Brownville Nebraska History

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From Wm. Cutler. "Nemaha County," History of Nebraska, 1882. This article contains hundreds of surnames of early pioneers and settlers in Brownville. There is much here to learn about the early history of one of Nebraska's first communities. For further information, go to the History of Nebraska site directly (link below).

•  Cutler/Andreas 1882 History of Nebraska, Nemaha County

Brownville, the [former] county seat of Nemaha County, is located on the bank of the Missouri River, about 23 miles below Nebraska City, and a little more than that distance north of the Kansas line. It has a most eligible situation, with a fine landing, a rare desideratum on the Missouri River, and is almost surrounded by forests of natural timber that even the inroads of twenty-five years of civilization have not sufficed to exhaust. The city is built upon hills and in the valleys that nestle between, sloping to the rivers edge and affording fine natural drainage. From the bluffs that surround it a view is afforded of the rolling prairies and wooded slopes of four fertile states.

Early History

The first white settler in Brownville, after the extinguishment of the Indian title, was Richard Brown, from Holt County, Mo., for whom the town was named. His arrival was on August 29, 1854. (The main facts in this paragraph are gleaned from ex-Gov. Furnas, one of the early settlers.) After a residence of several years, Mr. Brown removed to Texas. The people of that State were prejudiced against the name of Brown, probably thinking of "Osawatomie," and, although an ardent believer in the institution of slavery, the founder of Brownville was compelled to seek another home, and he removed to Humboldt County, Cal. The wife of Thomas B. Edwards was the first woman to come, and arrived with her husband a few weeks after the first settler. Taulbird Edwards erected the first building on ground where the American House stands. The first white child born was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Fitzgerald, October 20, 1854. The first marriage was Samuel Stiers to Nancy Swift, October, 1854, Rev. Joel M. Wood officiating. The first death was an infant child of Mr. and Mrs. John Mullis, Jr., September, 1854. The first school was taught in a little log house, near Main street, by H.S. Thorpe, who now lives near St. Joseph, Mo. The same cabin was used to hold the first District Court meetings. The first school building (frame) was erected in 1856, and was afterward used as a dwelling house. Brownville was organized as a school district in 1856. The first officers were: A.J. Benedict, President; Homer Johnson, Treasurer; R.W. Furnas, Secretary. The first store was opened by William Hoblitzell and Isaac T. Whyte in March, 1855. Their store was on the rear of ground now occupied by the Chicago Lumber Company, Main street. The second firm of importance in Brownville, as dealers in general merchandise, was in 1857, by Crane & McCallister. Their goods were brought from the East in bulk, and, without breaking bulk, loaded on wagons for Denver. Crane retired in 1859, and the firm became Dozier & McCallister. The same year, Crane & Hill and John A. Ponn commenced the sale of general merchandise. J.C. Deuser opened the first tinsmith shop in the same building in 1857. In the same store, at a little earlier period, William T. Den located his shoemaker's bench and kit of tools, and pegged his way to competency. The first steam mill erected was commenced by Henry Jerome Hoover, and completed by Richard Brown, Samuel Rogers and Henry Emerson, in 1855. The building is still standing at the foot of College Street. Elder Joel M. Wood erected in 1855, the first hotel building on Main street, Dr. A.S. Holladay was the first physician who located in Brownville, or, in fact, in the county. He came in November, 1855, and the following year opened the first drug store in the town. Daniel L. McGary, the first lawyer, came to Brownville in February, 1856. His office as Dr. Holladay affirms, was for many years the headquarters "for most of the fun and frolic of the county, and if the walls of his little office could speak, they might many a tale unfold." McGary is now editing a paper in Texas. Richard Brown was the first Postmaster in Brownville. The office was opened with Frederick Schwartz as deputy. The first quarter showed a business of $2.50. Frederick Schwartz's whole time not being occupied with his duties as deputy postmaster, he opened a tailor shop, and, in 1855, he sowed the first wheat, and from ten acres of ground (sod breaking) he secured 200 bushels of wheat. Among the first to follow Richard Brown were Rev. Joel M. Wood (who preached the first sermon), Thomas Edwards and wife, Taulbird and Josiah Edwards, Houston Russell, J.W. Coleman, Allen L. Coate, Israel R. Cumming, A.J. Benedict, H.W. and O.F. Lake, W.A. Finney, Hiram Alderman, a brother-in-law of Richard Brown, Capt. Thurber, W.H. Hoover, the first deputy and present District clerk, Homer Johnson, R.J. Whitney, Matt Alderman, Eli Fishburn, B.B. Chapman, Hudson Clayton, Capt. I.T. Whyte, William Hoblitzell, I.N. Knight, Dr. J. Hoover, William Hall, Dr. A. S. Holladay.

There were three general stores in town. Dr. McPherson kept one where the Star Hotel now stands, with R.P. Hutchins as clerk. McCallister, Dozier & Co. kept another on Main street, west of the alley between Levee and First, with Theodore Hill and Robert Teare as clerks. The third was kept by I.T. Whyte & Co. (originally W. Hoblitzell's), at the northwest corner of First and Main streets, with R.T. Rainey as clerk. William Rossell kept the Grand Hotel in a log house on Main Street. Governors, judges and other dignitaries always put up at Rossells', Taulbird Edwards kept the old American, now one of the old landmarks, and kept by L. Robinson. Den was pegging his way to fortune by working eighteen hours a day and resting himself on Sunday by taking his dog and gun and rambling over the hills in search of game. His humble shoe shop was near the American. Dr. Holladay had a drug store and the post office up Main Street. The Advertiser office was in the vicinity. Lushbaugh & Carson, bankers, were in full blast on the north side of Main, and Dave Seigel had his "mammoth" stock of clothing in the building now used as a gunsmith shop by the veteran Craddock. The Nemaha Valley Bank was flourishing on Lower Main Street, and there was a convenient saloon near the corner of First and Main. Near by stood a log building that served as court house, church and schoolhouse. In this little 18x18-foot room the pedagogue taught the "young idea how to shoot," the judges ladled out law, and pioneer preachers held up the terrors of damnation to the impenitent. Dick Brown lived in Schoolhouse Block, Col. Furnas corner of Fourth and Main, Judge Wheeler on the Chamberlain farm, Hiram Minick on the Moore farm, while H. Alderman, John and Will Bennett, A. Dodd. W. Hall, George Crow, Henry Harman, R.S. Hannaford, were on farms in the neighborhood. The Bergers were both with us, besides S.R. Summers, H.M. Atkinson, W.H. Hoover, T.W. Bedford, D.H. McLaughlin, W.W. Hackney (now city mayor), Samuel Summers and James Gibson. During the summer of 1857, there were large accessions to Brownville's population. J.C. Deuser made tin cups and sold stoves in Den's palatial shop. Jacob Marohn stitched away in the log court house. Evan Worthing started a bakery on First Street, north of Main. Ab Gates and McLaughlin, whose first jobs of work were on the Brownville House. Moses Connor, who this year celebrated his golden wedding, built the United States Land Office. The arrival of the newly appointed United States Land officers made 1857 a noted year. In those days when two Territorial officers were appointed, one was taken from the north and the other from the south. The gentlemen appointed to the land office were Col. C.B. Smith, of New York, and Col. G.H. Nixon, of Tennessee. Col. Smith was genial and pleasant, and always tried to keep every person about him in good humor, and seemed to make life on grand holiday. Col. Nixon was also kind-hearted, and became quite a character from his peculiarities. He was fond of speech making, and on every occasion would boast of his early educational disadvantages, and one stereotyped phrase he never omitted. He would vaunt the great and growing country, and wind up with, "somewhere in the Mississippi Valley we will build a monument high as the thought of man, and on it place the American eagle." In every address, "the bird of freedom with one foot on the Alleghenies, the other on the Rocky Mountains, and, bathing his plumage in the thunder's home," was sure to figure. In those days, on being introduced to a stranger, the first question generally was, "How long have you been in Nebraska?" If the person answering had been only a few weeks or months, he would meekly reply, "I am only a new-comer;" but if he had been there a year or longer, he would exclaim with pride and dignity, "Well, sir, I am one of the old settlers. I came here when Indians were thick as hair on a dog." The second question was, "What state did you come from?" About one-third would answer "From Miami County, Ohio," and another third were "From Missouri;" the other third were "outside barbarians."

