Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska
Douglas County
Produced by Liz Lee.

Part 1      Part 3

City of Omaha

Note: Please refer back to the Omaha first page, or to the Chapter Table of Contents for the complete listing.

SECTION 1:  The Early DaysSECTION 2:  More Early Days
SECTION 3:  Omaha in 1870SECTION 4:  Present Day (1882)
SECTION 5:  CrimesSECTION 6:  Fires and Public Works
SECTION 7:  Health, Parks, MailSECTION 8:  The Press in Omaha
SECTION 9:  Press ContinuedSECTION 10:  Religious
SECTION 11:  Religious (cont.)

Prospect Hill Cemetery | Public Schools | Creighton College
Brownell Hall | Great Western Business College
Nebraska Institute for the Deaf and Dumb

SECTION 13:  Legal and MedicalSECTION 14:  Opera House-Hotels-Business
SECTION 15:  SocietiesSECTION 16:  Societies Continued
SECTION 17:  BusinessSECTION 18:  Manufacturing
SECTION 19:  Manufacturing (cont.)

20 - 46:

   ** Omaha Biographical Sketches **
| WOODARD~ZEHRUNG | West Omaha Precinct | Douglas Precinct |

List of Illustrations in Douglas County Chapter

City of Omaha 12


One of the chief acts performed by any civilized community, is the providing of a suitable and permanent place for the interment of its dead, but where a country is new and sparsely settled, and deaths few, very little attention is given to the subject, almost any sightly burial place being considered good enough. The first burial in the city of Omaha was that of a Mr. Todd, a saloon-keeper, who died of the delirium tremens. At the time of his death the few citizens appointed a committee to select a suitable burial ground. Their labors resulted in the selection of a piece of ground about where now is the Fourteenth street railroad crossing of the Union Pacific road. The next place of burial was near, or within the Hanscom addition in the southwestern part of the city. This ground, however, was not regularly surveyed, received but little attention, and in it but very few bodies were laid to rest. In 1858, Byron Reed, deeming a regularly surveyed burial ground, and one that would be properly cared for, a necessity to the wants of the city, laid out twenty acres of ground northwest of the city and then adjoining the corporation line, for burial purposes. The ground is still owned by Byron Reed, and all denominations have the privilege of burial. It is located on high and eligible ground, and is liberally ornamented with shade trees which Mr. Reed has planted within its limits. It is now within the city limits, and steps will soon be taken to provide a new and more suitable ground outside the corporation, when this burial ground will be abandoned.


The public schools of Omaha have kept pace with the rapid advancement made in the general progress, prosperity and permanent growth of the "Queen City of the Missouri Valley." Men of culture, means and influence have been and are now being attracted to Omaha by reason of her superior educational facilities. She has the finest and largest school houses of any city of like size in the Union. The High School building, situated on Capitol avenue, is probably not equaled in size, cost, location or architectural beauty by any other high school building in the United States. It was completed in 1872 at a cost of $250,000. The system of instructions in the public schools is of a thorough and systematic character from the lowest to the highest grade.

The first public school was opened in Omaha November 1, 1859 and continued in session, with the exception of a few days' vacation during the holidays, until June 1, 1860. A. D. Jones, J. H. Kellom and Dr. G. C. Monell composed the first Board of Education. They employed Howard Kennedy, at a salary of $1,000 a year, and he taught the first public school in Omaha in the old Capitol building. The year 1860 found Omaha with one high school and three subordinate schools. It is generally reported and believed that Omaha did not have a graded school until 1872, but we find in a report made to the State Commissioner of Schools, dated January 2, 1861, signed by Dr. G. C. Monell, Jesse Lowe and J. H. Kellom, members of the Board of Education of Omaha, the following language: "One male teacher was employed to teach the higher studies and superintend the subordinate teachers in the different schools. One principal school and three subordinate departments do not sufficiently accommodate all the scholars; though the average attendance is about sixty scholars to a teacher, yet eighty and ninety were often present. Four subordinate schools are really needed, but even these can not be sustained the coming year without more funds. The value of real estate being greatly reduced at the last assessment, and the reduction of the school tax last winter to one mill on the dollar instead of two mills heretofore, will reduce our public fund to about one-fourth or one-third the amount of last year. This reduced revenue would scarcely support a single school in this city. Two plans suggest themselves to the directors to supply the deficiency: first, to lay on the city a sufficient tax; second, to charge each scholar a moderate tuition. They choose the latter. The schools will, therefore, be conducted as heretofore, except that a small price will be charged each pupil attending school. This will combine the advantages of free schools to a sufficient extent to secure their permanence, with a charge for tuition so moderate as to be within the reach of all. Thus property will not pay all the tax nor any one be charged more than enough to enable him to prize the privileges of a good school. The smallest scholars studying higher than first lessons in geography and arithmetic will be charged $1 per quarter; scholars in the common branches, including a philosophy, single entry bookkeeping and elementary algebra, will be charged $2 per quarter; for instruction in the Latin, Greek, French and German languages, chemistry, surveying, algebra and belles-lettres there will be charge of $3 per quarter, and double these rates for non-resident scholars. The tuition must be paid to the treasurer during the second week after entering the school. The income for school money for the past year has been: Territorial and county tax, $1,246.50; licenses and fines, $656.60. The expenses for the year have been $1,903.10. One hundred and eighty-seven scholars studied arithmetic, 167 geography, 93 grammar, 456 reading and spelling, 68 the higher branches. The Board of School Examiners reported that they had found the following-named persons to be of good moral character and qualified to teach orthography, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and English grammar, and have granted them certificates accordingly for the term of one year from the dates thereof respectively, to wit: Howard Kennedy, J. J. Monell, Mrs. Isabelle Torrey, Miss F. Seymore, Miss Smiley, Edward Kelley, H. Davis, Mrs. Mary P. Rust, Mrs. Nye, Miss A. Hayes and Miss Hamilton. Signed, George L. Gilbert."

