Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Nemaha County
Produced by
John McCoy.

Topography | Pre-Historic | Early Settlement

First Fourth of July | Reminiscences | Jayhawking
Organization | County Seat Troubles

War History | Official Roster | County Buildings | Railroads | Ferries
Farmers' Clubs | Grasshoppers | Agricultural Society

Nemaha County Mills | Bridges | Educational | Religious | Progress
Statistics of Property | National and State Officials
Brownville:   Early History | Pioneer Incidents | Surveys and Additions


Brownville (cont.):   Incorporation | Official Roster
Nemaha Valley Insurance Company
The Brownville Stone and Stone Coal Company
The First Telegraph Line | The First Train of Cars | Storm and Flood
Express Robbery | Educational | Religious | The Press


Brownville (cont.):
United States Land Office | River Improvements | Post Office
Masonic And Other Organizations | Library Association and Lyceum
Hotels | Banks | United States Express Company
Walnut Grove Cemetery | Manufactories | Attorneys and Physicians
Carson | London

 8 ~ 10:

Biographical Sketches:

PART 11:

Peru:  Early History | Societies | Education | The Press
Railroads and Business Interests | Personal and incidents

PART 12:
Peru (cont.):  Biographical Sketches
PART 13:

Nemaha City:  Early Settlement | Organization | Education
Religious | Societies | The Press | Business Interests

PART 14:
Nemaha City (cont.):  Biographical Sketches
PART 15:

North Auburn:  Early History | Religious | Educational | Societies
Press | Hotels
South Auburn:  Religious | Societies | The Press

PART 16:
North Auburn & South Auburn:  Biographical Sketches
PART 17:
Brock:  Biographical Sketches
PART 18:
Aspinwall:  Biographical Sketches
PART 19:

Johnson & Clifton:  Biographical Sketches
St. Deroin - Febing - Bedford:  Biographical Sketches

PART 20:

Other Towns:  Biographical Sketches

List of Illustrations in Nemaha County Chapter

Part 1

NEMAHA County was known during the early years of the Territorial organization of Nebraska as Forney County. At the first regular session of the Territorial Legislature, its name was changed to that which it now bears. Nemaha is one of the most important counties of the State, ranking among the first in wealth and population. It is one of the eastern border counties, and its excellent railroad and water facilities, in addition to its pleasant climate and productive soil, render it one of the most desirable parts of the State for settlement.


The rolling prairies of which the county is largely made up, furnish as many varied and beautiful features as any other county in the State. Indeed, in natural features Nemaha County is hard to excel. It is traversed by streams of living water, the banks of which are well timbered. The forest groves are largely composed of cottonwood, box elder and maple. However, walnut, oak, elm, ash, hickory, hackberry, willow and bass abound. The bluffs bordering the Missouri River afford sufficient timber for fuel, and doubtless will for many years to come. The bottom or valley lands are extremely fertile, and furnish some of the most beautiful farms upon which the eye of man ever gazed. But, as a general thing, these portions of the county can be utilized to better purposes than to be used for grazing, in other words, by converting them into stock farms. The climate is salubrious, and to those who have been residents any length of time, greatly admired. Large quantities of building stone are found here and there, and it is claimed that immense beds of coal lie under the surface awaiting development. It is well to note here that the thrifty farmers of this beautiful county are sparing no pains to add to the beauties with which nature has provided them. Ornamental groves of forest trees are seen on nearly every farmer's home, and in a few years at most, will furnish all the necessary fuel to provide against the winter's cold. Fruit culture has been by no means neglected. Indeed, fruit of nearly all kinds have been successfully grown, especially the smaller varieties. For grape culture, Nemaha County has no superior anywhere, as the statistics abundantly prove. Small grain is raised in abundance, and farming in general is considered a pleasure rather than drudgery, and well it may be, for the soil is easily tilled, and the farmer has reasonable surety of a crop one year after another. The soil is a dark loam, from twenty-four to forty inches deep, and is particularly noted for the manner in which it withstands drought, dry weather seldom affecting it.


It is, of course, extremely probable that even before Lewis and Clark's explorations the country now known as Nemaha County was visited by the whites. Occasional traders, lured by the hope of gain or the love of adventure, are known to have progressed up the Missouri, at least as far as St. Joseph, and we can readily believe, inasmuch as this section was occupied by a powerful tribe, famed for its skill and success in hunting, that the voyageurs from St. Louis did not allow the few additional miles that they would have to come to deter them from a profitable barter.