John Long, who now resides in Sheridan, built the first claim cabin on the land now owned by Judge McComas.

I.N. Knight's two children died in October, 1854, and were buried in what is now known as the Walnut Grove Cemetery. Of this first funeral a settler says: "No one can imagine the depth of sorrow that accompanied the remains of the departed to their last resting place. It was a lesson that even on the frontiers none could escape the relentless hand of death.

To show the importance attained by Brownville as a business point within two years after the arrival of Richard Brown, in 1854, the first issue of the first newspaper (the Advertiser of June 7, 1856), claims that the village contained at that date two dry goods and grocery stores, a schoolhouse, church, court house, steam sawmill, lath and shingle machine, cabinet shop, two blacksmith shops, one banking house, one hotel and several boarding houses, and a population of 400 persons. The same number of the paper contains the following advertisements of Brownville business houses: B.B. & J.D.N. Thompson, W. Hodlitzell & Co., dry goods; James W. Gibson, blacksmith; A.L. Coate, surveyor; E.M. McComas, physician; R.W. Furnas, land, insurance, and agricultural implement agent; Thompson & Buxton, attorneys; Oscar F. Lake & Co., land and lot agents; A.S. Holladay, M.D., physician and surgeon; Miss Mary W. Turner, milliner and dressmaker; C.W. Wheeler, architect and builder; T.L. Ricketts, carpenter and joiner; S.B. Miller, blacksmith and wagon maker. A stage to make tri-weekly trips between Brownville and Rockport, Mo., received notice, and the same number of the Advertiser contains a call from Orderly Sergeant O.F. Lake, commanding the Nemaha Guards, to parade in their armory in full uniform, with fourteen rounds of ammunition, on Saturday, June 21, 1856.

The object of the military organization was to be prepared for possible trouble with the Indians.

To show the difference between early times and the present, in regard to mail facilities, the following from the Brownville Advertiser of September 6, 1856, is quoted:

We understand that a change has been made in the arrival and departure of the mail from Brownville to Omaha and Nebraska City. It now arrives from the north on Saturday instead of Friday, leaves for the south Sunday morning instead of Saturday, goes to Iowa Point, Kan., instead of stopping at Archer as heretofore. Returning, arrives Thursday, and departs for the North Friday morning. By this arrangement, if it remains permanent, we stand some chance of getting Eastern and Southern mail matter more promptly. As our mail facilities have heretofore been, we would be about as well accommodated with out as with them. This thing of having letters on the road thirty days from Nebraska City to Brownville, 25 miles, is past endurance. Sometimes we are without exchanges for a week or two, when they come in on us all in a heap, and out of date. Let us have a tri-weekly route established from Rockport, Mo., to Brownville, intersecting the tri-weekly line from St. Joseph to Council Bluffs.

When it is considered that there are now two daily mails to Omaha, carrying mail matter to Omaha in a few hours, and two daily trains to Nebraska City, the complaint of the Advertiser seems well founded. Thirty days for twenty-five miles is somewhat slow. The Advertiser published November 8, 1856, contained no election news, although the Presidential election occurred five days before that. In the same paper the editor says: "It is three weeks since we have had any regular mail on the matter."

The halcyon days of Brownville were when steamboats made regular and frequent trips between St. Louis and Omaha. As early as 1856, eleven regular packets were engaged in the passenger and carrying trade. During the year 1857, forty-four packets were running on the Missouri River. If the city resumes its old-time influence, it will be done through a return to steamboat navigation. Railroads have been of incalculable advantage to the State at large, but as carriers of cattle, corn, wheat and oats, they cannot compete with rivers, and the most far-seeing citizen of Brownville knows that their only hope is liberal appropriations for snag boats and river improvements, and a return of steamboats, where twenty years ago there were a score of fine boats engaged, and making fortunes for their stockholders. During the season of navigation, with one or two boats per week, Brownville claims that their town would again become the trade center for a large and rich agricultural section; that interior towns could not compete in the purchase of corn, wheat and oats, for the very good reason that railroad freights are necessarily much higher than steamboat freights. In 1856, the fine, large steamers Admiral Edinburg, Omaha, John G. Tutt, Arabia, Genoa, Martha Jewett, Warner, Keystone, Hannibal and A.C. Goodin were plying as regular packets. Two or three years later it was no unusual thing to see as many as half a dozen steamers at the Brownville wharf at the same time, receiving and discharging freight. Now, aside from one line of packets between St. Louis and Kansas City, and another between Sioux City, Iowa, and Bismarck, D.T., there is scarcely a steamer navigating the Missouri River, a state of things expected to be remedied by the $1,000,000 appropriation of April, 1882.

Pioneer Incidents

In the early days, and under the decisions that a Southern man had as much right to take his slaves to the Territories as a Northern man had to carry his horses or cattle with him, several slaves were brought to Brownville. Richard Brown, the founder of the town, brought one from Holt County, Mo., and Col. G.H. Nixon, the first Registrar of the Land Office, was the proprietor of two or three that were brought from his old home in Tennessee. Col. Nixon was a strong pro-slavery man, and, on the breaking-out of the rebellion, he went South and fought for his own side. At the close of the war, he met one of his former slaves, who was engaged in teaching a colored school. The Colonel greeted him heartily, and said to him: "You are not qualified to teach your people, but I want to help you, and will see that you have an education." After a thorough common school course, the "boy" again went South, and is now at the head of a Southern seminary for the education of colored children. Thus it will be seen that the early settlers of Otoe County are mistaken in the supposition that there were no slaves in any other county but their own.

This incident is characteristic of Col. Nixon. The old settlers speak of the Colonel as a genial, pleasant gentleman, fond of company, and vain of his oratorical powers. To his peculiarities in this line we have elsewhere referred.

Brownville was famed from its earliest settlement for the good order and decorum of its citizens; but old settlers remember a few scrimmages where whisky was the "cause of the war." In 1857, a fight took place between S.R. Summers, a man of middle age, and a roystering young fellow named Peter Whitlow. The last named took his whisky "straight" and often, and had a habit of carrying an Allen revolver, one of the pattern known as pepper boxes. Summers was not a drinker, and was noted for his grit and nerve. One day, in front of I.T. Whyte's store, on Main Street, Peter, being full of whisky, forced a quarrel on Summers, and, after a few words, drew his pepper box, thinking to scare Summers and cause him to retreat; but the "old man" reached for a convenient pick handle, and, before Peter was aware of it, Summers tapped him on the head and let some bad blood out or him. And then such a race! Not Peter after Summers, but Summers after Peter, until finally he hid in the brush. "Dang it," said the triumphant hero, "I wouldn't a took the pick-handle to the drunken cuss if he hadn't a drawed his darned old pepper box on me!"

