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Genealogy: Butler Co. Nebraska USA

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Can you identify the location or group for this Unknown Group Photo? Possibly Old St. Francis Church, Center Township

Butler County needs a new coordinator. Please contact the State Coordinator to volunteer.

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Brief History of Butler Co.

Various indigenous peoples inhabited Nebraska by 8000 BC. In the 1800's semi-sedentary Indian tribes, most notably the Ponca, Omaha, Oto, and Pawnee, lived in eastern and central Nebraska. They lived on the Platte river from before the 16th to the latter part of the 19th century.
They spoke a language of the Caddoan stock, and lived by farming and hunting, raising corn, squash and beans and hunting grazing animals principally the bison. In their permanent villages they lived in large earth-covered lodges, but on bison hunts they used skin tepees (tipis). For hunting, travel and transport they used horses obtained in 1600's and 1700's from the Spanish settlements in the southwest. In the 1800's, the Pawnee tribe was composed of relatively independent bands--the Kitkehahki, Chaui, Pitahauerat and Skidi--each divided into more or less kinship villages with hereditary chiefs and priests. They had a lineage & kinship system (of the Crow style), matrilineal descent and matrilocal residence after marriage, which was contracted for a given couple by their maternal uncles. Class distinctions favored chiefs, priests and medicine men or shamans. The Pawnee religion was elaborate including star symbolism and human captive sacrifice. Pawnee culture was broken by the start of the 1900's and the population reduced to less than 1000. Ref: EB vol 17, 1956 edition, pg 406.
These early Pawnee (view photo) anciently lived on Skull Creek, near the spot where Linwood now stands; there they were frequently pounced upon by their murderous and out-numbering foe, the Sioux, their wick-i-ups demolished and their squaws and papooses strewn around the village, mangled and dead. It is said by the "old men" of the Kittikoraks that not many generations ago the Pawnees were more powerful than the Sioux. Kittikorak's band lived for many years upon the present site of the Savannah, which might have been chosen because it was a watering-place for bison and other game.


Butler County was named "William Orlando Butler of Kentucky, a military hero during the war with Mexico, who declined to be the first territorial governor of Nebraska," according to a local historian. The county seat, David City, was named for William David [or Mrs. Wm. Miles née David[s], owner of the land where David City was built. Butler County is located in the east-central part of Nebr., lying about fifty-one miles west of the Missouri River. Its northern border is washed by the Great Platte River. It has a climate cool enough for wheat and all northern productions, and sufficiently mild for the growth of fruit, vegetables and coarser cereals of southern localities.
To the southward and eastward lie the beautiful and charming valleys of the Big Blue and the Oak, marked in summer time by a thread-like continuation of green groves and plum thickets, winding in and out and through the treeless plains.
In 1714, Etienne Venyard de Bourgmont (Fr.) reached the mouth of the Platte river; in 1720, Col. Pedro de Villasur (Sp.) and his party were killed by Pawnee along the Platte; and in 1739-40, Peter and Paul Mallet (Fr.) crossed the Platte region from east to west. These adventurers probably did not stop in Butler Co.
Trappers and traders used the Platte river, notably the Robert Stuart party in 1812-1813 going east and the William H. Ashley party in 1824. This water route was used annually into the 1840's. Probably members of the exploring party of Lt. John C. Fremont (1842-44) were the first whites who stepped upon Butler County soil. Missionaries, in 1835 and after, went through to Oregon. Oregon homeseekers started passing this way in 1841. The Mormons came next (1847 and after), on their long, weary and perilous journey to Salt Lake, leaving their foot-prints in the shape of a winding, deeply-beaten roadway, familiarly known to early settlers as the "Old Mormon Trail" (they actually used both sides of the Platte river). California gold seekers came and went through the Platte valley in 1849-50 and Colorado gold seekers passed by in 1859.
In 1858, Solomon B. Garfield and James Blair settled with their families to take up their lonely abodes, and are entitled to the honor of being the first permanent white settlers in the county. As is usual with the pioneers of every new country, they avoided the high ground, preferring to settle along the valleys of the streams, snuggling into the little groves and nooks, under the protection of the hills and bluffs, in the vicinity of the prime necessities of pioneer life, water and wood, each new arrival venturing a little farther up the stream to the next grove or thicket.
Sod House
An early log cabin, located on the Abram Towner farm, one-half mile south and one mile east of Surprise, built in 1866, was said to be the first building of its kind in Butler Co. and on the first homestead in the county. But log houses were probably built by settlers along the Platte river late in the fifties and early in the sixties.
For a view of pioneer travel in late 1860's, read these two letters from settlers to their folks back home.
Links for history of Butler County and it's inhabitants and settlers.


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Railroads in Nebraska

Politics decided when and where almost every railroad line was set up, where it went, and where it terminated. I do not mean politicians, I mean the "office" type of politics. This method of behind the scenes, smoked filled room, decision making came to an end about 1909-1910.
Initially it cost about 10 cents a mile to ride almost any train in Nebraska, but within a couple of years the price dropped to about 7.5 cents a mile.
Once out of town, the trains could (and did) travel at speeds of about 60 miles an hour.
They could carry about 600 to 700 passengers, and quite often did bring that many into Nebraska from points east on a daily basis.
Read more about it in THE IRONROAD, by John McCoy offsite


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About the USGenWeb Project


In March and April, 1996, a group of genealogists organized the Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database Project. The idea was to provide a single entry point for all counties in Kentucky, where collected databases would be stored. In addition, the databases would be indexed and cross-linked, so that even if an individual were found in more than one county, that individual could be located in the index. At the same time, volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the collection of databases and generally oversee the contents of county web pages. Contact the county coordinator or county volunteer shown on any county page if you have a desire to contribute or help.

Butler Co.

This Butler Co. NEGenWeb page (plus the other 92 NE county pages) and the NEGenWeb pages are an outgrowth of that original Kentucky project and computer space provided by RootsWeb.


If any Nebraska county, in which you are interested, does not have a web page and/or you wish to participate in some way, please contact the NEGenWeb state coordinator: David Gochenour NEGW


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Butler County Coordinator


Please put "Butler Co., NE" in the subject of your message.


David Gochenour


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