Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Produced by Gary Martens and Laurie Saikin

Part 6


An act of Congress, passed March 3, 1805, changed the "District of Louisiana" to the "Territory of Louisiana." The act made provisions for a Governor, Secretary and two Judges. It was detached from the Territory of Indiana, and erected into a separate Territory of the second class, so that then what is now Nebraska, became a portion of the "Territoryof Louisiana." President Jefferson appointed James Wilkinson Governor, and Frederick Bates, Secretary. St. Louis was made the capital. The Judges were Return J. Meigs and John B. C. Lucas. These, with the Governor, constituted the Legislature.

In 1808, the Missouri Fur Company was established. Its principal members were Pierre Choteau, Manuel Lisa, William Clark, Sylvester Labadie, Pierre Menard and Auguste Choteau. The capital of the company was $40,000. The first expedition under its auspices was dispatched under the command of Maj. A. Henry, and his success was gratifying. He established trading-posts on the Upper Missouri, on Lewis river, beyond the Rocky Mountains and on the southern branch of the Columbia.


By an act of Congress, passed June 4, 1812, the "Territory of Louisiana" became the "Territory of Missouri," within the bounds of which was the present area of Nebraska. It provided for a Governor and Secretary, and the legislative power was vested in the Governor, Council and House of Representatives. The members of the House were elected by the people. They sent to the President of the United States the names of eighteen persons, and from these the Chief Executive, with the advice and consent of the Senate, selected nine persons, who formed the Council. The judicial power was vested in a Superior Court, in Inferior Courts and in Justices of the Peace. The Judges were appointed by the President. On the 19th of January, 1816, the Legislature passed a law making the common law of England the law of the Territory.


An exploring expedition from Pittsburgh, Penn., to the Rocky Mountains, was undertaken in 1819, by Maj. Stephen H. Long, under orders from John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War of the United States. The party were to go in the United States steamboat Western Engineer. The prime object of the enterprise was a topographical description of the country visited. At this time, Fort Osage, built in 1808, was the extreme frontier of settlements up the Missouri. It was fifty-two miles below the mouth or the Kansas River -- the site of what is now Kansas City, Mo. The Western Engineer was the first Steamboat that ever ascended the river to this point. It left the mouth of the Kansas August 13, and proceeded up the Missouri, reaching the mouth of the Grand Nemaha early in September. The mouth of the Platte was reached on the 15th. Two days after, the boat came to the trading establishment of the Missouri Fur Company called Fort Lisa. This was five miles and a half below Council Bluffs. It was occupied by Samuel Lisa, one of the most active persons engaged in the Missouri fur trade. The establishment was on the west side of the river. The position selected for the establishment of winter quarters for the exploring party was about a half-mile above Fort Lisa, on the same side of the river. Here the party anchored on the 17th of September, 1819, and in a few days had made great progress in cutting timber, quarrying stone, and other preparations for the construction of quarters.

Councils with the various Indian tribes were now in order. Talks were held with the Otoes, the Missouris, the Iowas and the Pawnees. Of the latter nation came individual members of the three tribes--Grand Pawnees, Pawnee Republicans and Pawnee Loups or Pawnee Mahas (Omahas). A treaty between the Otoes and the United States was proclaimed December 26, 1817; one was ratified with the Iowas and one with the Mahas December 26, 1815; and one with the Pawnees as early as January 5, 1812. A treaty was also concluded with the Pawnees Grand and proclaimed January 7, 1819; one with the Noisy Pawnee tribe on the same day and one with the Republican Pawnees ten days subsequent to the last ones mentioned. Now, in all these treaties, the various tribes had acknowledged themselves to be under the protection of the United States, and that there should be perpetual peace between them and the Americans. The Yankton tribe of the Sioux, by a treaty proclaimed July 19, 1815; the Sioux of the River St. Peter's and those of the lakes, by treaties proclaimed the same day, made like acknowledgments to the United States; so that, at the time of the visit of Maj. Long to Nebraska, all the Indian nations of the Missouri River and its tributaries as far up as the homes of the Sioux, and extending down to the region below the mouth of the Nemaha, had been treated with by the agents of the General Government. It only remained, therefore, for Maj. Long to see that these treaties were strictly lived up to by the contracting parties.

