Addison Erwin Sheldon.

History and stories of Nebraska online

. (page 17 of 20)
Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 17 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

longer doubt that Nebraska was a farming country. In
September of that year, the settlers' victory over the



great American desert was celebrated at Nebraska City
by the first territorial fair. Robert W. Furnas was presi-
dent. J. Sterling Morton, the orator of the occasion, made
an historic speech recounting the hardships which the
settlers had endured and foretelling Nebraska's great future.

Gold in Nebraska. Gold was found in Nebraska, in
1859, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, in the sands of
the streams, at the headwaters of the South Platte. Soon
there was a rush of thousands across the plains eager to
dig for this gold in Nebraska sands. The new gold mines
were in sight of Pike's Peak and the gold seekers painted
"Pike's Peak or Bust " on the canvas covers of their wagons.

The Steam Wagon Road. Nebraska City laid out a
new short road to the gold mines, crossing the prairies along
the Blue rivers. It was sometimes called "The Steam Wa-
gon Road" because a steam wagon, which soon broke down,
was made to travel it. This new road was very popular
and helped to develop Nebraska City and the South Platte
very much. The new territory of Colorado was organized
in 1861, taking away from Nebraska her gold mines at the
foot of the mountains, but never, either then or since, has
so much wealth been dug from the
Rocky Mountains as has been pro-
duced from the prairies of our state.

Governor Black. The fourth
governor of the territory, Samuel
W. Black, Democrat, of Pennsyl-
vania arrived at Omaha, May 2,
1859. The feud between the North
and South Platte regions had now
become so bitter, the South Platte
people resolved that they would
no longer live in Nebraska.

The South Platte Tries to Secede. They determined
to secede and join Kansas, taking the entire South Platte
country with them. To this end they sent delegates to




Kansas and to Washington asking Congress to separate the
South Platte region from Nebraska and to join it to Kansas.
This attempt failed, but the quarrel between the North
and South Platte regions went on.

The Pawnee War of 1859. What is known as the
Pawnee war occurred in 1859. For a great many years, a
large Pawnee village was upon the bluff above the Platte
where General Thayer held the first Indian council in 1855.
White settlers were coming in, and the Indians had agreed
to give up their land there and move to the valley of the
Loup. In July, they gathered their ponies, packed their
goods upon them, and started up the valley of the Elkhorn,
under their great chief Petalesharu. But they had a "bad
heart," as Indians say when they are angry. On their
way they robbed the settlers and shot and wounded a man
near West Point. When the news reached Omaha, Secre-
tary Morton ordered General John M. Thayer to get
together as many soldiers as possible, follow the Pawnees
and punish them. About 200 men with guns and horses
and one cannon joined General Thayer. They came from
Omaha, Fontanelle, Fremont and Columbus. Governor

, , Black overtook and

joined the command.
For four days they fol-
lowed the wide trail of
the Pawnees up the Elk-
horn River. At daybreak
on the morning of July
12th they surprised the
Pawnees in camp on a
little creek, ten miles
west of where Norfolk
now is. General Thayer,
at the head of his 200 soldiers, charged upon the camp at
once. The Pawnees, men, women and children, came rush-
ing out of their tepees in great terror. Their chief seized an

graph by A. E. Sheldon.)


American flag and rushed toward General Thayer calling
out, "Good Indian! No shoot!" General Thayer halted
his soldiers and after a parley agreed that the Pawnees
should surrender six men who had attacked the settlers,
should pay for all damage they had done, and should march
overland with the soldiers to their future home upon the

Battle Creek. Thus the Pawnee war ended without a
battle, but the little creek where this took place was named
Battle Creek and is so called to this day.

The First Attempt to Make Nebraska a State. The
year 1860 is noted in Nebraska annals for the first attempt
to make the territory a state. The people voted upon the
question with the result that there were 2,094 votes in
favor, and 2,372 against and so statehood was postponed.