In the early days, when the court decisions allowed slaveholders the right to take their "property" to the Territories, and John Brown, of Osawatomie, had his line through Nemaha County for conveying slaves to Canada, the question of the rights and wrongs of slavery was an all-engrossing topic. The people were divided into two parties, the Miamis and the Missourians, the first named were anti-slavery people from Miami County, Ohio, and the others pro-slavery people from Holt County, Mo. One day, in the autumn of 1857, a man named Archie Handley, who lived two miles south of town, came to Brownville and reported that three well-armed Negroes had passed his house coming north. (In those days, all Negroes found traveling in strange places were supposed to be runaway slaves, and, as there was in Missouri a standing reward of $100 for each slave returned to his owner, all strange colored men were supposed to be fair game for pro-slavery men fond of hunting.) Instantly all was excitement among persons willing to earn money in that way, and "maintain the majesty of the law." Horses and mules were mounted; ravines and thickets were examined. Finally, Handley and a man named Clark, of this county, and Williams and Meyers, in Atchison County, Mo., went into a thicket of willows near the river, below town, and had penetrated but a few yards, when they came upon the Negroes resting upon a large log. Few words were passed; weapons were drawn on both sides, and a rapid fire kept up for a few moments, which resulted in one of the Negroes being shot in the wrist. Myers was mortally wounded. Handley, Clark and Williams retreated in disorder. The Negroes gathered up the hats and guns of their foes, mounted three of the animals and leading the fourth, traveled up the South Brownville hollow; but when they got to Kelley's house, west of town, the wounded Negro, being faint and sick from loss of blood, was left there, and his comrades, taking all the spoils, made their escape. The wounded man was brought to town, Drs. Holladay and McPherson amputated his wounded arm, and he was placed in the charge of Ben Thompson, who was deputy sheriff, for safe keeping. The affair created intense excitement. Many Missourians came across the river breathing threatenings of vengeance against the Negroes, and cursing the Abolitionists. It was in vain they were told that no person was to blame, except the persons engaged in the fight. They were horrified that a Negro should dare resist a white man. They would hang the Negro and drive out the Abolitionists. At night they went twice to the American House, where Thompson was keeping his prisoner, and demanded admittance, and when Thompson refused, they swore with horrid oaths that they would break the doors open. Thompson informed them if they did, there would be several funerals in Missouri within the next few days. Then they went away to wait for more men from Missouri, and when morning came, the excitement increased until the Free State Men became alarmed for their safety, and quietly armed to protect themselves. Judge C.W. Wheeler went to Richard Brown and told him the riotous proceedings must be stopped; that the Free State men had borne all the insults and abuse that they could bear, and that they were prepared to defend themselves. Richard Brown, although a slaveholder, was a man of peace, and did what he could to allay the excitement. Toward evening, the Missourians re-crossed the river, and all became quiet. There was another defeat in store for the pro-slavery men in this matter. When the master of the wounded negro was notified of the affair, and came to Brownville and saw how his chattel had been mutilated, he swore terribly, and wished the men who had shot the Negro were in a terribly hot place, and did not seem to be gratified that the Negro had been molested on his journey North. It so happened that on the day the excitement was the highest, John Brown, of Osawatomie, was encamped in South Brownville, with about 30 men whom he was taking over to Kansas, and if the pro-slavery men had attacked the Free State men, he would probably have made it lively for the Missourians.

On the afternoon of November 2, 1856, a furious snow storm prevailed in Brownville. Hugh Baker, one of the ferrymen, crossed a passenger in a skiff to the Missouri shore. Attempting to return, the wind being in the north, and the cold becoming intense, he struggled against the floating ice and current until his strength was exhausted; he drifted on the head of a sand-bar in the middle of the river opposite the foot of Main Street. His shouts for help were not heard until dark. A canoe was carried up from the lower island, shoved over the bar, and Baker rescued without serious damage, although he had been for four hours exposed to the most terrible snow storm that had ever prevailed in Southeastern Nebraska. March 16, 1855, the Territorial Legislature passed an act to prevent the manufacture and sale of liquors for even medicinal purposes. The winter of 1856-57, was the coldest ever known in Nebraska. Sunday, January 18, 1857, the thermometer indicated 32° below zero. An incident will illustrate the severity of the weather: During this month, some Brownville invalids, feeling the need of a tonic or stimulant, crossed the Missouri River to a point known as Cook's Landing, bought liquor by the pound, carried it home in sacks and pocket handkerchiefs, thawed it out and drank it. The early settlers experienced many privations, and submitted to many inconveniences; besides, the attainment of tonics was surrounded with peculiar difficulties, unknown to subsequent generations. Such a mixture might answer as a refrigerant when the mercury indicates a hundred in the shade, but it must have been quite chilly at such a season.

Surveys and Additions

From the official records, it appears that Brownville was surveyed by Allen L. Coate on the 30th of April, 1856. Richard Brown and Benjamin B. Frazier were the proprietors. The location was on fractional Section 18, Town 5, Range 16. West Brownville was surveyed July 10, 1857; T.W. Bedford, surveyor; J.M. Chapel, Augustus and Herman Kountz and William Ruth, proprietors; located on the northeast quarter of southeast quarter of Section 13, Town 5, Range 16. North Brownville was surveyed January 15, 1858; Hudson George, surveyor; Richard Brown, Lemina Brown, C.W. Wheeler, Anna Wheeler, John McDonough and Ellen McDonough, proprietors; located on Lot 2, Section 18, Town 5, Range 16. Middle Brownville was surveyed July 3, 1858; T.W. Bedford, Surveyor; James and Susan Ferguson, proprietors; located on southwest quarter of Section 18, Town 5, Range 16. East Brownville was surveyed May 8, 1867; J.M. Hacker, surveyor; Luther and Mary Hoadley, proprietors; located on northeast quarter of Section 19, Town 5, Range 16. A survey and plat had been previously made in 1857, but the foregoing is the only official record.

Emerson's Addition to Brownville was surveyed May 9, 1867; J.M. Hacker, surveyor; Henry Emerson, proprietor; located on a fraction of the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 14, Town 5, Range 16.


Brownville was organized by the Territorial Legislature on the 23rd of February, 1856. The first meeting of the Town Council was held at the house of H.S. Thorpe. The first officers were: Dr. A.S. Holladay, Mayor; Richard Brown, H.S. Thorpe and William Thurber, Aldermen; Oscar F. Lake, Recorder (R.T. Rainey had been chosen, but declined); Joel M. Wood, Treasurer. The following is an official transcript of the proceedings of the first meeting:

February 23, 1856. According to previous meeting, the members of the Brownville Town Council, consisting of the Mayor and three Aldermen, met at the residence of H.S. Thorpe. The meeting was called to order by the Probate Judge, who proceeded to administer to the Mayor the oath of office. The Mayor having taken the required oath, proceeded to qualify each of the Aldermen. On motion, the Council adjourned, to meet on the third Monday of March, at 7 o'clock P.M.

