NEGenWeb Project
Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska
Lancaster County
Produced by Debra Parminter.


Physical Character | Early Settlement | Indian Troubles
Salt Basins


County Organization | Official Roster | County Statistics
Railroads | District Schools | Taxation
County Poor Department | County Societies


Lincoln:   Early History | Incorporation | Official Roster
City Institutions | Post Office

Lincoln (cont.):   University of Nebraska
Lincoln (cont.):   University of Nebraska (cont.)

Lincoln (cont.):   Insane Hospital
Nebraska State Penitentiary | The Second Revolt


Lincoln (cont.):   Public Schools | Fire Department
The Press | Churches


Lincoln (cont.):   Societies, Associations, Etc.
Temperance Societies | Musical Societies
Business Interests | Banks | Hotels


Lincoln (cont.):
Wholesale and Manufacturing Establishments
Biographical Sketches- ABBOTT~ALLEN

10 - 24:

** Lincoln Biographical Sketches ** (cont.)

PART 25:

Bennet:   Churches | Societies |
| Biographical Sketches - ALLSTOT~GRIBLING

PART 26:
Bennett:   Biographical Sketches - HANSON~PIPER
PART 27:
Bennett:   Biographical Sketches - RHEA~WILSON
PART 28:
Waverly:   Biographical Sketches
PART 29:

Firth:   Biographical Sketches
Roca | Other Points
Biographical Sketches
Grant Precinct | Saltillo Precinct | Stockton Precinct

List of Illustrations in Lancaster County Chapter
Lancaster County Names Index



LANCASTER County, is situated in the southeastern part of the State, about fifty miles west of the Missouri River, and midway between the Platte River and the northern boundary of Kansas. It is bounded on the north by Saunders County, on the east by Cass (of which it was formerly a part) and Otoe, on the south by Gage and on the west by Saline and Seward. The county is twenty-four miles wide from east to west and thirty-six miles north and south; containing 552,160 acres, the average elevation of which above the level of the sea is about 1,100 feet.

The surface is diversified, but consists chiefly of gentle slopes and undulations, with about 15 per cent of valley or bottom lands that have sufficient grade to prevent them from becoming swampy in the wet seasons. There are eight streams or creeks in the county of more or less importance, adjoining which are exceedingly fine, fertile bottoms that will always be very productive, and back from these the country is rolling but seldom too broken for profitable tillage, nor rarely steep enough to be subject to injurious washes. The most extensive valley is that of Salt Creek, extending through the central portion of the country, which varies from one to five miles in width and is very fertile.

Fine table lands occupy the southern portion of the county which are well adapted to farming and grazing.

The soil of the uplands is deep, rich and easily cultivated. A large portion of this county is in a fair state of cultivation, which accounts for the number of flourishing villages to be found in the different townships.

Salt Creek, which derives its name from the number of saline springs and bogs uniting with it, is the principal water course. This stream rises in the southern portion of the county and flows northerly to Lincoln, where it receives Oak Creek, Middle and South creeks, thence northeasterly to Ashland, in Saunders County, where it unites with the Platte River. The water is deep and the bottom muddy. It furnishes considerable water power, which has been utilized for flouring and saw mills. Haines' Branch is the principal tributary from the southwest, and from it Salt Creek gets its first portion of saltness. Middle Creek comes in from the west, Oak, Little Salt Gar and Rock Creeks from the northwest and Stevens and Camp creeks from the southeast. A very extensive flouring mill has been built on Oak Creek, and most of the streams are large enough to furnish sufficient water power for manufacturing purposes the greater part of the year. The county is well watered, every township being supplied with one or more living streams.

This county is not rich in her supply of timber. There are, however, along the streams narrow strips of natural growth. There have been about 6,000 acres of timber planted, and the deficiency, it is expected, in a few years will be fully made up, as it is the plan of most farmers to plant every two or three years some forest trees.