Slavery Prohibited. The sixth Nebraska legislature
passed a bill to prohibit holding slaves in Nebraska. Gov-
ernor Black vetoed the bill, claiming that there were so few
slaves in Nebraska it was not worth while to pass such a bill
and that the people could settle the question when Nebraska
became a state. The legislature repassed the bill over his

Settlers' Hardships. The Free Homestead BUI. The
land question was still one of great interest in Nebraska.
In 1859 Nebraska lands were first offered for sale by the
United States. Settlers living on these lands had to pay
$1.25 per acre for their claims or see them sold to specula-
tors. Many of the settlers were so poor that they had to
borrow the money at 25 to 100 per cent interest or lose their
homes. For this they blamed the government at Wash-
ington. The West wished for a free homestead law, giving
to each settler 160 acres of land for a home, if he would live
on it for five years. The Republican party favored a free
homestead law, as did also a part of the Democratic party.
All the people of Nebraska, both Democrats and Republicans,
were in favor of such a law because they wished to have


more settlers come in, make homes here and help to develop
the country. In 1860, Congress passed a homestead law,
giving to each settler 160 acres of land, if he would live
five years upon it and pay twenty-five cents an acre. Presi-
dent Buchanan vetoed the act.

The First Telegram. On August 29, 1860, the first
Nebraska telegraph line was completed between St. Joseph,
Missouri, and Brownville, and the first telegram sent was
as follows:

BROWNVILLE, Neb., Aug. 29, 1860.

Nebraska sends greeting to the states. The telegraph line was
completed to this place to-day and the first office in Nebraska formally

"Westward the star of empire takes its way."


Nebraska Changes from Democratic to Republican.
At the election in 1860, Nebraska became Republican and
remained so for thirty years. The veto of the homestead
bill by President Buchanan probably did more than any
other one thing to bring this about. Governor Black's
veto of the anti-slavery bill also helped. A third cause was
the split in the Democratic party between the North and
the South.

Nebraska Soldiers in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln
was chosen President in 1860. Soon after came the seces-
sion of the South from the Union. President Lincoln called
for soldiers. Republicans and Democrats in the North
answered the call. Governor Black raised a regiment of
soldiers in Pennsylvania, was made their colonel and was
killed in Virginia. The people of Nebraska were poor and
scattered, but they raised the First Nebraska regiment of
1,000 men which marched to the front under Colonel John
M. Thayer and fought under General Grant at Fort Donel-
son, Shiloh and in other battles.




Governor Alvin Saunders. President Lincoln appointed
Alvin Saunders of Omaha governor of Nebraska territory.
He was our fifth governor, the first Republican governor,
and held the office until 1867 when
Nebraska became a state.

The Free Homestead Law.
In 1862 Congress passed the free
homestead law, giving every settler
160 acres of land. President Lin-
coln signed the act. The first
homestead in the United States
was taken by Daniel Freeman on
Cub Creek in Gage county, a few
miles from Beatrice. The home-
stead law became one of the most
popular laws ever enacted. Under
it Nebraska and all the great West
were settled by thousands of hardy
pioneers eager to get free homes for themselves and
their children.

The Sioux and Cheyenne Indian War. The war at the
South went on. More soldiers were called for and came
from Nebraska as from other parts of the Union. Suddenly
while the soldiers from Nebraska were absent in the South
in August, 1864, the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, living
on the plains of western Nebraska, raided the settlements
along the Blue and Platte rivers, killing men, women and
children, burning houses and driving off stock. At the same
time the Sioux in Dakota and Minnesota were on the
warpath and the whole frontier was in danger. The men
of the First Nebraska regiment were recalled from the
South and sent to Fort Kearney to protect the settlers.
A second Nebraska regiment was enlisted under Colonel
Robert W. Furnas and sent up the Missouri River where it
helped to win a great victory over the Sioux at the battle
of Whitestone Hills.



Nebraska Becomes a State. At this time the people of
Nebraska thought much of becoming a state. The boun-
daries of Nebraska had been changed several times since
it was first marked out in 1854. Between 1861 and 1863
Colorado and Idaho had been cut off on the west and
Dakota on the north. For a time in 1863, Nebraska was
extended west of the Rocky Mountains, but by 1864 it had
nearly its present size and shape. In 1864 Congress passed
an act permitting Nebraska to become a state when the
people there were ready. The people were not ready until
1866, when the question was voted upon in a very hotly

OUTLINE MAP OF NEBRASKA IN 1863. (Drawing by Miss Martha Turner.)

contested election and carried by a majority of about 100.
The members of the legislature framed a constitution, which
Congress would not accept because it permitted only white
men to vote. Congress required the Nebraska legislature
to meet again and declare that no one should be deprived
of the right to vote on account of his colori When this
was done, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation
making Nebraska a state on March 1, 1867.


