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
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:
ARMSTRONG~HARRIS | HAWKS~MAXWELL
Peru: Early History | Societies | Education | The Press|
Railroads and Business Interests | Personal and incidents
Peru (cont.): Biographical Sketches|
Nemaha City: Early Settlement | Organization | Education|
Religious | Societies | The Press | Business Interests
Nemaha City (cont.): Biographical Sketches|
North Auburn: Early History | Religious | Educational | Societies|
Press | Hotels
South Auburn: Religious | Societies | The Press
North Auburn & South Auburn: Biographical Sketches|
Brock: Biographical Sketches|
Aspinwall: Biographical Sketches|
Johnson & Clifton: Biographical Sketches|
St. Deroin - Febing - Bedford: Biographical Sketches
Other Towns: Biographical Sketches|
List of Illustrations in Nemaha County Chapter
In the early days, from 1854 to 1860, there were magnificent forests along the Missouri River. McKissock's Island, in the northeast corner or the county, Sonora Island, above Brownville, Morgan Island, below, near Hillsdale, and on the mainland, where there are now only scraggy, scattering trees, was covered with a splendid growth of large, tall, straight trees. There were thousands of them, some six feet in diameter at the butt, and towering up fifty and sixty feet in height, below the limbs. There was black walnut, cottonwood, sycamore, and other kinds of wood, but during several years prior to 1860, saw-mills planted on every hundred acres of the timber, and at the present day, there are few trees left. In the spring of 1855, R. Brown, S. E. Rogers and Henry Emerson erected the first steam saw-mill in the county in Brownville, located on the southeast corner of Levee and Water streets. In October, 1856, Noel, Lake & Emerson erected a large saw-mill in the lower part of the town, and the following February it was capable of cutting more lumber than any mill in the county. During the years 1857 and 1858, nearly a score of mills were started at different points on and near the Missouri River and the Islands before mentioned, and an abundant supply of lumber was secured, not only for home supply, but for sending off in all directions.
The first grist-mill erected in the county was built two miles west of Nemaha City, in the spring of 1856, by Henry and Jerome Hoover. It is now known as the Rowe Mill. A water-mill was erected by Henry and Jerome Hoover, on the Nemaha, in 1855. A little prior to this time, a small mill was started on Honey Creek, in Peru Precinct, but was soon after swept away by a flood in the Missouri. In 1857, Samuel G. Dailey, a man who made his mark in Territorial politics, having served three terms as Delegate to Congress from Nebraska Territory, brought to Peru a steam saw and grist mill, and ran it successfully for a year or two. But the encroachments of the river compelled its removal up town, and it was sold to Green & Co. After several years, the machinery was sold and taken to St. Louis. Since those early days, numberless mills have been erected, and at the present time there are enough to supply their customers with certain kinds of lumber and flour and meal.
Divided as is the county by the valuable Little Nemaha River running from the northwest to the southeast portions of the county, and liable to sudden and extraordinary overflows of its banks, the question of bridging has always claimed a share of the attention of the people. As early as August, 1856, a bridge company was organized, and elected Richard Brown, President, and O. F. Lake, Secretary. An amount sufficient to construct a substantial bridge across the Nemaha having been subscribed, the object of the organization was to see that the money was judiciously expended, and that the remainder should be used for improving the road between Brownville and the bridge. This was a move in the right direction. The wisdom of the pioneers has been imitated by their successors, and since that time Nemaha has expended $25,000 in the construction of county bridges, and at the present time, seven iron structures of the most approved patterns, span the Little Nemaha at different points in the county, one across the Little Muddy, one across the bayou in Nemaha City, and one at Roy's branch in London Precinct--ten in all.