There is an abundance of magnesian limestone in the county, which has been used very extensively in building. It is susceptible of a substantial finish. There is also an abundance of sandstone, but it is not sufficiently hard for general purposes, although it has been more or less used. There is an excellent clay for the manufacture of brick, which, on account of the scarcity of timber and distance from the great pineries, has been the principal building material.

The saline deposits, of which an extended notice can be found in another place, are likely at no distant day, to develop into one of the most important manufacturing interests of the county. The brine of the great salt basin near Lincoln contains about thirty per cent of pure salt, and its supply is claimed to be inexhaustible. The natural resources are exceedingly fertile and easily cultivated soil, with the surface no less useful than beautiful in its gentle undulations and abundant supply of running streams and so judiciously disposed throughout the different sections, an abundant supply of building material such as stone and brick clay, and an inexhaustible supply of salt, have been the means of making a flourishing and prosperous county of Lancaster, which has the additional advantages of a central location and a delightful climate.


In 1856 a number of pioneers crossed the Missouri and penetrated as far as the banks of Salt Creek, but no permanent settlement was made until the following year. The first permanent settlement was made at Olathe, on Salt Creek, about fifteen miles south of the present city of Lincoln. John D. Prey and his family, consisting of a wife, daughter, and three sons, John W., David and William, were the first settlers. A center was thus formed around which others gathered. The settlement was soon re-inforced by the arrival of J. L. Davidson, W. W. Dunham, James Eatherton, Jeremiah B. Garrett, I. C. Bristol, Solomon Kirke, William Arnold, Ogden Clegg, the Bogue brothers, Weeks, Haskins, Palmer and others. In the same year, 1857, claims were taken along the upper Salt Creek and the settlement extended from Hickman to Saltillo, at present stations on the Atchison and Nebraska Railroad. Prior to 1864, however, this settlement was in "old Clay" county. But few remain of these comers.

The first settlement near the present city of Lincoln was made by Capt. W. T. Donavan and family, in the summer of 1857, soon after the arrival of the Preys at Olathe, and was called Lancaster. Capt. Donavan came from Pittsburgh, Penn., to Plattsmouth, on the Missouri, in command of the steamer Emma, which was afterward used for many years as a ferry boat for conveying emigrant trains across the river. The cabin of Capt. Donavan was built on the west bank of Salt Creek, near the mouth of Oak Branch. Later in the same year William Norman and Alexander Robinson built a cabin near the present salt basin but abandoned it the following spring.

In the summer of 1857, soon after the settlement at Lancaster, John Dee located on lower Salt Creek, in the north part of the county, near Waverly. In November of that year he was joined by Daniel Harrington, James Cardwell and Abraham Beals. In the spring of 1858 James Moran, John P. and L. J. Loder and Michael Shea also joined this settlement.

In the fall of 1857, A. J. Wallingford and his brother Richard settled on Salt Creek between Lincoln and Saltillo, where Richard still resides. Also in 1857, William Shirley, Joseph Brown and Mr. Bottsford located on Stevens Creek, in the eastern part of the county. They were soon joined by J. D. Main, C. F. Retzlaff, John Lemp, Aaron Wood and others. The same year Festus Reed, Jeremiah Showalter and Joel Mason settled north of the Wallingfords, and John Cadman, John Hilton and others joined the settlement near Saltillo. In 1859 Robert Farmer, J. J. Forest and Joseph Gilmore joined Camp Creek settlement far to the north.

The first religious service held in the county was conducted by Rev. Mr. Turman, a missionary of the Methodist Church, at the log cabin of Capt. W. T. Donavan, in the summer of 1858.

During the years 1859-62 little progress was made in the settlement of the county. There were a number of new arrivals but the departures were enough to offset them.

The first white child born in the county was Morton, son of Capt. Donavan, who was born on March 12, 1859, at Stevens Creek, whither the family had moved to avoid their troublesome neighbors, the Pawnees. A son of Mrs. Michael Shea was the second and one of Mrs. William Shirley the third birth in the county.