1. Make a map of Nebraska Territory in 1854.

2. Where were there white people in Nebraska in 1854 and what did they do?

3. What effects had the Platte River on Nebraska Territory?

4. What difference between getting land in 1854 and now?


5. In what respects are Nebraska schools better than in territorial days

and in what not so good?
6 Why did not the "good times" of 1856 last?

7. What was accomplished by the "Florence Secession?"

8. When and why was the Republican party organized in Nebraska?

9. Would it have been better if the South Platte region had been made a

part of Kansas? Why?

10. Why did the people of all parties in Nebraska desire a homestead law?

1 1 . Why did the Democrats help President Lincoln to put down the rebellion?

12. What had to be done before Nebraska became a State?


Lincoln the New State Capital. The new state Nebras-
ka had a new capital. During the long fight between the
North and South Platte sections, the South Platte, being
nearer to the settled states and farther from the hostile
Indians, had outgrown the North Platte. Thus it had

more votes in the leg-
islature of 1866 which
passed an act to re-
move the capital from

The new capital
was named for Presi-
dent Abraham Lincoln,
and the name was given
by its enemies. Otoe
county had led the
fight for removal of
the capital from Oma-
ha. Its members of
the legislature had been opposed to President Lincoln.
The North Platte members who wished to keep the capital
at Omaha moved to make the name Lincoln, thinking that
the Otoe county legislators would refuse to vote for a
capital so named. But the ruse failed; their votes were
cast for the bill and Lincoln became the name of our
capital, instead of Douglas as was suggested in the removal
bill of 1857.

Three men, Governor David Butler, Secretary Thomas
P. Kennard and Auditor John J. Gitlespie, were appointed
to locate the new capital, which was to be at some point


(From photograph collection of A. E. Sheldon.)



within the counties of Saunders, Butler, Seward and Lancas-
ter. On July 29, 1867, they selected the present site be-
tween Salt and Antelope
creeks, which was then
open prairie with only
two or three log cabins.
The Great Immigra-
tion. When Nebraska
became a state, the war
between the North and
South was over, the hos-
tile Indians had beende-


feated along the frontier

and thousands of immi- THE T f REE 7^,* f LINCOLN. (Cour-
tesy of Nebraska State Journal.)

grants poured west in

search of free homes. They came in all possible ways, some
up the Missouri River in steamboats, some on the railroads
across Iowa, but more came in covered wagons, or " prairie
schooners" as they were called, drawn by horses, mules or
oxen. In these came the pioneers with their children; often
with a box of chickens tied on behind, while a few cattle and
the family dog brought up the rear. Alt the roads leading

into and across Nebras-
ka were white with these
land ships, and soon the
valleys and prairies of
the eastern half of the
state were dotted with
dark spots, where they
had anchored and the
men and women in them
(From had begun to break the
prairies and build homes.
Log Cabins, Sod Houses and Dugouts. The houses
of those days were very different from the houses you see
in Nebraska to-day. The very earliest pioneers settled

early painting.)



along the streams where there were trees and built log
houses. Those who came later and settled upon the prairie
had only one material with which to build and that was

prairie sod. They cut
the tough sod and piled
it into walls, covering
the top with poles, grass,
sod and clay, leaving
openings for the win-
dows and door. There
were more of these sod
houses than of any other
kind and they were
very comfortable, being
warm in winter and
They were often called " dobies." Others

A PIONEEE DUGOUT. (From S. D. Butcher

cool in summer.

made their houses by digging into a hillside, covering the top

of the hole with poles, grass and earth, leaving a space in one

end, usually toward the south, open for a door. These were

called " dug-outs." The floors were often of the bare

ground. These early settlers worked very hard to break

land and plant seeds, build houses and dig wells. All they

had was the good Nebraska soil.