We have copied extensively from the report of January 2, 1861, for many reasons: first, it settles a dispute as to when the first graded school was established in Omaha, and shows that the public school had a struggle for an existence. The extreme hard times in 1859-60 compelled the Board of Education to delay the building of schoolhouses sufficient to accommodate the increasing demands for more school facilities, also that the public schools were supported by the wealthiest and best citizens of Omaha--men known for their stern integrity, philanthropy and great zeal in educational matters. The school buildings are all erected in desirable localities and are models of comfort and architectural beauty. They speak more eloquently to the stranger seeking a home in the far West to induce him to locate in Omaha than any other of the public institutions of the city. They are mostly furnished with all the necessary appliances. The Board of Education have manifested a prudent and liberal spirit in securing competent and earnest teachers for the various departments of the public schools. One of the most conclusive proofs of the intelligence and enlightened ideas of a community is the interest taken in the education of the children in its midst. It may be safely said that Omaha is as renowned for the excellence of both her public and private schools as she is for the beauty of her location, her geographical advantages, the enterprise and public spirit of her citizens.

As Omaha is an important railroad center and located on the great highway of the nation, it follows that the city is metropolitan in nearly every respect, and as the metropolis of Nebraska she is steadily gaining in population, wealth and importance, and is recognized as the educational center of the State. The public schools of Omaha at present are under the control and management of a Board of Education created by an act of the Legislature February 6, 1873. By this act the city constitutes one school district, the number composing the board numbering twelve, two from each ward. Since 1880, six members elected at large compose the Board of Education, holding office two years.

The First Board of Education under the City Charter was organized May 6, 1872. The first officers were J. T. Edgar, President, Thomas F. Hall, Vice-president; Flemon Drake, Secretary. First Ward, Theodore Baumer, Charles Conoyer, Second Ward, Vincent Burkley, Flamon Drake; Third Ward, Adolphus Bohme, Charles W. Hamilton; Fourth Ward, Alvin Saunder, Howard Kennedy; Fifth Ward, Thomas F. Hall, James Creighton; Sixth Ward, John T. Edgar, Joseph Redman. All of these men were prominent citizens of Omaha. Alvin Saunder is now United States Senator; John Edgar is Consul of Beyrout, Palestine; Thomas F. Hall is the present Postmaster of Omaha; Howard Kennedy is in the Union Pacific Land Department; Charles Conoyer is the present Secretary of the board, having been a member of it ever since its organization except one term. Howard Kennedy was the first teacher and First Superintendent of the Public Schools in Omaha; A. T. Nightingale was the First Superintendent after the board was organized under the City Charter, May 6, 1872.

The bonded indebtedness of the Board of Education of Omaha is $150,000 bearing 10 per cent interest. A two mill tax is levied to create a sinking fund to pay said bonds and a two mill tax is levied to pay the interest on said bonds. These bonds fall due in 1887. Five mills are levied for other school purposes.

The present School Board is composed of Eben K. Long, president; J. J. Points, Vice-president; Charles Conoyer, Secretary, William Anderson and A. W. Ferguson. The school population of Omaha in 1881 was 8,407; the value of schoolhouse sites is $98,600; the values of school buildings is $302, 600; the regular meetings of the School Board occur the first Monday evening of each month; they elect their officer from their own members; they have power to fill vacancies which may occur in the board; they elect a Superintendent of the schools annually in July. The School Board annually in the month of June make as estimate of the amount of funds necessary for the support of the schools for the ensuing year and report the amount to the City Council, which body is required to levy and collect the same for the use of the Board of Education. This estimate is limited to 1 per cent of all the taxable property in the school district of Omaha. More than this can be raised for the erection of schoolhouses by a special vote of the people. There are at present eleven schoolhouses owned and used by the board, with a seating capacity of 3,000 pupils. To complete the entire course of study in the public schools requires an average of twelve years of school life. Those who complete the course receive a diploma from the board. In the high school a thorough course of three years is given in literature, four years in Latin (Which is optional) and a corresponding course in mathematics and the physical science.