On the 11th of July, 1804, the narrative of Capt. Lewis tells us, the expedition landed on a sand island, "opposite to the River Nemahaw," where they remained a day for the purpose of taking lunar observations and refreshing the party. Three days later, they passed the Little Nemaha River, no record, however being made of their landing at this particular place. Of the immediate vicinity, the chronicler speaks as covered with undulating grass, nearly five feet in height, rich weeds and flowers, interspersed with copses of the osage plum; farther were seen small groves of trees, an abundance of grapes, the wild cherry of the Missouri, resembling that found farther south, but larger, growing on a small bush, and the choke-berry, which was observed on the 12th of June for the first time.

About 1855, a cross of cedar wood was discovered on the bank of the Missouri, deeply planted in the bluff about five miles above Brownville. Upon it was a neatly carven inscription, in French,

"DIED APRIL, 1812."

A number of fruitless attempts were made to discover the remains prior to 1858, in May of which year a grave was discovered containing a human skeleton, nearly sixty feet from the post or cross. A rude coffin had been made by splitting a log and burning a hollow in both halves, then depositing the body in one and covering it with the other. Whether Ourian was one of the Lewis and Clark voyageurs who, as a number of them are known to have done, left the party on the return trip, is not known. Missionary or trader, his lot was a grave in a strange land--a psalm or a prayer, possibly a tear, perhaps, not from the stolid Indian, but from his companions in arms or in religion--that was all.


The first town site, the first stock of goods, and the first business transacted in Nemaha, was at St. Deroin, in the south part of the county. A half-breed Indian named Deroin laid out the town in 1853, and Robert Hawke, now a wealthy and prominent merchant of Nebraska City, erected a house and opened a stock of goods the same season. Of course this could only be regarded as an Indian trading post. It was before the extinguishment of the Indian title, and belonged to what was called the Half-breed Reservation. It may be well to note in this connection that, early in the spring of 1858, Joseph Deroin, the founder of St. Deroin, was killed by a man named Beddow. Deroin held a claim against Beddow for an unsettled store bill, and Deroin, who was of an overbearing and tyrannical disposition, declared his intention of securing a prompt settlement. He went to Beddow's place with hostile intentions. He was forbidden to enter the premises, but heedless of the warning, crossed Beddow's fence, was fired on and instantly killed. The slayer was tried and acquitted.

After the extinguishment of the Indian title, the first settler in Nemaha County was Richard Brown, a native of Tennessee, who came from Holt County, Mo. He located August 29, 1854, on the spot where the city of Brownville now stands, and for whom it was named.

One of the most formidable obstacles the early settlers met with was in securing their lands. When Nebraska was opened to settlement, speculators had immense numbers of soldiers' land warrants, and were naturally anxious to locate them or sell them. It had been the custom for many years to delay the public sale of public lands so as to enable actual settlers to improve them and make remaining lands valuable; but this policy was reversed, and as early as 1857, there were rumors that the lands would be offered at public sale. This alarmed the settlers, and as most of them had spent all the money they had to improve their claims, many of them bought land warrants on one year's credit for $280, and gave trust deeds on their land as security. In 1858, the land was advertised for sale, but settlers succeeded in having it postponed one year.

In 1859, the land from the Missouri River for sixty or seventy miles west was offered for sale, and, immediately after the sale, nearly all the land in Nemaha County was entered by speculators, with their land warrants, and at this day considerable land is unimproved for this reason. People at the present time can hardly realize the distress that was caused by the early sale of lands in Nemaha County. In 1857, there was a financial crash that seemed for several years to have swallowed nearly all the money in the country. This scarcity of money was felt very severely in all parts of the Territory, where nearly everything that was consumed was brought from the States, as very little had as yet been produced from the soil. In the winter of 1858 and the spring of 1859, farmers sold their corn at 20 cents per bushel, the highest price they could obtain for it, and with the proceeds paid 40 per cent interest on the purchase money for their farms. Numbers entered land on credit, with trust deeds for security, and, after struggling for several years, and paying hundreds of dollars in interest money, walked off and left their farms to the speculator who had for several years been sucking their life blood, in the shape of 40 per cent interest.