Of it they made their houses and

barns and from it they raised all

that they had to eat and sell. Very

kind to these pioneers was this

good, warm, rich Nebraska soil, for

out of it blossomed the splendid

farms and homes and children, and

all that makes Nebraska so fair

and prosperous to-day.

Governor David Butler Im-
peached. In 1868 David Butler
was re-elected governor and again in 1870. He was very
popular with the old-time pioneers whose many hard-

(E. G. Clements collection.)



ships he himself had shared. On the other hand he made
some enemies by his bold aggressive way of doing things.
In 1871, the charge of using state money for his own pur-
poses was brought against him. He was tried before the
State Senate, impeached and removed from office and in
his place, the Secretary of State, Wm. H. James, became
the governor. Governor Butler turned over land to the
State which more than paid what he owed it. His trial
caused great bitterness at the time
and for many years after. He still
retained the confidence of his friends
and years after was elected to the
, legislature by the people of Pawnee
County, his home.

Railroad Building and Railroad
Aid. There were no railroads in
the South Platte region when the
capital was moved there, and only
the Union Pacific was building
north of the Platte. In order to
encourage railroad companies to
build, Congress granted half the
land on either side of the track
for a number of miles to the company building through
it. The other half was left for the settlers, but the home-
steads inside of this land grant were cut down from 160 to
80 acres. In addition the Nebraska legislature in 1869 gave
2,000 acres of state lands for each mile of railroad. Many
towns and counties also voted to give money to roads
which would build to them. There was quick response to
these liberal offers. The Burlington crossed the Missouri
River at Plattsmouth in July, 1869. It was the first railroad
to reach Lincoln a year later, and in 1872 it built its line to
a junction with the Union Pacific at Kearney. The Mid-
land Pacific was built in 1871 from Nebraska City to Lincoln
and later built west through Seward, York and Aurora to

(E. G. Clements collection.)



Central City. It now belongs to the Burlington. The
St. Joseph and Denver road entered Nebraska in 1870 and
reached Hastings in 1872. All these lines were in the South

Platte region. In the North Platte
the Omaha & Northwestern road
was built to Blair, the Sioux City
& Pacific road was built from
Missouri valley to Fremont and
branches of the Union Pacific were

Governor Robert W. Furnas.
In 1872 Robert W. Furnas, Repub-
lican, of Brownville was elected
governor. He served two years,
years of hard times and distress,
and then returned to his farm and
orchard at Brownville, there to
become a leader in Nebraska agri-
culture during the forty years of
his life which followed.

The Hard Times of 1873. Many hardships and dis-
couragements were met by the new-comers. There were
prairie fires, grasshoppers, droughts and Indian raids. Then
hard times, called the panic of 1873, came to the whole
country. Nearly all the Nebraskans were farmers. The
prices of everything the farmer had to sell went down very
low, so low that it would hardly pay to haul to market.
As railroads were very few and far between most of the
Nebraska farmers had to haul their produce a long distance,
some of them fifty to a hundred miles, to reach a market
at a railroad town. Wheat sold as low as forty cents a
bushel, corn as low as eight cents, eggs five cents a dozen,
butter eight cents a pound, cattle and hogs two cents a pound.
For several years the settlers burned twisted hay and corn
for fuel. Some grew discouraged and moved back east, but
others stayed, worked harder, saved, and kept their homes.




(From Clements collection.)

Governor Silas Garber. In the four or five years
following 1870, pioneers pushed out and settled the Repub-
lican Valley region in the southwestern part of the state.
Prominent among these pioneers was Silas Garber, Republi-
can, of Red Cloud, who was elected governor in 1874 and
re-elected in 1876. During his term
the present state constitution was
adopted and the larger part of
the Indians removed from the

The Removal of Sioux, Pawnee
and Ponca Indians. In 1876 war
with the Sioux Indians broke out
on the Nebraska border. The chief
cause of this war was the rush of
white men into the Black Hills,
the Indian country, for gold. The
roads most traveled to the Black Hills led from the Union
Pacific railroad across northwestern Nebraska, crossing
the North Platte at Camp Clark bridge. Thousands of
people traveled these roads and had frequent fights with
the Sioux Indians who claimed all the country north of
the Platte. When peace was made, the Sioux ceded all
their land in western Nebraska and removed to South
Dakota. The Pawnee and Ponca tribes were removed to
Oklahoma in 1875 and 1877, and thus nearly all of northern
Nebraska was opened for settlers.