The high school of Omaha was first established in the fall of 1871, by a Board of Trustees consisting of A. J. Simpson, President; B. E. B. Kennedy, Director; John Evans, Treasurer; Ezra Millard, Rev. W. H. Kuhns and J. H. Kellom. It was placed under the instruction of Mr. Kellom. The daily sessions were first held in the south rooms of the brick building on the southeast corner of Chicago and Sixteenth streets. In the spring of 1872 it was removed to a building on Jackson street between Fourteenth and Fifteenth streets. The sessions were first held in the present high school buildings in the fall of 1872. Mr. J. H. Kellom was principal, and Job Rabin and R. E. Gaylord, assistants. The laboratory is moderately well supplied with chemical and philosophical apparatus. The mineralogical cabinet presented by Prof. Thompson, of St. Louis, is quite full.

In 1871-72, 47 pupils were enrolled, 1872-73, 60; 1873-74, 66; 1874-75, 62; 1875-76, 59; 1876-77, 53; 1877-78, 63; 1879-80, 70; 1880-81, 75.

There is a lack of reference books in literature, history, and some departments of science in the high school library, which is a serious hindrance to the forming of such habit of study and research as should be especially encouraged and provided for in all institutions for higher instruction, but the board is taking steps to provide for this deficiency; a few standard works will be added each year hereafter.

It is proper for us to say of the high school teachers that a more willing, ambitious, hardworking and cheerful corps of workers cannot be found in any other public school in the land.

The school buildings of Omaha are standing monuments of good taste and beauty, the Corinthian, Ionic and Doric orders of architecture have been properly considered and made use of, and are eminently proper, and in place in the large buildings erected in Omaha for school purposes. By obeying the principles of architecture in the construction of schoolhouses the building becomes an object that practically teaches ideas of beauty, proportion and symmetry and new exalted conceptions of beauty and form. It throws over property the shield of beauty and so checks and finally eradicated the rudeness and deformity so common and offensive to even the ordinary mind. It forms one of those influences which have most power over the heart and affections, directly aiding the teachers in the most difficult and important part of their work. If it does not exert a positive influence in elevating taste, at least it will have the negative excellence of not violating it. The regular grading of studies of the public schools did not take place until 1872, when they were graded by S. D. Beals.


This large and beautiful three story brick structure was founded by Edward Creighton, after whom it is named. It occupies an eminent and commanding position on Capitol Hill, between California and Webster streets, several blocks northwest of the High School building. The college, which is conducted under Catholic auspices, was opened for the reception of pupils in September, 1878. There were 140 pupils reported on the rolls, and this number had steadily increased until there are now over 200 in attendance. Although the college is a free Catholic institution, students of other religions are not excluded, and hence among the pupils there are found quite a number of Protestants. After the building outlay of $63,000, the interest on the Creighton legacy of $110,000 at about 10 per cent is generally given for the services of the two Jesuit fathers and the young scholastics who teach the classes. The present building was completed in January, 1879, at a cost of $63,000. It has a frontage of fifty-two feet, and is 125 feet deep. It is well furnished throughout and is arranged with an eye to comfort and convenience. It is heated by steam and supplied with school furniture of the latest designs. It is intended to add two wings which will give it a frontage of 250 feet, as soon as there is demand for more room. The estimated cost of the building when completed according to the plans, by the addition of the two wings, is $210,000. The faculty is as follows: Rev. T. H. Miles, S. J., Pres.; Rev. J. Dowling, S. J., Messrs. Blackmore, S. J.; Meyers, S. J., Owens, S. J.


This institution of learning, a large and commodious three story frame building on Sixteenth street, between Jackson and Jones streets, is a first class boarding and day school under the auspices of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The school was organized in 1863, and for the first six years of its existence was located in the country about three miles north of Omaha. When Bishop Clarkson assumed the charge of the Episcopal Church in Nebraska, he determined to removed the school into the city. The removal was effected and the present building erected in 1868. It is the first class institution in all its arrangements, capable of accommodating over 100 students. It is an incorporated institution and is managed by a board of trustees. The Rt. Rev. R. H. Clarkson is visiting Pastor; Rev. Robert Doherty, Rector and Professor of Mental and Moral Sciences; Rev. H. W. Meeks, Professor of Languages; Mrs. Doherty, teacher of Drawing and Painting; Miss A. C. Tarbell, teacher of Music; Miss Ethel Jacobson, teacher of English; Miss Caroline Franklin, teacher of History; Miss K. K. Lyman, teacher of Natural Science. Mrs. Windsor is at the head of the house. The present attendance numbers about 100, of which number thirty are boarders.



