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Copy of an article that appeared in the Columbus Weekly Telegram, June 1, 1906.

Columbus was fifty years old last Tuesday, and it seems quite remarkable that the day was permitted to pass unobserved by appropriate anniversary ceremonies. And not so remarkable, either --- few of the present generation were aware that the city of their nativity or residence had a birthday last Tuesday, and only one of the men who were present at the birth of Columbus, Mr. Jacob Louis, is living today. Mr. Louis is an old man now, and little given to celebrating, and the younger generation was evidently not disposed to celebrate. It was on the evening of May 29, 1856, that Mr. Louis and twelve associates, comprising the Columbus Townsite company, arrived here after a tedious trip by ox team from Omaha. Mr. Louis is now nearing the age of four score years. His memory is not as good as it was a decade ago, and he has forgotten many of the interesting details attending the birth of Columbus, but for the benefit of a Telegram reporter who called at his home last Tuesday he recalled a few of them.

"We arrived here in the evening," he said, "and camped for the night on this side of the river near Buck Island. There were thirteen in the party, including myself. The others were Frederick Gottschalk, Carl Reinke, Michael Smith, Jacob Guter, John Wolfel, Vincent Kummer, Henry Lusche, Charles Bremer, John Browner, J. P. Becker, Anthony Voll, and John Held. Five of us had been here the previous March, later returning to Omaha where the company was organized. The original town plat was one mile square. The grove of trees at my home place was on the east line. The landscape as far as the eye could see was unbroken prairie, and of course there was not a house to be seen. On the banks of the Loup these days were many trees, and during the first month we built a log house near the present site of the brewery, covering it with a roof of grass. That was the first building in Columbus, and furnished us all a home for several months. Nearly every member of the company had an ox team, and during the first summer we broke ground and put in a crop. The harvest that fall didn't amount to much. Grasshoppers came and saved us the trouble of harvest, and on this account we had a hard time to keep from starving during the next winter. But wild game was abundant in those days, and we had plenty of fresh meat. Deer and elk, especially, were plentiful, and I have seen wild buffalo in this county. At one time after a prairie fire I saw about a thousand elk in one herd not far from Columbus. They had been driven before the fire until stopped by the river, which was running bank full. The day on which Columbus was born was cloudless and calm, not damp and dingy as it is today. It seems a long while ago, and as I look about me and see the great changes which have taken place I know it was long ago."



One of the most active of those first pioneers was John Rickly. He entered into the building up of the town in various ways, but his most valuable contribution was that of the erection of a saw mill, in return for which he was to receive eighteen shares of stock in the Columbus Town Company.

Mr. Rickly kept a diary of those early years, the original of which is in the possession of his granddaughters. Martha Turner copied the following items from this diary.


June 8, 1856, Left Columbus, Ohio, by rail.

June 27, Passed some seven hundred Mormons on road.

July 3, Arrived at Council Bluffs. Passed eight hundred Mormons.

July 3, Went on to Omaha.

July 9, Went to DeSota with Kummer and Creighton, found things only tolerable. Returned on July 10. A new road was just laid out to Fontenelle, nineteen miles. Went into the country some four miles for claims, but found nothing desirable.

July 11, Wrote home about lots and prospects of Omaha, DeSota and Columbus.

July 12, After supper, we met a Court on the Prairie in open air arguing a little case.

July 15. Paid A. Eitel twenty dollars for his claim at Columbus.

July 16, Went to Bellevue.

July 21, Went to Papillion Creek.

July 22, Bought the John Creighton claim. In afternoon, went seven miles west with Griffin and bought a claim.

July 25, Bought four shares of Columbus, Nebraska Territory from Mitchell.

July 25, Started for Columbus with Kummer. Stopped that night at Elkhorn. Mormons and Omaha Indians and Scotch travelers were all encamped together with us, with yet others.

July 26, Got to Columbus at noon.

July 28, We reconnoitered about Columbus and set stakes

July 29, V. Kummer and self staked forty acres timber claims, seventeen rods from a bridge on the Creek emptying into Loup Fork River. Nearby for him.

July 30, I staked off one hundred sixty acres on the west side of Columbus Road and have left both descriptions for record with sheriff and contracted with A. Denck nd partners for moving my house onto corner lot in Block 89, put on a good roof, etc., and then started for Omaha. About that time the Mormons and the grasshoppers came, the latter by the millions.

August 1, We got to Omaha at noon; gone in all seven days.

