People Behind the Place

The Nebraska Path to Understanding the Underground Railroad

Discovering that the small Mayhew Cabin is not actually in its original location (due to a highway being built) was surprising.  Learning that the current “cave” tunnel was not even in existence during the time of the Underground Railroad was almost disheartening.  I almost wondered why one would even visit this site that is shrouded in mystery as many of the details of its part in the Underground Railroad cannot be confirmed.  Until I heard footsteps …

Mayhew Cabin Cave

Underneath the original Mayhew Cabin through the cellar door you can climb into a cave.  One that has been reinforced for safety and connected with a long winding tunnel to allow you to exit.  I was sitting there waiting for my children to come back.  My oldest had come down and offered to find the others.  He started by looking through the cabin.  Once I heard him walking around above me, the need for this place made me sense.  While I knew who was above me, I was instantly filled with an unexplainable fear.

Mayhew Cabin looking up from the cave

The vent may have not been there originally, but it did add to the realism of the experience.

My imagination took me to a place in time over 150 years previously.  Being down in the cave, I suddenly realized what being a fugitive must have felt like.  To hear the heavy thud of footfalls above that might mean discovery.  Was the person friend or foe?  One providing safety or capture that would lead to death or an even worse fate?  Having to hide to preserve your very life and the life of your children must have been incredibly frightening.

My children seemed to “get” slavery for the first time.  They pretended to hide from me the slave owner.  As we were the only visitors at the time, this worked, and thankfully they let me in on this game eventually.  This cabin, cave and tunnel helped history come to life for my family!

Mayhew Cabin children in tunnel

As you walk along through the damp and drafty tunnel, rooms have been chiseled out giving you an additional feel for what a fugitive would have experienced.

Mayhew Cabin tunnel room

Beside the tunnel, the interior of the museum also gave us glimpses of slavery life.  Including a black curtain closet with a plank ceiling where you could pretend to hide from the slave owners.   While I was talking to the museum docent, my boys managed to silently hide there before I finally found them!  They also have a wagon showing a “slave” escaping in a wagon.

Mayhew Cabin slave wagon

Can you see the “person” hiding?

They also have shackles that you can try on to experience the misery of not being free.  Do you like my son’s attempt at a mournful expression?

Mayhew Cabin Slave

While perhaps this is not the largest or most polished of the recreated Underground Railroad Stations, at the Mayhew Cabin and John Brown’s Cave they do an excellent job at helping to bring history to life, especially for children.  In addition, you can watch a short video, filmed by a Mayhew descendant, about the history of the cabin.

Mayhew Cabin movie

To learn more or to schedule a tour, please visit the Mayhew Cabin website.  Note: this is one of the many fine places to visit in Nebraska City.  To learn more about other Underground Railroad significant locations across the United States, please visit the Network to Freedom website.

Categories: Family Outings, Nebraska History, People Behind the Place, Pioneer Country, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday Flashback: Lincoln’s Early Architecture (Book Review)

Note: Unable to read the full review right now?  Please skip to the end to find out about the special event happening in Lincoln TOMORROW (Saturday June 14th) regarding this book.  If you want the article summary, I do highly recommend the book Lincoln’s Early Architecture by Lincoln authors Hansen, McKee and Zimmer.

Reading books that connect the past with the present are always the ones that intrigue me.  I relish titles that meld the distant past with current reality.  This is the perfect description of the book that I am in the middle of enjoying.  Normally a person should probably not suggest someone read a book that he or she has not actually completed.  Yet I can recommend the non-fiction work, Lincoln’s Early Architecture,  without reservation, even though I am only halfway through finishing.

Lincoln’s Early Architecture is written by the “who’s who” of Lincoln historic building experts.  Any one of these three men could have written a great historical Lincoln book on their own.  In fact, a few of them already have published historical Lincoln books.  By collaborating and sharing their own collections, the results are outstanding.   Matthew Hansen is a Nebraska preservation architect who has worked on restoring the Nebraska capitol.  James McKee is a business owner and just happens to be THE Lincoln city historian.  Edward Zimmer works as Lincoln and Lancaster County historic preservation planner.  See what I mean on their qualifications?

