Incorporation of Omaha, NE as a City
From: Omaha: The Gate City
and Douglas County, Nebraska
Arthur C. Wakeley, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago 1917

THE INCORPORATED CITY

When the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company decided in 1853 to lay out a town on the west side of the Missouri River, the site was "fresh from the hands of nature." There was not a civilized habitation nearer than the trading post at Bellevue on the south, and the old Mormon settlement at Florence on the north. The progress of the new town was even more rapid than its founders had anticipated, as may be seen from the following "facts and figures," taken from the Omaha Times of June 7, 1857:

"The growth of Omaha astonishes - is a fact few can comprehend. Look at its chronology:

"1853, June - Town claim made by the company and kept by them by paying tribute to the Indians. whose title had not been extinguished.

"1854, June - No settlement but a single house, the old St. Nicholas, of round logs, sixteen feet square, built by the company as an improvement to hold the claim.
"1855, June - Number of inhabitants 250 to 300. Best lots sold at $100.
"1856, June - Number of inhabitants about 800. Best lots sold at $600.
"1856, October - Number of inhabitants 1,600. Best lots sold at $2,500."

The editor predicted that another year would see Omaha with a population of 5,000. Even allowing for the tendency of local newspapers to boom the town, the growth of Omaha during these early years was all that its promoters could reasonably expect or desire.

INCORPORATION
The Third Territorial Legislature was convened on January 5, 1857, and early in the session a bill was introduced "to incorporate the Town of Omaha City." After some discussion and amendment the bill passed and was approved by Governor Izard on February 22 1857. The bill fixed the "middle of the main channel of the Missouri River" as the eastern boundary, and the corporate limits included the following described tracts of land:

"Sections 12 and 22; fractional sections 11, 14 and 23; the south half of fractional section to; the south half of the north half of fractional section to; the southeast quarter of section 9; the east half of section 16; the northeast quarter of section 21; the east half of the southeast quarter of section 21; the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 28; and the north half of the north half of fractional section 26 - all in township 15 north of range 13, east of the Sixth Principal Meridian."

The name, "City of Omaha," was given in the bill as the official designation of the new town. Prior to the passage of this measure the town had been known as "Omaha City," but the act of the Legislature in changing the form to the City of Omaha caused the word "city" to be dropped entirely and in a short time the municipality became generally known in common parlance as "Omaha." The public officials provided for were a mayor, recorder; treasurer, assessor, marshal and nine aldermen. The Legislature of 1858 reduced the number of aldermen to six.

THE FIRST ELECTION

Under the provisions of the act of incorporation an election was held on the first Monday in March (March 2), 1857, for city officials. At that election Jesse Lowe was chosen mayor; H. C. Anderson, recorder; Lyman Richardson, assessor; J. A. Miller, marshal; George C. Bovey, William N. Byers, Thomas Davis, C. H. Downs, Taylor C. Goodwill, A. D. Jones, Thomas O'Connor, H. H. Visscher and William W. Wyman, aldermen. A man named Allen (first name apparently forgotten) was elected treasurer, but failed to qualify, and John H. Kellogg was elected to fill the vacancy.

EARLY COUNCIL PROCEEDING

Mayor Lowe was inaugurated as soon as the results of the election were known, and his first official act was to issue a call for the board of aldermen to convene on March 5, 1857, "for the transaction of such business as may legally come before it" Every member of the council was present at that meeting and the work of starting the municipal machinery was commenced by the adoption of the rules of the upper house of the Territorial Legislature for the guidance of the council. Notices were given by several of the members that at an early day ordinances would be introduced relating to the following subjects: I. To define the duties of the city recorder in the matter of official bonds and oaths of office; 2. To protect the city marshal in the performance of his official duties; 3. To divide the city into wards and establish the boundaries thereof; 4. To prevent hogs from running at large; 5. To establish a city pound for stray animals; 6. To create the office of city engineer and define his duties; 7. To regulate billiard rooms and bowling alleys; 8. To regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors: 9. To suppress gambling and gambling rooms_ The board also instructed the recorder to have the following printed and posted in conspicuous places about the city:

"Notice is hereby given that the City Council of the City of Omaha has organized for the transaction of such business as may be brought before it for the welfare of said city, and at the first session thereof it was resolved that all petitions to their honorable body be addressed or presented to the city recorder, and by him presented to the council for their consideration, and that the citizens of said city be and are hereby requested to make known their wishes by petition at as early a day as possible."