August 3, We, V. Burkley, I. Breidenback, J. I. Baker, A. Voll and self, went west over the Papio Creek, made two claims along creek two miles west and one-half mile north for S. S. Rickly (brother) and Vincent Burkley.

August 4, Saw Mt. Vernon foundry man about mill.

August 27, Columbus directors were together and did not finish saw mill affairs.

August 28, Robertson has not lived up to his promise about Indian affairs.

August 30, Closed the saw mill arrangement to commence September 1.

September 2, Left for St. Louis on Genoa. (Evidently to get machinery for mill.) Overnight above mouth of Platte.

September 3, Landed on Missouri side opposite Indian Reserve. The Reserve is some thirty miles on the river and ten miles back, belongs to Ottoe's bounded by Nemaha's.

September 12, About closed contract for machinery.

Telegraphed home to S. S. Rickly (brother) "I am coming home." Wrote several business letters and started for home (Columbus, Ohio) in evening.

September 15, Arrived home at night by way of Indianapolis.

September 18, Sold two Columbus, N. T. certificates.

September 29, Left home at eight o'clock for St. Louis.


Henry Egge was one of the founders of the town of Grand Island in 1857. He had come from Germany to America in 1855, making the trip on a sail boat which took them "something over fifty days," he says. He finally, after several stops along the way, reached Davenport, Iowa, where he became interested in a proposition offered by wealthy men to finance a group who would be willing to form this first colony. The men were informed that Congressmen and banking houses of Washington and Boston would back the enterprise, believing that the Capital would be moved from Washington to the section near the center of the United States.

Moses H. Sydenham, of Kearney, published on April 5, 1872, pamphlets with maps to show that the Capital of the United States should be moved to that town. The government fort, Fort Kearney, had been abandoned in the spring of 1871, and the Sydenham argument was so effective as to bring about national discussions of the removal to a central district of the nation. Sydenham may have had his inspiration from the efforts of the Boston-Washington men who in 1857 had attempted to finance the Davenport colony to build a town at Grand Island,

The History of Platte County Nebraska

and which they failed to do, on account of the financial crisis of 1857-1858.

The Grand Island colony was part of Platte County until 1859.

Mr. Egge kept a diary from the date that he left Germany, and this came into the possession of Mrs. W. H. Workmeister in 1929. The State Historical Society has a translation of the German copy, from which portions that pertain to Columbus were copied.

The company started at ten o'clock a.m. on May 28, 1857, from Davenport, Iowa, he said, "including twenty-four men, five women, one girl and one child." On June 18, they reached the Missouri River and crossed on the ferry, and made camp near the town of Omaha. On June 20, they traveled ten miles where they met a Mormon train of two hundred men, who had only two wagons "and carried their extra things along with them in wheelbarrows." On June 21, they traveled ten miles to Elkhorn, where there was a camp of one hundred and sixty Mormons. The town of Fremont was passed on June 23, "which had ten houses." On June 23, he records, "We passed Buchanan, where there is one house. We camped on Shell Creek in the evening."

This is an exact copy of the diary record:

June 25. The gnats plagued us so last night that we could not sleep. We couldn't find any water during the morning, so had to go on until twelve o'clock, when we came to the Platte River. In the morning, our livestock crossed to an island in the Platte and so several swimmers had to go and bring them back. We bathed in the evening.

Friday, June 26. During the morning, we passed our engineer and the other Americans who still had with them a wagon containing food supplies. Then we met a train of fifteen wagons belonging to some disloyal Mormons who were returning from Utah and who took us to be Mormons. Soon after this, we arrived at Columbus, where there were eighteen houses. A mile further on was Cleveland where one house stood and where there was a ferry over the Loup Fork. Since the ferry was too expensive for us, we traveled north along the Loup Fork up into Indian territory. We came across another town called Monroe where there were two houses. Jack sold his dog there. In the evening, we crossed a creek along which we camped for the night.

Saturday, June 27. It was very warm last night and we could not sleep on account of the gnats. About three a.m., such a terrible wind arose that we feared the covers would break off the wagons. Thereafter a terrific rain for several hours. We departed at twelve noon and soon came to the ford on the Loup Fork. Jack's dog had followed us and K. Emald had taken his neck-band off. He was in the Loup Fork when the people came and took the dog away again. He also had a pitch fork which he had found in the Mormon camp which had been at the ford. We had to wade in water about a quarter mile in the Loup Fork. When we got all our wagons across, we made camp.

