"Early History of Fremont, Nebraska" is from the pen of an anonymous writer whom critics contend has written vividly and has presented the material most interestingly.
To start at the very beginning of the recorded history of Nebraska we shall have to go back to the Louisiana Purchase by which the vast territory of which Nebraska is now a part was acquired from the Government of France. On the 31st of October, 1803, an Act of Congress authorized the President of the United States to take possession of Louisiana and form a temporary government thereof. By this act, the government was vested in such person and persons and exercised in such manner as the President of the United States might direct. But the authority of the general government really dates from March 10, 1804, on which day Amos Stoddard assumed the duties of Governor of upper Louisiana. On the 26th of that month, Congress erected Louisiana into the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana. The division line was the southern boundary of Mississippi Territory and the 33rd degree of latitude. So Nebraska was a part of the District of Louisiana, the latter being all of the French cession west of the Mississippi river, except the present state of Louisiana. The government of this large district was committed to the officers of the Territory of Indiana.
One of the earliest official exploring expeditions of which we have authentic record which passed on or near the vicinity of what is now the town of Fremont acting under orders from the Secretary of War, was the expedition of Major Steven H. Long, acting under orders from the Secretary of War. There has been a monument dedicated just north of Fremont commemorating the passing along that point in June, 1820 of Major Long and his party. Commencing in the year 1846 and continuing for thirty years, the Mormons in large numbers passed over trails located in or near the vicinity of what is now the town of Fremont. In 1849 the California gold rush, in 1859 the Pike's Peak gold rush to Colorado attracted a large number of travelers through the Platte valley.
According to the early history, it may be here stated that, while it is true that Major Long's party was the first exploring expedition ever to ascend the Platte from its month 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 then to the Missouri. So also on the 28th of June 1812, Robert Stuart, one of the partners of the Pacific Fur Company with two French men left the Pacific ocean with dispatches for New York. They struck the headwaters of the Platte, spent the winter upon it, and finally reached the Missouri.
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 Territory of Louisiana.
By an Act of Congress, passed June 4, 1812, the territory of Louisiana became the Territory of Missouri, within the hounds of which was the present area of Nebraska. On tile second 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 and for the admission of the state to the Union. Missouri became a state by proclamation August 10, 1821.
For nearly 33 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.
On the 2nd 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. This, of course, included the whole of the present Nebraska.
On the 14th of December, 1853, Augustus C. Dodge. senator from Iowa, introduced a bill in the Senate to "organize the territory of Nebraska." After considerable political struggle and conflict the bill passed through both houses of Congress and was approved by President Pierce May 30, 1854. The tract known as Nebraska Territory embraced 351,558 square miles of territory. On February 28, 1861, the Territory of Colorado was carved out of the Territory of Nebraska, March 2, 1867, the Territory of Dakota was taken from the Territory of Nebraska.
The early boundaries of Dodge county in Nebraska were as follows: "Commencing at a point on the Platte River, 20 miles west of Bellevue, thence westerly along the said Platte River, to the mouth of Shell Creek; thence north 25 miles; thence east to the dividing ridge between the Elkhorn and Missouri Rivers. and thence southerly to the place of beginning." The first Territorial Legislature met at Omaha January 16, 1855. Among the noteworthy legislation of this first body was granting of charters to so called "Town Site Companies." The fever of speculation was here swaying the people in the highest degree, and numerous instances of "creation" of towns on paper are to be seen in the legislative journals of the early years. The first formal census' of Nebraska Territory was taken in 1855, in order that a readjustment of Legislative Representatives might be made. Dodge County had 139. The population of the entire territory was 4,491.
On the 19th of April, 1864, an Act of Congress was approved by the President of the United States and became a law, enabling the people of Nebraska to form a State Constitution and Government. But the continuance of the war, and the consequent disturbance of national affairs, united with the partial suspension of emigration to the west, and the Indian troubles on the frontier united in rendering this permission undesirable. The territory had been drained of many men and much treasure in its generous assistance of the government during the years of struggle for existence. With the return of peace and the suppression of border outlawry, however, came an awakening consciousness of the value of state institutions.