The first school district to organize in Nemaha County was No. 1. William Thurber was then County Superintendent. The first appointed or elected public school teacher was H. S. Thorpe. Up to the year 1860, but six school districts had been organized, and during that year only five teachers were employed. The number of scholars enrolled was but sixty-five--this, however, shows returns from only one of the six school districts--Glen Rock. There was one schoolhouse in Brownville Township, and two in Glen Rock. For that year, the number of children of school age, between five and twenty-one years, was 491 males and 426 females. At that early date, but few of the school officers were models in the discharge of official duties. Clerk Bedford, in his report for 1860, reports that some or the districts reported informally, and others not at all. Some of them confounded the school law of 1859 with that of 1858. For the year, the total amount of public school funds accruing to Nemaha County was $1,523.20. But the unceasing efforts of the friends of education brought order out of confusion, and, in 1868, a vast improvement was made, as reference to the official reports show. For that year, the eleven precincts were divided into fifty-one subdistricts. Returns from these show: Whole number of school age, 2,284; enrolled scholars, 343; number of teachers, 44; pay of teachers per month: $546.72; number of schoolhouses in the county, 31; value of schoolhouses, $36,260. From the report of 1870, it appears that there were 2,826 children of school age; 1,528 children that attended school; 31 schoolhouses; value of school property, $26,505; number of teachers employed, 60; total amount paid to teachers for the school year, $9,636.20. The official reports for this year are very full and complete, but the above embraces all that would interest the general reader. For the year 1880, the total expenditures for the county amounted to $26,761.34; number of school districts, 75; number of schoolhouses, 72; number of children of school age, 3,862; average number in each district, 51; number of districts having six months or more of school, 52; average number of square feet of blackboard, 54; number of schools with patent desks and seats, 56; average attendance for the year, 2,678; value of schoolhouses, $45,558. The efficient County Superintendent states that at the present time there are 74 public schoolhouses in Nemaha County; number of teachers employed, 93; number of children of school age, 4,124; value of school property, $50,517; total amount expended for schools for the year 1881, $27,696; number of male teachers, 32; number of female teachers, 61; average salary of teachers, $25 per month.
The denomination of Methodists has a larger number of members than any other religious body in Nemaha County. They have two stationed, four traveling and one local preacher (in charge of a congregation). In addition there are two preachers who reside in Pawnee County who have charge of congregations in Nemaha. They own seven church edifices, five parsonages, and have a membership of over six hundred members. Rev. L. F. Britt is Presiding Elder of the district.
Next to the Methodist Episcopal, the Christians or Disciples have the largest number of members and church organizations. They have organizations. They have organizations at Brownville, Nemaha City, Honey Creek, Glen Rock, Charter Oak, Johnson Station, Sheridan, London and Bratton. They have five resident pastors (elders), three church buildings, and 570 members. The Evangelical Lutherans have three church buildings, and congregations in the county; one at Long Branch, one two miles west of Calvert City, and the third (the oldest of the denomination in the county), at Febing. There are three resident clergymen. The large, handsome bell, belonging to the Febing Church, was a present from Wilhelm, Emperor of Germany. Its metal was a portion of a cannon captured from the French, during the late Franco-Prussian war. The gun was sent from Germany to Detroit, Mich., there cast into a bell, and from thence forwarded to Brownville free of charge. The members of the Febing Church are all Germans, and as the bell tolls, summoning the devout to prayer and praise, its silvery tones are also reminders of dear friends in Fatherland. The Presbyterians have four church organizations in the county-- Brownville, Nemaha, Rosefield and Calvert; one resident minister, Rev. H. O. Scott, of Brownville. The membership in the four congregations in the county is about one hundred and fifty. The Cumberland Presbyterians have one church building, and congregation in London Precinct, and a membership of sixty. Rev. Barney Johnson is minister in charge. The Baptists have three church buildings in the county, but the one at Peru is alone used by the members of the denomination. During the year, however, the colored Baptists have obtained the use of the Brownville house of worship, and have effected an organization with fifteen members. There are two resident ministers. Measures are being taken by a zealous colored Baptist preacher, Rev. J. Williams, to organize churches in Nemaha City and other points. The Protestant Methodists, one of the earliest Christian sects to organize in Nemaha County, having had four resident clergymen in the county as early as 1854-55, now maintain but one church organization (London Precinct) and one clergyman, actively engaged in the work of the ministry--Rev. Mr. Wynne. The frame church building of this denomination in London, is owned in partnership with the Episcopal Methodists. The United Brethren were once quite numerous in the county, and in 1858-59, organized two country churches, but a portion of the members removed to other localities, and they are without a church society. The Catholics have a church in Brownville, and the foundation laid for another at Calvert City. The one resident clergyman, Rev. J. Fitzgerald, ministers in both towns. The Protestant Episcopals have church buildings in Brownville, Peru and Nemaha. These houses cost not less than $8,000. There are two church organizations, at Brownville and Nemaha City. Rev. T. A. Dickey of Nebraska City holds semi-monthly services at Brownville. Rev. Matthew Henry is resident rector at Nemaha City.