At only 127 pages, this book is not overly lengthy.  Covering so many places around Lincoln, the information to be absorbed is rather extensive.  Reading this book from cover to cover may not ever happen in one sitting for me.  Using this book as a reference will happen repeatedly.  In fact, I plan on keeping the title in my car for many months to come.  I do believe I will have to convince my husband to drive me downtown more often – that way I can stare about in identification mode and not get into any accidents!

Employing the use of historic photographs, the authors relay how Lincoln used to be. The result, for me, was a curiosity to know more.  Reading about what was is a great starting point.  Now I want to go to downtown Lincoln and see what still is.


Kennard Historic Lincoln

I took this picture of a picture inside of the still-standing Kennard House.  So hard to believe that this was Lincoln’s humble beginnings.  Of the buildings in this photograph, you can only visit the one. 

Several of the buildings are immediately recognizable to me just based on seeing the picture.  Trying to identify many of the others is more of a challenge.  Especially since the downtown Lincoln skyline is definitely a conglomeration between old and new.  Thankfully the book does make a note as to which buildings are still standing.  Many of these pictured structures have now been razed.  Several for parking lots. This makes me a bit sad.

Not all of the included buildings are found in downtown Lincoln.  Places throughout the city are included for historical reference.  This book answered a question that I had always wanted to investigate.

What is the significance of the Indian statue in Pioneer Park?
Indian smoke signals at Pioneer Park

Other than knowing the name of the statue (“The Smoke Signal”), I always wondered why the statue is even there.  While I believe a bit of this information is nearby the statue,  the story was incomplete.  By reading page 122 in this book, I finally know the full story behind the Indian!

Evidently before Ellis Luis Burman Jr. made his mark in special effects, props and make-up in Hollywood, he was a Lincoln man.  Hired as a sculptor to design several of the statues around Pioneer’s Park, this one is his most famous one.  Weighing in at five tons and standing at fifteen feet, this depiction of Chief Red Cloud makes an impression.

I know that I will enjoy learning more about Lincoln architecture past and present in the weeks to come.  Getting your own copy of the book is simple.  One of my favorite book stores in Lincoln, Indigo Bridge Books, is having a book reading and signing with at least two of the authors from 1:00-2:00.  You can purchase a copy of the book at that location!  Incidentally, snacks and coffee will be served.   Come for the food and the story – go home with an interesting reference book about Lincoln.  Definitely a worthwhile outing!  Unable to attend?  The book store will continue to have copies available, as do other book retailers.

P.S. Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book to review.  This would have been a title on my to-read list.  By bringing the book to my attention, my knowledge of historical Lincoln will continue to expand.  I will definitely be referencing the book again on this blog!

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Off the Map: How did those Germans end up in Russia and then in Nebraska?

This is a bit of an unusual “Off the Map.”  Really the post could be titled “On the Move.”  Or forwarding address.  About the transition of strong German families from their homeland to Russia and eventually to here.  Many of them can be found in Nebraska, but of course there are “American Historical Society of Germans from Russia” chapters throughout the United States.

Last week this blog “visited” the official “American Historical Society Germans from Russia” museum.    I know the first time that we went to the museum several years ago my perceptions of who this place represented were a bit confused.  This group of people would consider themselves Germans despite the fact that they lived in Russia for a long while.

So, if they wanted to be German, why did they move to Russia?  The one word answer: destitution.  There was not enough land and a whole lot of war recovery going on.  (Fighting for one hundred years will do that!)  One unexpected person changed the plights of a weary people.  Former German princess and current Russian Empress, Catherine the Great.

AHSGR Catherine and peasant

Catherine the Great’s portrait close by a statue of woman whose life she changed by her giving of land.

With their large families, many Germans had outgrown their farms.  Catherine had an abundance of unplowed  land, and she needed occupants to fortify her country’s boundaries.     In 1863, she issued a life-changing manifesto on July 22nd.  I will give you a place to settle.  In return, you can make your own settlements, speak your own language and even have your own churches.  Plus you can leave at any time and do not have to even fight in Russian conflicts.    And this was for life, continuing on to even future generations.  This worked out well for all at first – she had people, they had land.  The German culture flourished for many years in the Volga River lands.

