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Nemaha Co. NE History

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Native American Nations

Oto Nation village

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Brief History

Nemaha County, originally part of Forney County for about seven months, Nemaha County was established by an act of the Territorial Legislature in March of 1855, with Brownville as the county seat.

The Territorial Governor, T. B. CUMMING, appointed A. J. BENEDICT as Probate Judge; H. W. LAKE, County Clerk; and Thomas B. EDWARDS, sheriff. In December of 1855, Nemaha County held its first election, with A. J. BENEDICT keeping his post as Probate Judge; all the other incumbents either did not run for re-election or lost. W. H. HOOVER was elected County Clerk; J. W. COLEMAN was elected sheriff; and Allen L. COATE was elected county Surveyor. A vote held in 1883 moved the county seat to Auburn, which has been the county seat since. The present stone courthouse was completed in December 1900. It was built from stone that was quarried just five miles from the courthouse. It has been a source of pride in the community for over 96 years.
Ref. History of Nebraska, 1882.

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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.
Ref. History of Nebraska, 1882.

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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. 
Ref. History of Nebraska, 1882.

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Early Settlement and Settlers

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 years credit for $280, and gave trust deeds on their land as securtiy. 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 severly 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 Advertiserof 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 Brwonville 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 Advertiser said 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.
Ref. History of Nebraska, 1882.

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For more Nemaha County History, see the EKIS Project: Andreas' History of Nebraska

See early settler names index Nemaha Co. Chapter," Andreas' History of Nebraska

For more information on Nemaha County, see the histories of the individual communities, especially History of Brownville.

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Professional Baseball in Auburn

by Connie Rooten

Connie Rooten's grandfather lived in Kansas, but played professional baseball for the Auburn team. Connie wrote this and her story takes up quoting from a Kansas newspaper about the Auburn team as the visiting team in Kansas. The date is circa 1908. Thank you Connie.


--Auburn Team Has Splendid Record 
and Games Promise to be Speedy--

The Casinos will play the fast salaried team from Auburn, Neb. today and tomorrow at Lake ball park. Auburn has played 46 games and lost but 9, the Colored Giants being the only team to best them in a series. Among their opponents is the Seward, Neb. team, three time champions of the state. The Casinos however expect to take at least one from Auburn barring mishap.

The visitors [that's Auburn!] will line up as follows: Parker, of; Beave, 2b; Lacey, 3b; Hawkins, c; Fitzgerald 1b; White, ss; Schott, p; Clevenger, rf; McAdams lf; D Kratzberg, p; Switzer, p.

The regular scale of prices hold for this series, ladies being admitted free today, and ladies, and gentlemen accompanied by ladies free to the grandstand tomorrow.

----End Of Newspaper Article----

My grandfather, William "Bud" Lacy was the 3rd baseman. Postcards from Bud in 1909 telling of a great season lead me to that guess. In 1910 he played for a different league that didn't play Seward. I sure didn't know that Colored teams played White teams. I knew they had separate leagues before they were integrated, but was it common for them to play against each other?  I have old postcards that were written to and from Bud during 1909-1910. From these I have figured out that he stayed at the Millar {Miller?} Hotel in Auburn during the season. He returned to Everest, Kansas during off season. The team had a good record, played 78 games and only lost 18 at the time of one card in 1909. They played Robinson (KS, probably) Sept 16-17-18, 1909. A postcard of the team was made, as one young lady (an early baseball groupie?) thanked Bud for sending her a copy. For two years an Eva Bennett, who lived on a farm outside of Humbolt, NE, wrote to Bud during the off season. She knew he had 'an Everest girl' but didn't give up until around 1911. My grandfather married 'that Everest girl' in 1912.

I was sent pages of the Reach Official American League Guidefrom the Baseball Hall of Fame. They show the MINK (Missouri-Iowa-Nebraska-Kansas) League beginning in May of 1910. My grandfather is shown as a pitcher for the league. Unfortunately he wasn't in any of the team pictures there. The MINK League teams were Auburn, Falls City, Clarinda, Shenandoah, Maryville and Nebraska City. Falls City was the winner that year. The league ended in 1913. I know Bud was playing before the MINK league began--the article mentions playing in Auburn and Seward, and a postcard from 1909 mentioned Robinson. What league could this be? Surely there would be some news articles with such a good record going.

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Steamboat Wrecks In Nemaha County

While not a wreck, a grounding at the mouth of the Nemaha River occurs and a mention of Morgan's Island is made.  Prince Maximillan and the second voyage (1833) of the Yellowstone.

There were six known river boat wrecks on the Missouri River boardering Nemaha County. All of these occurred between 1851 and the early 1870's. Here they are in chronological order:

1851 - The 300 ton side-wheeler, "Dacotah Number 1" wrecked when it hit a snag 13 miles above Peru.