A bill admitting Nebraska as a State was passed by Congress July 28, 1866, but, owing to the near approach of the end of that session of the national body, the quiet pocketing of the hill by the President was all that was needed to prevent its becoming a law at that time. At the assembling of another Congress December, 1866, a bill looking to the admission of Nebraska was at once presented and the following January received the endorsement of both houses. But the contest did not end here, for no sooner was the measure passed than it was vetoed by the President, for various reasons, mostly of a political nature. The bill was; however, passed by both houses of Congress over President Johnson's veto. In February, 1867, by Act of Nebraska legislature which had been convened for the purpose, Nebraska formally became a state. Its boundaries then were practically the same as its present boundaries.
Much of the foregoing historical matter and that quoted below is found in a History of Nebraska published in 1882 by the Western Historical Co., of Chicago:
Francis Burt of South Carolina, the newly appointed Governor of Nebraska, reached Bellevue October 6,1854. At the time he was laboring under a painful illness, and died on the 18th of that month. T. B. Cuming, Secretary of the Territory, thereupon became Acting Governor. His first official acts were the formal announcement of Governor Burt's death, and the division of the Territory into eight counties - Burt, Washington, Dodge, Douglas, Cass, Pierce, Forney and Richardson. Dodge County was bounded as follows: Commencing at a point on the Platte River, 20 miles west of Bellevue, thence westerly along the said Platte River, to the mouth of Shell Creek, thence north twenty five miles, thence north to the dividing ridge between the Elkhorn and Missouri Rivers, thence southerly to the place of beginning. The voting precinct was established at the house of Dr. M. H. Clark, in Fontenelle. William Kline, Christopher S. Leiber and William S. Estley, were appointed Judges of Election, and William Taylor and E. G. McNeely, Clerks. The county was named in honor of Augustus Caesar Dodge, a United States Senator from Iowa, and an active supporter of the Kansas and Nebraska bill. In accordance with the proclamation of Acting Gov. Cuming, made October 21, 1854, an enumeration of the inhabitants of the territory was made. The apportionment of Dodge County was one Councilman and two Representatives.
The eight votes cast at Fontenelle, on December 12, 1854, by which Dr. M. H. Clark was chosen to the Territorial Council, and Judge J. W. Richardson and Col. E. R. Doyle to the Lower House, constituted the first election ever held in Dodge County. In regard to their "constituents" left at home Dr. Abbott has the following: "The first Territorial Legislature convened at Omaha on January 16, 1855, and while Messrs. Clark, Robinson and Doyle were attending the Legislature, the town of Fontenelle and the County of Dodge were deserted by their inhabitants, until Col. William Kline, then and now a respected citizen of Fontenelle, and a half breed Indian, named Joe, were the only constituents left to the honorable members of Dodge. Col. Kline can truly be said to have had at one time in his life, the largest representation, according to population, of any gentleman in Nebraska, if not in the United States." In November, 1855, Thomas Gibson was elected a member of the House of Representatives from Dodge County. At the third election for members, Silas E. Seely secured forty four votes and Thomas Gibson forty one votes. Gibson contested Seely's seat, on the ground that Seelv had not resided long enough in the legislative district. The legislature vacated the seat held by Seely on his certificate, but did not declare for Gibson, thus leaving Dodge County unrepresented in the Lower House the winter of 1857.
Prior to the coming of the first settlers at North Bend, in the southwestern part of Dodge County, a town company had been formed by speculators in Omaha, and land disposed of without even being seen, at quite fabulous prices. In November, 1856, after a colony had been induced to locate by the paper company, George Y. Turton built a double log house. It was here that in November the first election within the present limits of Dodge County was held, Mr. Turton being selected as Commissioner, Silas E. Seeley, Representative, and Robert Kittle and George Young, Justices of the Peace.