At the second meeting of the council a few days later, the following standing committees were appointed: Judiciary, Claims, Streets and Grades, Improvements, Printing. The firm of Hapbum & Chapman submitted a proposition to supply the council with certain printed forms and blanks, but the figures were evidently not satisfactory, as T. H. Robertson was elected city printer. The first ordinance was introduced at this meeting. Its author was A. D. Jones and it provided for the division of the city into wards and the establishment of ward boundaries. T. G. Goodwill introduced an ordinance to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors.

For some time the council held meetings nearly every day. After a few months the necessity for such frequent meetings no longer existed and it was ordered that the regular meetings be held on Tuesday evening of each week. At one of these early sessions the recorder was directed to communicate with the city authorities of Chicago, "or some other well regulated city," and procure ten copies of the city ordinances for the use of the council. Recorder Anderson procured ten copies of the ordinances of Iowa City, Iowa, and it has been said that his reason for not obtaining the Chicago ordinances was because "he did not regard Chicago as a proper model for Omaha."

A MUNICIPAL HOTEL

In laying out the town the seven blocks bounded by Eighth, Ninth, Jackson and Davenport streets were designated as "The Park." One of the great needs of Omaha at the time of its incorporation was a hotel large enough and conducted in such a manner as to accommodate the strangers visiting the city. At the meeting of the council on March 13, 1857. Dr. George L. Miller presented a petition, signed by 13o citizens. asking that a part of the park be appropriated to aid in the erection of such a hotel. The petition was referred to the committee on public grounds, and, as if to influence the committee in reaching a decision, the following resolutions were adopted:

"Resolved, That a portion of the public grounds known as 'The Park' be donated for the purpose of securing the erection of a hotel, worth not less than ........... thousand dollars, said hotel to be located between Fifth and Twentieth and Howard and Webster streets, said location, with the above restrictions, to be determined by the builder; and be it further

"Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to receive proposals for the building of said hotel, and that they be authorized to close a contract with a responsible party who will undertake to build said hotel for: the least quantity of said grounds."

The special committee of three, to which the question was referred, made a report recommending that "a plan and specifications of such hotel be made by a competent and experienced architect and submitted to the council for approval; and after said plan and specifications shall have been approved by the council, the same shall be published in the papers of Omaha and Council Bluffs for two weeks, and give notice that all bids shall contain all the securities' names which may be offered, and the bids sealed and directed to the president of the city council, which bids shall specify the number of lots on said park they will ask as a donation by the city as a bonus towards the erection. Said proposals shall be handed in before the first day of April, and shall be opened and acted upon in open council at the first regular session after that date."

The first meeting of the council after the bids were submitted was on Tuesday evening, April 7, 1857, when four proposals were acted upon by the council_ After the bids had been considered Mr. Byers moved that Dr. George L. Miller be declared the successful bidder for the hotel contract. The motion carried and the city attorney was directed to draw up a contract, to be signed by Mayor Lowe and Doctor Miller. As a decision had previously been reached by the council to have the hotel erected upon some part of the tract known as "The Park," the city engineer was instructed to proceed at once to plat that tract into blocks and lots corresponding with those adjacent.