In 1855--1,000 acres under cultivation. In 1856--4,800 under cultivation; valuations of same $35,275. The same season, the corn crop averaged 75 bushels per acre.
Number of horses in Nemaha County in 1855, 110; in 1856, 260; average value of horses, $125.
In 1855, 777 cattle of all grades; in 1856, 1,450; average value, $15. It costs but little to raise cattle. They were not fed during the summer, and in winter, hay sold for $1 per ton. In 1855, the taxable property of the county aggregated $74,980. In 1856, it amounted to $174,546. The total value of town property in 1855, was $3,850. In 1856, it reached $39,870. The tax valuation was below the real value.
According to the census of 1855, the population of Nemaha County was 604. In 1882, the number of people in the county was 10,060. Now turn to figures of today, and note the wonderful strides made by the people of Nemaha County in material and wealth. In 1855, 1,000 acres under cultivation; in 1882, 141,108 acres under cultivation. From a valuation in 1856, of $35, 275, to $5,458,730 at the present time. Verily, the pioneers have wrought wonders in this marvelous county.
In 1881, number of acres improved, 141,108; unimproved, 101,035; number of improved town lots, 1,527; unimproved lots, 8,753; total valuation of lands and lots for l881, $1,364,683. This can be safely multiplied by four to find the true valuation. For instance, improved lands are placed at an average value of $5.75 per acre, when the true average is over $20 per acre. The real value of the real estate of Nemaha County, therefore, would be $5,458,732. Number of acres of land cultivated in wheat, 21,602; number of acres in corn, 59,868; number acres in oats, 4,049; number of acres in barley, 1,195; number of acres in meadow, 3,820; number of acres in rye, 84; number of fruit trees, 132,676; forest trees, 548,486; grapevines, 17,606. Personal, horses, 5,718; cattle, 19,549; mules and asses, 775; sheep, 1,441; hogs, 37,773; steam engines, 8; burglar proof safes, 23; billiard tables, 3; carriages and wagons, 2,043; clocks and watches, 1,245; sewing and knitting machines, 945; pianos, 45; melodeons and organs, 174; vessels, barges, etc. 4; agricultural implements, gold and silverware, bridge property, bonds, railroad property, furniture, etc., making altogether personal property valued at $807,841. The system of low valuations in the county was the same on personal as real estate. By multiplying the Assessor's returns by four, the true value is arrived at. This makes the personal property of Nemaha County worth $3,231,364. Total value of both real estate and personal property of the county, $8,689,096.
There are nineteen post offices in Nemaha County, named as follows: Aspinwall, Brock, Bratton, Brownville, South Auburn (formerly Calvert), Clifton, Carson, Febing, Glen Rock, Grant, Hillsdale, Howe, Johnson, London, Nemaha City, Peru, Podunk, St. Deroin, North Auburn (formerly Sheridan).
From the city of Brownville and the county of Nemaha have been chosen a longer list of names of National and State officers than perhaps any county in Nebraska: Thomas W. Tipton, ten years United States Senator; Samuel G. Daily, six years Delegate to Congress from the Territory of Nebraska and Assistant Collector at New Orleans; Robert W. Furnas, Governor of the State, Colonel of the First Nebraska and Brigadier General; C. F. Stewart, M. D., Superintendent of Asylum for the Insane; J. M. McKenzie, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Hon. Robert Curry, Principal State Normal School; Gen H. M. Atkinson, Commissioner of Pensions and Surveyor General of New Mexico; William Daily, United States Marshall for Nebraska; DeForest Porter, Associate Justice for Arizona; John P. Baker, Robert W. Furnas, B. F. Lushbaugh and William Dailey, Indian Agents; John L. Carson, Evan Worthing, T. W. Bedford, and C. G. Dorsey, United States Land officers; T. W. Tipton, A. S. Holladay and T. J. Majors, United States Assessors Internal Revenue; John L. Carson, United States Commissary of Substance and Regent of State University; William Dailey and S. P. Majors, Trustees of State Normal School; T. J. Majors, elected to Congress to fill vacancy, and three times elected contingent Member of Congress.