25 April 1853 - The side-wheeler "Kansas" wrecked when it hit a snag at Kansas Bend above Linden Landing.

22 September 1866 - The stern-wheeler "Ontario" wrecked when it hit a snag at Kansas Bend.

15 July 1867 - The stern-wheeler "Bishop" swamped in a strong eddy at the head of the Peru cut-off.

About 1870 - The side-wheeler "Ben Johnson" wrecked about four or five miles below Brownville when it hit a snag.

1870's - The stern-wheeler "Dallas" wrecked when it hit a snag near Morgan's Island.

Most likely, none of these wrecks resulted in loss of life. Typically, when these wrecks occurred, the boat only sank to the point where the deck was awash with water, as the hull by this point was resting on the shallow river bottom. This allowed the boats to have the majority of their cargo removed. Some of the boats were salvaged and re-floated, others were left for mother nature and scavangers to reduce their remains to nothing. Almost always, these wrecks resulted in increased business at the nearest hotel. The constant shifting of the channel of the Missouri River gave even the most experienced river boat pilot a hard time. In the late 1870's or early 1880's, several things happened to bring to a halt wrecks on the Missouri River. Among these were the fact that the shipping companies sent "snag boats" up and down the Missouri looking for potential hazards from snags. They would then remove the snag from the river. Also, the Army Corps of Engineers started building flood control dams, which reduced the amount of shifting the river would do in the banks. This resulted in a fairly routine and stable run for river boats, which continued to be the major source of transportation of goods until the railroads took over as the main transportation source by the 1890's to early 1900's.

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The Unusual

According to the April 9, 1897 addition of the Auburn Granger,"James SOUTHARD, a farmer on the bottoms north of Peru, was in Auburn on Wednesday and made this office a call. Mr. SOUTHARD tells a story which a great many will doubt, and were it not for his reputation as a truthful man, we would hardly care to repeat the story. He has resided in Peru Precinct for the past 20 years and has always been known as a truthful and honest citizen."

"Some time during Monday a number of cows belonging to Mr. SOUTHARD strayed away from his farm and were not missed until evening. A hunt for the missing cattle resulted in Mr. Southard finding himself several miles from home when darkness came on. He soon became lost and wandered about for some time in the dense growth of willows, becoming all the time more confused as to his whereabouts."

"About two o'clock in the morning he saw a light on a bar in the river, and finding place where the bar ran into the bank, made his way to the light. Imagine his surprise when he found that he had stumbled on to the airship which has attracted so much attention and been the occasion of a great deal of speculation as to what it really was, of late" [note: there had been more than 150 UFO sightings between February 2, 1897, and this report of April 9, 1897. They weren't referred to as UFO's in those days, but "Airship Sightings". Bear in mind that manned motorized flight had not taken place yet, but was years away].

"A number of men were moving about the ship, or machine, and seemed considerably surprised when Mr. SOUTHARD appeared; nevertheless, they were nothing loath to talk when he had explained how he came to be there. Something had gone wrong with the searchlight on the ship, and not daring to proceed in the darkness, The ship had been brought to the ground. It is cigar shaped, about 200 feet long, and 50 feet across at the widest point, gradually narrowing to a point at both ends. Mr. SOUTHARD was allowed to examine as much as he pleased and all his questions were answered. At each end of the ship is a large, steel, snail-shell-shaped device. This, he was informed, was the apparatus by which the strange machine was propelled. Large gasoline engines caused whichever one of these in use to revolve rapidly, and to bore into the air, dragging or pulling the ship along at a wonderful rate of speed."

"The craft is loaded with several tons of dynamite and is bound for Cuba. Spanish troops are being massed in the cities for transportation to the Phillipine Islands, and it is proposed to sail over these cities and drop the dynamite into the camps of the soldiers and on the transport ships. Besides destroying the camps and transport ships it is proposed to destroy the Spanish navy...They expect to sail fo fly for Cuba yet this week, and reach there by Sunday or Monday. When they do, Spain is likely to hear the drop."

This is a very unusual and in depth report. Unusual, in that all the other sightings were of UFO's in flight - high speed flight with sharp turns, etc. Very much like modern day UFO sightings. Unusual in the fact that manned propelled flight had not taken place yet, let alone aerial bombing. I have no information on a gasoline powered aircraft engine until about 1899 in France, and I'm not aware that the French craft got into the air. Mr. SOUTHARD either had a great imagination, rivalling Jules Verne, or he really did see something and explained it best he could with his knowledge of the technology of the day. I wonder if Mr. SOUTHARD ever found his cows?

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Books Online

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Copyright 2005 Nemaha Co. NeGenWeb, All rights reserved.
Web page by Emmett Mason

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