By legislative act of March 2, 1858, the eastern boundary of Dodge County was redefined, and in January, 1860, it was so changed (the Elkhorn River being its limits) that Fontenelle, the county seat, was cut off. By an election, held the next month, the honor was transferred to Fremont. The southern boundary had already been changed to its present limits; the northern and western boundaries were left in peace. In February, 1867, a portion of the territory was cut off by the act of 1860, known as the Logan Precinct was re annexed to the county. In March, 1873, slight changes were made in the boundaries, and in February, 1875, the Legislature prescribed the present limits.
The first meeting of the Commissioners'. Court of Dodge County occurred January 6, 1857, the session being held in Fontenelle, at John Batie's house. William E. Lee and Thomas Fitzsimmons were on hand, while L. C. Baldwin, of Golden Gate Precinct, was absent. An order of business was adopted after which the county was divided into three precincts. All the territory east of the Elkhorn River was fixed as No. 1; all between the Platte River and a line running west, starting from the Elkhorn River on the township line between Townships 17 and 18 to the western boundary of the county, No.2; all north of said line and west of Elkhorn River to be known as No.3. The county was also divided into road districts. On April 6, 1857, the Commissioners met, but, on account of the drowning of Seth P. Marvin, at the ferry, "without adjournment repaired to the river." The next day Robert Kittle resigned his office as Justice of the Peace. On May 30, Fremont Precinct was organized so as to include all south of township line between Townships 17 and 18, and east of range line between 7 and 8.
Soon after Fremont was platted by the town company in 1856, it became evident that Fontenelle was to be vigorously pushed for the county seat by its somewhat younger competitor. The excitement reached its climax during the winter of 1859-60, when Fremont was growing rapidly and pressing her claims more strongly than ever for the county seat."
EARLY HISTORY OF FREMONT
"In his Centennial address, Dr. L. J. Abbott has the following to say of the founders of Fremont, before the proceedings of the town company and the claim club became a matter of record. Their interesting minutes are now accessible through the favor of the then Secretary of the Platte Valley Claim Club, E. H. Barnard:
The site of the present city of Fremont was claimed by E. H. Barnard and John A. Kuntz, in the name of Barnard, Kuntz & Co., August 23,1856. They set their first claim stake on the swell of ground near the corner of D and First Streets, then passing on the California road about two miles, they reached the cabin of Seth P. Marvin in time for dinner. This cabin was the first sign of civilized life thus far west of the Elkhorn River, and was the most easterly out post of the McNeal and Beebe settlement, at that time three months old. Mr. Marvin's family consisted of a wife and two children Glen and May. They had arrived at their new home about three weeks previous, from Marshalltown, Iowa. Mr. Marvin received and entertained the strangers hospitably. He was a good talker, and had unbounded faith in the future of the Great Platte Valley as a whole and in that precise location in particular. It was largely, if not chiefly, due to his efforts that the town company was organized a few days later.
After making their claim, Messrs. Barnard and Kuntz went farther up the valley, and returned two days afterward to the house of Mr. Marvin where they learned that during their absence a party of four had made a claim which somewhat conflicted with theirs. At first these gentlemen thought they would give the matter no attention, but Mr. Marvin urged them to remain with him until the next day and meet the adverse claimants, and arrange the matter satisfactorily to all. The advice was accepted and acted upon, and that night the parties all met at the house of Marvin for the first time.
The party of four consisted of George M. Pinney, James G. Smith, Robert Kittle and Robert Moreland, the latter a hack driver from Iowa City and the other three passengers whom he had picked up at Des Moines. Mr. Marvin proposed that the conflicting claimants throw up their respective claims, and then proceed to form a new town company, taking him in as a member. The proposition was finally agreed to, and on the next morning, August 26, 1856, the new company was organized, under the name of Pinney, Barnard & Co., who immediately proceeded to lay off a plat of ground, one mile square for a town site.