After various experiences they reached the site on which they chose to make a settlement. He wrote on Sunday, July 5, 1857, "in the afternoon, we laid out the town and claims."

Cold weather came in the fall of the year and provisions were needed, so men were sent to Omaha for supplies. Five men and Egge were sent out to meet the returning wagons, which were past due. On the way, they heard from other travelers that the men with the food supplies were at Columbus, to where the men hurried and arrived on November 13.

Henry Egge wrote:

Sunday, November 14.. A couple of our men came over the Loup Fork with a very small boat and we counciled as to what was to be done now, as the ferry boat had been driven a mile down stream. We bought up all the building material there was in Columbus and tried to build a structure across the Loup Fork in order to set the ferry boat in motion again. We worked unceasingly at this for three days.

Tuesday, November 17. With the little boat, we shifted two thousand pounds of flour and several other necessities where upon Hagge, I, and two named Thede and Stier, who were ill with a fever, left on Wednesday, November 18, and arrived in our settlement in the dark.

The author had mentioned at one time that a group of buffalo hunters had visited the settlement. On December 17, he wrote that "The mules belonging to the buffalo hunters who left us some time ago froze to death on the ferry boat on the Loup Fork. On January 10, 1858, the settlers were looking for some of their men again waylaid at Columbus, and he writes:

Our wagon came back from their reconaissance (sic) tour but they had not seen nor heard anything of our people. The Loup Fork was said to have been full of moving ice, so they could not get across. We don't know anything about what conditions our trains are in, where they are or what will happen to us. .

The trains with the provisions finally reached the settlers on January 25.

Mr. Egge did not record events for some time, but on February 7, 1867, he wrote:

In August and September, 1864, there was much fear and anxiety here on account of the hostile Indians. All of the Americans between Columbus and Fort Kearney fled to Omaha and even some of us Germans sent our wives, children, and our best things there. Even in Omaha, there was fear of the Indians. It was sad to


see the way people left house, farm, harvest, etc., and moved away. The trail, was often crowded with refugees. But the dreaded Indians did not come.


On January 7, 1857, A. W. Puett of Dakota County introduced a bill, No. 8, entitled "A bill to establish the Bank of Columbus to be located at Columbus, Nebraska." This came up for reading the third time on February 9, and was passed eight to four. But Governor Mark W. Izard vetoed the measure, together with others, when it reached his table, with an extended explanation of his action.

In the meantime, George L. Miller of Omaha had introduced a bill entitled "An act to charter the bank of Christopher, to be located at Columbus." This was undoubtedly one of the little jokes on the town, for nothing more was heard about it.

Samuel E. Rogers, on January 22, gave notice that he would introduce a bill to define the boundaries, locate the seat of justice, and organize the County of Platte. The bill was passed by the House and the Council on the same day, that is, February 10, 1857.

H. F. No. 51 was a bill asking that a territorial road from Florence to Columbus via Golden Gate (mentioned as being on the Elkhorn), was passed on February 5, and approved on February 13, 1857.

Another bill which was approved on February 13, was that "To incorporate the Nebraska Central Railroad Company from some suitable point on the Missouri River in the County of Burt, thence westerly on the most suitable route to or near Fort Laramie." There were thirty-eight men named as sponsoring this bill, among them many of prominence, as Stephen Decatur, William N. Byers, E. Wakely, S. A. Strickland and others. This road would have been built up the Platte Valley.


The locating of the territorial capital and later the state capital was of great importance to the young colonies. The question came up at every session, but the most exciting and determined fight was that of the 1857-58 legislature. C. H. Gere, publisher of the Nebraska State journal, Lincoln, for many years, read paper on this subject before the annual meeting of the State Historical Society, on January 12, 1B86. This was printed in the society publications, Volume 2, issued in 1887.

A brief explanation is needed here. Mr. Gere mentioned "Mr. Kelly of Platte County." In a search for this, we found that after the county was organized, J. M. Taggart was in the House in 1857; John Reck was doorkeeper in the extra session of 1858; Henry W. DePuy represented the county in the 1858 session. John Reck was later, 1859, in the House. John E. Kelly was listed in the legislature of 1867. It is possible that Mr. Gere should have named John Reck instead of John Kelly. Or, it is possible that Mr. Kelly was in the room, but not as a legislator.