Brownville, the county seat of Nemaha County, is located on the bank of the Missouri River, about twenty-three miles below Nebraska City, and a little more than that distance north of the Kansas line. It has a most eligible situation, with a fine landing, a rare desideratum on the Missouri River, and is almost surrounded by forests of natural timber that even the inroads of twenty-five years of civilization have not sufficed to exhaust. The city is built upon hills and in the valleys that nestle between, sloping to the rivers edge and affording fine natural drainage. From the bluffs that surround it a view is afforded of the rolling prairies and wooded slopes of four fertile States.
The first white settler in Brownville, after the extinguishment of the Indian title, was Richard Brown, from Holt County, Mo., for whom the town was named. His arrival was on August 29, 1854. (The main facts in this paragraph are gleaned from ex-Gov. Furnas, one of the early settlers.) After a residence of several years, Mr. Brown removed to Texas. The people of that State were prejudiced against the name of Brown, probably thinking of "Ossawattomie," and, although an ardent believer in the institution of slavery, the founder of Brownville was compelled to seek another home, and he removed to Humboldt County, Cal. The wife of Thomas B. Edwards was the first woman to come, and arrived with her husband a few weeks after the first settler. Taulbird Edwards erected the first building on ground where the American House stands. The first white child born was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Fitzgerald, October 20, 1854. The first marriage was Samuel Stiers to Nancy Swift, October, 1854, Rev. Joel M. Wood officiating. The first death was an infant child of Mr. and Mrs. John Mullis, Jr., September, 1854. The first school was taught in a little log house, near Main street, by H. S. Thorpe, who now lives near St. Joseph, Mo. The same cabin was used to hold the first District Court meetings. The first school building (frame) was erected in 1856, and was afterward used as a dwelling house. Brownville was organized as a school district in 1856. The first officers were: A. J. Benedict, President; Homer Johnson, Treasurer; R. W. Furnas, Secretary. The first store was opened by William Hoblitzell and Isaac T. Whyte in March, 1855. Their store was on the rear of ground now occupied by the Chicago Lumber Company, Main street. The second firm of importance in Brownville, as dealers in general merchandise, was in 1857, by Crane & McCallister. Their goods were brought from the East in bulk, and, without breaking bulk, loaded on wagons for Denver. Crane retired in 1859, and the firm became Dozier & McCallister. The same year, Crane & Hill and John A. Ponn commenced the sale of general merchandise. J. C. Deuser opened the first tinsmith shop in the same building in 1857. In the same store, at a little earlier period, William T. Den located his shoemaker's bench and kit of tools, and pegged his way to competency. The first steam mill erected was commenced by Henry Jerome Hoover, grandfather and father of William, Birl and Johnson Hoover, and completed by Richard Brown, Samuel Rogers and Henry Emerson, in 1855. The building is still standing at the foot of College street. Elder Joel M. Wood erected in 1855, the first hotel building on Main street, Dr. A. S. Holladay was the first physician who located in Brownville, or, in fact, in the county. He came in November, 1855, and the following year opened the first drug store in the town. Daniel L. McGary, the first lawyer, came to Brownville in February, 1856. His office as Dr. Holladay affirms, was for many years the headquarters "for the most of the fun and frolic of the county, and if the walls of his little office could speak, they might many a tale unfold." McGary is now editing a paper in Texas. Richard Brown was the first Postmaster in Brownville. The office was opened with Frederick Schwartz as deputy. The first quarter showed a business of $2.50. Frederick Schwartz's whole time not being occupied with his duties as Deputy Postmaster, he opened a tailor shop, and, in 1855, he sowed the first wheat, and from ten acres of ground (sod breaking) he secured 200 bushels of wheat. Among the first to follow Richard Brown were Rev. Joel M. Wood (who preached the first sermon), Thomas Edwards and wife, Taulbird and Josiah Edwards, Houston Russell, J. W. Coleman, Allen L. Coate, Israel R. Cumming, A. J. Benedict, H. W. and O. F. Lake, W. A. Finney, Hiram Alderman, a brother-in-law of Richard Brown, Capt. Thurber, W. H. Hoover, the first Deputy and present District Clerk, Homer Johnson, R. J. Whitney, Matt Alderman, Eli Fishburn, B. B. Chapman, Hudson Clayton, Capt. I. T. Whyte, William Hoblitzell, I. N. Knight, Dr. J. Hoover, William Hall, Dr. A. S. Holladay.