Charles Grant, who had been elected city attorney on March 12, 1857, drew up the contract according to the instructions of the council, and A. S. Morgan, who had been elected city engineer at the same time, immediately divided "The Park" into blocks and lots to correspond to those adjoining. Before the contract was signed, Doctor Miller associated with him Lyman Richardson and George Bridge as partners in the undertaking, and a little later these gentlemen were given permission to erect the hotel on lots No. 7 and 8, block 124 the northwest corner of Ninth and Farnam streets. The hotel, the first of any size in Omaha, was four stories high, built of brick and cost $75,000. It was opened in June. 1858, under the name of the "Herndon House," with M. W. Keith as the proprietor. After being used as a hotel for many years it was sold to the Union Pacific Railroad Company for a general office building.

It may seem strange to the people of the present day, when private capital can be found to build hotels, that the city fathers would lend their aid and appropriate lands belonging to the city for such a purpose. But in 1857 conditions were different. The demand for a hotel was much greater than private capital could supply, and the first aldermen deemed it the part of wisdom to give to Omaha a hostelry that would accommodate the traveling public_ For years the Herndon House was the point where the Overland Stage Route landed its passengers in Omaha, before the railroads came and put the stage driver out of business.

EARLY FINANCIAL. MATTERS

One of the most serious problems that confronted the new municipal government was to provide sufficient funds to make needed improvements, pay the salaries of officials and maintain the city institutions. A considerable sum of money had been donated toward the erection of the territorial capitol, as told in another chapter, which left the funds of the new city at a low ebb. On June 23. 1857, the council authorized the mayor "to procure plates and have $30,000 of city scrip issued, and to enter into a contract with the different banks for the circulation and redemption of said scrip, on the best possible terms."

At a special meeting of the council held on August 29, 1857, the following communication was received:

"We, the undersigned, do hereby agree to receive from the mayor of the City of Omaha, of the scrip issued by said city, the amount opposite our respective names, and to protect the same for nine months from the date of issue, for 10 per cent interest for the nine months, to be promptly redeemed in currency, provided the amount issued shall not exceed $30,000, unless protected by a responsible party who shall stamp the same and redeem it either in Omaha City or the City of Council Bluffs, but in no event shall the issue exceed $50,000. It is understood that this agreement shall not be binding on us until arrangements be entered into to protect the whole amount issued.

A. U. Wyman, Western Exchange
Fire and Marine Insurance Company

$5,000

Samuel Moffatt, Cashier Bank of Nebraska

5,000

Bank of Tekamah, F. M. Akin, Cashier

5,000

F. Gridley & Co.

3,000

G. C. Monell

3,000

S. E. Rogers & Co., B. B. Barkalow, Cashier.....

3,000

William Young Brown

3,000

John McCormick & Co

3,000

Total

$30,000"


The proposition of these bankers and financiers was accepted by the council and the mayor was given authority to close the contract, though the amount of scrip, authorized at this meeting was $50,000. An additional $10,000 was authorized at the council meeting on September 22, 1857, the additional issue to be loaned to the hotel company, on condition that they would pay all expenses connected with the issue of the scrip and protect its circulation and redemption.

The "Panic of 1857" is still remembered by old residents. Owing to the great industrial depression that was felt by all parts of the country in that year, the City of Omaha was unable to redeem its scrip according to the original plan, and on December 14, 1857. the council adopted a resolution favoring an issue of city bonds to the amount of $50,000 to retire the scrip from circulation - except the $10,000 issued to the hotel company. Subsequently this was included, when it was ascertained that the actual amount of scrip outstanding was $57,500, and the mayor was directed to order an election to be held on Saturday, December 26, 1857. when the people might pass upon the question of issuing the bonds of the city to that amount. Assuming that the majority of the voters would favor the proposition, the council ordered the recorder to have 2,000 affirmative and 500 negative ballots printed. The total number of votes cast at the election was 641, of which 598 were in favor of the bonds and 43 opposed. This was the first issue of bonds ever authorized by the City of Omaha.