Henry S. Thorpe,

Recorder pro tem

On the 9th of February, 1857, the Territorial Legislature passed an act "To amend an act incorporating the town of Brownville," declaring, first, that all the territory within the geographic limits of Brownville, with the additions thereto, is hereby declared to be the city of Brownville; second, said city was declared to be a body corporate and politic; third, vested city authority in the Mayor and four Aldermen; fourth, all persons who had resided in the city 30 days and were legal voters in the Territory were given the elective franchise; fifth, all legal voters were declared entitled to hold city offices; sixth, provided the manner of holding elections: seventh, provided for giving certificates to persons elected to city offices; eighth, defined the powers of the city government.

The first election under the new city charter resulted in the election of the following offices: A.S. Holladay, Mayor; J.T. Whyte, J.D.N. Thompson, George W. Bratton, Aldermen; B.B. Thompson, Recorder; Homer Johnson, Marshal; J.T. Dozier, Treasurer; A.L. Coates, Surveyor. The first ordinances for getting the young city into running order were passed at two or three meetings held during the latter part of February, 1857.

February 25, 1864, the Legislature passed an act incorporating "the city of Brownville." This enactment greatly extended the powers of the city authorities, especially in the matter of taxation. Prior to the passage of this act, a large amount of city property in the hands of non-residents was non-taxable, owing to defects in previous enactments, but under the law of 1864 the defects were remedied, and non-resident property-owners were compelled to bear a portion of the burdens of the city government.

Official Roster

Since the organization of the city government in 1857, the following-named persons have served as Mayor: A.S. Holladay, Luther Hoadley, O.B. Hewett, Theodore Hill, Jesse Johns, Thomas K. Fisher, C.G. Dorsey, H.C. Lett, Jarvis S. Church, G.W. Fairbrother, E.E. Ebright, Charles S. Stewart, F.A. Tisdel, A.P. Coggswell, F.E. Johnson, J.S. Stull, W.T. Rogers, J.L. Carson, John C. Bousfield, W.W. Hackney. Present officers: Maj. J.C. Bousfield, Oscar A. Cecil, Treasurer; L.A. Fort, Clerk; S.M. Rich, Police Judge; Timothy McLaughlin and W.W. Hackney, Councilmen First Ward; Alex Robison and Franz Hilmer, Councilmen Second Ward; Charles Neidhart and D.E. Douglas, Councilman Third Ward.

Nemaha Valley Insurance Company

The Territorial Legislature, at its session of 1857-58, granted a charter for the "Nemaha Valley Insurance Company," to be located in Brownville and controlled by the following-named Directors: John L. Carson, L. Hoadley, A.S. Holladay, I.T. Whyte, R.W. Furnas, B.F. Lushbaugh, J.M. Hughs, H.W. Mayhew, R.W. Frame, W.C. Johnson, John Grant. A meeting of the board was held, and I.T. Whyte was chosen President, John L. Carson, Treasurer, and R.W. Furnas, Secretary. A subscription was raised to defray a few legislative expenses, such as a copy of the act of incorporation, etc., and no subsequent meeting was ever held. As the company's charter provided that the President, Treasurer and Secretary should continue in office until their successors were duly elected and installed; the officers of the N.V.I.Co. are now veteran insurance officers.

The Brownville Stone and Stone Coal Company

This company was incorporated in March, 1857, under very flattering auspices, and the capital stock, $50,000, was subscribed within forty-eight hours after the company's books were opened. The following-named persons constituted the Board of Directors: A.S. Holladay, W. Hoblitzell, O.F. Lake, J.W. Coleman, G.W. Bratton, H. Johnson, R.W. Furnas. A.S. Holladay was chosen President, W. Hoblitzell, Treasurer, O.F. Lake, Secretary. On the 21st of March, 1857, a code of by-laws was adopted. Large dividends were expected by the stockholders. The universal belief prevailed that millions of tons of coal in heavy veins underlaid the town. Prof. Swallow, State Geologist of Missouri believed it, and the Brownville Advertiser from week to week proclaimed it as a fixed fact. On the 5th day of July, 1856, the Advertiser announced, under the head of "Stone Coal," that "the workmen, in digging a well for Col. Thompson, within one square of Main Street, have come to a strata of fine quality of stone coal, twelve inches in thickness. The person digging the well is an old miner, and says he has no doubt that ten feet farther down coal can be found in sufficient quantities to pay well to work. As we have no need at present for coal except for mechanical purposes, no one has opened up the coal trade here. There is plenty of coal anywhere about this place." Experiments were made in several localities, but if the coal was thick-veined and in abundance, it is probably still there, as it has never been brought to the surface. The rapid and liberal manner in which the capital stock of $50,000 was subscribed is thus explained by the first (and last) President of the company: "Other new towns were working and bidding for a big boom, and we wanted to call the attention of immigrants to the many advantages of Brownville, and thus induce strangers to make homes with us. One of our Directors, whose worldly possessions might possibly have reached $500, liberally subscribed the handsome sum of $25,000."

The First Telegraph Line

On August 28, 1860, Stebbins' line of telegraph, from St. Joseph, Mo., to Brownville, was completed by the contractors, Messrs. Ellsworth & Porter, and on the following day the first telegram ever sent from Nebraska was transmitted to the Associated Press in the States. It read as follows:

Brownville, Neb., August 29, 1860.

Nebraska Sends Greetings to the States: The telegraph line was completed to this place to-day, and the first office in Nebraska formally opened. Our citizens are jubilant over the event, and now realize the advantage of being connected with their Eastern friends and the 'rest of mankind' by means of a 'lighting line.' 'Onward!'

 'Westward the star of empire takes its way'


The following dispatches passed between the Nebraska Advertiser and the St. Joseph Gazette, the latter of which was the first telegram received in Nebraska: "Brownville, Neb., August 29, 1860.

"Editors St. Joseph Gazette:

"The Advertiser sends greeting. Give us your hand. Hot as blazes; thermometer 104° in the shade. What's news?

"R.W. Furnas"

"St. Joseph, Mo. August 29, 1860

"Editor Advertiser:

"We are most happy to return your greeting. Thermometer at 100°, and rising like h--l. You ask for the news: Douglas stock fully up to the thermometer, and rising as rapidly. St. Joe drinks Nebraska's health.

Pfouts & Cundiff."

On Wednesday evening, the 29th, the citizens of Brownville participated in a general jollification. Bonfires, illuminations, fire balls, music, burning gunpowder, speeches and toasts, were the order of the day. After 35 rounds were fired – one for each of the States, one for Nebraska and one for the telegraph line – Col. Nixon delivered an address, and was followed by Mayor Hill, Dr. McPherson, Dr. Holladay, Richard Brown, Judge Whitney, Col. Smith, H.M. Atkinson and T.W. Bedford, who, as it is related, all together, entertained the assemblage for a couple hours. A procession was then formed under command of Col. G.H. Nixon, and, preceded by the Brownville Band, marched through the principle portions of the city, when the crowd dispersed. The telegraph office was opened in one of the upper rooms of the Hoadley building, on Main Street, and it is said that a barrel of wine was carried up the stairs during the evening, its head knocked in by Dr. McPherson, and that those got drunk who never drank before, and those who drank now only drank the more, not many of those who celebrated the occasion going sober to their beds.