The first jeweler and silversmith to commence business in Brownville, and second in Nebraska, was J. Schutz, still in business corner of Main and Second streets. He came to the Territory in the spring of 1856, and the summer of the same year commenced business in Nebraska City. Two years later--August, 1858--he removed to Brownville, and has steadily pursued his business ever since.
The following picture of Brownville a quarter of a century ago, when between forty and fifty steamers were plying regularly the in the Missouri River trade, is painted by an early settler. The boundaries of Brownville were mostly between Atlantic and College streets and between Second and the river.
There were three general stores in town. Dr. McPherson kept one where the Star Hotel now stands, with R. P. Hutchins as clerk. McCalister, Dozier & Co. kept another on Main street, west of the alley between Levee and First, with Theodore Hill and Robert Teare as clerks. The third was kept by I. T. Whyte & Co. (originally W. Hoblitzell's), at the northwest corner of First and Main streets, with R. T. Rainey as clerk. William Rossell kept the grand hotel in a log house on Main street. Governors, Judges and other dignitaries always put up at Rossells', Taulbird Edwards kept the old American, now one of the old landmarks, and kept by L. Robinson. Den was pegging his way to fortune by working eighteen hours a day and resting himself on Sunday by taking his dog and gun and rambling over the hills in search of game. His humble shoe shop was near the American. Dr. Holladay had a drug store and the post office up Main street. The Advertiser office was in the vicinity. Lushbaugh & Carson, bankers, were in full blast on the north side of Main, and Dave Seigel had his "mammoth" stock of clothing in the building now used as a gunsmith shop by the veteran Craddock. The Nemaha Valley Bank was flourishing on Lower Main street, and there was a convenient saloon near the corner of First and Main. Near by stood a log building that served as court house, church and schoolhouse. In this little 18x18-foot room the pedagogue taught the "young idea how to shoot," the Judges ladled out law, and the pioneer preachers held up the terrors of damnation to the impenitent. Dick Brown lived in Schoolhouse Block, Col. Furnas corner of Fourth and Main, Judge Wheeler on the Chamberlain farm, Hiram Minick on the Moore farm, while H. Alderman, John and Will Bennett, A. Dodd. W. Hall, George Crow, Henry Harman, R. S. Hannaford, were on farms in the neighborhood. The Bergers were both with us, besides S. R. Summers, H. M. Atkinson, W. H. Hoover, T. W. Bedford, D. H. McLaughlin, W. W. Hackney (now City Mayor), Samuel Summers and James Gibson. During the summer of 1857, there were large accessions to Brownville's population. J. C. Deuser made tin cups and sold stoves in Den's palatial shop. Jacob Marohn stitched away in the log court house. Evan Worthing started a bakery on First street, north of Main. Ab Gates and McLaughlin, whose first jobs of work were on the Brownville House. Moses Connor, who this year celebrated his golden wedding, built the United States Land Office. The arrival of the newly appointed United States Land Officers made 1857 a noted year. In those days when two Territorial officers were appointed, one was taken from the north and the other from the south. The gentlemen appointed to the land office were Col. C. B. Smith, of New York, and Col. G. H. Nixon, of Tennessee. Col. Smith was genial and pleasant, and always tried to keep every person about him in good humor, and seemed to make life one grand holiday. Col. Nixon was also kind-hearted, and became quite a character from his peculiarities. He was fond of speech making, and on every occasion would boast of his early educational disadvantages, and one stereotyped phrase he never omitted. He would vaunt the great and growing country, and wind up with, "somewhere in the Mississippi Valley we will build a monument high as the thought of man, and on it place the American eagle." In every address, "the bird of freedom with one foot on the Alleghanies, the other on the Rocky Mountains, and, bathing his plumage in the thunder's home," was sure to figure. In those days, on being introduced to a stranger, the first question generally was, "How long have you been in Nebraska?" If the person answering had been only a few weeks or months, he would meekly reply, "I am only a new-comer;" but if he had been here a year or longer, he would exclaim with pride and dignity, "Well, sir, I am one of the old settlers. I came here when Indians were thick as hair on a dog." The second question was, "What State did you come from?" About one-third would answer "From Miami County, Ohio," and another third "From Missouri;" the other third were "outside barbarians."
John Long, who now resides in Sheridan, built the first claim cabin on the land now owned by Judge McComas.