Until a few generations removed from Catherine.  Her grandsons were not so sure about this free land idea.  Or people in their country speaking different languages.  Russification was the order then – a blending of the conglomeration of people into a massive people group.  And not having people living in the country fight for Russia? Unheard of as is evidenced in the document below.    And since Russia fought Germany in both wars, this was a definite conflict of interest for these resettled Germans.

AHSGR Russia 1941 decree

While there was more of an influx of these “Germans from Russia” at certain times, really the immigration was often gradual.  Coming to America was not always easy.  For those who came earlier on, the promise of “free” land was helpful.  Yet being separated by 160 acres as was required for homesteaders did not make for a village.  The United States did provide opportunities for this group of downtrodden people but did still require a change of lifestyle and even language.

Enough people here in the United States have wanted to stay connected with these genealogical records that the “Germans from Russia” remain a strong group.  If you are interested in learning even more, definitely check out the museum in person or read the document at the link below.

This Friday provides even another interactive opportunity.  You can attend the Broda Dinner at the WSI Hall (1430 N. 10th St. in Lincoln) this Friday night, November 1st. Dinner will be served from 5-7 PM.  “Broda” meals are those that you put in the oven before going to Sunday service then enjoy after church.  (Yes – I had to ask.  But I recall eating many of these growing up!  Thank goodness for oven timers this day and age!)  Roast beef, potatoes, vegetables, rye bread, dessert and beverage will be served.  The cost for adults is $10 and children (12 & under) are only $5.  You can call for tickets in advance (402-489-2583 or 402-420-9580).  Or just show up at the door.

They will be having a quilt raffle.  Tickets for this will be available at the dinner.  If you want to see the quilt up close (beyond just the picture below), the beautifully crafted covering is on display at the museum.

AHSGR quilts

The “fan” quilt is on permanent display at the museum. The sunny yellow floral quilt is the one being raffled off.

A big thank you to the “American Historical Society of Germans from Russia” museum for letting me sneak in to take some updated pictures.  And for answering all of my questions right at closing time!

Additional research for this article was found at the NDSU “Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.”  Hopefully I summarized their information in an accurate way!

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People Behind the Places: Nebraska Counties T-Z

We are to our final installment of “People Behind the Places: Nebraska Counties.”  Next week, we will look at “Places Behind the Places” to cover (perhaps) the remaining counties – I lost track of just how many counties we have left to name. 🙂 I have enjoyed learning more behind the history of the counties!  And I now happily have my own copy of Perkey’s Nebraska Place Names – a souvenir from our trip!

(Note: there are not any “X” or “Z” Nebraska counties.  And our lone “V” and “Y” counties will be addressed in a later entry as they were named for places ).

Thayer: While John Milton Thayer was a Civil War general, he was also one of the first Nebraska senators, serving from 1867-1871.  16 years later he served a term as Nebraska governor for five years (1887-1892).  This county was originally called Jefferson County.

Thomas: Civil War General George H. Thomas received the nod for this county that was not officially established until Nebraska had been a state for 20 years.

Thurston: U.S. Senator John M. Thurston was the cause of this county being renamed from Blackbird County.  Blackbird was a former Indian Chief who was buried in this area along with his favorite horse.  The history behind this renaming is a bit complicated.  You can read more in this online excerpt of Andreas’ History of the State of Nebraska.

Washington: You might be able to guess that this county was named in honor of General and President George Washington.  But what you would not know is that the boundaries of this county was actually set on Washington’s birthday – February 22nd, 1855.  The boundaries were redefined twice in the next five years – that seemed to happen often in early Nebraska counties.

Wayne: Revolutionary War General “Mad Anthony” Wayne name graces this Northeast Nebraska county.  From reading a bit of history, evidently Wayne was known for his temper tantrums and drive to push his troops through all sorts of battles.  If you enjoy reading military history, General Wayne is a fascinating one (and the first two articles linked even have pictures of him).

Webster: Patriot and statesman Daniel Webster was given this honor.  I wonder just how many counties across the country were named for this great American?