Early in October, 1819, the cabins for winter quarter were completed by Maj. Long's party, and, after proper arrangements had been made for subsistence, that officer started on a journey to Washington and Philadelphia, returning again to the Missouri the next year, he having reached the "Cantonment" on that river, just below Council Bluffs, on the 27th of May, 1820. During his absence, the gentlemen of his party who remained behind obtained much valuable knowledge of the country and of the various Indian tribes of the region. In accordance with instructions from the Secretary of War, the further progress of the exploring expedition up the Missouri River was arrested for that season, and an excursion to the sources of the Platte River substituted in its place. The expedition left "Engineer Cantonment" on the 6th of June following. We copy from an "Account of the Expedition:"

"Several of the Indians about Council Bluffs, to whom our proposed route had been explained and who had witnessed our preparations, affected to laugh at our temerity in attempting what they said we would never be able to accomplish. They represented some part of the country through which we intended to travel as so entirely destitute of water and grass that neither ourselves nor our horses could be subsisted while passing it. Barony Vasquez, who accompanied Capt. Pike in his expedition to the sources of the Arkansas, assured us that there was no probability we could avoid the attacks of hostile Indians, who infested every part of the country. The assault which had recently been made by a party of Sacs and Foxes upon a trading boat belonging to Pratte and Vasquez, on the Missouri, above Council Bluffs, in which one man was killed and several wounded, had at this time spread considerable terror amongst those in any degree exposed to the hostilities of the Indians."

The path leading to the Pawnee villages ran in a direction a little south of west from the point on the Missouri where Maj. Long's party wintered. It lay across a tract of high prairie for the first ten miles. On the morning of the 7th, the Elkhorn, a considerable tributary of the Platte, was reached. On the preceding day, the party had been joined by a party of three or four Frenchmen, on their way to a hunting of the Omahas to trade. Soon after crossing the Elkhorn, the party entered the valley of the Platte. The march was up this valley on the north side of the stream until the Loup Fork was reached. At sunset on the 10th, the expedition arrived at a small creek eleven miles distant from the village of the Grand Pawnees, where the party encamped. Again we quote from Maj. Long's "Accounts:"

"On the following morning, having arranged the party according to rank, and given the necessary instructions for the preservation of order, we proceeded forward, and in a short time came in sight of the first of the Pawnee villages. The trace on which we had traveled since leaving the Missouri had the appearance of being more and more frequented as we approached the Pawnee towns; and here, instead of a single footway, it consisted of more then twenty parallel paths, of similar size and appearance. At a few miles distance from the village, we met a party of eight or ten squaws, with hoes and other implements of agriculture, on their way to the corn plantations. They were accompanied by one young Indian, but in what capacity--whether an assistant, protector or taskmaster--we were not informed. After a ride of about three hours, we arrived before the village, and dispatched a messenger to inform the chief of our approach.

"Answer was returned that he was engaged with his chiefs and warriors at a medicine feast, and could not, therefore, come out to meet us. We were soon surrounded by a crowd of women and children, who gazed at us with some expressions of astonishment; but as no one appeared to welcome us to the village, arrangements were made for sending on the horses and baggage to a suitable place for encampment, while Maj. Long, with several gentlemen who wished to accompany him, entered the village. The party, after groping about for some time, and traversing a considerable part of the village, arrived at the lodge of the principal chief. Here we were again informed that Tarrarecawaho, with all the principal men of the village, were engaged at a medicine feast. Notwithstanding his absence, some mats were spread for us upon the ground in the back part of the lodge. Upon them we sat down, and, after waiting some time, were presented with a large wooden dish of hominy, or boiled corn. In this was a single spoon of the horn of a buffalo, large enough to hold a pint, which, being used alternately by each of the party, soon emptied the dish of its contents."