I. N. Knight's two children died in October, 1854, and were buried in what is now known as the Walnut Grove Cemetery. Of this first funeral a settler says: "No one can imagine the depth of sorrow that accompanied the remains of the departed to their last resting place. It was a lesson that even on the frontiers none could escape the relentless hand of death."
To show the importance attained by Brownville as a business point within two years after the arrival of Richard Brown, in 1854, the first issue of the first newspaper (the Advertiser of June 7, 1856), claims that the village contained at that date two dry goods and grocery stores, a schoolhouse, church, court house, steam saw-mill, lath and shingle machine, cabinet shop, two blacksmith shops, one banking house, one hotel and several boarding houses, and a population of 400 persons. The same number of the paper contains the following advertisements of Brownville business houses: B. B. & J. D. N. Thompson, W. Hodlitzell & Co., dry goods; James W. Gibson, blacksmith; A. L. Coate, surveyor; E. M. McComas, physician; R. W. Furnas, land, insurance, and agricultural implement agent; Thompson & Buxton, attorneys; Oscar F. Lake & Co., land and lot agents; A. S. Holladay, M. D., physician and surgeon; Miss Mary W. Turner, milliner and dress-maker; C. W. Wheeler, architect and builder; T. L. Ricketts, carpenter and joiner; S. B. Miller, blacksmith and wagon-maker. A stage to make tri-weekly trips between Brownville and Rockport, Mo., received notice, and the same number of the Advertiser contains a call from Orderly Sergeant O. F. Lake, commanding the Nemaha Guards, to parade in their armory in full uniform, with fourteen rounds of ammunition, on Saturday, June 21, 1856.
The object of the military organization was to be prepared for possible trouble with the Indians.
To show the difference between early times and the present, in regard to mail facilities, the following from the Brownville Advertiser of September 6, 1856, is quoted: "We understand that a change has been made in the arrival and departure of the mail from Brownville to Omaha and Nebraska City. It now arrives from the north on Saturday instead of Friday, leaves for the south Sunday morning instead of Saturday, goes through to Iowa Point, Kan., instead of stopping at Archer as heretofore. Returning, arrives Thursday, and departs for the North Friday morning. By this arrangement, if it remains permanent, we stand some chance of getting Eastern and Southern mail matter more promptly. As our mail facilities have heretofore been, we would be about as well accommodated with out as with them. This thing of having letters on the road thirty days from Nebraska City to Brownville, twenty five miles, is past endurance. Sometimes we are without exchanges for a week or two, when they come in on us all in a heap, and out of date. Let us have a tri-weekly route established from Rockport, Mo., to Brownville, intersecting the tri-weekly line from St. Joseph to Council Bluffs."
When it is considered that there are now two daily mails to Omaha, carrying mail matter to Omaha in a few hours, and two daily trains to Nebraska City, the complaint of the Advertiser seems well founded. Thirty days for twenty-five miles is somewhat slow. The Advertiser published November 8, 1856, contained no election news, although the Presidential election occurred five days before that. In the same paper the editor says: "It is three weeks since we have had any regular mail on the matter."
The halcyon days of Brownville were when steamboats made regular and frequent trips between St. Louis and Omaha. As early as 1856, eleven regular packets were engaged in the passenger and carrying trade. During the year 1857, forty-four packets were running on the Missouri River. If the city resumes its old-time influence, it will be done through a return to steamboat navigation. Railroads have been of incalculable advantage to the State at large, but as carriers of cattle, corn, wheat and oats, they cannot compete with rivers, and the most far-seeing citizen of Brownville knows that their only hope is liberal appropriations for snag boats and river improvements, and a return of steamboats, where twenty years ago there were a score of fine boats engaged, and making fortunes for their stockholders. During the season of navigation, with one or two boats per week, Brownville claims that their town would again become the trade center for a large and rich agricultural section; that interior towns could not compete in the purchase of corn, wheat and oats, for the very good reason that railroad freights are necessarily much higher than steamboat freights. In 1856, the fine, large steamers Admiral Edinburg, Omaha, John G. Tutt, Arabia, Genoa, Martha Jewett, Warner, Keystone, Hannibal and A. C. Goodin were plying as regular packets. Two or three years later it was no unusual thing to see as many as half a dozen steamers at the Brownville wharf at the same time, receiving and discharging freight. Now, aside from one line of packets between St. Louis and Kansas City, and another between Sioux City, Iowa, and Bismarck, D. T., there is scarcely a steamer navigating the Missouri River, a state of things expected to be remedied by the $1,000,000 appropriation of April, 1882.