The First Train of Cars

After laboring for many years and expending a large amount of money, the people of Brownville were rewarded on the 1st day of February, 1875, by the arrival of the first train of cars over the Midland Railroad, from Nebraska City. The train reached Brownville about 11 o'clock A.M., with a large delegation of prominent Nebraskans on board. Hundreds of people from town and country gathered on the levee to see the cars come in; nearly every person closed their respective places of business and made a holiday of it, and went shivering in the chilly weather to the banks of the ice-bound Missouri, to await the coming of the cars. The schools were dismissed, and the happy children helped to swell the crowd. At 11 o'clock the train arrived. The cannon thundered, the band played, the flags waived, the people cheered, and the excursionists were greeted with hand-shaking and introductions. Silas Garber, the newly-elected Governor; Mayor Tuxbury, of Nebraska City; and T.P. Kennard, of Lincoln, were among the excursionists. After a short time spent in greetings and welcomings, H.C. Lett gave notice that the guests would proceed to the Union Hotel, where a bountiful repast awaited them, and to which ample justice was done. About 2 o'clock, the excursion train started on its return trip. The day was pronounced the happiest ever known in the history of Brownville.

Storm and Flood

On the night of Friday, May 11, 1866, a tornado swept over Brownville, destroying property to the amount of $6,000. Hailstones of enormous size fell, and it was considered certain death to venture out. The streets were completely flooded, and during the continuance of the storm, the utmost consternation prevailed among the inhabitants. On the bottom near the river, the flood rushed headlong to the depth of several feet. The damage done foots up thus: Christian Church, corner of Fourth and Atlantic streets, unroofed and southwest walls blown down; loss $1,500. Loveless' house, above culvert on Main street, unroofed; loss $50. Hill & Co.'s warehouse on levee, unroofed; loss $200. Dens' warehouse, demolished; loss, $400. Grist-mill damaged; loss, $500. First Presbyterian Church, blown from foundation; loss, $600. Polock's brick kiln, badly damaged. Foster's residence, unroofed and one end of a levee house blown into the river. Much other damage was done in both town and country; fortunately, there was no loss of human life.

April, 1881, will long be remembered by the citizens as the time of the great flood in the Missouri River. The public journals state that no such rise was ever known by the oldest inhabitant. Not a railroad on the Missouri River was in operation during its continuance. The two roads in which Brownville is most immediately interested – the Kansas City and the Burlington & Missouri – were flooded for weeks. For miles they were under water. For several weeks there were no trains on the Burlington & Missouri. The town of Phelps, on the opposite side of the Missouri – in fact, the wide bottom for many miles – was covered with water. The Brownville steam ferry boat, and every available skiff and yawl, was brought into requisition to rescue the unfortunates and bring them to dry land in Brownville. The work was nobly done. On Tuesday, April 26, 1881, a public meeting (called by Hon. John L. Carson, Mayor), was held at the Opera House, to provide means to help those who had been driven from their homes by floods. A working committee, consisting of W.H. McCreary, James Stevenson, A.H. McGee, Charles Neidhart, Mrs. J. Hetzel, Mrs. T.C. Hacker and Mrs. E. Huddart was appointed to secure funds. Messrs. Burnett, Crummel and Don Arnold were appointed a committee on skiffs, and all went to work vigorously in rescuing the sufferers and then providing for their necessities. Hundreds were rescued and provided for. The people of Brownville did their whole duty; nobly and unselfishly.

Express Robbery

On the 28th day of August, 1869, the office of the United States Express Company was robbed of $15,000 by the local agent, J.K. Bear. On the day of the robbery, he went about the city, paying his debts; even after bedtime, he paid a note of $200. On Saturday morning he was missing. Just before his departure, he wrote the following letter to the editors of the Brownville Democrat:

Holladay & Calhoun:

GENTLEMEN – I suppose before you read this, you will have heard the rumor that I have absconded with a large amount of money, which you can believe is true, and no mistake. The amount is about $12,000. Suppose you will get a job of printing circulars, giving a full description of me, when the Superintendent (Mr. Quick) comes down. You can show him this, and I recommend you to get up as good a poster or handbill as he will need to distribute over the country. Wonder how much reward they will offer for my arrest? Expect it wil be pretty large, though. There is one thing, however, that you can give me credit for, and that is this: I don't leave Brownville owing different parties any money, not even the printer, as I have paid all my just debts. Well, I expect when you hear from me next, it will be to the effect that I am in the hands of an officer, as I know there are ninety-nine chances that I will be caught to one that I will escape; but I prefer to take the one chance for $12,000. There is only one thing that I feel sorry for, and that is my wife, but I do not think she will trouble herself much about me (at least I would advise her not to). Won't this make a splendid local for you!

J.K. Bear

The General Agent was not long in coming, and a reward of $2,000 was offered for the apprehension of the robber. As he had predicted, the ninety-nine chances were too strong for the one hundredth, and he was brought back. On the 14th day of September, he was indicted by the grand jury, tried the same week, and given the enormous (?) sentence of one year's imprisonment in the penitentiary! The light sentence was thought to be an outrage, but the Governor of the State capped the climax by pardoning the prisoner at the end of three months! After his arrest and during his imprisonment, his wife secured a divorce, but as soon as he was released, he returned to Brownville and remarried his wife. He then departed for parts unknown.


Public Schools. – The earliest school in Nemaha County, of which the old settlers have any recollection, was taught by Miss Angelina Cole, in the summer of 1855, three miles west of Brownville, in what is now London Precinct. The schoolhouse was built of logs. She taught 30 scholars for 3 months. The first teacher in Brownville was H.S. Thorpe, who taught 20 scholars in the autumn of 1855, in a cottonwood edifice 18x18 feet, located on Main Street, between First and Second. His first term was of 3 months' duration. W.F. McKinney, Amelia Davis, Minerva Nelson, S.C. Danforth, Sarah Brockman, J.M. Graham and William Thurber, also taught schools in Brownville prior to 1857. The first meeting to organize the system of public schools in Brownville, was held at the County Clerk's office, June 21, 1856, Judge A.J. Benedict acting as Chairman, and R.W. Furnas, Secretary. William Thurber, the County Superintendent, was present, and stated the object of the meeting to be to organize School District No. 1, for Nemaha County, and read the Territorial law, which provides that at this meeting "shall be elected a President, Secretary and Treasurer of the district, who shall constitute a Board of Education for the district, and shall hold their office until the next annual election, and be elected annually thereafter." The following school officers were elected: A.J. Benedict, President; R.W. Furnas, Secretary; Homer Johnson, Treasurer. The power was delegated to the board to levy sufficient tax, collect the same, select a site, and erect a school building as they may deem proper.

The first house erected in the county, designed especially for school purposes, was completed October, 1857, and built on the corner of Sixth and Atlantic streets, at a cost of $950, including lot. The lot was purchased, and the house erected by the order of the above-named Board of Education – Benedict, Furnas and Johnson. District No. 1, organized at the meeting June 21, 1856, embraced Brownville and the farms of Judge Benedict, William Furguson, Thomas L. Ricketts, Joel M. Wood and James W. Coleman. The Territorial School Law was of a liberal character, and empowered Boards of Education to select and purchase sites, erect buildings for school purposes, and levy taxes not exceeding 1½ per cent on the taxable property of the district to defray expenses.

On Monday, July 18, 1859, the High School of Brownville was opened, with T.W. Tipton, President of Brownville College, in charge. It was designed to receive scholars from a distance, and arrangements were made with private boarding houses to receive pupils at reduced rates. Monday, February 20, 1860, the second term of the High School commenced with T.W. Tipton in charge of the advanced classes. The Congregational Church building was used for the school. Public notice was given that tuition was free again to all actual residents of the Brownville School District, of proper grade. Non-residents admitted on moderate terms. A large and commodious boarding house was erected in the vicinity of the school for the accommodation of scholars, and kept by a Mr. Swan. During the year 1862, owing to carelessness of the officers and taxpayers, the school fund was so nearly exhausted that only one month's tuition was paid from public monies. The people were comforted with the assurance, however, that if they would pay their school tax promptly, a seven months' free school would be vouchsafed the following year.