Wheeler: A Nebraskan!  Major Daniel H. Wheeler served many, many years as the secretary of the State Board of Agriculture.  (I am pretty sure this secretarial position was similar to a national cabinet one, rather than the fact that he was good with a typewriter. 🙂  )

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People Behind the Places: Nebraska Counties N-S

Grasping the length of time necessary to identify all of the Nebraska counties escaped me.  93 counties was a theoretical number to me before.  Now I am realizing just how “wide” and “tall” Nebraska is.  I have enjoyed reading the stories in Perkey’s Nebraska Place Names. (And if I found out any more information on any websites, I provided a link!)  (Note: No “O” or “Q” counties!)

Nance: Acting Nebraska Governor Albinus Nance was given this honor in 1879.  (Good thing they went with his last name, rather than his first, or those residents would have to practice their spelling! 🙂  )

Nuckolls: A founder of Nebraska City, Stephen F. Nuckolls, was also a territorial congressman.  Of course, he ended up leaving the state for his Coloradan mining interests.  But according the Nebraska State Historical Society. many members of his family also made Nebraska contributions to our state.

Otoe: Named for the Oto Indians (not sure about the discrepancy in spelling.)  They were in fact some of the original residents of this county having relocated from the Michigan area.  They were also the original founders of Ashland (formerly known as Patterson according to Nebraska Studies.

Pawnee: Named for the Pawnee Indians.  This tribe lived further west than their county namesake but were still given the honor of a name.  But not the land.

Perkins: Possibly Charles E. Perkins, who happened to be president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway.  Or Joseph Perkins of Grant.  (Could not seem to find out any information about him).

Pierce: In 1856, the current President was Franklin Pierce, and he given a Nebraska county name.  This was an earlier Nebraska county as it was established eleven years before the state was official.

Polk: President James K. Polk was the man behind this place.

Richardson: An Illinois man, William Richardson would become the third territorial governor of Nebraska.

Sarpy: Notable Nebraskan, Colonel Peter A. Sarpy, operator of the Bellevue “Trader’s Post”, lived in this area.  He established several trading outposts and towns in Nebraska.  Being married to an Omaha Indian woman, the tribe called him “White Chief.”  According to Nebraska Social Studies, he lived an interesting life and contributed much to his locale.

Saunders: Acting Nebraska territorial governor, Alvin Saunders, allowed this county to be renamed for him in 1862.  Original name: Calhoun

Scotts Bluff: Kind of a place (noted landmark in Platte Valley) and person, Hiram Scott, an earlier Nebraska traveler who perished at the spot.  If only he had known just how many people would know his name.  Okay, maybe they would not recognize who he was specifically, but the bluff was a key trail landmark.

Seward: Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State: William Howard Seward.

Sheridan: Civil War General Philip H. Sheridan.  He was a cavalry man.

Sherman: Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.  (The Civil War Trust has a great article on him.)

Sioux: Named for Sioux Indians and happens to be the farthest Northwest County in the state.  Different Indian Groups were in the area.  This county contains the site of the War Creek Bonnet Skirmish Site (p. 43 of the document) that involved Buffalo Bill Cody and Yellow Hair.

Stanton: Secretary of War for two Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, Edwin M Stanton held his from 1862-1867.  Previous name of the county: Izard County after the former territorial governor, Mark Izard.

And next week, we will finish the lists of people behind the Nebraska counties.  (Then it will be to discover the places behind the counties – not quite as many of those!)

Categories: Frontier Trails, Lewis and Clark, Metro, Nebraska History, Panhandle, People Behind the Place, Pioneer Country, Prairie Lakes, Sandhills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

People Behind the Places: Nebraska Counties Part 3 K-M

Since I tend to get distracted/interrupted while attempting to write, the fact that I forgot a county last week in my “Peope Behind the Places: Nebraska Counties Part 2 E-J” blog is probably to be expected.  What was surprising was the county that I skipped.  The one where I have spent the most time in my life apart from Lancaster.  A county filled with wonderful people where my mom grew up and where many family members still live.  A place I have loved to visit: Hamilton County.  My sweet cousin is the one who caught my omission, and I still feel a bit embarrassed.  So, I edited the entry to contain Hamilton and am including the information at the beginning here as well, so that you do not have to go back to the previous entry unless you want to do so.