On November 22, 1858. the city assessor made a report showing that he had fixed the assessed valuation of the property of the city as follows: Lots, $1,110,678; improvemeras, $202,074; personal property, $178,362, making a total of $1,491,114. Upon this amount a tax of 5 mills on the dollar was levied, producing a revenue of $7,455.51 for the fiscal year ending on March 10, 1859. At the close of that fiscal year the council appointed an auditing Committee, which reported on March 23, 1859, that the total receipts for the year amounted to $7,842.85, and the total expenditures to $12,592.98, leaving a deficit of $4,750.13. The committee was inclined to take an optimistic view of the situation, closing its report with this statement:

"As a large portion of the expense was to defray the liabilities of the city on account of the capitol improvements, which will not again occur, and as other items of expense can be dispensed with, without detriment to the general prosperity of the city, it is hoped that, by a judicious and economical administration of the city finances, the receipts will defray the expenses of the present fiscal year and perhaps cancel a portion of the city debt."

The committee further showed the total indebtedness of the city, including the bonds voted to retire the scrip, outstanding warrants and a floating debt of $273.43, to be $72,689.39, against which they found assets of $51,197.07, the largest single item of which was the bond and mortgage of the hotel company, amounting to $15,000. Such was the financial condition of Omaha two years after its incorporation.

PRACTICING ECONOMY

Various suggestions were made to the council as to the best means of increasing the city's revenues, one of which was to sell all the lands and lots belonging to the city, including the tracts set apart for public parks and other public purposes, but the city attorney, George I. Gilbert, in 1858, reported against such a course and cited instances where cities had made sales of such property, the deeds to which were afterward set aside by the courts. As it was plainly seen that Mr. Gilbert's decision would cast a cloud on the title to lands thus sold, and have a tendency to prevent bidders from paying as much for the lands as they would otherwise, the council declined to undertake the sale. Subsequently a number of lots belonging to the city were disposed of, but no tracts that had been set apart for public use.

Unable to augment the public funds by the sale of such lands, the council adopted the policy of rigid economy by cutting down claims presented against the city, etc. M. H. Clark, who had succeeded T. H. Robertson as city printer, presented a bill for $110, which the judiciary committee of the council recommended be reduced to $70, but the council as a whole thought this amount too much and voted Mr. Clark "the sum of $50 as a payment in full." M. W. Keith, proprietor of the Herndon House, asked $11.50 for a room for election purposes and was allowed $3.50. Judges and clerks of election, when they presented bills for $5 and $3 respectively for their services, were compelled to accept just one half of those amounts. Numerous instances of this character are to be found in the early records.

On the other hand, the council was sometimes inclined to be lavish in its expenditures, where the interest or prospective welfare of the city was at stake. On December 21, 1858, a resolution was adopted appointing Dr. Enos Lowe a special commissioner "to proceed to Washington and urge upon the general land office prompt action in considering and canceling the private pre-emptions illegally made within the corporate limits of the city, and to do what else he can in matters of interest to Omaha now pending in Congress."

Doctor Lowe went to Washington, where he spent some two months, and later made a report of what he had accomplished. In that report he said: "I reached Washington about the 20th of January and remained there until the 4th of March, 1859, devoting all my time to the objects of my mission, and succeeded in obtaining a hearing and favorable decision of much the larger and more important portion of the cases; but, not being able to get all of them taken up within that time, and being unable to remain longer, I employed M. Thompson, Esq., to attend to the remaining cases. Having no money to pay him, I agreed to send him a deed for five of my own lots, within the limits of Council Bluffs, where the titles were complete, for $250. This I have done, as you will more satisfactorily learn from his own acknowledgment, herewith submitted, and I now respectfully asked to be reimbursed therefor. I disclaimed at the outset any compensation for my time and services, but I cannot afford to give also the money actually paid out for necessary personal expenses in going and returning, and for my board while there. Therefore I submit the following charges and ask their allowance in cash or its equivalent, viz: Paid to Thompson for city, $250; actual expenses going to and returning from Washington, $120; board forty two days at $1.50 per day, $63; total, 433."