To show the deep interest manifested in the cause of education by devoted friends of the cause, in the early days, the following from a Clerk of the Board of Education, dated November 20, 1860, is quoted:

One of a deep, comprehensive and refined mind, places the cause of education before any other. None of the learned professions can compare in dignity and importance that of a common school teacher; for books cannot render him competent, though they may assist that natural tact so essential to a successful development of the youthful mind. And, now I am on this subject, permit me to say that the modern method of crushing the energies of the mind by a multiplicity of studies, is most disastrous in its consequences, and prevents that healthy development so requisite to the full display of the fire of genius. It is like polishing a gem while yet encrusted with the crudity of extraneous substances. It is calculated to render pupils superficial, and I hope the practice may be reprobated. Permit me to mention another matter connected with the cause of education--I allude to the institution of libraries in every school district. They need not be large, but the books should be well selected. In my experience, I have never found an auxiliary more effectual to stimulate the young mind to deeds of noble enterprise; and I contend that these libraries should consist principally of historical and biographical works, with a few voyages and travels; and, to create in some minds a taste for reading, some standard works of fiction might be added. I would not advise many works of an abstruse character--the pupil finds sufficient intellectual toil in his daily labors, and it is to give a healthy, vigorous tone to the mind--a relaxation tending to induce him to enter with renewed vigor into his studies. I contend that no youth of any aspiration can read 'Plutarch's Lives' without having his genius fanned into a flame--without being animated in the various pursuits of life--without a determination to leave his mark behind him--a comet's blaze to excite the admiration of the world. There are within our territory many rustic youths that, by judicious stimulants and proper training, would roll the lightning power of their eloquence through Congress shall, grace the learned professions, add dignity to labor, prove themselves the benefactors of their country, and secure for themselves an everlasting memorial?

On the 15th of April, 1867, the Brownville High School commenced a six months' term in the large, new building, under the supervision of Charles A. Baker, an experienced principal, with an efficient corps of assistants. The principal was a graduate of Harvard University. The new building was supplied with all the modern improvements in the way of desks, etc., with a capacity to comfortably seat 500 pupils. The entire cost of the building was $30,000. The main building is forty by sixty feet, three stories high from the basement, with a vestibule in front, 10 by 20 feet, from ground to roof. The basement and first floor are laid off into four large rooms, twenty-four by thirty feet each, the upper story contains two rooms twenty-four by thirty feet on the west, with one room on the east, 30 by 48 feet. The stairs leading to the second story are in the vestibule, having a large space for hanging hats, satchels, cloaks and bonnets of the pupils. The building is lighted by twenty-four large windows on the east and west, and twenty on the north and south. It is seated with patent iron framed desks and seats, heated from basement, and contains ample ventilators in each room. A large cupola is constructed near the front on top, and contains a large bell. It is not out of place to give credit to Dr. McPherson for the completion of this enterprise. He was the earliest and most stanch friend of the school, and to his unceasing labors the citizens are largely indebted for the fine edifice that is still the pride and main ornament of Brownville. With him labored Luther Hoadley, J.H. Morrison, John L. Carson and others. They all worked with zeal and energy. Long may the high school building stand as a monument to the liberality and persistent labors of its early friends.

The first term of the High School in 1867 opened in the new house, under very flattering auspices. Within a few weeks of the beginning, over two hundred scholars were enrolled--several from abroad. Among the text books in the advanced classes were Harkness' Latin Grammar, Andrews' Latin Reader, Cicero's Orations, Virgil, Horace's Odes and Satires, Cζser's Commentaries, Arnold's Latin Prose Composition, Hadley's Greek Grammar, Xenophon's Anabasis, Homer's Iliad, Arnold's Greek Prose Composition, Liddell and Scott's Greek Lexicon, Andrew's Latin Lexicon, Smith's Classical Dictionary. The services of Prof. J.M. McKenzie and wife were secured for the fall term, and the affairs of the school under their management were in the highest degree satisfactory. The schools of Brownville early took high rank in the State of Nebraska, but it was not until April, 1868, that the system of graded schools obtained a firm foothold. At that time, Mr. George B. Moore was the Principal, with John S. Schenck, Miss M. Morey and Miss D. Johnson, assistants. To Mr. Moore and his corps of assistants, the people of Brownville are greatly indebted for their present excellent system of public schools. At the organization of the High (or Graded) School in 1868, there were 261 pupils in attendance. In 1880, the number of pupils enrolled in the public schools of Brownville, according to Prof. Wilson's report, amounted to 365. Prof. Wilson was assisted by a corps of eight lady teachers. In the Primary Department (which includes the first three years in the school), are three teachers and 170 pupils. In the Intermediate Department (extending over three years), are two teachers and 100 pupils. In the Grammar Department (occupying two years), are one teacher and fifty pupils. The High School course occupies three years and a preparatory year for pupils who require extra training in elementary subjects. The Principal and an Assistant are the teachers in this department, and forty-five pupils are in attendance. The School Board and the people are liberal in the support of the schools, and many of the pupils give bright promise of success in school and in life. The school aims to afford to all the children of the district the opportunity of getting as much and as good education as possible, to read intelligently, and to write legible and correct English. It is not the aim of the school to finish scholars, but to teach them some important things thoroughly, and to do some things well. In the High School, the first thing taught is thoroughness in the fundamental and directly practical subjects of a common-school education. After this is secured, pupils are encouraged to go on to the higher subjects, and are aided in preparing for higher institutions or for life's business. Since the commencement of these schools by Mr. Moore, the following-named gentlemen have had charge of the city schools: W. Rich, J. McKenzie, H.M. Wallace, Miss Ada Irvin, W.E. Wilson, A.R. Wightman. The last-named gentleman is the present Principal, with the following corps of teachers: Emma Morgan, Assistant;* Mrs. T.H. Dey, Grammar Department; Mr. Edward Dey, Higher Intermediate; Miss Anna McDonald, First Intermediate; Emma Clark, Secondary; Mrs. F.J. Ebright and Mrs. Caroline Johnson, Primary. The School Board is at present constituted as follows: J.C. McNaughton, Moderator; George D. Carrington, Director; A.H. Gilmore, Treasurer; John L. Carson, S.A. Osborn, T.C. Hacker. The School Bpards of Brownville ahve never believed in the policy of employing cheap teachers, but have always allowed liberal salaries to teachers. At the present time, the Principal receives $1,000 for nine months services, and the Assistants $42.50 per month each.

Brownville College was organized in December, 1858, with Rev. T.W. Tipton, President; D.C. Sanders, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; R.W. Furnas, Secretary; R. Brown, Treasurer; A.L. Coate, R.W. Furnas, K. Brown, D.C. Sanders, Trustees. The Medical Department of the college was organized at the same time, and a course of lectures delivered to a class of twenty five. The officers were as follows: Luther Hoadley, President; A.S. Holladay, Treasurer; W.C. Johnson, Secretary; Faculty--Jonas Crane, M.D., Professor of Surgery; A.S. Holladay, M.D., Professor of Theory and Practice; John McPherson, M.D., Professor of Theory and Practice; William Arnold, M.D., Professor of Anatomy and Dean of the Faculty; W.C. Johnson, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence; E.D. Allen, Profeesor of Chemistry. But one course of lectures was delivered.