This is a part of a paragraph from the story by Mr. Gere:

A little after ten o'clock p.m., Augustus F. Harvey of Otoe rose and moved that Speaker Chapin be deposed, and that Dr. Abbott of Washington be elected to fill the vacancy. He then put the question to a viva voce vote, and declared the motion adopted and Dr. Abbott elected speaker of the House. The stalwart form of Mr. Parmalee, the fighting man of the faction, immediately lifted itself from a desk nearby, and advanced, with Dr. Abbott, toward the chair, backed up by Harvey and a procession of his friends. As he placed his foot upon the first step of the dais, Speaker Chapin suddenly unlimbered a Colt's navy duly cocked, and warned him briefly to the effect that the Pythagorean proposition that two bodies could not occupy the same space at the same time was a rule of the House, and would be enforced by the combined armament, at the command of the proper presiding officer. Daniel paused upon the brink of fate, and hesitated upon his next step. To hesitate was to be lost. The speaker announced that in accordance with the rules of the House in cases of great disorder, he declared the House adjourned until nine o'clock Monday morning, and sprang for the door. The Omaha lobby had promised faithfully when the crisis came to guard the door, and permit no rebel from the South Platte to escape. The first man to reach the door was said to be Kelly of Platte, who had joined the forces of the re-apportionists, and it is a tradition that he leaped over the legislative stove to get there on time. The door was burst open, and before the volunteer guard could recover its equilibrium, the seceders had escaped and were out of the building, scattering to the four quarters of the globe.


The county commissioners in session on March 2, 1858, at Columbus, received a petition signed by John Reck, John Miller, C. B. Stillman and thirteen other citizens of Columbus, praying for the incorporation of the town. The Record Book A at the County Clerk's office, stated:

The History of Platte County Nebraska

John Reck, Vincent Kummer, John C. Wolfel, Peter Meyer, and Frank G. Becher are hereby appointed trustees of said town until their successors are elected and qualified. An election shall be held on the first day of May, 1858, and annually thereafter. Gustavus Becher, Michael Fry, and C. B. Stillman are hereby appointed judges of election and Charles I. Stetson and John Siebert clerk of said election.


In the Territorial Council, on October 8, 1858, the fifth regular session of the legislature, a bill to incorporate Columbus was read for the first time. It was read the second time on October 9, and referred to the appropriate committee.


Nine years after its founding in 1856, Columbus was first incorporated as the "Town of Columbus," by a special act of the legislature of the Territory of Nebraska, which was approved February 11, 1865.

On August 18, 1873, it officially outgrew the village status when the town council passed an ordinance declaring it to be a city of the second class. This was done under the authority of a general act of the legislature in 1871, entitled, "An Act to Incorporate Cities of the Second Class and to Define Their Powers." There was serious question as to the validity of the proceedings, but the incorporation was later validated by a special act of the legislature, February 7, 1877.

The transition to a city of the first class (population exceeding five thousand) was made on September 25, 1907, by proclamation issued by Governor George L. Sheldon; sent to Mayor G. W. Phillips, and placed on the city records.


About three miles northwest of Columbus was laid out the town of Cleveland by George W. Stevens, William H. Stevens, and Michael Sweeny. This was the town site in which George Francis Train became interested, for he, says Taylor, "bought all movable Cleveland, put her on wheels, rolled her down to the center of the United States." Correctly speaking, he rolled the one building down to Columbus, and the house when up became the Hammond Hotel. It was Train who was ambitious to transport the national capitol to Columbus. The man was worth millions in money, and had the Omaha and Columbus people given him more encouragement, he might have accomplished many things which years later we know would not have been impossible.


J. P. Dwight, Government Surveyor, passed through Columbus by ox-team. in June, 1866. The following is an excerpt from his diary, dated June 18, 1866:

"We got to Columbus, a village of about thirty houses on the Loup River, where the Overland Trail crosses the river on a pontoon bridge. The bridge is held on flatboats held in place by a cable rope with the west end tied to a tree and the east end to a post.

"On the top of the post is an Indian's skull. The Pawnees, who are a big band here, say that it is a Sioux skull. The Sioux bones are of a reddish color, like those of a fox squirrel. The Siouxs are hostile against both the whites and the Pawnees. The Pawnees are friendly with the white people. They are more numerous here than the whites. They are dressed in all kinds of ways, only the right way. Some of the warriors have their hair cut close to their heads except a ridge at the top. The skin of their heads is painted red and there are red stripes on their faces and bodies and they carry war clubs.

"The Union Pacific Railroad got their tracks laid through here a few days ago. There is so much travel on the bridge that all have to take their turns. We have waited since eleven o'clock. It is nearly four o'clock now. We will get across in the course of an hour. We are across and pulling away for Buffalo and Hall Counties."