A verbatim copy of the contract of Pinney, Barnard & Co., relative to laying out the town, is certainly a historical curiosity, and one which will be appreciated by the people of Fremont. Here it is:
Whereas, George H. Pinney, E. H. Barnard, James G. Smith, J. A. Kuntz, Robert Moreland, Robert Kittle, William Pinney and Seth P. Marvin, have in contemplation, and are about to lay out a town on or near the Platte River, in the vicinity of Seth P. Marvin's; therefore it is understood by the parties aforesaid, that as no particular name has been decided upon for said town, it shall be called Pinney, Barnard & Co's town plat; and it is also mutually agreed upon by the said persons aforesaid that they shall divide the town plat into sixty four shares, subject to disposal; as the person or persons choose each for themselves, but in no case shall any person's share be considered valid, unless either himself or his assigns, shall, according to the best of his ability and means, endeavor to build up a town, and contribute with said company, if a majority require, to aid in erecting a steam saw mill, which shall be the property of said company, unless some individual member of this company shall live in or near this town and shall not be able to contribute to the erection of said mill. In such case, the property shall belong to the actual stockholders in said mill as may hereafter be directed.
We agree also to have a President and Vice President, whose duty it shall he to preside at the meetings of the stockholders. There shall also be a Secretary, etc. (the paper going on in the usual manner to define the duties of the several officers). The shares of this town shall he transferred in the name of the company, and the funds paid into the hands of the Treasurer; and any person selling the amount of shares he is entitled to, shall sell to a person who is willing to conform to this article of agreement. This contract shall be recorded with the Platte Valley Claim Association.
It is therefore enacted that James G. Smith shall act as President of the company; Robert Kittle, Vice President; G. M. Pinney Treasurer, J. A. Kuntz, Secretary. These officers shall hold their offices for one year, unless any one of them may be considered guilty of improper conduct, in not acting in good faith to the interests of this company. In such case he shall be deprived of his office by a majority of the company, and another be elected in his stead. This contract shall be altered, if a majority of its members are in favor of such alteration.
Upon the same date, August 26, 1856, (in the evening), the settlers of Platte Valley met at Mr. Marvin's house and formed the Platte Valley Claim Club, with the following officers: Seth P. Marvin, President; J, W. Peck, Vice President; E. H. Barnard, Secretary; George M. Pinney, Recorder of Claims. As the Platte Valley west of Range 9 had not at that time been surveyed, the association was a most necessary institution and regulating power, in the protection of claims made by those who really intended to settle and work for the growth of the future town. The jurisdiction of the association at first extended from Fremont up the valley of the Platte River, a distance of six miles from the town, and down the valley ten miles, embracing the lands lying between the bluffs. At this meeting, the following preamble and agreement was adopted:
Whereas, It has been found necessary in all new Territories for the settlers to league together for self protection in order to defend their lands from speculators abroad or at home, and to secure to themselves the fruit of their sacrifices and hardships, together with the hard earned money which they may have paid for their claims; and
Whereas, There is danger that the valuable claims in this land district will be greedily sought for during the coming season by newcomers and land sharks, who will encourage idle men to take possession of them, and will also combine together to seize upon them at the land sales; therefore, in defense of our property and our families, and to prevent by a timely organization scenes of strife and bloodshed, we do solemnly enact the following articles of agreement:
Article 1. We whose names are subscribed, claimants upon the public lands, do hereby agree with each other and bind ourselves upon our honors, that we will protect every just and lawful claimant in the peaceable possession of his claim, and in case of his claim being jumped, we will, when called upon by the proper officer, turn out and proceed to execute all decisions of arbiters and vigilance committees which may have been duly made.
Art. 2. We further agree that when the surveys have been made and the land offered for sale by the United States, we will attend said sales en masse and protect each other in entering our respective claims, each claimant furnishing the means for his said entry.
Art. 3. After the sales, we are to deed and redeed to each other, so as to secure to each claimant the land he has claimed, according to the limits now existing.
The association adopted a regular series of by laws, providing, that no one would be protected in holding more than 320 acres of land, which amount might, however, be in two or more separate parcels, at the will of the holder; that making the claim and commencing the improvement in a conspicuous place would hold the claim for thirty days, if recorded, improvements to the value of $100 being required to be made within twenty days. Provisions were made for the appointment of arbitrators to settle claim disputes between individual members of the association and also when the claimants of different clubs came in conflict, referring particularly to the Fontenelle Club. The "Captain of the regulators" was to put in force all judgments of the arbitrators, and if he was power less to do it alone, could call the association to his aid. If any member should refuse to respond without being able to show good cause, he could be expelled. The election of officers followed the adoption of the by laws.