*Miss Morgan recently resigned, and Miss Celia Furnas has been elected in her stead.


The first sermon preached in Brownville was one delivered by Rev. Joel M. Wood, a Campbellite minister, who came to Nebraska in 1854, and was one of the Brownville town site proprietors. This sermon was delivered in the same year, but no church organization was effected until 1855, occasional services, however, being held in the interim in private houses in, and in the immediate vicinity of, the city.

The Christian Church was, as has been said, the first religious body in the Territory--except the Indian Mission--and was organized in Brownville in January, 1855. Elder Joel M. Wood was the first pastor, and preached the first sermon in a schoolhouse. Services were held quite regularly in the schoolhouse, and at a later day, in the Baptist Church for several years. Elders Hawley, Connoran and T.B. Edwards ministered to the church for several years after the departure of Elder Wood, and, in 1877, the members, feeling that from carelesness or want of energy the denomination was losing ground, In November of that year a new organization was effected, and measures were taken to wipe out the reproach of using schoolhouses and the buildings of other sects. Funds were raised, and a neat, substantial frame building, 36x66 feet, was built on Main street, at an expense of $2,300. The church numbers ninety members, and Elder Rowe is now preaching on his second year. The Sabbath school numbers seventy-five scholars, with seven teachers. The Elders are D.O. Cross, William Zook, and William Berger.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Brownville in February, 1858. Rev. Mr. Gordon was first preacher in charge. Soon after the delivery of the first sermon, a protracted meeting was held, in which the pastor and Rev. Mssrs. Goode, Cannon, Powell and Horn officiated. A membership of forty or fifty was soon gathered together, and since that time Methodism has continued to prosper. The congregation now worship in a well-built brick church, 35x60 feet, erected by the Congregationalists and afterward purchased by the Methodists. Since Mr. Gordon was transferred to another field of labor, the following-named ministers have been stationed in Brownville: Revs. Hiram Birch, Hart, White, Blackburn, May, martin, Colt, Birch, Slaughter, Richards, Rodebaugh and Wilson. Rev. Mr. Esterbrook is now pastor in charge. The records show seventy-five members. The following persons constitute the official board: B.M. Daily, T.F. Seaton, A.W. Nickell, John Bauer, John Bath, Thomas Bath; A.W. Nickell, Superintendent of Sabbath school. The school has twelve teachers and 125 scholars. The Congregational Church was organized on the 23d of June, 1858, with Rev. Thomas W. Tipton as pastor, but as an organized body it ceased in 1860, the most of its members joining the Presbyterian Church. The church was purchased by the Methodists.

The Presbyterian Church was organized October 31, 1858. Rev. Amos S. Billingsley, a missionary of the Board of Domestic Missions of the Old School Presbyterian Church, was the first pastor. First officers: Luther A. Williams, Elder; John Barnes, William Arnold, Deacons. Number of members, fourteen. Their church edifice--the first built in the city--was erected on the corner of Second and Atlantic streets, and designed for a Union Church. The house has a seating capacity of 300, and is 40x60 feet. Luther A. Hoadley was the moving spirit as well as the financial backer in the matter of organizing the church and erecting a building. Rev. J.T. Baird was the second pastor, and remained ten years. He was followed by Rev. Mr. Ellis, who, after a pastorate of eighteen months, was succeeded by Rev. S.R. Warrenden. Next came Rev. W.J. Weeber, who withdrew, and the vacancy was filled by Rev. H.O. Scott, who is now in the second year of his ministry. The present Elder is A.H. Gilmore; W.H. McCrecry and J.C. Deuser, Deacons; Delos Smith, Leader of Choir. Number of members, 80. The Sabbath school (formerly known as the Union Sabbath School) has eighty scholars. A.H. Gilmore is superintendent; W.H. McCreery, Secretary; and James Dort, Treasurer.

Christ Church (Episcopal). – The first Episcopal service was held in Brownville by Rt. Rev. J.C. Talbot, the second Missionary Bishop of the Diocese, in the fall of 1863. In the early part of 1864, the Episcopalians, through the kindness of the Presbyterians, held monthly meetings in the church of the latter, and two years later, a few friends of the church met at the residence of E.W. Thomas, Esq., to devise ways and means for the erection of a church home of their own. They at once subscribed $500 for fitting up McPherson's Hall in a manner suitable for divine worship, and a Sunday school was organized. The first service was held May 7, 1866, by Bishop Clarkson, assisted by three clergymen. On the 4th of August, 1867, Bishop Clarkson visited the mission. After service, a subscription paper was started, headed with $1,000 from Christ Church, Hartford, Conn. In a few days, the friends of the church and citizens of Brownville, by their liberality, had pledged nearly $2,000. Services were continued at McPherson's Hall by Rev. George R. Davis, missionary, until the completion of the church building, corner fo Atlantic street, July 26, 1868, on which day it was consecrated by bishop Clarkson. The cost of the building and rectory was $5,000. Rev. James E. Roberts succeeded Rev. Mr. Davis as missionary February 25, 1872. The following year, Rev. F.M. Nash became missionary, and in 1874, Rev. E.B. Richardson assumed the rectorship. Three years later, Rev. Matthew Henry became rector, and remained in charge until September, 1879. An arrangement was then made with Rev. Thomas Dickey, President of Nebraska College, who continues to minister to the parish every other Sabbath. Number of communicants, 18. D. Campbell, Senior Warden. Number of scholars in Sabbath school, 25. George B. Moore, Superintendent. Three teachers in school.

The Baptist Church – What is now called the Baptist Church building was first erected by the Christians in 1858, and by that denomination occupied until the great storm of April, 1866, in which the building was destroyed. The lot and ruins were then purchased by the Baptists and the present house, 35x50 feet, erected. An organization had previously been perfected, and Elder S.L. Collins, preached in school and dwelling houses until the completion of the new edifice. Since that time, Elders Collins, Rowe and Morgan have been the preachers. Two years since, Elder Reed, of Peru, had charge of the church for a period of eight weeks, holding meetings every other Sabbath. Since that time, no regular services have been held. Many of the members have removed to other localities. At present the house is used by the colored people, who hold meetings, but have no church organization.

The Roman Catholics gained a foothold in Brownville in 1870, and on the 24th day of July of the same year, the corner stone of their church edifice was laid by Rev. Father Curtis, of Omaha. The church has steadily maintained its organization and at present time numbers ten families. Rev. Father Fitzgerald, of South Auburn, holds services every fourth Sunday.

The Colored Baptist Church of Brownville was organized in February, 1882, with nine members, under charge of Rev. Daniel Walker. They hold public worship every other Sabbath in the Baptist meeting house.

The Brownville Union Sabbath School was organized November 15, 1858, with the following list of officers: Rev. J.B. Wells, Superintendent; L. Hoadley, Assistant; J.M. Graham, Librarian; R.T. Rainey, Secretary; J.L. Carson, Treasurer. After an existence of less than two years, the school was merged with the Presbyterian school.

Nemaha County Bible Society. — This society was organized in 1850 and the constitution adopted October 13 of the same year. The fist officers were: Rev. A.S. Billingsley, President; Rev. T.W. Tipton. Vice President: L. Hoadley, Secretary; John L. Carson, Treasurer. This society has maintained its organization from the start and continues to spread the Gospel. The present officers are: A.H. Gilmore, President; D.O. Cross, Secretary; A.W. Nickell, Treasurer and Depositor; B.M. Bailey, Kenyon Skeen and W.H. McCreery, Directors. Annual meetings are held in the last month of each year.

