Off the Map: Nebraska Places that No Longer Officially Exist
When I conjure up images of ghost towns, dusty wooden streets and tumbleweed come to mind. Until I started reading Perkey’s Nebraska Place Names, I did not realize how many towns in Nebraska started, then stopped. The key seems to be the post office – if the mail was delivered there, the place was considered a town. So a few towns really never got going beyond a few months of delivery. But several towns lasted a few years, even a decade, before succumbing to disappearing off the map. Occasionally the town would undergo a name change. Or many towns were absorbed by other larger towns. This happened several times in the Lincoln and Omaha area. This first place I am featuring seems to qualify for many of these categories.
Soon after Nebraska became a state, the Augur post office was established on August 26, 1869. General Christoper C. Augur had a distinguished background. He was a veteran of the Civil War and Indian campaigns, as well the commander of the Department of the Platte. They wanted to honor his service by naming this new area for him. And they did so. But for an incredibly short time. Less than a few months in fact.
At some point during the span of five months, this post office was renamed Sherman Barracks. After William Tecumseh Sherman, another Civil War hero. So, were Augur and Sherman friends? Foes? Competitors? Were people arguing over the naming rights, and so the place was known by several things? Supposedly Sherman was frustrated at the small size of the settlement, so he requested that his name be removed. On December 20th, 1869, the third name of this area was established. Omaha Barracks. This name stayed as a spot on the map for almost 6 1/2 years. Until on July 26, 1876, Fort Omaha came to be.
Only a gate was named after this man. Maybe that is a good thing since the name of the place already changed too many times.
Fort Omaha was a supply fort and lasted two whole decades. For three of those years, the fort was the headquarters for the Department of the Platte. On September 5th, 1896, the fort simply ceased to be. Its time had passed. Until 1905, when it was needed again. This time the fort lasted eight years before all activity ceased. For three years, nothing happened again. Then the fort found yet another purpose. The Douglas County Historical Society has a somewhat reasonable explanation for all of the upheaval.
Between 1868 and today, the Fort records a diverse history. The Fort was abandoned in 1896, when its need was diminished by expansive settlement of the west the and end of the Indian Wars. It reopened in 1905 as the Signal Corps School, and the first balloon flight was launched in 1909, beginning the Army’s first regular lighter-than-air center. The Fort was abandoned in 1913 when the Signal Corps School was moved to Fort Leavenworth.
Fort Omaha became the site of America’s first military balloon school when the Fort was reactivated in 1916 as the Balloon Section of the American Expeditionary Force, known as the Fort Omaha Balloon School. Captain Chandler, pilot of the first 1909 flight, was named the Commanding Officer.
(I think the balloon school might necessitate more research at another time – would be interesting to read more on that part of history. I am pretty sure you could get a lot of college students today to sign up for that major!)
Fort Omaha has had various purposes over the last century. But has not been its own town for quite some time. The city of Omaha absorbed the area that had changed names so many times. But while you can longer get mail in Augur, you can still see many buildings in what is now a historic district.
The Fort Omaha Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The district includes the 1879 General Crook House Museum, as well as the 1879 Quartermaster’s office, 1878 commissary, 1884 guardhouse, 1883 ordnance magazine and 1887 mule stables.
And it is up to you whether you want to see Augur, Sherman Barracks, Omaha Barracks or Fort Omaha. The names may have changed, but the location did not. And just in case that trip is not on your horizon, here is the historical sign which is located now in the heart of Omaha.
What has been