building, 40x60 feet, was completed in the winter of 1867-68, being accepted in January of the latter year. Its cost was $11,800. The jail was built in 1875, at a cost of $15,000, and is also a creditable and convenient county building.
The present county officers, 1881-82 are: Judge, James Murray; Commissioners--Chairman, Milton May, H. J. Lee, James Caldwell; Superintendent of Public Instruction, George A. Stanley; Clerk, G. C. Kerkow; Clerk of District Court, George H. Torney; Treasurer, J. Grunkranz; Sheriff, Robert Gregg; Surveyor, G. W. D. Reynolds.
The population of Dodge County, in 1856, was about 100; in 1860, 309. In 1870, the population was 4,212; assessed valuation of property, $2,776,900. The latest figures indicate that the population is 12,310.
During the session of the first Territorial Legislature, Dr. M. II. Clark, the first member of the Council from Dodge County, made a long report in favor of a Pacific Railroad by the Platte Valley route. It was within a month of eleven years, that the Union Pacific Railroad reached Fremont (January 24, 1866), and passed along that same Platte Valley for twenty-five miles in the county of Dodge. Soon after the Pike's Peak gold excitement was at its height, the Western Union Telegraph Company built its line through from Omaha to Fort Kearney. This was in 1860. The line was pushed on to the West, the force being employed day and night. Although the county received an impetus in the emigration toward Pike's Peak, and also in the return of the gold seekers, in the summer of 1859, its condition was not materially improved until it obtained railroad communication. As for telegraph communication, Fremont was merely a "trial station" for a number of years, and the wires were more objects of curiosity than of utility, until the regular office was opened. On the 12th of February, 1869, the Sioux City and Pacific united with the Union Pacific at Fremont. But the event which caused the greatest rejoicing, since from the first it was evident that it was to prove of direct local benefit to the county, was the building of the Elkhorn Valley Branch through the eastern sections of Dodge County, and the rich agricultural districts of Northeastern Nebraska, toward the head-waters of the Niobrara River, and the splendid stock-raising country of Northwestern Nebraska and Southwestern Dakota. This branch inaugurated a new system of railroads, opening up the region to the north, and making Fremont the railroad center of interior Nebraska; or as Robert Kittle of that city remarked, when he held the spike which was to finish the first ten miles of the road, he was about to "drive the last spike in the first link of railroads destined to unite the icy regions of the North with the Sunny South." The project of building a road from Fremont to the Upper Missouri River, via the Elkhorn Valley, had been agitated for several years previous to 1869. In the winter of 1868-69, a company of Fremont capitalists and public-spirited citizens was organized to bring the agitation to practical results. The hard times which fell upon business in the spring of 1869, delayed definite action until the following autumn. On September 8, of that year, a large and enthusiastic meeting was held at the court house in Fremont, E. O. Crosby being Chairman. Several other public meetings were held, and Robert Kittle was finally selected to present a proposition to John I. Blair, President of the Sioux City & Pacific road, known (and justly) as "the great railroad builder of the West."
In three days after the conference with Mr. Blair and his associates had taken place, enough names had been secured to guarantee the raising of $120,000 in bonds and the right of way up the Elkhorn Valley.
On November 5, 1869, the bells of Fremont were ringing; all its flags and banners were given to the breeze, and a large procession, composed of all her prominent citizens, both male and female, wended its way down E Street to Second, thence to the spot where the first ground was to be broken for the Elkhorn Valley Branch of the Sioux City & Pacific road. The Chairman, E. H. Barnard, mounted a wagon and spoke as follows:
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN-- Since the prime movers of this impromptu celebration have honored me with the position of Chairman, it becomes my duty to set the ball in motion. That duty I propose to perform chiefly with this spade, which has been furnished me to use in casting up grade for the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri River Railroad, which is to start at this point. Its condition indicates that it is, like myself, unaccustomed to such business; it is both dull and rusty, but may be useful for all that. Before testing it, however, let me say, that we are met here this morning not simply to break ground for a local railroad, but to inaugurate one of the most important enterprises of this enterprising age and country. In my humble judgment, this road is to become a connecting link in a great national railway, reaching from the Niobrara and the prairies of the North, to the Gulf of Mexico in the South. Over this very spot are to pass at no far distant day the products of the three zones, as those of the two hemispheres do now. When that time arrives, the position of Fremont will be truly a commanding one. Locating at what will then be the crossing of the two main thoroughfares of the continent, what city can command commerce if not she?" Telling speeches were also made by E. H. Rogers, Dr. L. J. Abbott, Judge Cook, of Iowa (representing John I. Blair), James G. Smith and others.
"In the midst of the general jubilee over this event in the progress of our civilization," says one account, "while congratulations were being made and toasts being read, the clang of hammers was heard as workmen were busy laying the iron in the roundhouse of the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad, when as if to bring the past and present face to face, a solitary Indian strode into the assembly, and gazed with mute astonishment upon the scene--only a moment, and then, as if the sight was hateful, turned and swiftly left the spot. Good-by, red man, you will soon be known only to memory. With three rousing cheers for Fremont and her railroad, the vast assembly dispersed."