The council voted to give the doctor five lots in Omaha, in the place of those he had deeded to Thompson, and in addition was allowed $183 for his expenses, according to his report. Another instance of the council's liberality is seen in the action of a few weeks later, when 300 lots, supposed to be worth $200 each, were donated by resolution to the firm of Irving & Company, on condition that the "said Irving & Cempany will keep and maintain during the continuance of their contract with the United States, at or within two miles of the City of Omaha, a depot for the reception and delivery of goods to be transported by them for said Government."

SOME ODD LEGISLATION

For some years after Omaha was incorporated the steamers on the Missouri River constituted the principal means of reaching the city or bringing goods to its merchants. If a boat landed late on Saturday, it was no unusual thing for the crew to work all day Sunday in discharging or taking on cargoes. In 1863 Peter Hugs, county clerk, presented to the city council a petition asking for the passage of an ordinance prohibiting this custom. The petition was referred to a committee, of which John H. Kellom was chairman and at the next meeting of the council he brought in report recommending the passage of such an ordinance. A minority report was presented by D. C. Sutphen, asking that the petition be again referred to the committee. The minority report was adopted and nothing more was ever heard of the matter.

It may seem strange to the people of Omaha today to learn that in 1864 the council made an appropriation of $100 to pay for "clearing away the brush on Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh streets, south of Jones Street," or that as late as 1866 residents in the suthern part of the city were permitted to work out their poll tax by cutting brush and clearing other obstructions from the streets in that section.

In March, 1866, a resolution was adopted by the council declaring that "the privilege heretofore granted to E. B. Chandler to stack hay upon certain streets of the city shall expire on the first day of May, 1866." Imagine some one asking and receiving permission to stack hay on any of the streets of Omaha in 1916! About the time this resolution was adopted an ordinance was passed requiring the barbers to close their shops on Sunday. Some people who were in the habit of getting shaved on Sunday morning expressed their dissatisfaction at what they called "blue laws," and O. P. Ingalls, a member of the council, gave notice that he would offer a repealing ordinance, but the record does not show that such an ordinance was ever introduced or passed.

*** FIRE DEPARTMENT, was at this point ***

POLICE FORCE

For nine years after Omaha was incorporated the only police officer was the city marshal. On Match 22, 1866, the council passed an ordinance establishing a police force of four men and appointed John Logan, John Morrissey, Patrick Swift and Thomas Welch to the positions. The ordinance provided that the "captain of the city police shall place his men on their beats from 8 o'clock until sunrise." Two additional patrolmen were appointed a few weeks later. This was the beginning.

For about two years the policemen wore no uniforms, but in March, 1868, the council adopted the following preamble and resolution:

"Whereas. The council believes that the wearing of some uniform dress by the members of the police would give general satisfaction, therefore be it

"Resolved. That the policemen be and are hereby directed to provide themselves with dark blue, single breasted coats, trimmed in dark buttons, with pants of the same material, and caps with brass plate in front marked with the words city police,' said suits and caps to be worn when the policemen are on duty."

In 1869 the force was increased to eighteen men - three for each ward in the city - to be elected by the council. Maurice Sullivan was chosen captain and Rodney Dutcher, lieutenant. Sullivan resigned after a short service and Dutcher was promoted to the captaincy. A. P. Sanders was then elected lieutenant. In December, 1870, William G. Hollins, the city marshal, who had served as captain of Company E, First Nebraska Infantry, in the Civil war, recommended that the force be reduced to twelve men, which recommendation was adopted by the council in an ordinance passed on the last day of January, 1871.

A communication from Smith S. Caldwell, then mayor of the city, dated October 9, 1871, called the attention of the council "to the probability of the personal property of our citizens being without the protection of insurance, in consequence of the unprecedented conflagration now raging in Chicago, involving the destruction of nearly the entire city and bankrupting, as it doubtless will, all the insurance companies of the city, I would therefore recommend that the city marshal be instructed to employ a special force of night watchmen, to serve until the insurance of our people can be examined and readjusted, say ten days or two weeks." The mayor's recommendation was adopted and a night force of twelve extra men was appointed to serve for two weeks.