To early Columbus people, the Loup River was the problem, and it was also a source of revenue. Long before the first men wisely chose the present town site, travelers had wandered this way and found the "Main Street of the United States" was along this path, for it was early recognized that the short-cut path from coast to coast was by way of the Platte Valley.

It was the wise judgment of those first settlers to know how to choose for a town site.

The Loup River is a mighty stream, fed by springs in the sand hills of northwest Nebraska, it has held its record of being one of the most uniform flowing rivers in the United States. It was also the dread of the voyager if he must ford it.

All persons traveling west over the north-of- the-Platte route crossed the Loup either at or near Columbus or Genoa. The first great caravans which came this way were those of the Mormons in 1847. That is, the earlier caravans carrying those people who expected to remain in the west. Winter Quarters had been established by that church at the site of the present town of Florence, where the winter of 1846-1847 was passed. Upward of twelve thousand Mormons were there and across the river in Iowa. All of these people later passed this


valley on their way to Utah. At the time of the Mormon trek west in 1847, they reported that mere was a "poor bridge" across Shell Creek, which they had crossed probably east of the present town of Schuyler. There was not a settlement in all of Nebraska west of the Missouri River at that time, so who it was that built the bridge, we cannot say. Possibly the Indians or the fur traders who traveled back and forth to the Pawnees, or it may have been the Mormons themselves. These people reported that they forded the Looking Glass and Beaver Creek. They crossed the Loup near where the town of Genoa is now located.

It has been said that Peter A. Sarpy, the American Fur Company Indian trader established at Bellevue, put in the first ferry on the Loup near the present town of Columbus. We do not find the date of when he first established this or do we find any account of a ferry having been conducted any earlier than his at the Forks of the Loup. Sarpy was well acquainted with the locality, and as settlers to the Oregon and California regions began the long journey westward, it was a wise and profitable business adventure to build his ferry at this point.

In the State Historical Society Transactions, Volume 3, is a story recording the diary kept by a woman, who with her family was journeying from Wisconsin to California in 1853 (three years before the town of Columbus was established). Evidently there were at the time many groups of pioneers traveling the same route, as she frequently mentions other caravans, and ferries across streams as the Missouri and Elkhorn. And business was brisk at all of the crossings.

Quoted from this printed page about the Columbus neighborhood:


May 25, 1853. We are traveling near the Platte River, and as far as we have seen Nebraska, I think the country much more beautiful than Iowa, but never have seen few flowers in any other country at this season of the year. The snakes I have observed today are all of an entirely different character from those we have seen before arid I should think much more harmless.

May 28, 1853, We came on the ferry at Loup Forks, where we shall be obliged to remain until tomorrow in consequence of the crowd here before us.

May 29, 1853. Cold, the rain pouring down upon our horses, and we must remain until tomorrow.

May 30, 1853. At seven o'clock, we left our encampment and went to the ferry where we remained two or three hours waiting for the company with whom we intend to travel across. The river at the Fork is seven or eight rods wide and twelve feet deep in the current of the stream; the bed and banks of the river are entirely composed of quicksand. The ferryman, Commodore Decatur, was very polite indeed, and when we left, bade us goodbye, calling Frank (my daughter) very familiarly by her name, and wishing the blessing of God might rest upon us, for which we felt truly grateful, as it was the first time we had heard the name of the Supreme Being spoken with reverence since we left Madison; but oh! how dreadfully profaned! Tonight, we have encamped near the river.

May 31, 1853. We have traveled about twelve miles. Our way has been somewhat diversified by hills and valleys, bluffs and prairies; have encamped near the river where we find wood, water and good grass. We have now ten wagons and twenty-eight horses in our train.

June 4, 1853. The Indians are constantly committing depradations (sic) on the emigrants. Our company lost one hundred and forty-eight head of cattle in the storm of Saturday night, but have recovered most of them. Another lost ten horses. Our company keeps a double watch, but possibly the Indians may outwit them notwithstanding. This Nebraska is a miserable, unpleasant place indeed, and can never be inhabited, except by the Red man of the prairies; the climate is very cold and it is almost impossible even for the grass to grow.

This party reached their California destination on October 9, 1853.