The Press

In the autumn of 1855, Dr. John McPherson came to Brownville, and, pleased with the town and its prospects, determined to remove his printing material from Tippecanoe, Ohio, for the purpose of engaging in the newspaper business. He traded one-half his establishment to R. Brown for Brownville town lots, stipulating to publish a weekly newspaper for one year. On the 9th of April, 1856, Robert W. Furnas, who was to have editorial charge of the office, John L. Colhapp and Chester S. Langdon, printers, arrived with the material, and on the 7th day of June, 1856, appeared the first number of the Nebraska Advertiser. From that time to the present the paper has been regularly issued. One of the earliest contributors to the columns of the Advertiser was Dr. A.S. Holladay, who occasionally occupied the editorial chair during the absence of Mr. Furnas. Soon after the publication of the first number of the Advertiser, Dr. McPherson donated his one-half interest in the office to R.W. Furnas, on condition that it should be published as an independent or neutral journal. The restriction was rigidly observed. At that time the Territory was strongly Democratic. The office was opened in Lake's Block, on Second, between Main and College streets; was afterward removed to McPherson's Block, on the south side of Main between Second and Third streets; at a still later day, to the north side of Main, between First and Second streets.

October 2, 1857, Chester S. Langdon was admitted as a publisher, making the firm Furnas & Langdon. On the 15th of May, 1858, R.W. Furnas assumed control again, and continued in entire charge until November 24, 1859, when L.E. Lyanna became a partner. On the 28th November, 1861, the Union office was consolidated with the Advertiser, and T.R. Fisher was taken in as a partner. May 8, 1862, Furnas & Fisher were proprietors, with Fisher & Hacker as publishers. [R.W. Furnas had enlisted and gone to the war, as Colonel of a Nebraska Regiment.] December 6, 1862, T.C. Hacker withdrew from the office as one of the publishers. July 16, 1863, the names of proprietors of the paper were dropped, only the name of T.R. Fisher appearing as the publisher. In the autumn of 1863, Fisher & Colhapp (the last named came with office to Brownville in 1856), became publishers. September 14, 1864, W.H. Miller became the publisher, and was succeeded December 22, 1864, by George W. Hill and J.H. Colhapp. July 18, 1867, R.V. Muir entered the firm. November 17 of the same year, Jarvis S. Church bought the interest of Hill & Muir, and the firm name became Church & Colhapp. January 23, 1868, T.C. Hacker entered the firm as a junior partner and business manager. January 6, 2870, the original publisher, R.W. Furnas, bought out Church, and the firm name became Furnas, Colhapp & Hacker. January 5, 1871, Church & Hacker became the publishers, and July of the same year, Maj. Caffrey purchased Church's interest, and the firm name became Caffrey & Hacker. The firm remained unchanged until January 22, 1874, when G.W. Fairbrother bought out Maj. Caffery, and the firm of Fairbrother & Hacker continued until December, 1881, when G.W. Fairbrother became sole proprietor. In March, 1882, the material was removed to Calvert, where, under the same name, the Advertiser continues to be published. It is now published by G.W. Fairbrother & Co. The Advertiser is Republican in politics, and has been so since 1860.

For a few weeks in 1857, a small daily sheet named the Snort, was issued from the Advertiser office, under the editorial supervision of Langdon & Goff. "Old rye" was a legal tender in payment of subscriptions. A score of issues was enough to send the little paper to "the tomb of the Capulets.”

In September, 1869, a four-column daily paper, entitled the Bulletin, was issued from the Advertiser office, but proving unremunerative, was suspended in August, 1861.

In 1870, a campaign Daily Advertiser was published for a few months.

The first agricultural journal in the State was established in Brownville, in January, 1859, by R.W. Furnas, and its publication continued for three years.

In 1859, the Nemaha Valley Journal office was removed from Nemaha City to Brownville, but, after a brief existence, the material was purchased by the publishers of the Advertiser, and the office again removed to Nemaha City.

The Aspinwall Journal, of which Dr. A.S. Holladay and John H. Mann were publishers, was removed to Brownville in 1861, and, under the name of Journal, its publication was continued a few months, when the establishment passed into the hands of the publishers of the Advertiser, and the material was sold and taken to Illinois.

The second Nemaha Valley Journal was commenced in Brownville, by Hill & Blackburn in 1867. At the end of four months, the material was removed to Falls City, Richardson County.

In July, 1868, Messrs. Holladay & Hill established the Brownville Democrat. These gentlemen continued its publication until the spring of 1873, when the establishment was sold to Calhoun & Vancil. These gentlemen continued it publication, and, for about one year, issued also a daily edition. In 1874, an arrangement was made by which the paper was made the county organ of the granger organization, and its name changed to the Nemaha Granger. At this time, A.S. Holladay and B.F. Sanders were publishers and proprietors. In the autumn of 1874, George B. Moore purchased the entire office, and has continued its publication ever since. The Granger is not a party organ; but, while its publisher claims to hold strong convictions on all public questions, he avows his independence of dictators and cliques. He avows his main design in the publication of his Granger to be the upbuilding of Brownville and Nemaha County.

April, 1882, J. Thompson, a young man who learned the printer's trade in the Advertsier office, purchased an office in Fullerton, Neb., and established a Republican paper in the old Advertiser office, on the north side of Main Street, between First and Second. He has named his paper the Brownville Republican.

United States Land Office

In pursuance of an act of Congress, approved March 3, 1857, establishing three additional land districts in the Territory of Nebraska, the office of the first, or Nemaha Land District, was placed in Brownville, George H. Nixon, of Tennessee, being appointed Registrar.

This office was opened for the pre-emption of lands September 2, 1857, with C.B. Smith, Receiver, and Eli Wilcox, Clerk. During the first month of its existence, the filings numbered 333, and the number of acres of land located 18,000. On the 10th of November, 1868, the office was removed to Beatrice, Gage County, as more convenient for those desirous of making preemptions, the majority of the tracts in the river counties being already settled and proved.

River Improvements

The local bureau for Missouri River improvement at Brownville is in charge of J.W. Pearl, Assistant Engineer, and M.T. Aguayo, Assistant, and W.A. Eberly, Clerk. The chief of the department is Maj. Charles R. Suter, who has charge of the improvements from Fort Benton to St. Louis, and also supervision of snag boat service on all the principal Western Rivers. The Congressional appropriation for 1881 was $10,000; for the next fiscal year, ending June, 1882, $10,000. The object of the improvement work is to induce deposits, close up shutes, and to improve the channel of the river. Every annual rise of the river causes the washing away of valuable farming lands, and to lessen this evil is the great desideratum; and, after many experiments, F.H. Harris, of St. Charles, Mo., originated the idea, that has been fully developed by Maj. L.E. Cooley (assistant to Maj. Suter), of planting wire screens or fences, that, on trial, have proven effective. Shutes have been closed, bars formed, and channels changed, at the will of the scientific gentlemen in charge of the work. Mr. Pearl has "made a fence" 2,200 feet long, a few miles above Brownville, which is working satisfactorily. With increased appropriations, the Government Engineers will permanently improve the hitherto untamable Missouri. Τ

Excerpted by Jim McCoy, February, 1979

Edited by Lynn Sabin, October 2004


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