The office of police captain was abolished in 1871 and the force placed under the control of the city marshal. This system continued for about twelve years, or until the State Legislature of 1887 passed an act creating a board of fire and police commissioners of five members, one of which was the mayor of the city. Pursuant to the provisions of the act, Governor John M. Thayer appointed as the other four members L. M. Bennett, Christian Hartman, George I. Gilbert and Howard B. Smith. The commissioners took office on May to, 1887, held their first meeting the next day, and at a second meeting on the 16th adopted and filed with the city clerk "rules and regulations governing the appointment, promotion, removal, trial and discipline of the officers and men of the police department of Omaha."

When the board met on May 19, 1887, to appoint a chief of police, a conflict arose between the commissioners and the city council. There were several applicants for the position, but the board selected Webb S. Seavey, who had served as officer in the Fifth Iowa Cavalry during the Civil war. Two days later Mr. Seavey filed with the board a bond in the sum of $ro,000, which bond was accepted and approved by the board and sent to the city council. City Marshal Cummings vacated his office on May 25, r887, and Chief Seavey assumed control of the police force. In the council, the chief's bond was referred to the judiciary committee, and on June 7, r887, that committee submitted majority and minority reports on the matter. The minority report recommended that the appointment of Mr. Seavey be recognized as legal and that his bond be accepted. The majority report was as follows:

"The judiciary committee, to whom was referred the pretended official bond of one Seavey, together with the report from the police committee, have had the same under consideration and report thereon as follows:

"First. That the board of fire and police commissioners, without the necessary rules and regulations to be prescribed by ordinance, have no authority to make any such appointment and, as the ordinance to prescribe rules is under consideration by the council and has not passed. the pretended appointment is premature and uncalled for.

"Second. That no authority exists at the present time for the presentation of the pretended bond to the city council, and the same is not in form prescribed by any law now in existence. For these reasons we recommend that the pretended bond be rejected.

"L S. HASCHAL,
"LEAVITT BURNHAM,
"MICHAEL LEE."

A week later the city attorney, John L. Webster, to whom the question had been referred, gave an opinion in which he practically sustained the action of the commissioners. The council then passed an ordinance requiring the commissioners each to give bond in the sum of $5,000. The bonds of Bennett and Hartman were approved by the council on August 9, 1887, but the bonds of Gilbert and Smith were rejected on the technicality that the names of the sureties signing the bond did not appear in the body of the instrument. The two commissioners then prepared new bonds correcting this defect and filed them with the council on the 30th of August, but that body neglected to approve or reject the bonds. The commissioners continued, however, to perform their duties without objection_

All the members of the fire department were appointed by the board to the positions they had held before the passage of the act creating the commission. This was done on June 28, 1887, and on July 26th the board met to examine applicants for positions on the police force. Among those who appeared for examination were all the members of the old force and a number of new applicants. Two days later the board announced the appointment of forty two men, several of whom were new men, fourteen members of the old force being dropped. This action of the board increased the opposition of the council. That body had refused from the first to recognize Mr. Seavey as the chief of police or to pay his salary, and now refused to recognize or pay any of the new appointees of the board, except those who had previously been members of the force.

On October 1, 1887, the board of fire and police commissioners adopted resolutions setting forth that the board could not bring suit in the Supreme Court of the state to settle the relative powers of the board and the city council, while the council could; requesting the council to take the necessary steps to bring such an action; and also requesting that the salaries of the police officers appointed by the board be paid out of the funds available for that purpose. The council ignored the resolutions and a public mass meeting was called to meet at the rooms of the board of trade. At that meeting resolutions condemning the action and attitude of the council were passed and a "Policemen's Relief Association" was formed for the purpose of raising money to pay the men until the council should do so. This plan was continued for several months, when Edward W. Simeral, county attorney, instituted a suit in the Nebraska Supreme Court, to test the title of Chief Seavey to his office. J. C. Cowin and G. W. Ambrose were employed as attorneys to represent the city and filed an amendment to the petition in the Supreme Court. They also instituted quo warranto proceedings against the commissioners to test their title to office. Chief Seavey was represented in this suit by George B. Lake. The Supreme Court sustained the title of the chief and the commissioners to their respective offices, whereupon suit was commenced in the District Court against the city by the commissioners for their salaries and judgment was rendered in their favor. The money advanced by the Policemen's Relief Association was also recovered in an action in the District Court. This ended the trouble.