The summer and autumn of 1858 was a very wet season, and during the autumn and winter there was a great deal of sickness of the bilious nature, which added to the general distress. The summer of 1860 was extremely dry, and only about half a crop was raised in Nemaha County, and that was needed for home consumption. The distress was much aggravated by the early sale of the lands. The argument used in favor of the sales was that the Government needed the money; but the Government did not realize enough cash from sales to pay advertising bills. But since the passage of the beneficial homestead law, the settlers are no longer at the mercy of the speculator. There is no more necessity of paying 40 or 50 per cent to secure homes.

A mighty tide of emigration took a westward course during the years between 1855 and 1860, and Nemaha County, with her genial climate, rich soil and good water supply, attracted a liberal share. The Brownville Advertiser of July 5, 1856, mentions the fact that within one week fifty families crossed the ferry at Brownville and took claims in Nemaha County. The same paper, during the succeeding five years, almost weekly notices the arrival of people seeking homes in Nemaha County.

Among the earliest settlers of Nemaha County who soon followed the first settler, Richard Brown, are the following: Rev. Joel M. Wood (who preached the first sermon in Nemaha County), now residing in Dakota; Jesse Cole, now residing in London Precinct; N. Kelly, now in Colorado; Henry Emerson, now in Wyoming; Elder T. B. Edwards and wife--(Mrs. E. was the first white woman to settle in the county), still living in Brownville Precinct; Taulbird Edwards, now in Johnson County; Josiah Edwards, in the State of Oregon; B. B. Frazer, now in the wholesale grocery firm of Frazer, Turner & Williams, St. Joseph, Mo.; Houston Russell, dead; James W. Coleman, dead; Allan L. Coates, the first surveyor in Brownville, now living in New Orleans; Israel R. Cuming, at Nemaha City; Stephen Sloan, whereabouts unknown; A. J. Benedict, first Probate Judge, now in Colorado; H. W. Lake, now a wealthy miner in Colorado; O. F. Lake, dead; W. A. Finney, in Black Hills; S. H. Alderman (brother-in-law of Richard Brown), living at Johnson Station, Nemaha County. W. H. Hoover, the first and present Clerk of the District Court, lives in Brownville; R. J. Whitney, dead; Matt Alderman, lives in Brownville; Eli Fishburn, dead; B. B. Chapman, in Peru; S. H. Clayton, in Brownville Precinct; Thomas Heady, Wyoming; J. Chastian, dead; J. N. Knight, whereabouts unknown; Dr. J. Hoover, dead; William Hall, dead; William Hawk, lives in Brownville Precinct; Thomas Jeffries, dead; William Hayes, in Atchison County, Mo.; Archie Handley, dead; Dr. A. S. Holladay, lives in Brownville; John Long, in Nemaha City; David Kennison, dead; Jacob Delay, dead; Philip Starr, dead; S. A. Chambers, in Peru; R. W. Frame, Missouri; A. Medley, dead; H. S. Horn and D. C. Cole, in Peru Precinct; A. Skeen, Nemaha Precinct; John Long, who built the first claim cabin on land now owned by Judge McComas, now resides in Sheridan, Nemaha County.

The first apple grown in Nemaha County was from the farm of Judge J. W. Hall, five miles northwest of the county seat. His friends claim that it was the first apple grown in the Territory of Nebraska. The Brownville Advertisersaid it was a beautiful specimen, both as to appearance and taste, a bright yellow, medium size, and slightly sweet, rich and juicy; was grown upon a tree planted seventeen months before. The early production of the tree was claimed as evidence of the adaptation of Nebraska soil to the growth of fruit. The same year this pioneer farmer, Judge Hall, cultivated 100 acres in crops of various kinds --corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, Chinese sugar cane and red clover, all producing abundant crops.

The first lot of wheat ever shipped out of Nebraska was sent from Brownville to St. Louis, by Theodore Hill, September 1, 1861. There was a surplus in Nemaha County that year of from 1,500 to 2,000 bushels. The yield of both spring and fall wheat that year was excellent.

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Index of Illustrations in Nemaha County Chapter
  2. [Portrait of John Carson]
  3. [Portrait of Robert W. Furnas]
  5. [Portrait of A. S. Holladay, M. D.]
  7. [UNION HOTEL -- J. G. RUSSELL, Proprietor.]
  8. [Portrait of Charles F. Stewart, M. D.]
  9. [Portrait of Tomas Tipton]
  11. [Portrait of Robert Curry]
  12. [Portrait of Church Howe]
  13. [Portrait of Herbert Willson]