In 1859 John Cadman settled in the northern part of Clay County, now Lancaster, and entered heartily into the enterprise then on foot to change the current of travel from the Missouri River to Fort Kearney, Denver and Fort Laramie, from the old route through Ashland to a more direct path across the South Platte country. A steam wagon having been invented in Nebraska City, the people along the proposed line set about the construction of a suitable and necessary road for the new roadster. By bridging the streams, grading and filling sloughs, an excellent highway was formed, which attracted the overland travel and greatly benefited those that had labored faithfully to build it, although the steam wagon proved a failure, more for the want of perseverance, it is judged, than fault in the principle, as it hauled a loaded train six miles where a shaft gave way and it was abandoned.

The passage of the homestead law in 1862, gave an impetus to immigration, and from that day to the present increase in population and progress in the development of the resources of the county have been constant and steady. Capt. Donavan was the first to enter a homestead under this law, which he did on January 2, 1863, taking land near the present city of Lincoln.

Silas Pratt, the Crawfords, Mrs. White, her son C. C. White, and John Moore settled on Oak Creek, twelve miles northwest of Lincoln, in 1864. The following year Ezra Tullis, a lawyer and farmer, joined this settlement.

The first post office in the county was established in 1863, at Gregory's Basin, as the great salt basin near Lincoln was called. J. S. Gregory was the Postmaster. His salary was $1per month.


Salt Creek was the boundary between the territory of the Pawnees on the west and the Otoes on the east. Lancaster County was therefore the scene of many collisions between these hostile tribes prior to and during the early settlement. The Pawnees numbered about 6,000 and their principal town was situated on the Platte near the mouth of Salt Creek. Another considerable village was Pohoco, above Ashland. The Pawnees had to contend against the Otoes on the east, a much weaker tribe, and the Sioux on the north and west, a more numerous tribe.

Soon after the arrival of the Preys and other settlers in the neighborhood of Olathe, Davis, a bachelor living in his own cabin in that settlement, resented an abrupt entrance through his door of two marauding Pawnees and killed one of them. This uncalled for and very injudicious act aroused the wrath of the Indians and the fears of the settlers, the latter retreating to the Missouri River. Davis made good his escape from arrest for murder and the vengeance of the Indians and has never since been heard from. In 1858, while a government treaty was in progress, nearly the whole Pawnee tribe was encamped near the Great Salt Basin, close to the cabin of Capt. Donavan. The utmost vigilance as required on the part of the family to keep peace and protect themselves, They had to divide the last pound of bacon and sack of flour with their red neighbors, who were on short rations. One morning the chief in command rudely forced his way past Joseph M. Donavan's eldest son into the cabin, but being instantly ejected by the Captain, his anger was aroused, and in a few moments he had the cabin surrounded by his followers. The Captain was not inhuman, for the second chief in command, She-cool-al-la-col-la-ca, was at that moment enjoying a comfortable nap by the stove. Aroused by the threats of the infuriated chief he came to the relief of his generous host and averted the danger by assuring the chief that Captain Donavan was an agent of the Government, whose soldiers at Fort Kearney would at once avenge any harm done him. This was a clever stratagem employed by She-cool-al-la-col-la-ca.

Mrs. Donavan, a few days later, while engaged in her household duties, and in the absence of the male members of the family, had occasion to use a chair upon one member of a prowling party. She struck the leader to the floor, at which critical juncture the Captain and his two sons came in sight and the Indians, with dark looks and threats, departed.

This convinced him that he was too near the treacherous Pawnees for peace and comfort, so he and his family retired to Stevens Creek and there resided until 1861, when he returned and located on "Yankee Hill," near the present Insane Hospital.

Prior to the removal of the family to Stevens Creek, Mrs. Donovan had not seen a white woman for over seven months, a fact that tells much of the social privations of pioneers.