Munson H. Clark, of Dodge County, on January 23, 1855, introduced a bill which is listed as C. F. Number 12 to grant a charter for a ferry across the Loup Fork River to be the Loup Fork Ferry Company. This then became the first bill introduced in the territorial legislature to mention the Forks of the Loup. After several delays and changes, Governor Mark Izard, on February 28, 1855, approved and signed the bill, which read, "An act to authorize Daniel C. Oakes and his associates to establish and keep a ferry across the Loup Fork of the Platte River." The three sections read:

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Nebraska, that Daniel C. Oakes and his associates, heirs and assigns, be and they are hereby authorized to establish and keep a ferry across Loup Fork of Platte River, at a point known as the Pawnee Ferry, or at any other practicable point, with exclusive privilege for the term of twenty years, reserving to the legislature the right at all times to fix the rate of toll.

Section 2. It shall be the duty of said corporation to keep a suitable boat or bridge over both the above named streams, for the safe and speedy crossing of persons and property, at all suitable and reasonable times.

The History of Platte County Nebraska

Section 3. Such company shall be governed by bylaws, rules and regulations, not inconsistent with the laws of the United States or this territory.

Section 4. This act to take effect from and after its passage.

Office of the Secretary of the Territory, Omaha City,

Nebraska. March 16, 1855.

I hereby certify that the above having remained three days in this office, without the signature of the Governor, and not having been returned to the House in which it originated, has become, and is hereby declared a law, without the executive approval.

(signed) T. W. Cuming,Spacer
Secretary of the Territory.

The personnel of this group of men was outstanding. In the realization that they were acquainted with the great possibility confronting the new territory, and the fact that many emigrants were desirous of crossing the streams to western regions, these men had organized in a strictly business venture, absolutely practical and necessary.

The first man mentioned is Peter A. Sarpy, of Bellevue, who had been for many years a fur trader with various tribes of Indians, and knew the state, its streams, and its Indians.

D. C. Oakes is frequently mentioned in history in regard to the operation of ferries.

James C. Mitchell was a member of the Council from Washington County, and founder of the town of Florence. Before coming west, he had been a sea captain ... he was one to be reckoned with.

I. N. Taylor paper on Platte County History, given July 4, 1876, tells this story:

Burtch and Mitchell, who had established a ferry on the Loup, in connection with others of Omaha, laid out a town extending from the ferry and interfering with each other. Finally, a compromise was effected, Pawnee City, Burtch and Mitchell's town, was abandoned and Rickly was appointed as assistant to Kummer in laying out the new plat.


The Omaha Times of September 23, 1858, under the head of, "To Cherry Creek Miners," published the following:

The report has been in circulation here, a few days past, that owing to the gold excitement the rates of ferrying on the Loupe Fork at Columbus some eighty miles west of here, have been raised to some four or five dollars. Such we are informed, is not the fact. The rates of ferriage at Columbus are but one dollar, and some sixteen miles of travel is sawed thereby.



The Omaha Times of September 30, 1858, under a heading that read: "Genoa and Loupe Fork Fording," seems to be partial to the Genoa crossing. Notice that all of the writers affixed the letter "e" to the Loup in those years.

The item reads:

We understand that many of the Cherry Creek miners from this section prefer fording the Loupe Fork at the thriving town of Genoa, some twenty-five miles west of Columbus, to ferrying at Columbus. There is also a good ferry there. This is the old Mormon Trail so highly recommended by Californians. At Genoa, there are some two hundred settlers, a good saw and grist mill, and an excellent road all the way. The settlers in that vicinity have raised large crops this season. Genoa bids fair to be one of the largest inland towns in our Territory.


In The Rocky Mountain News, Volume 1, Number 1, published at Cherry Creek Kansas Territory (later Denver, which was then in Kansas Territory, but which the people at the time were considering naming "Jefferson"), appeared two accounts which are of particular interest to this community: the Loup Fork Ferry and a letter from L. Gerrard, of Monroe.

Mr. W. N. Byers had taken his printing plant from Omaha, where he had for several years been a prominent citizen. It was Byers who was the notary at Omaha, signing the map made by Miller in 1856, for the Columbus Company.

We here copy the advertisement of the ferry company:

We have at great expense constructed an excellent ferry which we are now running on the above stream at the town of Columbus, eighty-five miles west of Omaha, on the military road to Fort Kearney and the South Pass, and the great emigrant-route to the Kansas and Nebraska gold mines. We will cross with dispatch all who come. Charges reasonable. We also have a complete stock of outfitting goods at this place.