The next day after the formation of these two Societies, the town company held a meeting on Cedar Island and passed a resolution that all the timber held by the individual members should be hereafter company property; that 320 acres of the best should be set apart for the benefit of the town and the residue divided equally among the members of the company. On September 3; at a gathering in Mr. Marvin's house, the name of the organization was changed to the Fremont Town Association. Thus occurred the christening. The first step taken toward the actual upbuilding of a town was a resolution passed on the 14th of September, that "the Fremont Town Association will donate two town lots to any person who will erect a hewn log house, dimensions of which will be at least 16x20 feet at the base and one and one half stories in height, said buildings to be erected in the town of Fremont within six months of the date hereof; and provided that such person has no timber claim of his own we will furnish the requisite timber for such building and fire-wood for one year." On motion it was unanimously agreed that Robert Kittle be entitled to the privilege conferred by the preceding resolution by building a house of "peeled instead of hewn logs." On November 25, a meeting was held in Mr. Kittle's house, which is generally considered the first permanent dwelling erected on the site of Fremont. Bylaws were adopted; also Mr. Barnard's plan for laying out the town was unanimously approved of, and that gentleman authorized to survey it. During the previous September, Messrs. Barnard and Kuntz erected a small shanty, which stood on the present site of the Congregational Church. They occupied it on the 10th of that month, receiving as boarders Robert Kittle, James G. Smith, William E. Lee and Leander Gerard, the latter being (1882) now a banker of Columbus. The building was a pole shanty, 12x16 feet, but as many as twenty have slept in it at one time. "Necessity is the mother of invention," etc.,etc. Previous to the rearing of this structure, Mr. Marvin's house had accommodated those who did not choose to "camp out." Those who wished to be nearer the town site then transferred their affection and their efforts from "Marvin's Hotel to the "Barnard-Kuntz House"
All such proceedings - the building of cabins and the claiming of large tracts of timber land - were looked upon with an evil eye by the Pawnees across the Platte River. Their principal village, three miles south, was 1,500 strong. On September 26, just a month from the time the first settlers of Fremont arrived, the claim club extended the boundaries of its jurisdiction four miles west, or to a point about ten miles west of Fremont and easterly to the Elkhorn River. It resolved, also, that persons having claims within its jurisdiction could hold them for nine months by putting their improvements in the town of Fremont, instead of upon their claims. However, it was done, the dusky people across the river seemed to foresee that the "pale faces" were coming fast into their territory, and were concentrating their scattered population into a settlement. The Beebe and the McNeal settlements, two miles to the west of Fremont, saw these preparations going on with uneasiness, and nearly defeated the resolution which had so great an effect in establishing the rival town. They, however, confined themselves strictly to parliamentary tactics. But in October, the activity upon and near the site of the town became so evident that the Indians told the people of Fremont plainly that unless they abandoned their evil intentions of founding a city they would be annihilated - they and their property.- They were given three days' grace. A council of war was called and James G. Smith was sent to Omaha for assistance. He returned considerably within the specified time. Governor Izard furnished him with a box of muskets, ammunition and a squad of eight troops. Enough soldiers were gathered from the country surrounding Fremont to increase this number to a grand total of twenty-five "who, by marching and counter-marching, by bonfires and torch light processions and the burning of haystacks, produced the impression upon the Pawnees that it was a vast army, and had the effect of overawing them. So that at the end of three days they sent a flag of truce and a messenger, saying that the chiefs had reconsidered the matter and concluded to let them go unmolested for the present." The people of Fremont had no further trouble with the Indians, which a little firmness or a good supper would not dispel.