Early in 1859, the Olathe settlement was annoyed by marauding Pawnees. A band of these stole a steer from the herd of Jeremiah B. Garrett, who immediately organized a party of pioneers and set out to punish the perpetrators of this capital crime, so considered in a new country. About three miles distant Mr. Garrett, Solomon Kirk and William Arnold came upon the band as they were skinning the missing steer. The Indians were defiant and prepared for an encounter. Kirk, as leader, gave the signal for operations by leveling his rifle, which trusty instrument of peace and war for the first time in its history failed to respond. Arnold's man only received a slight wound, but Garrett sent his bullet to the heart of his victim, who, with the blood of the murdered animal on his hands, fell to the ground. In the retreat Garrett received an arrow between his ribs which he pulled out unaided. The others brought him off in safety. Believing his wound to be fatal, which happily it was not, he left as his last words to his companions, "Boys, I sold my life dearly." The Indians left the neighborhood immediately, leaving their dead on the field. Not long afterwards another band of Pawnees, in passing up the creek in the vicinity of Wallingford settlement, found the cabin of James Bogus and Mr. Beals, two bachelors, temporarily empty. They broke in and carried away such portables as beef, flour, and clothing. On the return of Bogus and Beals they determined to make an effort to recover their property. Being joined by their neighbors, a brother of Bogus, Joel Mason, A. J. Wallingford, Ed. Hilton, W. W. Dunham, William Arnold, Bob Palmer, Mr. Sophir and others, they rendezvoused at Sophir's cabin, which stood on Salt Creek east of the asylum, near Crabb's mill, and then awaited the arrival of the band which consisted of fifteen Pawnees then camped near the present site of the penitentiary. In the morning the Pawnees came in view and Joel Mason, according to the plan previously arranged, went out to interview the treacherous thieves, and by mild means try to recover the goods. Their reception was what might have been expected. The Indians laughed in derision and showed their supreme contempt for him and good opinion of themselves, punched Mr. Mason with their guns and asked him if he wanted to "fight" as that was their "occupation" or "best hold." As they pressed him to the door of the cabin he gave the preconcerted signal for the commencement of hostilities. The men rushed out and opened fire. Three Pawnees were killed and five wounded in the momentary assault, while the others made diligent use of their chance for escape. The suddenness of the attack so surprised the Indians that they did not succeed in inflicting even a wound in return for their loss.

The bones of the Indians killed repose in the soil of Yankee Hill Precinct. The skull of one of them for a long time was preserved by Judge Cadman as a memento of the last Indian conflict in Lancaster County. The Pawnees soon after took their departure for their reservation.

No more actual collisions occurred between the two opposing races within the borders of Lancaster County, although several panics occurred during the civil war on account of the attacks of the plains Indians in the Nebraska settlements. Until the close of the war the Government could not sufficiently protect its extensive frontier.

In 1864 the most notable of these panics occurred. The Indians had cut off the St. Joseph and Denver stage route at Turkey Creek, intercepted a coach and killed several passengers. They also captured and carried away Miss Roper, a sister of Hon. Fordyce Roper, of Beatrice, but who fortunately was some time after recovered and restored to her friends. There was general alarm along the frontier caused by the depredations made above Lancaster on the Big Blue. A majority of the settlers retreated to the Missouri River for a time. Most of them, however, returned to their new homes. Among those who took the chances and remained were Captain Donavan, J. S. Gregory, and E. W. Warner of the neighborhood near the present city of Lincoln, Richard Wallingford, near Saltillo, James Morgan and John P. Loder, on Lower Salt, and Aaron Wood on Stevens Creek, these having received a promise from the Yankee Hill forces of being warned of any new danger in time to escape. The Indians, however, never came further east than the Big Blue.


