NEGenWeb Project
Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Nemaha County
Produced by
John McCoy.

Topography | Pre-Historic | Early Settlement

First Fourth of July | Reminiscences | Jayhawking
Organization | County Seat Troubles

War History | Official Roster | County Buildings | Railroads | Ferries
Farmers' Clubs | Grasshoppers | Agricultural Society

Nemaha County Mills | Bridges | Educational | Religious | Progress
Statistics of Property | National and State Officials
Brownville:   Early History | Pioneer Incidents | Surveys and Additions


Brownville (cont.):   Incorporation | Official Roster
Nemaha Valley Insurance Company
The Brownville Stone and Stone Coal Company
The First Telegraph Line | The First Train of Cars | Storm and Flood
Express Robbery | Educational | Religious | The Press


Brownville (cont.):
United States Land Office | River Improvements | Post Office
Masonic And Other Organizations | Library Association and Lyceum
Hotels | Banks | United States Express Company
Walnut Grove Cemetery | Manufactories | Attorneys and Physicians
Carson | London

 8 ~ 10:

Biographical Sketches:

PART 11:

Peru:  Early History | Societies | Education | The Press
Railroads and Business Interests | Personal and incidents

PART 12:
Peru (cont.):  Biographical Sketches
PART 13:

Nemaha City:  Early Settlement | Organization | Education
Religious | Societies | The Press | Business Interests

PART 14:
Nemaha City (cont.):  Biographical Sketches
PART 15:

North Auburn:  Early History | Religious | Educational | Societies
Press | Hotels
South Auburn:  Religious | Societies | The Press

PART 16:
North Auburn & South Auburn:  Biographical Sketches
PART 17:
Brock:  Biographical Sketches
PART 18:
Aspinwall:  Biographical Sketches
PART 19:

Johnson & Clifton:  Biographical Sketches
St. Deroin - Febing - Bedford:  Biographical Sketches

PART 20:

Other Towns:  Biographical Sketches

List of Illustrations in Nemaha County Chapter

Part 2


The first formal celebration of the Nation's birthday took place in Brownville July 4, 1856. The people were present by invitation from all parts of Nemaha, and several adjoining counties sent large delegations. From a report of the grand affair in paying respect to the eightieth anniversary of American independence, it is learned that the free barbacue was gotten by Capt. Benjamin Whyte. He had beef, buffalo, elk, deer, turkey, and pig split in half and roasted over a ditch or pit filled with live coals, in fact, all the meats were cooked in that way. The band of music was a single violin, played by a young man named Jack Chastian. The only tune or part of a tune he could play was an original one called "Rush Bottom," a faint imitation and mixture of the "Arkansas Traveler" and "Leather Breeches." Hon. R. W. Whitney presided with dignity, Rev. J. W. Hall acted as Chaplain, William Thurber performed the duties of Grand Marshal, H. W. Lake read the Declaration of Independence, and Col. Robert W. Furnas delivered a soul-stirring, patriotic address. Everything passed off pleasantly and harmoniously and the large concourse of early settlers unanimously agreed that it was good to have been there. It was on this occasion that the President made the memorable announcement--"The ordinance will remain seated while the core sings."


In the summer of 1856, the settlers were somewhat annoyed by bands of roving Indians; but on one occasion a man named Edwards became familiar with what is called scalping. A few drunken Omahas performed the operation on him, although it was not done within the bounds of Nemaha County. Fearful the that the original proprietors of the soil might become more troublesome, a company called the Home Guards was organized in 1856, (the first military organization in the county). They were not called on, however, to face the red man in battle array, or to hear the dreadful war-whoop. O. F. Lake, then United States Deputy Marshal for the South Platte District, was elected Captain of the company.

"Claim jumping," the prolific source of many personal collisions in newly settled frontier communities, was not the cause of much bloodshedding in Nemaha County. They did occur occasionally, however. On the 20th of May, 1857, Thomas Gallaher, a native of Toronto, Canada, attempted to "jump" (that is, take possession of) the claim of Jeremiah Campbell, near the town of Brownville, and paid for his rashness, by the loss of his life. The act of Gallaher was both illegal and ill-advised. The popular feeling was unmistakably with Campbell, and a subsequent investigation justified his act. This was the first affair if the kind in the county, and, although there were frequent collisions, it is believed to be the only case that had a fatal termination. To prevent the evils of claim jumping a Claim-Protection Society for Nemaha was organized at Peru in 1856, and the promptness with which its officers and members acted in all disputed cases, tended to greatly lessen the number of private feuds. Rev. H. S. Horn, S. A. Chambers, R. W. Frame, A. Medley and other law-abiding citizens were prominent in the society. At a little later day, horse stealing became a formidable evil, with which the early settlers were forced to contend. To own a span or more of work horses was a sine qua non to the dwellers on farms, and the depredations of horse thieves became so frequent and alarming that on Saturday, August 7, 1858, a large meeting was held at the county seat to provide means of protection from the night riders. R. J. Whitney was chosen President; W. H. Denman, Vice President; S. W. Kennedy, Treasurer, and E. M. McComas, Secretary. A permanent organization, with the same list of officers, was effected. The main design of the society will be explained by the following section of their constitution: "Upon any horse or mule belonging to any member of the association being stolen, it shall be the loser's duty to notify some officer of the association, who shall notify such a number of the ten riders as he may deem requisite of the fact, and it shall be the duty of the riders so notified to proceed immediately in search of the property so stolen, and to use all diligence, care and labor in their power to retake such property, and to apprehend the thief or thieves. Said riders to be allowed, besides all necessary and reasonable expenses, the sum of $1 per day, as a compensation for their services in that behalf. And it shall be the duty of the President, upon the application of such riders and evidence that such services have been rendered, to draw an order on the Treasurer for the amount, which order shall be attested by the Secretary." The riders were William Hays, Jesse Cole, J. W. Coleman, J. W. Bliss, J. Norfsinger, Louis Neal, N. Fontenelle, David Plasters, E. Reid, J. Small. The organization maintained a vigorous existence until horse thieves learned that Nemaha County was dangerous ground on which to practice their nefarious calling.