On the 6th of April, 1857, occurred an event which really saddened the hearts of the little town. In crossing the ferry, Seth P. Marvin, the father, virtually, of Fremont, was drowned in the Platte River. He came from Michigan and was generally respected. Both associations passed resolutions of sorrow and of condolence with his family. It was this circumstance which first suggested to the claim club the necessity of selecting burial-grounds, and a committee to select them was at once appointed. The first death in Fremont occurred October 30, 1857, being that of Nathan Heaton, father of Rev. I. E. Heaton. But the growing civilization of a new community can only pay to death the respect of a few falling tears. Fremont was, therefore, being stirred in a few days after this sad accident over the establishment of a brick yard. Messrs. Rogers and McCartney were allowed the privilege by the town company, and actually did make the first brick. The agreement specified that the first certificate of stock should not be issued. to them until they had manufactured 200,000 brick, and the second only when they had made 500,00 - the yard to be located not more than one and a half miles from town, and the manufacture of this amount to be completed in two years. Such stringent terms did the company always insist upon that it was little short of a miracle for a man to make a Cent of money without doing his honest stroke of work. The brick yard was located within the town limits, and enough brick turned out to build a few chimneys etc. The proprietors, however, obtained their first. certificate of stock, but never called upon the company for the second. Their business evidently was not sufficiently prosperous to warrant striving after the 500,000 limit. In March, articles of agreement were entered into with Messrs. Chipman & Davis for the erection of a saw-mill on the banks of the Platte, within three- fourths of a mile from town. The mill was erected upon the present site of the court house, and continued in business for several years.
On June 2, 1857, the following resolution was passed by the Fremont Town Company:
Resolved, That Wilson Reynolds be allowed to draw lots Nos. 1 and 2 in Block 129, under the donating resolution, if he will build a frame 2Ox28 feet or larger, one and a half or two stories high, furnish well, keep a public house, and give bonds to the company that he will not sell nor allow the sale of intoxicating liquors; or if he builds a like for said purpose and gives bonds as aforesaid, on a lot of his own in time.
In April the next year, the resolution was modified so as to provide for the erection of a brick or wooden structure, 30x40 feet, two stories, ready for occupancy by January 1, 1860, and pledged to temperance for five years. John C. Flor kept the hotel, which was opened soon after the passage of the resolution. The "Ranche", as it was called, was situated about a block east of the present site of the Congregational Church, on Military Avenue. A little later, "Mother Turner", as she was affectionately called, built the Platte Valley House, on. the present site of the New York Hotel. She remained its proprietress for many years, the reputation of her house and her own matronly qualities extending far and wide. She died in Fremont, and there were few "hearts which did not ache," when the news was known. Theron Nye opened a public house at an early day, and was a successful landlord. His hotel was situated on Sixth Street. Robert Moreland also kept an open house.
Returning to Mr. Flor, it is to be recorded that Miss Alice E. Flor, his daughter, was the first child born in Fremont, dated September 8, 1857.
In August, 1857, John C. Hormel opened a blacksmith shop under the fostering care of the town company. He was the first to engage in that trade in Fremont.
James G. Smith was the first merchant and S. B. Colson the first shoemaker.
The first family who settled in Fremont was that of Rev. I. E. Heaton, in October, 1856. He was the first clergyman and preached the first sermon.
Unconscious of the inducements of town companies or the protection of claim associations, Fred Kittle, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kittle, proclaimed in his small voice the first male addition to the population of Fremont, on the 28th of March, 1858.
The first marriage took place August 25, 1856, Luther Wilson solemnly binding himself to protect Eliza Turner and she to love and obey him. Their claim was mutual.
The last recorded meeting of the more practical claim club of the Platte Valley was held September 19, 1857. The lands were regularly surveyed in 1857, and put upon the market the next year; consequently, it had no further excuse for living and died a perfectly natural death. The town company kept actively in the field until August, 1859, when, having nothing more for which to live, it also sank to rest.
