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Denton Community
Historical Society

Tales & Trails
October 2011


State Records To Lincoln

Editorís note - Teresa Sullivan

I have received an article from Joan Wittstruck that I found very interesting. It probably was an article in a Lincoln paper before 1930. Is the event in the article the truth? I asked about this at the Nebraska State Historical Society and was told that various versions have been told about the moving of the Nebraska State records from Omaha to Lincoln.

We do know that John Geisler married Margaret Bohl on March 19, 1874. He came to Nebraska in 1865 from Muscatine Iowa. He does appear on the history of school district #29 as moderator in 1872. So he definitely was a Rokeby area resident.

Mr. Geisler passed away in 1930 and his obituary does say that he supposedly assisted in setting up the site for the first state capitol building. So this is the story, truth or fiction.


When Lincoln was in the tadpole stage, with a population of about 2, 000, the people of the state voted to move the state capitol from Omaha to Lincoln. Omaha objected. Yea, even objected so strenuously as to refuse to give up the state records, and the good people of Omaha guarded those records zealously. And it is to tell how a Lincoln man took those records from Omaha to Lincoln with the sheriff of Douglas County looking for him, that we write this story.

John Geisler, who now lives at Thirtieth and Sheridan streets, College View, was a young farmer living near Rokeby. His farm was three and one-half miles southwest of Rokeby and the homestead deed to it was signed by President U.S. Grant. Young Geislerís farm failed to produce; one of those periodical periods of drought had struck the country and he got no crop. Like all farmers in those days, Geisler did cross-country freighting whenever he was idle on the farm. He freighted from Ashland to Omaha, fording river at Ashland for there was no bridge.

In the fall of í98 when Geisler went to Omaha at "The Yard", a sort of center for tying farmerís teams, he was accosted by a stranger who asked him "if he wanted to haul some stuff to Lincoln?í "Depends on what it is" he replied. "Just some stuff in sacks" the stranger assured him and Geisler agreed to take the load. He started that night, after twenty or twenty-five sacks had been brought to his wagon by the first stranger and some companions. He had half a load of hay on the wagon at that time and he put more hay on the wagon on top of the sacks later.

"I got to Ashland the next forenoon." Geisler said, "and after feeding my team and getting something to eat myself, I went on. Just after I got out of Ashland, I could see a man following me on a horse about two miles behind. He caught up with me and asked me where I was going. I told him was going to Lincoln (it was called Lancaster then) and he asked if he could get up and ride with me. I told him he could and so he got up on the spring seat with me. We sat there and drove along and he told me his name was Baker and that he was the sheriff of Douglas county." "Iím looking for the state records he said. Somebody stole Ďem last night and weíve got to get Ďem back."

"When he said that, I could feel my hat begin to rise, but we rode along until we came to where the fairgrounds are now. I asked him if he wanted to go the new state capitol building and he said "yes" so I took him down Seventeenth Street and left him at the capitol. I went out to Salt Lake, where Capitol Beach is now, and camped there for three days. Some of those fellows came out and told me that Sheriff Baker was waiting at the state capitol for somebody to drive up with the records. He stayed there two days and two nights, but he finally got bored and went back to Omaha. Then they told me it was safe to bring the sacks in. I did that night and they took them out and carried them into a little shack on the capitol grounds. The capitol was pretty nearly finished then and they were using some of the rooms in it."

"About six years after that I was at Omaha serving on the federal jury. The federal court was only at Omaha then. Well, mine was the first name called and the next name was "Baker". Baker came up and I saw he was the sheriff. He looked at me and said: "Havenít I seen you some place before. Your face looks familiar" "Yea" I said. "Iím the man that you rode with from Ashland to Lincoln when you were looking for the state records". "Yes, I remember you now" he said. "Did you know that you were riding right on top of the records you were looking for?" I asked him. "He said he didnít and then he asked me to keep it quiet, for several years at least." "I told him I would and so I didnít say anything about it until after he died."

Geisler never did find out who the other principals were in the transporting of the records. There was never any trouble about it after the records were finally brought to Lincoln for the people of the state had voted to move the capitol here. After the Douglas county sheriff left, no trouble was encountered in keeping them.

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Denton Community Historical Society of Nebraska