Jas. C. Mitchell & Company


Columbus inhabitants know the Platte River in a different way than does any other locality along its shore line. Duncan citizens know it before the waters of the Loup enter its life stream. Colfax County people know it after it has became a steady force of water. Columbus citizens know that it is the waters of the great Loup that give new life and strength to that stream, clarifying its current with its swift spring waters, giving it a new character as it swings forcibly to the Missouri River. It has been said


that this river should have been called the Loup from Columbus to its mouth.

In 1597, Juan de Zaldiver, Spaniard, finding the South Platte River at the present site of Denver, named it "Rio de Chato," or "flat river." Then in 1739, the Mallet brothers, Frenchmen, found the river in central Nebraska, and named it "Reverre de Plat," which also means "flat." The French name became the official name. The Pawnee Indians called it "Kee nesh tah" or "river that sinks" which is quite similar in meaning.

Professor C. E. Persinger, of the University of Nebraska, in 1913 made a study of early maps which introduced the Nebraska region. His research was published in the Nebraska Academy of Science Publications, Volume IX, Number 1. Professor Persinger says:

From about 1740, maps of the Nebraska country by map-makers of all nationalities became increasingly numerous, but without altering the details of the geography of this region until about 1760. Then the Platte, still known most often as the Pani, begins gradually to assume its true relationship to the upper Missouri system. No marked increase in accuracy of detail becomes visible, however, until American purchase of the Louisiana region in 1803 leads to the beginning of official explorations, which rapidly bring the larger features of Nebraska geography down to approximately our knowledge of the present day.

The close association of the Platte River with the state is expressed by John T. Link, Ph.D., in Nebraska Beautiful, by G. E. Condra, Ph.D., University of Nebraska Bulletin Number 17, 1925. Doctor Link says:

The name of the state was suggested by physical features. The word "Nebraska" is a corruption of the Omaha "Ni-Bthaska." It has been variously interpreted as "flat water" and "shallow water," although the idea of shallowness is not necessarily implied in the name. It has been translated as "spreading water" and "water wide with a shallow brim." While all of these have in them an element of truth, neither designates the real meaning. The word, "Ni-bthaska," is a compound word. "Ni" incorrectly spelled "Ne," denotes "water" Or "stream" and "bthaska" flat or spreading and carries in it the idea of a plain. The water referred to is the Platte, formerly also called the Nebraska River, which is wide or spreading, and the plain referred to is the Platte Valley bottom which is also wide. The word then has a two-fold meaning --- that of "spreading Water" and a "wide plain," "water spreading over a wide plain." So the name was applied first to the Platte River and Valley and later to the state as a whole, Which is characterized by several comparatively broad rivers, broad valley bottoms and upland plains.

Bayard Taylor in 1866 made a trip to the lest, going the Kansas way to Denver, and returning by way of the Platte River. His articles were published in the New York Tribune, and later in book form. The experiences of Taylor were similar to all travelers of that day, but crossing the Platte River seemed to be about the worst. He concluded his description by saying: "Such is the Platte --- the meanest of rivers."

The Platte and the Loup Rivers always presented the hardest problem to the travelers who wished to get "on the other side." And every story concerning expeditions is full of narratives of the trouble encountered.

In Old Timer's Tale, by El Comancho, he said:

Only one steamer ever navigated the Platte. This was "El Paso," a little stern wheeler that went up to the canyon on the north fork from the Missouri on the June rise in 1852 and came back on the same high water.

However, there were many attempts to ride the sand bars, the three most prominent perhaps being those mentioned previously - the Robert Stewart of the Astor expedition in 1813, Rufus Sage and the group of adventurers in 1842 and Captain Fremont in 1842; each of these failed in the attempt to even float down the stream. But the Indians did cross and recross without much difficulty, historians tell us.

The Cass County Sentinel, at Rock Bluffs City, published in March, 1859, the following statement about a boat navigating the Platte:

The steamer Florilda, the first boat of the season, made a trial trip a few miles up the Platte River a few days since to test its navigability. She expected, of course, according to report, to. find the stream utterly impracticable for the passage of steamboats, but was pleasantly disappointed at the great depth of the water and the feasibility of the channel. It is the opinion of her officers that the Platte is not only capable of carrying small steamers, but that it will soon become one of the foremost streams on the Continent for all ordinary uses of navigation. The greatest difficulty they say is the rapidity of the current, faster even than the Missouri, necessarily causing slow upward progress, with all boats of small motive power. But the objection can and will be overcome by strong machinery in boats running on this river. Its waters are comparatively clear, and in this respect greatly superior to the Missouri and lower Mississippi Rivers. We venture the opinion that two years hence, the Platte River will bear upon its bosom a trade nearly or quite equal to that of the Missouri above this place.