Hamilton: This is one of my favorite counties as my grandparents used to live there, and I still have an aunt & uncle & cousins and their families who make their residence there.  So rather ironic that I accidentally missed this page in the book that I am referencing.  Oops!  So this was added a bit late.   Anyway, you may have guessed that Alexander Hamilton, first United States Secretary of the Treasury is the one that Nebraska honored for county 28.

Now on to K- M

Kearney: Both the county and the town were so named because of Fort Kearny, a major Oregon Trail stopping point.  The fort was named in honor of Major General Stephen Watts Kearny who lived from 1794-1848.  In 1857, the post office made a mistake in the spelling of the town, and they refused to correct their error.  So, there you have it – two spellings of the same last name.

Keith: Morrill C. Keith of North Platte was given this honor.  His grandson, Keith Neville, would actually be the Nebraska governor (1917-1919).  While Morrill did not happen to live in Keith County, his Lincoln County is at least adjacent.

Kimball: A railroad man.  Thomas L. Kimball was vice president and general manager of the Union Pacific Railroad.  (Former name of this county was Cheyenne).

Knox: Renamed for Major General Henry Knox who had served in the Continental Army and became the country’s first secretary of war.  (Ironically he died from infection after he swallowed a chicken bone.  Oh those little tidbits of history that are often glossed over!)  But for 16 years, the county had a different name.  According to Andreas’ History of Knox County, 1882, this is meaning behind the original name.

Knox County was organized by the Territorial Legislature in 1857, and named L’Eau Qui Court, that being the French name for the river named by the Indians Niobrara–both names meaning, in English, Running Water. The name was changed to Knox by a statute passed February 21, 1873, which took effect April 1, 1873.

(More information can be found on the Knox County Nebraska GenWeb project).

Lincoln President Abraham Lincoln was of course given this honor in 1866 after his death.  The county’s original name: Shorter County.  An odd name for such a large county.  Lincoln County has a rich history including Buffalo Bill and Fort McPherson.

Logan: Union General John A. Logan is the recipient.  This was one of the later Nebraska counties as its boundaries were not defined until February 1886.

Loup: Taylor was the original name in 1855 (could not discover who that was for?) Renamed for the Pawnee Loup Indians in 1883.

Madison: Possibly President James Madison.  Or possibly for the German settlers who moved into the area from Madison County, Wisconsin.

McPherson: Famous from the Civil War, Union Army General James B. McPherson had this county named in his honor.

Merrick The only county named for a woman.  Elvira Merrick was the wife of a Dodge County legislator. Since she probably shared his last name, was not the county named for him as well?  Of course his first name is not mentioned in the Merrick County Nebraska Historical Society Document, so maybe it truly was for her? Hmmmmmm …

Morrill A University of Nebraska Regent, Charles Hentry Morrill, not only got a county named for him but also the name of the building that houses the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History.  Maybe the fact that he donated the building helped with that decision.  He participated in the Civil War as a musician (didn’t realize that was a possibility).  But later he did travel across Nebraska gathering up land, Indian artifacts and dinosaur remains, contributing much to the collections of our state.

More to come thanks to Perkey’s Nebraska Place Names!

P.S. You may have noticed a few counties have not been mentioned (including Lancaster) because they are actually “Places Behind the Places,” being named for locations rather than people.  So, they will be mentioned eventually.  If I do forget a county named for a person, please let me know.  As is evident with Hamilton, that is certainly a possibility.

Categories: Frontier Trails, Lewis and Clark, Nebraska History, Panhandle, People Behind the Place, Prairie Lakes, Region or City, Sandhills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

People Behind the Places: Nebraska Counties Part 2 (E-J)

Here is part 2 of the naming of Nebraska counties.  Will there be a part three?  Probably so, as there are so many sections of Nebraska! 🙂  I am still referencing Perkey’s Nebraska Place Names by Elton A. Perky for this information.

No “E” or “I” counties in Nebraska, but did not want to skip the poor letters!