James G. Smith, at the time ground was broken for the Elkhorn Valley road (1869) made the following interesting remarks in regard to early times: "A little over thirteen years ago, a few persons, numbering about six of us, wandered out to this country and struck our stakes on the site where now stands the pleasant town of Fremont. This country at that time was a vast wild, as it were, unsettled, uncultivated, uninhabited and untraversed, save by the Indians, wolves and prairie dogs. As town-making was at that time the order of the day throughout the land, we at once applied ourselves to staking out and making a town. The staking done, the next thing in order was a name for our town, and, after some discussion and suggestions. it was finally agreed that Fremont should be the name. The decision was owing to the fact that it was in the fall of 1856, and at the time when James Buchanan and Col. John C. Fremont were opposing candidates for the Presidency, and a little prior to this a town had been laid out twenty-five miles west of us, near the mouth of Shell Creek, called Buchanan. We, therefore, resolved that we would have opposition towns with names corresponding to those of the candidates for the Presidency. And as it is known by all here present, Fremont was beaten by Buchanan in the States, it is equally true that Buchanan was more than beaten by Fremont in this Territory. But few improvements were made during that fall and following winter. And that winter! Long it will be in memory by such as were here, in this then unprotected land, and may it never be my lot to again witness such an one. The summer following, our new town commenced to expand. An application was made for a post office, and the request granted. Your speaker had the honor of being appointed first Postmaster of Fremont, and has since had, as John G. Saxe said, in relation to his law profession, "The greater honor to leave the office" by resignation. and not by being served with a writ of ejectment. We were then a post office town ! Very soon after this, Uncle "Samuel" most graciously authorized postal service from Omaha to Fremont, or, in other words, we were allowed to transport our mail matter from the Fremont office to the Omaha office and vice versa in our britches, pockets, on foot or otherwise, as best suited our taste - the Postmaster at Fremont being allowed the net proceeds of the office to procure and keep up mail service. At this time we were a pocket mail service town. It was long, however, ere we had an increased service added. This consisted in obtaining permission to get our mails from the Fontenelle office as best we could, in a United States mail bag. Fontenelle was at that time a place of considerable note, being the county seat of Dodge County, and favored with a regular mail line from Omaha, mail arriving two or three times a week. At this point in our history, we were an increased mail service town. In rapid succession followed the establishment of a mail route to Fort Kearney, and letting the contract for service on the same to the Great Western Stage Company, of which Col. Hooker, of Iowa, the great eastern stage pioneer was the father and leading spirit. He immediately stocked up the route with four-horse coaches for the transportation of mail and passengers. We then assumed the enviable position of a four-horse mail service town."
MEANS OF COMMUNICATION:
During the session of the first Territorial Legislature, Dr. M. H. Clark, the first member of the Council from Dodge County, made a long report in favor of a Pacific Railroad by the Platte Valley route. It was within a month of eleven years that the Union Pacific Railroad reached Fremont (January 24, 1866) and passed along that same Platte Valley for twenty- five miles in the County of Dodge. Soon after the Pike's Peak gold excitement was at its height, the Western Union Telegraph Company built its line through Omaha to Fort Kearney. This was in 1860. The line was pushed on to the West, the force being employed day and night. Although the county received an impetus in the emigration toward Pike's Peak, and also in the return of the gold seekers, in the summer of 1859, its condition was not materially improved until it obtained railroad communication. As for telegraph communication, Fremont was merely a "trial station" for a number of years, and the wires were more objects of curiosity than of utility, until the regular office was opened. On the 12th of February, 1869, the Sioux City and Pacific united with the Union Pacific at Fremont. But the event which caused the greatest rejoicing since from the first it was evident that it was to prove of direct local benefit to the county; was the building of the Elkhorn Valley Branch through the eastern sections of Dodge County, and the rich agricultural districts of Northeastern Nebraska, toward the headwaters of the Niobrara River, and the splendid stock-raising country of Northwestern Nebraska and Southwestern Dakota. This branch inaugurated a new system of railroads, opening up the region to the north, and making Fremont the railroad center of interior Nebraska or as Robert Kittle of that city remarked, when he held the spike which was to finish the first ten miles of the road, he was about to "drive the first spike in the first link of railroads destined to unite the icy regions of the North with the Sunny South." The project of building a railroad from Fremont to the Upper Missouri River, via the Elkhorn Valley, had been agitated for several years previous to 1869. In the winter of 1868-69, a company of Fremont capitalists and public-spirited citizens was organized to bring the agitation to practical results. The hard times which fell upon business in the spring of 1869 delayed definite action until the following autumn. On September 8 of that year, a large and enthusiastic meeting was held at the court house in Fremont, F. 0. Ostby being Chairman. Several other public meetings were held, and Robert Kittle, President of the Sioux City & Pacific road, known (and justly) as "the great railroad builder of the West."
