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

Part 2      Part 3

Douglas County History

The Mormon Advent | Renewal of Attempts at Settlement

First Postal Arrangements | Settlers in 1854 | Tradition of the Name
Omaha Surveyed | Pioneer Events


Political Organization | Selection of Omaha as Capital
An Executive Ball | The First Murder Trial


Religious Awakening | Progress in 1856 | Pioneer Justice
Attempt to Remove the Capital | The Panic of 1857


Claims Troubles | Official Roster | County Buildings
Douglas County Agricultural Society | The Old Settlers' Association

List of Illustrations in Douglas County Chapter

Douglas County History 5


Reference has already been made to the organization of the "Omaha Claim Club" in July, 1854, upon the completion of the survey of the city. Among the regulations was one that each member who made improvements upon land to the extent of $50 per annum should be entitled to hold against all claimants, and this occasioned innumerable scenes of indescribable absurdity, not to say unmerited punishment. The latter it is claimed, however, was not the work of the regular claim association, as it has ceased with the sitting of the Legislature which superseded it in authority as law makers. The wrongs complained of were the acts of special claim clubs whose extra judicial policy has been urged as that adopted and practiced by the club organized in 1854, without any foundation in fact. A. D. Jones insists that the "Doc" Smith outrage was the work of the "Cuming Special Club," and that the association which held a meeting when the Land Office was opened, and decided not to permit any man to pre-empt land without the consent of the association, was not the old claim association, but a new set made up of semi-desperadoes. The dispossession of Jacob A. Shull of his claim was also attributed to one of these "independent organizations." Likewise the case of an Irishman named Callahan. It is alleged that he located upon a claim in the vicinity of West Omaha whence he was evicted, but returned after the excitement died out and repossessed himself. Thereupon a committee arrested and arraigned him before the club, where he was subjected to a trial and give the alternative of renouncing his claim to the land or being drowned in the Missouri River. He refused to abide by the verdict and was taken to the river, where a hole was cut in the ice through which the unfortunate Hibernian was plunged into the water three times. When taken out after the final bath he consented to the demand made upon him, when he was brought to the city, his vitality restored through the efforts of Drs. McElwee and Thrall, after which he signed the "bill of particulars" and was released. The real facts in this case, however, as stated to the writer by a gentleman still residing in Omaha, and familiar beyond cavil with the issue joined, are as follows: Gov. Cuming had pre-empted the claim whereon Callahan was sought to be evicted, and to the end that his title might be permanently vested by actual possession, hired the intruder, who is represented as having been dependent upon the fruits of his labor for a living, to occupy the same for a consideration of $45 per month, which was regularly paid him for a continued period. Presuming upon the charity thus extended him he set up a claim of ownership both ungenerous and inequitable, and refusing either to publish a renunciation of his ownership or vacate the premises, means were employed to compel his concession, which, if not recognized by the provisions of the law, accomplished results in harmony therewith, without running through the circumlocutory gamut of the courts.

Another case cited is that wherein a man named Daniel Murphy was the central figure. According to his story, he entered a fractional quarter section of land near the Platte River, west of Larimer in Sarpy County. This was in June, 1857, and the land, as he admitted, joined entries made by Jesse Lowe and John T. Paynter. Soon after, as he was passing the office of Mr. Lowe, at the northwest corner of Harney and Twelfth streets, he was accosted in reference to his entry and solicited to transfer the same for a consideration. He entered the office during the progress of the conversation, and refusing to assign the tract, was admonished as to the rightful ownership thereto, which was claimed by Mr. Lowe. Those said to have been present in the office at the time were Jesse Lowe, John J Harbach, John T. Paynter and James M. Woolworth. While the negotiation was continuing, Murphy attempted to escape by springing through a window, but was prevented and returned by Mr. Paynter. A fierce scuffle ensued, in which Murphy was overpowered, and while thus in extremis he attempted to swallow the certificate of entry. Mr. Lowe, however, estopped the act by choking the paper from his larynx, and after some persuasion he was induced to sign a deed of transfer and released.

In defense of the premises it is claimed that Murphy had squatted upon lands that had been regularly "claimed" by Mr. Lowe, and the means employed for the enforcement of Mr. Lowe's rights were those only available and of sufficient force to command attention or obedience. Murphy afterward brought suit for the recovery of lands thus alleged to have been wrested from his possession, but the matter remains as yet undetermined.

