Florence was my paternal grandmother’s name. A feisty, caring woman, she died last December only months after celebrating her hundredth birthday. So, naturally when I heard about the Florence Mill being a place to visit in Nebraska, my ears perked up. After searching on the map for this unfamiliar town, I was surprised to discover that this long-standing community has been an Omaha neighborhood, also for almost a century.
Florence Mill (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
While absorbed today into the large metropolitan area, Florence held its own for a long time, including a short-lived run as the site of the Nebraska Legislature, when they attempted to take over from rowdy Omaha. This did not bode well as many considered this to be a takeover plot. Florence was flourishing as the winter quarters site for the Mormons. A stopover point for those venturing to Utah. The Nebraskian newspaper noted their concerns about this being premeditated by the Mormons. Of course both the acting and newly appointed governors refused to recognize this relocation. So Florence’s dreams of being the site of Nebraska’s government were quickly dashed.
The Mormon Campsite at Florence (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
While you may not be able to find the town of Florence on the map, you can still visit this oldest Nebraska town today. Many areas are open to the public at various times.
Mormon Pioneer Cemetery Monument: Over 300 died the first winter spent in this area of the Nebraska Territory. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
Open daily from 9 to 9, this museum tells the story of the travels of the 30,000 people who stopped here on their west and includes an ox cart, covered wagon and log cabin.
Photo Courtesy of LDS.org
Florence Mill (Now a museum and art gallery. Opened to the public during limited hours)
Florence Bank (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). This refurbished bank is open on summer week-ends and by appointment.
While much of Historic Florence has been restored, two places can no longer be visited. Fort Lisa,named for esteemed trader Manuel Lisa, closed in 1823. Cabanne’s Trading Post was established in 1822, but by the 1840’s had outrun its usefulness.
If you would like to learn more, please visit one of the following sites.
One of my additional sources for the political background of Florence was found in the book, A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tales of 19th Century Omaha by David L. Bristow. My appreciation for his historical expertise.