In the early days, and under the decisions that a Southern man had as much right to take his slaves to the Territories as a Northern man had to carry his horses or cattle with him, several slaves were brought to Brownville. Richard Brown, the founder of the town, brought one from Holt County, Mo., and Col. G. H. Nixon, the first Registrar of the Land Office, was the proprietor of two or three that were brought from his old home in Tennessee. Col. Nixon was a strong pro-slavery man, and, on the breaking-out of the rebellion, he went South and fought for his own side. At the close of the war, he met one of his former slaves, who was engaged in teaching a colored school. The Colonel greeted him heartily, and said to him: "You are not qualified to teach your people, but I want to help you, and will see that you have an education." After a thorough common school course, the "boy" again went South, and is now at the head of a Southern seminary for the education of colored children. Thus it will be seen that the early settlers of Otoe County are mistaken in the supposition that there were no slaves in any other county but their own.
This incident is characteristic of Col. Nixon. The old settlers speak of the Colonel as a genial, pleasant gentleman, fond of company, and vain of his oratorical powers. To his peculiarities in this line we have elsewhere referred.
Brownville was famed from its earliest settlement for the good order and decorum of its citizens; but old settlers remember a few scrimmages where whisky was the "cause of the war." In 1857, a fight took place between S. R. Summers, a man of middle age, and a roystering young fellow named Peter Whitlow. The last named took his whisky "straight" and often, and had a habit of carrying an Allen revolver, one of the pattern known as pepper boxes. Summers was not a drinker, and was noted for his grit and nerve. One day, in front of I. T. Whyte's store, on Main street, Peter, being full of whisky, forced a quarrel on Summers, and, after a few words, drew his pepper box, thinking to scare Summers and cause him to retreat; but the "old man" reached for a convenient pick handle, and, before Peter was aware of it, Summers tapped him on the head and let some bad blood out or him. And then such a race! Not Peter after Summers, but Summers after Peter, until finally he hid in the brush. "Dang it," said the triumphant hero, "I wouldn't a took the pick-handle to the drunken cuss if he hadn't a drawed his darned old pepper box on me!"
In the early days, when the court decisions allowed slaveholders the right to take their "property" to the Territories, and John Brown, of Ossawattomie, had his line through Nemaha County for conveying slaves to Canada, the question of the rights and wrongs of slavery was an all-engrossing topic. The people were divided into two parties, the Miamis and the Missourians, the first named were anti-slavery people from Miami County, Ohio, and the others pro-slavery, from Holt County, Mo. One day, in the autumn of 1857, a man named Archie Handley, who lived two miles south of town, came to Brownville and reported that three well-armed negroes had passed his house coming north. (In those days, all negroes found traveling in strange places were supposed to be runaway slaves, and, as there was in Missouri a standing reward of $100 for each slave returned to his owner, all strange colored men were supposed to be fair game for pro-slavery men fond of hunting.) Instantly all was excitement among persons willing to earn money in that way, and "maintain the majesty of the law." Horses and mules were mounted; ravines and thickets were examined. Finally, Handley and a man named Clark, of this county, and Williams and Meyers, in Atchison County, Mo., went into a thicket of willows near the river, below town, and had penetrated but a few yards, when they came upon the negroes resting upon a large log. Few words were passed; weapons were drawn on both sides, and a rapid fire kept up for a few moments, which resulted in one of the negroes being shot in the wrist. Myers was mortally wounded. Handley, Clark and Williams retreated in disorder. The negroes gathered up the hats and guns of their foes, mounted three of the animals and leading the fourth, traveled up the South Brownville hollow; but when they got to Kelley's house, west of town, the wounded negro, being faint and sick from loss of blood, was left there, and his comrades, taking all the spoils, made their escape. The wounded man was brought to town, Drs. Holladay and McPherson amputated his wounded arm, and he was placed in charge of Ben Thompson, who was Deputy Sheriff, for safe keeping. The affair created intense excitement. Many Missourians came across the river breathing threatenings of vengeance against the negroes, and cursing the Abolitionists. It was in vain they were told that no person was to blame, except the