Fillmore: This one might be easier to guess.  Millard Fillmore was President between 1850-1853.  I have to say that there is not a lot that I recall about the man as far as Presidents go, but he must have been well-liked or memorable to have a county named for him almost two decades after he was done serving.

Franklin:  Any guesses?  Benjamin Franklin of course.  Definitely a memorable name!

Furnas: Established in 1873, Robert W. Furnas was governor the time this county came to be.

Gage: William D. Gage was a Methodist minister and chaplain.  This county was actually established in 1855 – a dozen years before statehood.  Gage was one of the commissioners appointed to find the county seat.  He died that same year.

Garfield: James A. Garfield: 20th U.S. President

Gosper: Not sure I had ever heard of this county.  John J. Gosper was secretary of the state of Nebraska, probably when the county was organized on AUgust 29, 1873.  The boundaries were not defined until March 2, 1881.  Does that seem like a long time for clarification anyone else too?

Greeley: Horace Greeley, American Journalist and political leader.  He died a year after this county was established.  One has to wonder – did he ever know that a Nebraska county was named in his honor?  Not like you could send a quick e-mail or anything.  “By the way, sir, clear out in the new state of Nebraska, we like you!”

Hall: Chief Justice of Nebraska Territory in 1858, Augustus Hall.  Who also happened to be a former congressman from … Iowa? This county was initially established in 1858, but boundaries were re-established both in 1864 AND 1871.    Would be interesting to know what the disputed areas were.

Hamilton: This is one of my favorite counties as my grandparents used to live there, and I still have an aunt & uncle & cousins and their families who make their residence there.  So rather ironic that I accidentally missed this page in the book that I am referencing.  Oops!  So this was added a bit late.   Anyway, you may have guessed that Alexander Hamilton, first United States Secretary of the Treasury is the one that Nebraska honored for county 28.

Harlan: Was initially part of Lincoln County.  In 1871, a man who lived near Republican City was given this honor of  a county name.  He happened to be a revenue collector, and his until James, was a senator from … Iowa.  Not sure how Iowa had such the influence – affecting the naming of at least three of Nebraska’s counties so far!

Hayes: Named for Rutherford B. Hayes, the newly elected U.S. President, in 1877.

Hitchcock: Phineas Warrener Hitchcok, a United States Senator from … Nebraska.  (Finally someone from our state!)  He was serving in 1873 when the county was established.

Holt: An original JAG (anyone else watch episodes of that tv series?)  A judge advocate general of the army under President Lincoln.  But first Joseph Holt was postmaster general and secretary of war in President James Buchanan’s cabinet.  He was from … Kentucky?  How his name made its way to Nebraska is not immediately evident to me.  Perhaps someone saw him in action as a judge and wanted our new state to also represent justice?  Or he helped to get mail to the Nebraska Territory?  One can only guess.  Or wildly speculate.  Both of which I seem to be doing well.

Hooker: General Joseph Hooker, Union army commander in the Civil War.

Howard: Probably for General Oliver Otis Howard who was a union officer during the Civil War and commander in the Indian Wars.  Or for Howard Paul who was the son of early settlers.  If your ancestors are from the Paul family, I know which version you will believe!  🙂

Jefferson: The person is clear: President Thomas Jefferson.  The boundaries were not and continued to fluctuate with Gage County and Jones County.  This last county was eventually absorbed into Jefferson County.  So, poor Jones has been lost to history as I have no idea was Jones was (although I do know that he wasn’t a U.S. President.  He was probably a senator from Iowa).  🙂

Johnson A former vice president of the U.S. (1837-1841), Colonel Richard M. Johnson was from Kentucky.  Another state that must have had many transplants to Nebraska.

Well, I have a little boy who is up rather early today.  He was anticipating “mommy time.”  So a paint brush is calling my name.  More to come …

Categories: Frontier Trails, Lewis and Clark, Nebraska History, Panhandle, People Behind the Place, Pioneer Country, Prairie Lakes, Region or City, Sandhills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

People Behind the Places: Nebraska Counties Part 1 (A-D)

When I drive by places in  thinking mode, I often wonder how they came up with the name of the location.   (Sometimes I drive by places in surviving mode when I just want to arrive there in piece – I really do not care at that point – I just want to pass all of the places and get to my destination.  This usually happens when kids are fighting in the back seat.  But, of course, this never happens with MY children.  Ha, ha!) How about Cherry County for instance?  Named for a person or trees?  Or Chase county – was their a race for land?  Some places you can usually guess correctly. Guess where the citizens of the town of Ohiowa were from?  Equally from Ohio and Iowa, the name made sense.