The police force as constituted in 1916 consists of 181 persons, with H. W. Dunn as chief. There are four captains, seven sergeants, four desk sergeants. one traffic sergeant, four patrol conductors, six chauffeurs. one Bertillon man, fourteen detectives under the chieftainship of Stephen Maloney, seven motorcycle men, one matron, one police woman, eleven tram men and ninety six patrolmen, the other twenty two men being assigned to various duties connected with the department.

PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS

Savage & Bell, in their History of Omaha, say: "The public improvements carried on by the city were insignificant in extent until about 1882, when the necessity therefor became so apparent that a general system of grading, sewerage and paving was inaugurated. In January of that year a board of public works was appointed by the mayor and council, consisting of James Creighton, chairman, Joseph Barker and John Wilson. Previous to the appointment of this board, a very considerable sum had been expended by the city, under direction of the street commissioner, for grading, and Farnam Street had been macadamized from Ninth to Fifteenth at a cost of $25,000; but general improvements were conducted so loosely that the aggregate amount thus expended cannot now be ascertained."

The first asphalt pavement in the city was laid on Douglas Street, froni Fourteenth to Sixteenth, in the fall of 1882. It was put down by the Barber Asphalt Company, under the superintendency of John Grant, at a cost of $2.98 per square yard. About the same time Farnham Street was paved with Sioux Falls granite, making a roadway that would withstand the heavy traffic to which that street was subjected. In some of the early paving contracts wooden blocks were used, but they were found to be unsatisfactory as a paving material and were abandoned about 1890, since which time vitrified brick and asphalt have been chiefly used. On January 1, 1916, Omaha had 218 miles of paved streets and alleys, and during the year 1915 the city expended $580,878.99 for new pavements.

GRADING THE STREETS

Visitors to Omaha sometimes speak of it as "a city of hills and hollows," but had they been here forty or forty five years ago they would have had much better reason for applying that appellation. The conversion of the Town of Omaha, as it was when incorporated in 1857, into its present condition has involved the removal of a vast amount of earth in cutting down hills and filling up hollows. The first established grade in the city was on St. Mary's Avenue in 1873. The avenue then was an important thoroughfare and the property holders along it remonstrated against the radical change in the grade. The result of this opposition was a modified grade, necessitating the removal of a less quantity of earth, and even then some of the property holders insisted that the change was too radical.

On Farnam Street the grade has been changed three times, the last grade involving a cut of over forty feet at Seventeenth Street and a fill quite as much between Twentieth and Twenty fourth streets. The City Hall, on the northeast corner of Eighteenth and Farnam, stands on an elevation, but it may not be generally known that the elevation was much higher, and that in cuffing it down to the present grade the handsome residence of Governor Alvin Saunders, which then occupied that corner, was destroyed. Just across Farnam Street, the block bounded by Farnham, Harney, Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets had been purchased by the county as a site for a new courthouse. The county commissioners, knowing that the grade of the surrounding streets was to be changed, removed a large quantity of earth from the premises before erecting the building. For this they were criticized by some of the citizens, but after the new grade was established the board came in for equally as much criticism from visitors to the courthouse, because of the long flights of steps they had to climb to get into the building.

Douglas Street, from about Seventeenth Street west, was cut down forty feet or more, the heaviest excavation being in the neighborhood of Nineteenth Street. Just a block north of this point, on the southwest corner of Nineteenth and Dodge streets, a little of the original hill remains, and the foundation of the house standing on that lot is higher than the roofs of some of the surrounding buildings.