persons engaged in the fight. They were horrified that a negro should dare resist a white man. They would hang the negro and drive out the Abolitionists. At night they went twice to the American House, where Thompson was keeping his prisoner, and demanded admittance, and when Thompson refused, they swore with horrid oaths that they would break the doors open. Thompson informed them if they did, there would be several funerals in Missouri within the next few days. Then they went away to wait for more men from Missouri, and when morning came, the excitement increased until the Free State Men became alarmed for their safety, and quietly armed to protect themselves. Judge C. W. Wheeler went to Richard Brown and told him the riotous proceedings must be stopped; that the Free State men had borne all the insults and abuse that they could bear, and that they were prepared to defend themselves. Richard Brown, although a slaveholder, was a man of peace, and did what he could to allay the excitement. Toward evening, the Missourians recrossed the river, and all became quiet. There was another defeat in store for the pro-slavery men in this matter. When the master of the wounded negro was notified of the affair, and came to Brownville and saw how his chattel had been mutilated, he swore terribly, and wished the men who had shot the negro were in a terribly hot place, and did not seem to be gratified that the negro had been molested on his journey to the North. It so happened that on the day the excitement ran highest, John Brown, of Ossawattomie, was encamped in South Brownville, with about thirty men whom he was taking over to Kansas, and if the pro-slavery men had attacked the Free State men, he would probably have made it lively for the Missourians.
On the afternoon of November 2, 1856, a furious snow storm prevailed in Brownville. Hugh Baker, one of the ferrymen, crossed a passenger in a skiff to the Missouri shore. Attempting to return, the wind being in the north, and the cold becoming intense, he struggled against the floating ice and current until his strength was exhausted; he drifted on the head of a sand-bar in the middle of the river opposite the foot of Main street. His shouts for help were not heard until dark. A canoe was carried up from the lower island, shoved over the bar, and Baker rescued without serious damage, although he had been for four hours exposed to the most terrible snow storm that had ever prevailed in Southeastern Nebraska. March 16, 1855, the Territorial Legislature passed an act to prevent the manufacture and sale of liquors for even medicinal purposes. The winter of 1856-57, was the coldest ever known in Nebraska. Sunday, January 18, 1857, the thermometer indicated 32° below zero. An incident will illustrate the severity of the weather: During this month, some Brownville invalids, feeling the need of a tonic or stimulant, crossed the Missouri River to a point known as Cook's Landing, bought liquor by the pound, carried it home in sacks and pocket handkerchiefs, thawed it out and drank it. The early settlers experienced many privations, and submitted to many inconveniences; besides, the attainment of tonics was surrounded with peculiar difficulties, unknown to subsequent generations. Such a mixture might answer as a refrigerant when the mercury indicates a hundred in the shade, but it must have been quite chilly at such a season.
From the official records, it appears that Brownville was surveyed by Allen L. Coate on the 30th of April, 1856. Richard Brown and Benjamin B. Frazier were the proprietors. The location was on fractional Section 18, Town 5, Range 16. West Brownville was surveyed July 10, 1857; T. W. Bedford, surveyor; J. M. Chapel, Augustus and Herman Kountz and William Ruth, proprietors; located on the northeast quarter of southeast quarter of Section 13, Town 5, Range 16. North Brownville was surveyed January 15, 1858; Hudson George, surveyor; Richard Brown, Lemina Brown, C. W. Wheeler, Anna Wheeler, John McDonough and Ellen McDonough, proprietors; located on Lot 2, Section 18, Town 5, Range 16. Middle Brownville was surveyed July 3, 1858; T. W. Bedford, Surveyor; James and Susan Ferguson, proprietors; located on southwest quarter of Section 18, Town 5, Range 16. East Brownville was surveyed May 8, 1867; J. M. Hacker, surveyor; Luther and Mary Hoadley, proprietors; located on part of Lot 4, Section 18, Town 5, Range 16. South Brownville was surveyed November 19, 1873; J. M. Hacker, surveyor; Luther and Mary Hoadley, proprietors; located on northeast quarter of Section 19, Town 5, Range 16. A survey and plat had been previously made in 1857, but the foregoing is the only official record.
Emerson's Addition to Brownville was surveyed May 9, 1867; J. M. Hacker, surveyor; Henry Emerson, proprietor; located on a fraction of the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 14, Town 5, Range 16.