On January 1, 1870, the first ten miles of road were completed, accepted by the State Commissioners, and the bonds delivered to Mr. Blair. The terminus was then Maple Creek, and three car loads of excursionists joyously celebrated the event. By November, 1870, the section of the road between Fremont and West Point was in prime working order. Forty-one miles of road were built in one year. L. D. Richards, of the Sioux City & Pacific Company, was the surveyor. He also platted Hooper and Scribner and the other stations along the line of road.
The next year agitation was renewed in regard to direct connection with Lincoln. The survey of the Lincoln and Fremont line, as recorded September 29, 1881, passes from Fremont southwest through Sections 23, 26 and 35, where it crosses the Platte River and Black Island. Communication direct with sections to the southwest is among the probabilities, and should the road be completed, it will be another link in the important chain of roads which encircle and bind Fremont to the growing West.
Properly belonging under the head "Means of Communication," is the fine, new bridge across the Platte River, connecting the interests of Dodge and Saunders Counties. It was completed in December, 1881, and is nearly half a mile, in length. The structure consists of six spans. The contractors were Messrs. Hobson, Reese & Sawyer, of Savannah, Mo. The first bridge, a short distance above the present structure, was completed in August, 1871, ten years previous to the building of the present. In March, 1874, a tremendous ice gorge formed just below the island. This acted as a dam, and, setting back the water, was the means of completely sweeping away the bridge.
From Superintendent Stanley's annual report for the year ending April 5, 1881, it is ascertained that Dodge County has 68 school districts, and that 86 teachers are employed. Out of a population of over 12,000, those of school age number 3,750. his shows an increase of 234 over the previous year. The value of school property throughout the county is $53,904.15. For construction of buildings, repairs, etc. $9,509.83 was expended; $6,277.80 paid to male and $14,255.38 to female teachers. Four new school houses were erected at a cost of $5,600. A balance of $7,383.38 remains in the treasury to be applied to school purposes. More particular mention of the principal district schools in the county will be found elsewhere.
The County Poor Farm consists of 160 acre of land, three miles north of the city, the ground being rented. Sixty acres have been put under cultivation. The department is in charge of J. W. Vars. Four years ago, a house was erected in Fremont for the convenience of those who did not receive outdoor relief. Only seven or eight families are permanently supported by the county, which speaks well both for it and its people. The average yearly expense for running the department does not exceed $1,000.
The present organization is the result of the union of the County Agricultural Society, formed at Centerville in April, 1872, and the Union Fair Grounds Association, organized in March, 1873.
Early in the spring of 1872, the Maple Creek Farmers' Club suggested the plan of forming a general county agricultural society. In April of that year it was organized, John P. Eaton being President; John Cayton and T. S. Parks, Vice Presidents; W. C. Aiken, Secretary; J. B. Robinson, Treasurer. The membership of the society was twenty-five, and a tract of land was purchased consisting of forty acres of ground, nicely improved for exhibition purposes. The first fair was held at Centerville, September 17 of this year, and regularly afterward until the society was merged with the Union Fair Grounds organization. In March, 1873, the people of Fremont organized the Union Fair Grounds Association, and purchased the eighty acres which include the site of the present exhibition grounds west of the city. The form of their society was a stock company, with a capital of $10,000. Officers, T. Nye, President; Vice President, A. T. Norris; W. C. Aiken, Secretary; W. D. Thomas, Treasurer. Upon the organization, 129 of the 400 shares were taken at once, and, as a business enterprise, the Union Fair Grounds Association seemed to at once prosper and promise greater things for the future.
In March, 1877, the Union Fair Grounds Association offered the Dodge County Society the use of their grounds at Fremont, free of charge, desiring to bridge over any differences which might have arisen, and wishing the Centerville people to hold their fair in that city. The proposition was accepted was accepted, and a good fair was held through the joint exertions of the two societies. In 1878, the Fremont Association held a fair independent of the other society, which even excelled the State exhibition.
To pick up a few threads in the history of the Dodge County Society, it is necessary to state that in 1874 that organization, seeing the success which had attended the Fremont Association as a joint-stock company, assumed that form of organization itself. But not having the capital to work with which the society at Fremont possessed, and finding, moreover, that each member of such an organization held himself individually liable for any and all debts incurred by the society, the Dodge County body changed itself back into its original character in the spring of 1876. The next three years were spent in vain attempts to consolidate the two organizations.
During the winter of 1878, the Dodge County Society made several attempts looking to this end, and finally requested the Union Fair Grounds Association to offer a proposition for a consolidation. In April, 1879, one was submitted; and finally adopted, with slight changes, in June. By its provisions the property of the association was deeded to the Dodge County Society, on condition that the latter issue a life membership for each share of the Union Fair Grounds Association stock. The association had 250 shares taken, the society fifth-one. The fairgrounds were thus located in Fremont.
The consolidated organization known as the Dodge County Agricultural Society has a membership of 360. It owns forty acres of land, one mile west of the city, a like amount having been disposed of to clear an indebtedness. The grounds are nicely fenced, the exhibition buildings being arranged in the shape of a Greek cross. The main building is 30x30 feet, two stories, each of four wings, being 24x30 feet, one story. There is also a well-kept half-mile race course. The entire property is valued at $12,000. Present officers of the society: President, H. B. Nicodemus; First Vice President, H. P. Beebe; Second Vice President, H. Schwab; Treasurer, Arthur Gibson; Secretary, F. I. Ellick.