In three days after the conference with Mr. Blair and his associates had taken place, enough names had been secured to guarantee the raising of $120,000 in bonds, and the right of way up the Elkhorn Valley.
On November 5, 1869, the bells of Fremont were ringing; all its flags and banners were given to the breeze, and a large procession, composed of all her prominent citizens, both male and female, wended its way down E street to Second, thence to the spot where the first ground was to be broken for the Elkhorn Valley Branch of the Sioux City & Pacific road. The Chairman, E. H. Barnard, mounted a wagon and spoke as follows:
"Ladies and Gentlemen-Since the prime movers of this impromptu celebration have honored me with the position of Chairman, it becomes my duty to set the hall in motion. That duty I propose to perform chiefly with this spade, which has been furnished me to use in casting up grade for the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri River Railroad, which is to start at this point. Its condition indicates that it is, like myself, unaccustomed to such business; it is both dull and rusty, but may be useful for all that. Before testing it, however, let me say, that we are met here this morning not simply to break ground for a local railroad, but to inaugurate one of the most important enterprises of this enterprising age and country. In my humble judgment, this road is to become a connecting link in a great national railway, reaching from the Niobrara and the prairies of the North, to the Gulf of. Mexico in the South. Over this very spot are to pass at no far distant day the products of the three zones, as those of the two hemispheres do now. When that time arrives, the position of Fremont will he truly a commanding one. Located at what will then he the crossing of the two main thoroughfares of the continent, what city can command commerce if not she?" Telling speeches were also made by E. H. Rogers, Dr. L. J. Abbott, Judge Cook, of Iowa (representing John I. Blair) James G. Smith and others.
"In the midst of the general jubilee over this event in the progress of our civilization," says one account, "while congratulations were being made and toasts being read, the bang of hammers was heard as the workmen were busy laying the iron in the roundhouse of the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad, when, as if to bring the past and present face to face, a solitary Indian strode into the assembly and gazed with mute astonishment upon the scene - only a moment, and then, as if the sight was hateful, turned and swiftly left the spot. Goodbye, Red Man, you will soon be known only to memory. With three rousing cheers for Fremont and her railroad, the vast assembly dispersed."
On January 1, 1870, the first ten miles of road were completed, accepted by the State Commissioners, and the bonds delivered to Mr. Blair. The terminus was then Maple Creek, and three car loads of excursionists joyously celebrated the event. By November 1870, the section of the road between Fremont and West Point was in prime working order. Forty-one miles of road were built in one year. L. D. Richards, of the Sioux City & Pacific Company. was the surveyor. He also platted Hooper and Scribner and the other stations along the line of road.
The next year agitation was renewed in regard to direct connection with Lincoln. The survey of the Lincoln and Fremont line, as recorded September 29, 1881, passes from Fremont southwest through Sections 23, 26 and 35 where it crosses the Platte River and Black Island. Communications direct with Sections to the southwest is among the probabilities, and should the road be completed, it will be another link in the important chain of roads which encircle and bind Fremont to the growing West.
Properly belonging under the head "Means of Communication," is
the fine, new bridge across the Platte River, connecting the interests
of Dodge and Saunders Counties. It was completed in December, 1881,
and is nearly half a mile in length. The structure consists of six spans.
The contractors were Messrs. Hobson, Reese & Sawyer, of Savannah,
Mo. The first bridge, a short distance above the present structure, was
completed in August, 1871, ten years previous to the building of the present.
In March, 1874, a tremendous ice gorge formed just below the island.
This acted as a dam, and, setting hack the water, was the means of completely
sweeping away the bridge.
This page last modified onSunday, 26-Aug-2012 15:55:52 MDT.
Copyright 2000 - Renee Bunck
NEGenWeb Dodge County Coordinator