From this period until the close of the war accessions to the population of the county were gradual and in point of numbers limited. By that time the sweeping revolution that overwhelmed the country like a hurricane, prostrating trade, blighting hopes and ruining the prospects of millions, reached a point beyond which the active spirit of enterprise and the restless energy of the country would not permit it to go. The penalty of social extravagance, commercial inflation, fancy speculation and kindred errors of times "out of joint" had been fully paid. A rebuke and a lesson had been administered and received, and their teachings had come to be of incalculable value for days to come. The future was clear, promising, bright; business men set out upon the voyage to realms of undiscovered bliss with the most buoyant hopes, and all classes contemplated a bounteous harvest from the pursuits of industry. The result has been to confirm the predictions then made. The vast regions of productive soil to be found within the limits of Nebraska have contributed to making the West the granary of the world. After the war stagnation gave place to activity, and the law of trade in all ages, regulated by the principle of demand and supply, was allowed free operation again. Business revived, capital sought investment, the products of agriculture were sought and paid for, the hoarded millions that lay dead upon the hands of capitalists began to be circulated, and the wheels of trade began once more to revolve amid the busy hum of returning prosperity. The West being the last to feel the stress of matters, was the first to experience the advantage to arise from this happy return of prosperous days, and the citizens of the county congratulated themselves upon their position and condition in view thereof.

Between that period and the present the Territory of Nebraska has been admitted into the union of States and internal improvements have kept pace with the times. The Union Pacific road, the Burlington & Missouri and their tributaries, have been extended through the county, becoming sources of wealth, agencies for the dissemination of intelligence and conservators of the public weal. Its lands are dotted with homes of comfort, and where once the war whoop of the Indian resounded the voice of peaceful industry alone is heard. Villages and hamlets crowd the landscape of her domain, schools and churches lend their presence to inspire modest merit to renewed ambition, as also to promote a humanizing influence in the affairs of life. The history of the past decade, while not fruitful of events in the county that has immortalized its founders or electrified the world, has been such as to commend it to all. Its hills and dales over the inducements of quiet, social, educational and refined influences to the overworked and exhausted sentinel in the professional and mechanical ranks that crowd great cities; to they whose ambitions are measured by resources rather than inclination, a home where contentment and independence will reward the toiler; to all a home into which the sunshine of days unborn may be reflected, redeeming promises recorded, beautifying the present and lighting up the future with rays of translucent purity. During the war Douglas County furnished her complement of troops, many of whom remained until the peace at Appomattox filled the soldiers and the nation with emotions. Words are inadequate to describe and, to-day as the veterans of either army scan the boundaries of the nation, an irresistible impulse comes across their way to quote from the oration of Pericles, over those who had fallen in the first campaign of the Peloponnesian war. "For such a Republic, for such a nation, the people whom we this day mourn, fell and died."

Upon their return from the scenes of strife, exchanging their uniform for the garb of the civilian farmer and the artisan, they "fell back" to their old avocations. Some of them have been called to high honors, but brave men are always honored, and no class of citizens is entitled to greater honors than the volunteer soldiery, not alone because they experienced the heat of the battle, but that their walk is upright and their integrity above reproach. And so, also to the southern soldiers. They too are shrined in the Pantheon of hearts to an immortal memory, and now after three generations have passed, let no man refuse to lay flowers of kindness on the turf that shrouds their remains. Heap it high with blossoms, if with rue for bitter mourning, bring also rosemary for sweet remembrance and pansies for generous thoughts. For

Under the sod and under the dew,
Waiting the judgment day
Under the roses the blue,
Under the lilies the gray.

The history of the county for the years immediately preceding the present, has been as the history of an individual. The seal of success has been stamped upon the efforts of her citizens and united with other auxiliaries to place her on the highway that leads to glory and to fortune. Fortune smiles upon the land, beckoning to every age and race to partake of her bounty, and Time, which "at last sets all things even," has brought with it not only prosperity, but the refining influences of life. These proceedings, hand in hand, down the dim mysterious aisles of the future, draw nearer and nearer until that peaceful period of the history of great endeavors, where the clouds of doubt, trial and disappointment are dispelled by the dawning of a perfect day.