This institution of learning was founded in Omaha in 1873 by George R. Rathbun, its present proprietor and superintendent. Under his administration the college has always been in successful operation. In the latter part of 1881 it was moved into the Lytle Block on Farnam street. The school now occupies the space over two stores in the third story of that building which is 44x100 feet. This is divided into a study room 44x70, ladies' department, 30x22, office, recitation room and closets. In the main room is located a bank, with counter, wire screens and openings for paying, receiving teller and collections, making as fine and commodious a school room as can be found in any city east or west. The present officers and teachers are George R. Rathbun, superintendent; A. L. Wyman, principal; H. W. Ketto, teacher of telegraphy; H. W. Stripe, teacher of shorthand. The college has an average attendance of eighty-five students.


The Twelfth Territorial Legislature, by an act approved February 7, 1867, provided in due form for the establishment of an institute for the deaf and dumb, to be located in Omaha; all of the class specified of a suitable age and capacity, to receive instruction, to be admitted into, and enjoy the benefits of said institution without charge.

The act further constituted a board of directors, a body politic and corporate with perpetual existence, consisting of Aurelius Bowen, Abel L. Childs, E. H. Rogers, John S. Bowen, Gilbert C. Monell and John McPherson.

This board after some delay, elected W. M. French, principal and Mrs. Jennie Wilson, matron of the new school; a building was rented in Omaha, and the school opened April 1, 1869, twelve pupils being enrolled during the first eight months of its existence, the expenditures during that time amounting to $2,179.03.

It being evident from the first that more suitable and commodious accommodations would have to be provided, an appropriation of $15,000 was made by the Thirteenth General Assembly, for building purposes. Grounds, located about three miles northwest of the city, were donated by citizens of Omaha, and a fine brick edifice erected, in a suitable form to receive additions as they might be needed. The new building was occupied for the first time in January, 1872, Prof. R. H. Kinney, an experienced teacher from Columbus, Ohio, assuming charge as principal, superseding Prof. W. M. French, Mrs. R. H. Kinney taking the position of matron. Two assistant teachers were employed during the year, which shows an enrollment of twenty-nine pupils.

In 1873, a printing office was established in connection with the institution, for the instruction of those pupils desirous of learning the trade. Mr. S. F. Buckley, one of these pupils, shortly after assumed the position of foreman. The total enrollment of 1873 and 1874, numbered forty-two.

A new building, similar in many respects to the first, was erected in 1876, at a cost of $15,000; Fifty-three pupils were in attendance during this and the previous year. On September 1, 1878, Prof. John A. Gillespie, a prominent educator, and one who had been remarkably successful in the Iowa institution, was engaged as principal, there being at the time, together with the matron, three assistant teachers connected with the school. In 1879, a brick work-shop of three stories was erected at a cost of $3,000; carpenter work being introduced under charge of F. E. Maynard. Between the years of 1877 and 1880, there was an average attendance of about sixty pupils.

In 1881, through the liberality of the Legislature, those having the matter in charge, were enabled to still further increase the facilities of the school, by the erection of a third building, connecting the two, erected in 1871 and 1876, the combination being in perfect harmony, and constituting one of the finest public buildings in the State; the cost of this improvement was $16,000. In addition to this, $4,000 was expended in heating apparatus, whereby the entire institution is warmed by steam, $1,000 for gas apparatus, $1,000 for engine and machinery for the shops, $500 for hose, for use in case of fire, and $500 for telephonic connection with the city of Omaha. The institution is under charge of the Board of Public Lands and Buildings, and directly under control of the following officers: J. A. Gillespie, principal and steward; J. A. McClure, F. L. Reid; Mary McCowen, Fannie Henderson, Effie Johnston, teachers; Mary I. Farrant, teacher of articulation; Mrs. J. A. Gillespie, matron; J. C. Denise, physician; S. F. Buckley, foreman of the printing office; F. E. Maynard, foreman of the carpenter shops.

Both the printing office and the carpenter shops are self supporting, beyond the salaries of their foreman. Both are well equipped with the necessary appliances of the respective trades, the former producing a five column folio, semi-monthly paper, entitled the Nebraska Mute Journal, of which the mechanical work is all done by the pupils; this was established in 1874. The shops are provided with an engine used to operate lathes, planing and other machines used in the work. In each of these departments about twelve boys are learning good trades, under competent instruction. The girls are taught, in addition to the school curriculum, general housework, plain sewing and dress making.

The same general methods of instructing the deaf, which are practiced in similar first-class institutions, are in use in this one, articulation being made a specialty, with good success. A regular course of instruction is followed, in which it is aimed to prepare the pupil for active life and self-support, the institution being in no sense an asylum, but in every sense a school. The present attendance is about eighty.

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