The Grange in Nebraska. During these hard times,
the farmer's movement took form in Nebraska. Too many
middlemen, too little money, too high railroad rates and
unfair taxes were among the complaints of the farmers.
In the granges, which were secret societies meeting in the
country schoolhouses, they discussed the evils of the times
and plans to remove them. Open meetings to which all
were invited were held. There was deep and earnest debate
on hard problems. Women also took part in these meet-


ings and in them the foundations of future farmers' move-
ments were laid.

The Good Templars, Red Ribbon Clubs and Crusaders.
The temperance movement also became active at this time
and spread through a secret society, the Good Templars.
It grew rapidly for a number of years and was aided by
Red Ribbon Clubs and by the Crusaders, bands of women
who prayed and sang in saloons and on the sidewalk in
order to induce people to stop drinking. There was intense
feeling for and against both the grangers and the temperance
agitators. The effect of the debates held by them during
the hard times was apparent through after years.

Irish, German, Swede, Bohemian, Russian, Danish,
Polish and French Colonies. In this period from 1870 to
1880 many colonies of settlers came to the state. Irish
colonies settled Holt County in 1874 and Greeley County in
1877. Germans settled in Madison, Stanton and Thayer
counties in 1867-1870. The Swedes settled in Polk and
Saunders counties about 1870 and in Phelps and Burt
counties about 1880. Bohemians founded colonies in Knox,
Colfax, Saunders and Saline counties about 1870. Russian
Germans began to settle Jefferson County about 1874 and
extended their settlements into Clay and Hamilton counties.
Danish, Swedish, Bohemian and Polish colonies found
homes in Howard and Valley counties. French settlements
were made in Richardson, Nemaha, Antelope and other
counties. Each of these nationalities added a new element to
Nebraska life, making our population more varied and inter-
esting. Each has done well its part in building a great state.

The New Constitution. There was a call, as the state
grew, for a new constitution. The first one had been
framed in haste by the legislature in 1866. A convention
met at Lincoln in June, 1871, and made a new constitution
in forty-seven days. In its most important parts it was
modeled on the Illinois Constitution of 1870. When the
people voted on the new constitution the vote stood 7,986



for and 8,677 against. It was defeated chiefly because it
taxed church property and gave railroads their right of
way only while they used it for running trains. The
demand for a new constitution kept growing. In 1875
another convention met in Lincoln which framed another
constitution very much like the one of 1871. It was adopted
by the people in November of that year by a vote of 30,202
to 5,704. This is our present constitution and is sometimes
called the " Grasshopper Constitution" because it was made
in a year of grasshopper plague and hard times.

The Great Prison Rebellion. On January 11, 1875,
the convicts in the State Penitentiary, three miles south of
Lincoln, rose in rebellion, took the warden and inside guards
prisoners and armed themselves with guns. Led by bold
and desperate men, it was their plan to dress themselves
in citizens' clothes and escape after dark. The outside
guards gave warning. Citizens of Lincoln and a company
of United States soldiers from Omaha surrounded the prison.
A number of shots were fired. Mrs. Woodhurst, the war-
den's wife, persuaded the rebels to surrender, and what is

called "The Great Rebellion in the
Penitentiary" was over.

Passing of Hard Times. Slowly
the years from 1873 to 1878 with
their hard times, Indian wars, grass-
hoppers, droughts and great prairie
fires, passed and better days came,
bringing better crops, better prices,
and hope to the hearts of those who
had endured so many hardships.
Gov. ALBINUS NANCE. (From With these better days came a host

Clements collection.) Q immigrants to the sta te.

Governor Albinus Nance. In 1878 Albinus Nance,
Republican, of Osceola, was elected governor and re-elected
in 1880. He was called "the boy governor," being thirty
years of age when chosen. During his four years in the


office there was a revival of business, and railroad building,
and a turning of the tide of immigration toward the North
Platte region.

Settlement of Western Nebraska. By the year 1880

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20

Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 17 of 20)