The Officers of Douglas County are given hereafter:

Commissioners.-- James M. Parker, 1860; O. P. Hurford, 1861; James H. McArdle, 1862; Thomas H. Allison, 1863; S. J. Goodrich, 1864; James H. McArdle, 1865; Haman Chapman, 1866; Jonas Gise, 1867; Henry Eicke, 1868; E. H. Sherwood, 1869; M. W. E. Purchase, 1870; James H. McArdle 1871; Benjamin P. Knight, 1872; J. B. Redfield, 1873; James H. McArdle, 1874; B. P. Knight, 1875; Frederick Drexel, 1876; F. W. Corliss, 1877; Benjamin P. Knight. 1878; Frederick Drexel, 1879; F. W. Corliss, 1880; B. P. Knight, 1881.

Coroners.-- Emerson S. Seymour, 1860-62; E. Dallow, 1863, J. R. Conkling, 1865; C. H. Pinney, 1867; Jacob Gish, 1869; J. R. Conkling, 1871; Jacob Gish, 1873-75; Joseph Neville, 1877; J. G. Jacobs, 1879-81.

County Clerks.--Peter Hugus, 1861; Byron Reed, 1863; Frank Murphy, 1865; C. H. Downey, 1867; Thomas Swobe, 1869; William J. Ijams, 1871; Lewis S. Reed, 1873-75; John R. Manchester, 1877-79; John Baumer, 1881.

Treasurers.--James K. Ish, 1861-63-65; W. J. Hahn, 1867-69; Edward McShane, 1871; A. C. Althaus, 1873-75; William F. Heins, 1877-79; John Rush, 1881.

Probate Judges.--George I. Gilbert, 1861; H. M. Dickinson, 1863; Isaac J. Hascall, 1865; R. J. Stuck, 1867; L. B. Gibbon, 1869; Robert Townsend, 1871; William L. Peabody, 1873; C. H. Sedgwick, 1875; William O. Bartholomew, 1877-79; A. M. Chadwick, 1881.

Sheriffs.--Thomas L. Sutton, 1861-63; Andrew Deltone, 1865; A. R. Hoel, 1867; Henry Grebe, 1869; Henry Grebe, 1871; Alfred Burley, 1873-75; George H. Guy, 1877-79; David N. Miller, 1881.

Prosecuting Attorneys.--Charles H. Brown, 1862-63; George W. Doane, 1865.

Surveyors.--B. P. Knight, 1863; B. E. B. Kennedy, 1865; B. P. Knight, 1867; Andrew Rosewater, 1869; J. E. House, 1871; George Smith, 1873-75; George Smith, 1877-79-81.

Superintendents of Instruction.--A. A. Seagrave, 1869; Jeremiah Behm, 1871; S. D. Beals, 1873; John Rush, 1875; J. J. Points, 1877-79-81.

District Judges.--Created in 1875, and James W. Savage elected to that position for four years; re-elected in 1879.

Clerk of District Court, 1879.--William H. Ijams.


Court House and Jail.-- In the spring of 1857 the City Council deeded to the county a block, then known as Washington Square, bounded by Fifteenth, Farnam, Sixteenth and Douglas streets, on condition that a court house should be built thereon. All the lots except the ones now occupied by the court house were sold, and the proceeds applied to the erection of the building, which was begun in 1857, and finally completed in about 1859 or 1860. The contract was let to James E. Boyd. Armstrong & Bovey did the brick work, and John Davis the carpenter work. It is built of brick, in size fifty by seventy feet, two stories high, with a basement. In the basement of the building are the jail cells, the first story being occupied by the offices of the county officers, with the court room, etc., in the second story. This building has since been replaced by others more secure and more in keeping with the ideas of the present. The jail, erected in 1879, is built of brick, and is two stories in height, costing $35,000, including the residence of the Sheriff, which is built in connection with it. The building contains juvenile, female and solitary cells, capable of imprisoning 100 persons. Withnell Bros., of Omaha, did the stone and brick work, and P. J. Pauly, of St. Louis, arranged the cells. It is located in Block No. 141, and is of modern style, heated by steam, and one of the finest jails in the Western States. The new court house built in 1882, in the same block, fronting Farnam, Seventeenth and Harney streets, is a structure not only sufficient to preserve records and accommodate the county officials, but to serve as a handsome and abiding monument to the city. The dimensions of the building and that material of which was to be constructed, were considered by competent architects, having in view all the time a reasonable limit on the amount at the disposal of the County Commissioners. The local papers were for some time engaged in arguing the advisability of constructing this building of brick or cut stone or brick with stone trimmings. Stone was subsequently decided upon, the durability of which over brick was long ago established--especially the kind of brick Omaha furnishes. In Europe, where they have the experience of nearly twenty centuries, the best buildings, both public and private, are constructed of cut stone, and some of them have withstood the fires and weather of 1,000 years. The only building that stood the test of the melting heat of the Chicago fire, in 1871, was the post office building, built of cut stone. What the people of Omaha and Douglas County demanded, was a court house, fire-proof throughout, substantial in every part and constructed with some taste. Twenty-five years hence, Omaha will have a population of not less than 75,000. Fifty years hence, she will be a city as populous and wealthy as Cleveland, Buffalo or Louisville now are. Twenty-five years ago Buffalo had a population of 50,000; Cleveland, 40,000 and Louisville less than 30,000. In the same period Omaha has advanced from nothing to nearly 49,000. She only needs to double her population every twenty-five years to become fifty years hence what Buffalo, Cleveland and Louisville are to-day. In consequence of these facts, the court house has been constructed sufficiently large and durable to accommodate the wants of 100,000 people. It is in the size 115x123 feet, two stories high, with basement. In the first story are the offices for the county officers, and in the second is the court room, jury rooms, judge's private room, clerk of the court's room, attorneys' consulting room, law library, etc. The contract was let to a Detroit firm for $198,000. The building is heated with steam throughout.