Anyway, yesterday I was at the library briefly, and I found the book Perkey’s Nebraska Place Names by Elton A. Perkey.  So, evidently I am not the only one who ponders names.  He used several older Nebraska history books as reference as well as other personal sources.  And he included any town that has ever been named in our state, including those that faded away to nothingness.  Thankfully the book is divided by county, so that you can just study the ones in your area.  Well, today I will just tackle the names of some of the Nebraska counties – the ones named from people, as opposed to geographical features or events.  And just some of the counties as the this would be a rather long post if I even did half of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Adams: named for John Adams, 2nd U.S. President (as opposed to his son, John Q. Adams, 6th President, who was not county name-worthy? )

Arthur named for Chester A. Arthur, who was U.S. President from 1881-1885.  Approved the name in 1887 (so this was living history then!)

Blaine named for James G. Blaine – U.S. statesman who failed at becoming President in 1884 (maybe Nebraska voted for him?)

Boone Daniel Boone – noted hunter & Kentucky statesman

Boyd James E. Boyd, Nebraska governor 1891, 1892-1893

Brown 2 state legislators had this name, but one source indicated five people were possible county name candidates.  So, if that was your last name back then, maybe you could tell people it was named for you?

Burt Francis Burt, first governor of Nebraska Territory

Butler David Butler – first governor of Nebraska from 1867-1872

DSCN3444_287Ferg & Gov8.13

Picture taken at the Nebraska governor’s mansion “Wall of Governors”

Cass General Lewis Cass, American statesman and patriot associated mostly with Michigan and with free soil states.  Plus he ran for President.

Chase Champion S. Chase who was Nebraska attorney general in 1886 (at the time of naming).  No racing involved – that would have been more interesting though!

Cherry A person, not a tree.  Lieutenant Samuel A. Cherry of the 5th United States Calvary of Fort Niobrara.  He never knew of this honor as he had been murdered almost 2 years previously.

Cheyenne the native American tribe

Clay Henry Clay, Kentucky statesman and brilliant orator (The Great Compromiser)

Colfax Schuyler Colfax – was Vice President at the time of naming

Cuming Thomas B. Cuming, acting governor of NE Territory in 1854-1858, except for 1856 (evidently he took a year off?)

Custer General George A. Custer, a year after he was killed at Little Big Horn

Dakota Indians (a branch of the Sioux tribe)

Dawes Nebraska Governo James W. Dawes (1883-1887)

Dawson probably Nebraska Pioneer, Jacob Dawson, first postmaster of Lancaster (now known as Lincoln).  Evidently he made quite the impression as Dawson County is about 160 miles west of Lincoln.

Deuel Harry Porter Deuel, pioneer citizen of Omaha.  This county is in the southern part of the Panhandle – a LONG way from Omaha.

Dixon an early pioneer (no more is mentioned, even on other websites!)

Dodge Senator Augustus Caesar Dodge.  Of Iowa?  He supported the Nebraska- Kansas bill so did enough to earn a NE county.

Douglas Senator Stephen A. Douglas from Illinois.  You remember – the one who debated Abraham Lincoln.  And won the senate seat from him.  But did not make it be President (someone else got that job!)

Dundy Judge Elmer S. Dundy, U.S. Circuit Court – prominent Nebraska politician

So, evidently being a politician was helpful to get a county named for you.  I will continue noting the names of the rest of the Nebraska counties some time in the future.   I will probably not write about many specific towns (unless there are some humorous ones).  But I found a great site where you can look up the founding/names of any place in our state: Nebraska…Our Towns: “a historical extension of Virtual Nebraska.”  Enjoy!

Categories: Frontier Trails, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Metro, Nebraska History, Panhandle, People Behind the Place, Pioneer Country, Prairie Lakes, Region or City, Sandhills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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