This word of Kansas coinage had a dreaded significance on the borders during the years of the rebellion. Until the latter part of 1861, the people of Nemaha County and Southeastern Nebraska enjoyed comparative immunity from their visits. On the 17th of October, the Brownville Advertiser said of them: "So far as our knowledge of them extends, their operations are retaliatory, or inflicted upon men who are open or avowed traitors." An instance was cited of a Richardson County Unionist who was robbed by the jayhawkers of a pair of horses, but, learning his politics, the property was returned to him. He had only to satisfy the robbers of his loyalty. Missouri Unionists, in counties contiguous to Nebraska, were captured by jayhawking bands, but released when it was found that they were not rebels. A few months later, the public mind underwent a change on the subject.

An "anti-jayhawk" meeting was held at Brownville Saturday, December 14, 1861, presided over by J. H. Mann, Messrs. J. E. Crow, Judge C. W. Wheeler, Judge O. B. Hewett, Richard Brown and T. W. Bedford, a committee on resolutions, reported:

There is reason to suppose that our civil laws, in the present unsettled condition of affairs, will not afford the people of this vicinity that protection to which they are entitled in quiet and peaceful times, therefore,

Resolved, That we will use all means for the protection of the lives and property of those persons who have or may enter into this organization, and who shall take the oath to support the constitution of the United States.

Resolved, That any person who refuses to enter into this organization, for the general protection of the lives and property of our citizens, has no lawful right to expect protection at our hands.

It was further resolved by the citizens that they would not recognize the right of any party of men to come into Nemaha County for the purpose of jayhawking or robbing citizens without process of the law. It was further agreed to perfect a military organization. At this time it became apparent to all that the true definition of jayhawking signified a thief, and that the prime object of the jayhawkers was robbery. All men were invited to join them, and those persons who refused were considered fair game, and to rob such persons was deemed proper. The last of December, an anti-jayhawk military was organized in Brownville for self-protection. This movement met the approbation of Maj. Gen. Hunter, commanding the Department of Kansas, who wrote to Judge Wheeler under date of December 27, 1862: "You must organize for mutual protection and support." At this time there were three distinct bands of jayhawkers ranging the county and robbing the people, each charging the other with being mere thieves, and all telling the exact truth. The anti-jayhawk company captured many horses from the robber-bands, and returned the property to the proper owners. The members of the anti-jayhawkers were reputable citizens, and always acted with coolness, bravery, and discretion. That more depredations were not committed by irresponsible, lawless parties, the people of Nemaha County, and especially Brownville, are largely indebted to Judge Wheeler, Judge Hewitt, J. E. Crow, J. H. Maun, J. H. Morrison, T. W. Bedford, Richard Brown, and the members of the anti-jayhawk company.

The most notorious of the jayhawk leaders was called Capt. Cleveland. He came to Brownville on one occasion with a squad of seven men, all armed to the teeth, and a personal difficulty occurred between Cleveland and a half-drunken citizen, in which the latter was worsted. Fearful of a general fight, some of the more prudent citizens called a meeting and invited the attendance of Capt. Cleveland. He promptly responded, bringing with him one of his company, both men well supplied with navy revolvers. By request of the Chairman, Capt. Cleveland addressed the meeting in a speech breathing strong loyalty to the Government, and expressing his peaceful disposition toward all who stood by the old flag (meaning those who took his oath). His promises were somewhat comforting to the citizens, but, fearing that he had power to capture the town if he so disposed, and knowing that the oath to which his men subscribed denounced all men as disloyal who refused to join his band, there was much uneasiness until the jayhawkers departed for the upper part of the county. In Peru, Cleveland's band committed a few depredations, and one of his men shot and slightly wounded a man named Long. Thinking his headquarters in Kansas a more congenial climate, Capt. Cleveland decamped, and to make his retreat more certain and less harassing, he captured the Sheriff of the county (J. W. Coleman), and held him until he crossed the Nemaha River, when the officer was released. The Sheriff was well treated by his captors, and was furnished an excellent dinner. Capt. Cleveland was a shrewd fellow and did not want a Sheriff's posse of one or two hundred men at his heels. after returning to Kansas, Cleveland's offenses against law became so bold and flagrant that Maj. Gen. Hunter issued a special order for his extermination. He was tracked and killed by United States soldiers in 1863.