The Poor House.-- Lying just across the corporation line, the Douglas County Poor farm embraces 160 acres of the most fertile land in the vicinity and occupies perhaps the finest site along the Missouri. Previous to the erection of the present structure, the unfortunate paupers of Douglas County were limited in their accommodations to ill furnished rooms in an old and dilapidated shanty, where they were huddled together in a manner devoid of comfort. In the fall of 1869, through the active and conscientious labors of Jonas Gise, senior County Commissioner, the present substantial poor house was built. The erection of a proper building for the reception of paupers was one of Mr. Gise's pet schemes. Through his influence an appropriation for a suitable structure was secured in June, 1868. Mr. Gise drew up the plans and specifications, and the contract for the premises was awarded to Rueben Berringer at $8,474--bricks, wood work and finishing complete. The first brick was laid in October and the building was ready for occupation in December, 1869.

It is a brick building, two stories high, forty by thirty-six feet, with a capacity sufficient to accommodate about forty inmates, though in case of emergency this number can be increased to fifty.

The institution contains thirty-six inmates, a portion of whom are insane patients under the care of I. N. Pierce, superintendent, and requires an annual appropriation of $3,500 for its support, in addition to the product of the farm.


County agricultural societies are organized in Nebraska in pursuance of the State laws, and upon compliance with the provision of which, are entitled to receive from the county treasury a sum equal to three cents for each inhabitant of the county in which such society may be organized. The Douglas County Agricultural Society is the lineal descendant of and successor to the agricultural society organized in the earlier days of the county. The panic of 1857, and the dull times proceeding therefrom; the war and the consequent excitement, together with other influences, contributed to lessen the interest taken in organizations of that character, and the agricultural society was remitted to a condition of quiescence and remembered as among the glories of a more prosperous era. After remaining in this condition until 1881, a re-organization was effected with the following members: D. T. Mount, George N. Crawford, Henry Eicke, L. W. Denton, George Gelston, Charles Powell, L. M. Rheem, George Canfield, W. J. Kennedy. R. Kimball, J. T. Paulsen, David Redman, R. Redman. Harvey Link, M. Dunham. J. H. Brown, James T. Craig. Fred Crounemeyer, Lewis Thomas and Mr. Preston. The officers of the society are: D. T. Mount, president; George N. Crawford, secretary; J. J. Brown, treasurer. Board of managers: J. T. Paulsen, chairman; George Gelston, George Canfield, L. M. Rheem and David Redman.


The Old Settlers' Association of Omaha and Douglas County was organized on the 2d day of January, 1866. It was composed exclusively of the first, or early settlers of Omaha and Douglas County. Its object was to collect such statistics of the early settlement and important events of the city and county as would prove interesting to the future historian, and to preserve for reference such data and reminiscences as they considered necessary. The first officers of the association were Dr. Enos Lowe, president; Dr. G. L. Miller, vice-president; A. D. Jones, secretary and treasurer. The organization of this society grew out of a social reunion held at the house of Dr. Miller, at which time were gathered the following persons, among others; A. D. Jones, the first Postmaster; A. J. Poppleton, the first attorney; "Bill" Snowden, who dug the first grave and became the first auctioneer; John Logan, the first man married in Omaha; "Bill" Brown, who first ferried to the town site; Dr. Enos Lowe, who formed the company to lay out the city; John Withnell, who laid the first brick; Selden, who fired the first forge; Col. A. R. Gilmore, the first United States Land Officer ever appointed in Nebraska; Capt. McPherson, who ran the first steam ferry; Capt. Downs, who carried stakes to drive down and mark out the streets, lots and blocks; E. Estabrook, the first United States' District Attorney for Nebraska; Joseph W. Paddock, the first Clerk of the House of Representatives, and, authority says, "the first old bachelor;" Col. Lorin Miller, afterwards Mayor of the city; George L. Miller, who attended the first sick person in Omaha. All in all, this meeting was a jolly one, and yet graves were thought of, and some note there in the flesh wandered in that circle.