The editor of the rival town on Wyoming, a freighting point on the Missouri, now extinct, could not pass up such publicity as this, and

The History of Platte County Nebraska

so he made this comment in the Wyoming Telescope, of March 19, 1859:

To anyone who is at all acquainted with the Platte River, this will be a surprising statement; as it is well known that in low water it would be difficult to run a skiff up that stream, much less a steamboat of the smallest class.

The fact is, when the Florilda was up there, the Platte was on a "bender" and out of its banks in many places, and of course there was water to fiat a boat in the channel, and some places across the bottoms.

This great hurrah of our neighbor is merely gotten up for buncombe. We heartily wish it were literally true; but having been some nine or ten years in this vicinity, and being acquainted with this festering nuisance, the Platte, we pronounce the navigation of this stream by steamboats a great hoax.

The History of Nebraska, by Morton, stated:

The territorial legislature memorialized Congress to grant to John A. Latta, of Plattsmouth, twenty thousand acres of land in the valley of the Platte River, on condition that before October i, 1861, he "should place on said river a good and substantial steamboat and run the same between the mouth of said Platte River and Fort Kearney, and do all necessary dredging, knowing that there is a sufficient volume of water in said river which is a thousand miles in length."

The Platte and Loup Rivers have so much to do with the background in the history of the Columbus community, it is not easy to pass by in recording events which took place along these shores. Had these streams been easy to navigate, it is probable history would have been different. Possibly the town of Columbus would have been located between the two streams. The town was therefore removed some distance from the Platte, but the citizens were anxious to procure the trade from the south country, and in 1870 built a bridge which was a great credit to the little village.


The Omaha Times on January 27, 1859, published a lengthy editorial about the value of the Platte River for navigation to the gold mines, declaring that next to the construction of a Pacific Railroad, the Platte River as an avenue to reach the west was most important; that the river was bordered on both sides by wide and fertile valley, as rich, if not richer than the Missouri Valleys, represented as being a perfect garden.

The editorial read in part:

Up the north side of its broad valley, the great national road to the Pacific and to the New Eldorado is located; and within view of its swift waters the greatest enterprise of the nineteenth century, the Pacific Railroad must be built.

We were led to make these remarks by learning that a boat to draw from six to eight inches of water is constructing at Oquawka, Illinois, for the purpose of testing the possibility of navigation of the Platte River. If tried, we believe it will succeed. To be sure, its successful navigation will be at the commencement. Attended with difficulty, but obstacles and difficulties will and must disappear before enterprise and perseverance.


In The Omaha Times of June 24, 1858, was an advertisement by the Postmaster General, inviting proposals for carrying the mail from Columbus to Fort Kearney. The notice is copied here in part as it was published:


Proposals for the conveying of mails of the United States from October 1, 1858, to June 30, 1862, on the following route in Nebraska Territory, will be received at the contract office of this department until nine a.m. of August 2, 1858, to be decided on the same day.

Number 14046 from Columbus, Nebraska Territory by Monroe and Grand Island City to Fort Kearney, one hundred and eighty miles and back, three times a week to Monroe, and once a week the residue.

Leave Columbus Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at eight a.m., arrive at Monroe by twelve noon; leave Monroe Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at one p.m.; arrive at Columbus by five p.m. Leave Monroe Tuesday at two p.m.; arrive at Fort Kearney Thursday by ten p.m. Leave Fort Kearney Friday at eight a.m.; arrive at Monroe Sunday, by ten p.m.

Previous to this date, that is on June 19, the Cummings City Star published a statement that the postmaster general had effected a contract with E. S. Alford of Indianapolis, Indiana, to convey the mails from Omaha City to Columbus three times a week in two horse coaches, via Platte Valley for one year, from July 1, 1858.


The Omaha Times of September 23, 1858, published with the important heading announcing that the MAIL ROUTE DIRECT FROM OMAHA CITY TO FORT KEARNEY AND CALIFORNIA was to be opened October 1:

The opening of the new four horse stage route direct from this place to Fort Kearney and there connecting with the established route to Utah and the Pacific coast is an enterprise well calculated to advance and develop the resources and interests of that choice portion of our territory --- the great valley of the Platte --- and the forerunner of that much-needed and admirable road, entitled the Great Pacific Railroad.

The Western Stage Company are to have the road stocked with mules, and in running order by the first of October. For a trip to Fort Kearney and the gold region of Cherry Creek, this is the chance.

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