Under the date of November 12, 1854, Gov. Cuming, in a proclamation calling for an election, announced the boundaries of Forney County to be as follows: "Commencing at the mouth of Camp Creek, thence to the headwaters of the same, thence due west to a point sixty miles from the Missouri River, thence due south twenty miles, thence east to the headwaters of the little Nemaha River, thence along the north bank of said river to the Missouri River, and thence along the Missouri River to the place of the beginning."

It further stipulated that there should be one precinct or place of voting in said county, viz., at the place known as Brownville, at the house of Richard Brown; Richard Brown, Allen L. Coate and Israel Cuming to be Judges of said election, and A. J. Benedict and Stephen Sloan Clerks of said election. It will be noticed that by the Governor's proclamation, the country lying south and southwest of the Little Nemaha was not then embraced in the original county. This was because of the fact of the creation of certain Indian reservations by the Kansas-Nebraska act. A portion of one of these reservations was included that region. These boundaries remained intact until 1855, when the Legislature changed the line on the north from sixty to twenty four miles, and also changed the south and west line so that the most valuable portion of the reservation was included within the boundaries of Nemaha County. The act of March 7, 1855, gave Nemaha County the following boundaries: Beginning at the northeast corner of Richardson County, thence west up the main channel of the Missouri River to the southeast corner of Otoe County, thence west along the south line of Otoe County twenty-four miles, thence south to a point due west from the place of beginning.

At a subsequent session of the Legislature, held in the winter of 1857-58, the western boundary line of Nemaha County was changed, taking off half a township and adding it to the then sparsely settled county of Johnson. Within the present boundaries are contained 295,795 acres of land. Of this amount, 248,000 acres are returned as taxable for revenue purposes. All the lands in the county are either pre-empted, homesteaded or taken up by private entry. A few homesteads not proven up are not yet taxable, and do not appear on the tax list.

The act proclaiming Brownville as the county seat of Nemaha County was passed at the same session of the legislature. What is now Nemaha County (says ex-Gov. Furnas, from whom many facts of early history have been obtained, and whose valuable assistance is hereby acknowledged), was a portion of the land occupied by the Otoe Indians, and was originally designated as the "Otoe country."

Ne-ma-ha is also an Indian word or name, Ne signifying water in the Otoe dialect, and ma-ha being originally the name of the tribe of Indians yet in the northern part of the State, and known as Omahas. Lewis and Clark substantiate this fact in their narrative of explorations. The signification of the word Maha is furthest up, or up yonder, alluding to the fact that a portion of the tribe had remained up the river. Nemaha, the name of the important stream that flows through some of the best portions of this section, was adopted as the name of the county. Nemaha County is divided into thirteen precincts, viz., Island, Peru, London, Brownville, Nemaha City, Aspinwall, St. Deroin, Glen Rock, Douglas, Bedford, Lafayette, Washington, and Benton. The first six are the eastern or river precincts, Glen Rock, Douglas and Bedford the middle, and the last three the western. The Little Nemaha River extends from the northwestern to the southwestern part of the county, dividing Lafayette, Glen Rock, Douglas and Nemaha City Precincts. The river is of great value, especially to persons whose farms extend along its banks, as it furnishes the needed water for successful stock-raising.


By act of the Territorial Legislature in March, 1855, the town of Brownville was made the county seat of Nemaha County. But from the earliest time of settlement there have been clamors for a removal. Three years after the location was made, a petition of a number of the people of the county, an election for a relocation of the county seat was held. The election took place August 28, 1858, and resulted as follows: Brownville, 206; Glen Rock, 75; London, 84; Nemaha City, 3; St. George (near Sheridan), 164; Peru, 66; Middleport, 1; Center, 35; St. Frederick, 1. In this contest the opponents of Brownville polled 429 votes. This was sufficient to carry a removal, but the enemies of Brownville could not unite their forces, and hence failed of success. No further effort for a relocation was made until June 3, 1876, when, in answer to a petition, an election was held with the following result: Brownville, 825; Sheridan, 658; Peru, 66. On this trial it will be seen that Brownville obtained a clear majority. The friends of removal feel confident that on the next or third trial, the county seat will be removed to a point midway between Sheridan and Calvert, now North and South Auburn. Whether they will be able to muster the required three-fifths vote is for the future to decide.

Top of Page   First Page   Next

County Index