The following is a list of the members of the Old Settler's Association at the time of their organization, together with the date of their settlement:

1850.--William D. Brown.
1853.--Enos Lowe, H. D. Johnson, A. D. Jones.
1854.--C. H. Downs, A. R. Gilmore, William P. Snowden, O. B. Selden, J. W. Paddock, William Gray, John Withnell, S. E. Rogers, A. J. Poppleton, Lorin Miller, George L. Miller, James G. McGeath, J. C. Reeves. A. B. Moore.
1855.--E. Estabrook, John Davis, John Evans, H. H. Visscher, David Richards, R. N. Withnell, Edwin Patrick. E. H. Warner, John Logan, O. P. Ingalls, John P. McPherson, Rev. R. Gaylord, Moses Shinn, J. M. Marston, W. W. Wyman, Allen Root, J. W. Pickard, S. A. Orchard.
1856.--R. S. Knox, J. H. Sahler.
1857.--Daniel Gantt, M B. Riley, H. B. Paris, D. C. Sutphen.

The association flourished for a number of years, but for various reasons it finally temporarily suspended operations. A reorganization occurred on Thursday, June 13, 1879, the meeting for that purpose being held at the court house. P. W. Hitchcock was chosen chairman of the meeting, and Peter Gibson, secretary. The officers elected were: Dr. Enos Lowe, president; Gen. E. Estabrook, vice-president; Alfred D. Jones, secretary.

The preamble adopted at that time is as follows:

"The subscribers, pioneers, squatters, early settlers and inhabitants of Douglas County, Neb., being desirous of the promotion of social intercourse by meeting together at convenient times to compare notes, consider reports, listen to studied addresses, to preserve and perpetuate the remembrance of the interesting facts and reminiscences in reference to the early pioneering, settlement and history of our frontiersmen, who braved the dangers and endured the hardships of a squatter life in the wilds of Nebraska, but more particularly of Douglas County, our adopted home, and to many our place of nativity, we have agreed to form ourselves into a society to be designated and known as the Old Settlers' Association of Douglas County, Neb."

To be eligible to membership in the association, the person applying therefore must have been a resident in the Territory of Nebraska previous to the organization of the City Government of Omaha, on the 5th day of March, 1857, or he must have resided in the Territory and State twenty-one years before the time of making the application for membership, and be a resident of said county. The meetings are held on the first Monday evening of January, April, July, and October. At the meetings held in April and October, addresses are delivered by selected speakers for those particular occasions. The chartered members of the association as it exists under its present reorganization were: Alfred D. Jones, Enos Lowe, William P. Snowden, George L. Miller, Experience Estabrook, Richard Kimball, John Evans, J. T. Allan, Walter Walker, John Logan, Thomas Gibson, Charles Childs, Charles Powell, Charles P. Birkett, Henry A. Kosters, Thomas Swift, M. Robling, John A. Horbach, Henry Livesey, George Smith. C. M. Connoyer, F. H. Latey, J. S. Gibson, Dominick Scherrer. Julius Rudowsky, James P. Peck, James M. Woolworth, Henry Grebe, P. W. Hitchcock, J. M. Winship, John H. Logan, Charles R. Redick, Frederick B. Lowe and James Smith.

The present officers are: E. Estabrook, vice-president and acting president; Alfred D. Jones, secretary and treasurer; A. J. Poppleton, J. M. Woolworth, Thomas Gibson, executive committee; J. S. Gibson, Dr. J. Peck, committee on membership; J. W. Woolworth, Henry Grebe, Charles Powell, squatter committee; Henry Grebe, Charles Child, Charles Connoyer, committee on occupation; J. T. Allan, John Evans, George Smith, committee on incidents; Thomas Gibson, John A. Horbach, Henry Koster, miscellaneous.

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