After spending an hour or two at their village, the gentlemen of the visiting party returned to their camp, which was about a mile distant. At sunrise the next day, Maj. Long and his men mounted their horses and moved forward toward the second village--the homes of the Republican Pawnees--four miles distant from the town of the Grand Pawnees just visited. Both villages were on the immediate bank of the Loup Fork. After a brief halt at this place, the expedition proceeded toward the Loup village. The population of the three villages was somewhat less than when Lewis and Clark made their way up the Missouri, at which time they were estimated at 6,000. There were, it was estimated by Maj. Long, not less than six thousand horses belonging to the Pawnees. The villages and their pasture-grounds occupied about ten miles in length of the Loup Fork (the Wolf River). On the night of the 12th of June, the party slept at their encampment in front of the Loup village. The river was not crossed until the 13th. From this the most direct course was taken for the Platte River. Twenty-five miles brought them to that stream. The expedition was now moving along on the north side of the river opposite Grand Island. By the 18th of June, the party had reached a point about two hundred miles distant from the confluence of the Plate with the Missouri. The point where the North and South Forks of the river unite was made on the morning of the 22d. The North Fork was immediately crossed by Maj. Long.

It may be here stated that, while it is true that Maj. Long's party was the first exploring expedition ever to ascend the Platte from its mouth to the confluence of the two forks, others had descended the river previous to that date. A part of the men engaged in Hunt's expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811, on their return from the Pacific, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and, falling upon the sources of the North Fork, descended thence to the Missouri. So, also, on the 28th of June, 1812, Robert Stewart, one of the partners of the Pacific Fur Company, with two Frenchmen, McClellan and Crooks, left the Pacific Ocean with dispatches for New York. Having proceeded about seven hundred miles, they met Joseph Miller on his way to the mouth of the Columbia River. They soon after had their horses stolen, when they found themselves on foot, with the Rocky Mountains and a journey of 2,000 miles before them. They struck the head-waters of the Platte, spent the winter upon it, and finally reached the Missouri.

Maj. Long soon crossed the South Fork, up which he and his party moved slowly. On the 30th was caught the first view of the Rocky Mountains, which were reached or the 5th of July; so that the main Platte, throughout its entire length, and the South Fork to the mountains, had been explored. Here, then, we leave the adventurers, with the remark that the party subsequently passed to the heads of the Arkansas, and finally returned to the Mississippi River in safety. It may be said that, now, the territory included within the present boundaries of Nebraska had been explored. The general features were pretty well understood, and the homes of its Indian tribes well known. Still, there was not, in all its area, a single American settlement, nor was there one for a number of years after the exploration by Maj. Long.

On the 2d of March, 1819, the Congress of the United States created, out of Missouri Territory, the Territory of Arkansas. On the 6th of March, 1820, an act was approved authorizing the people of Missouri Territory to form a constitution and State government for the admission of the State into the Union. This was assented to by the people, in State convention, on the 19th of July following. On the 2d of March, 1821, the State was admitted, with conditions, by a joint resolution of Congress. These conditions were accepted, and Missouri became a State by proclamation August 10, 1821. As first established, the State was bounded on the west by a meridian passing through the mouth of the Kansas River. An act was approved June 7, 1836, extending the boundary to the Missouri River, north of its intersection with this line, whenever the Indian title to this portion should be extinguished, and the State express its assent to the change. The Indian title was extinguished by a treaty with the Iowas and Sacs and Foxes, September 17, 1836. This addition was known as the "Platte Purchase," and was sanctioned by the State December 16, 1836, and was declared perfected by a proclamation of the President March 28, 1837. This was bringing a State very close to portions of what are now included in Nebraska--only across the Missouri to the present counties of Richardson, Nemaha, and the southeast corner of Otoe.


For nearly thirty-three years after the admission of Missouri as a State into the Union, the country now included within the boundaries of the State of Nebraska was, practically, without a government; but, as there were substantially no American settlements to be governed, the want of any power to restrain and regulate the affairs of white people was of little or no consequence. However, before half that time had elapsed, the country was attached to the United States Judicial District of the State of Missouri, as the sequel shows.