The most striking features of the landscape of Lancaster County are the salt basins stretching along the west side of Salt Creek from Lincoln six miles to the north. In ordinary sunny days, of which the Nebraska climate is so prodigal, these basins, some of which are a mile in diameter, exactly resemble at a distance bodies of limpid water and it is difficult for a stranger to realize that what he sees reflecting the rays of the sun from a mirror like surface, is a level floor of compact earth, covered with a layer of saline crystals and intersected with tiny rivers of brine flowing into the creek that obtains from them its name and character.

The discovery of these basins was made by the Government surveyors in 1856, the value of which to the State was at once recognized and great wealth has been anticipated for those who would erect suitable works for the manufacture of salt. Capt. W. T. Donavan represented the Crescent Company, organized at Plattsmouth for a test of the productiveness of the brine. Another company was represented by William Norman and Alexander Robinson who settled at the "big basin," the most southwesterly of the system and the most promising in its appearance, extent and quality of brine yielded. The latter company was the first to abandon the enterprise, and was followed a year later by the Crescent Company. In 1864 J. S. Gregory, Jr., erected a "bench of boilers" and some solar vats and manufactured salt to sell to the natives, the travelers over the great overland route to the Pacific and the miners of Colorado and Montana.

In 1866 Gregory disposed of his claim to E. H. and T. F. George, Jacob Harbenger, and S. B. and W. Linderman from New Jersey, representing the Nebraska Salt Company. They put in several thousand dollars but received no adequate return. All this time entries had been made on the most valuable of these basins, and these had passed into the hands of J. Sterling Morton, formerly Secretary of the Territory, and Col. Manners, one of the Government surveyors who had made the discovery of the basins in 1856. The claims of the State, however, after years of litigation, were perfected by a decision of the United States Supreme Court in 1875. Soon after Nebraska became a State the Governor, by consent of the Legislature, leased the big basin for twenty years, to A. C. Tichenor and J. T. Green. Tichnor afterwards sold his interest to Smith, of the gun manufacturing firm of Smith & Weston, at which time Messrs. Morton & Manners succeeded in getting their claim into court by a writ of ejectment.

Attempts have been made to secure a profitable flow of saline water by sinking artesian wells but as yet has not been successful. An artesian well was sunk by the city of Lincoln on the block occupied by the United States Government building. This pours out a steady stream of salt water, highly impregnated with other minerals and powerfully magnetic.

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County Index    Contents

Index of Illustrations in Lancaster County Chapter
  1. [Lincoln from the West.]
  2. [State Capitol.]
  3. [Government Post Office Building.]
  4. [Nebraska State University.]
  5. [Insane Hospital.]
  6. [Commercial Hotel.]
  7. [Portrait of Samuel Aughey.]
  8. [Bohanan Bros.' Livery and Exchange Stable.]
  9. [Residence of Hon. C. C. Burr.]
  10. [Portrait of R. C. Cushing.]
  11. [Portrait of John C. Cadman.]
  12. [Silver Lake Farm, Residence of Hon. J. Cadman.]
  13. [Portrait of John Doolittle.]
  14. [Portrait of John Fitzgerald.]
  15. [Portrait of F. G. Fuller.]
  16. [Portrait of S. B. Galey.]
  17. [Portrait of W. G. Houtz.]
  18. [Portrait of W. S. Latta, M. D.]
  19. [Portrait of T. M. Marquette.]
  20. [Portrait of H. P. Mathewson.]
  21. [Portrait of Albinus Nance.]
  22. [Portrait of C. J. Nobes.]
  23. ["Lincoln Infirmary," Dr. Mrs. H. K. Painter, Prop., University Place.]
  24. [Cottage of Judge C. M. Parker, Cor. L and Eighteenth Streets.]
  25. [Portrait of H. J. Walsh.]
  26. [Model Stock Farm and Residence of James F. Bishop.]
  27. [Lincoln Floral Conservatory, Cor. G and Seventeenth Streets, Two Blocks South-East of Capitol.]