In the spring of the year 1822, William H. Ashley, the head of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company of St. Louis, equipped two boats to ascend the Missouri to the mouth of the Yellowstone River. The expedition embarked as early as the season would permit, and within the first three months he lost more than one-fourth of his men by violent deaths, and one-half of his property by accident, deceit and war with the savages. The Missouri Fur Company, one of the strongest and most active engaged in trade, had at its head Dr. Pilcher, a most distinguished Indian fur trader. Benjamin O'Fallon was one of the principal partners, and at the same time one of the most efficient United States Agents for Indian Affairs. He it was who was largely instrumental in bringing about the treaties between the General Government and the various Indian tribes of the Nebraska and adjacent country, previously mentioned. Both the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and the Missouri Fur Company survived every disaster and continued to carry on trade in the Rocky Mountains for some years subsequent to this date.

By a treaty proclaimed December 30, 1825, between the United States and the Kansas tribe of Indians, the latter ceded to the former the following territory: "Beginning at the entrance of the Kansas River into the Missouri River; from thence north to the northwest corner of the State of Missouri; from thence westwardly [this was before the 'Platte Purchase'] to the Nodewa [Nodaway] River, thirty miles from its entrance into the Missouri; thence to the entrance of the Big Nemaha River into the Missouri, and with that river to its source; from thence to the source of the Kansas River, leaving the old village of the Pania Republic [Pawnee Republican] to the west; from thence, on the ridge dividing the waters of the Kansas River from those of the Arkansas, to the western boundary of the State line of Missouri, and with that line thirty miles to the place of beginning." By a treaty proclaimed April 12, 1834, the four confederate bands of the Pawnees---the Grand Pawnees, Pawnee Loups, Republican Pawnees and Pawnee Tappaye residing on the Platte and Loup Fork--ceded and relinquished to the United States" all their right, interest and title in and to all the land lying south of the Platte River." By another treaty, proclaimed on the same day as the last mentioned, the Otoes and the Missouris ceded to the General Government all their right and title to the lands lying south of the following lines: "Beginning on the Little Nemohaw [Nemsha] River, at the northwest corner of the land reserved by treaty at Prairie du Chien on the 15th of July, 1830, in favor of certain half-breeds of the Omahas, Iowas, Otoes, Yankton and Santee bands of Sioux, and running westerly with said Little Nemohaw to the head branches of the same; and thence running in a due west line as far west as said Otoes and Missouris have or pretend to have any claim." The Pawnees, as well as the surrounding tribes, were greatly ravaged by the small-pox in 1832, and the same year the great Pawnee village on the Republican was burned by the Delawares. The Pawnees, by their treaty with the United States of the next year, agreed to confine themselves to the north side of the Platte, but a calamity as great, nearly, as the small-pox, fell upon them; this was the Sioux. These Indians came down upon them with great slaughter. From this time they rapidly decreased in numbers.

On the 30th day of June, 1834, Congress enacted that all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the States of Missouri and Louisiana, or the Territory of Arkansas, should be taken for the purpose of the act to be Indian country; and certain regulations were prescribed for its government. This, of course, included the whole of the present Nebraska. It was declared to be what, in fact, it was before, "Indian country"--"only this, and nothing more." So much of the laws of the General Government as provided for the punishment of crime committed in any piece within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States was declared by the act to be in force in the "Indian country;" the Territory (and much other) now forming Nebraska was put under the jurisdiction of the Missouri United States District Court. as previously intimated; and so it remained for the next twenty years.

On the 29th of May, 1835, Col. Henry Dodge, of the United States Army, left Fort Leavenworth upon an expedition to the Rocky Mountains. He followed the west bank of the Missouri nearly to the mouth of the Platte, traced the last-mentioned stream to its source, went south to the head-waters of the Arkansas and returned down the valley of that stream.

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