At the intersection of South Sixteenth and Jones streets about fifty feet of earth was removed; over sixty feet were taken from the natural grade at the intersection of South Eleventh and Pierce streets; fully forty feet were taken from the lot at the southwest corner of Sixteenth and Harney, where the Burgess-Nash stores are now located, which lot was once the property of Gen. W. W. Lowe, a son of Dr. Enos Lowe. one of the founders of Omaha; the creek that once flowed along Nicholas Street has been filled up, and in fact, in nearly even part of the city changes in grade have been made to facilitate traffic and accommodate pedestrians.

SEWER SYSTEM

The first sewers in Omaha were constructed on what is known as the Waring system, but the almost marvelous growth of the city was not taken into consideration and the sewers built by this method were soon found to be entirely inadequate to the demand for sanitary sewage. Then the plan of building large trunk sewers, with lateral branches. was adopted and has given much better satisfaction. All the trunk sewers of Omaha proper discharge their contents into the Missouri River, but in the western part of Dundee, where the natural drainage is in the opposite direction, a separate system has been installed. Here a septic tank was built in 1914. sufficiently large to receive and disinfect all the sewage of that suburb. During the year 1915 the city expended $220,136.55 upon the sewers, bringing the total mileage up to 297. Few cities of its size can boast a better sewer system than Omaha.

**** NAMING OF THE STREETS was at this point. ****

COMMISSION FORM OF GOVERNMENT

The Legislature of 1911 passed an act providing that any city in the State of Nebraska might adopt what is known as the commission form of government, in the following manner:

"Within twenty days after the filing of a petition with the city clerk of any such city, signed by such a number of electors qualified to vote at the last preceding general city or state election as equals 25 per centum of the votes cast for all candidates for mayor at such preceding general city election, the mayor shall by appropriate proclamation and notice call and proclaim a special election," etc., for the purpose of submitting the question to the people.

A special election was held in Omaha, according to the provisions of the act, and the proposition to adopt the commission government carried by a substantial majority. The first commissioners were elected on May 7, 1912, and took office on the 13th. They were James C. Dahlman, Thomas McGovern, Daniel B. Butler, Joseph B. Hummel, A. C. Kugel, John J. Ryder and Charles H. Withnell, the law requiring that in ally cities having a population of $100,000 or more seven councilmen should be chosen.

The law further provided that at the first meeting of the commissioners, or councilmen, one of their number should be elected president and should be known as the mayor of the city. At the meeting on May 13, 1912, James C. Dahlman was elected mayor and the business of the city was divided into departments, each of which was placed under the control of a member of the council as superintendent, to-wit: James C. Dahlman, department of public affairs; Thomas McGovern, public improvements; Daniel B. Butler, accounts and finance; Joseph 13. Hummel, parks and public property, A. C. Kugel, street cleaning and maintenance; John J. Ryder, police and sanitation; Charles H. Withnell, fire protection and water supply.

Messrs. Dahlman, Butler, Hummel and Withnell still held their positions in the spring of 1916, but Mr. Kugel was then in charge of the department of police, sanitation and public safety; John C. Drexel had succeeded Mr. Kugel as the head of the department of street cleaning and maintenance; and W. S. Jardine had succeeded Mr. McGovern in charge of the department of public improvements. Although the commission form of government has been applied only about four years at this writing, it has given abundant evidence of being superior to the old system and Omaha is moving steadily forward in its metropolitan aspirations.

GREATER OMAHA

Early in the legislative session of 1915, E. E. Howell, a state senator from Douglas County, introduced a measure providing for the consolidation of Omaha. South Omaha and the village of Dundee. The bill passed both houses and was approved on March 3r, 1915. Pursuant to its provisions, Governor Morehead, on April 26, 1915, issued his proclamation calling a special election in the three municipalities for June 1, 1915, at which the electors should vote on the question of consolidation. The result of that election was 11,428 votes in favor of the proposition and 1,585 in the negative. Returns were made to the governor who on June 10, 1915, issued a proclamation declaring "the consolidation of the cities of Omaha, South Omaha and the village of Dundee, as one city, the said consolidation to take effect and become operative ten days after this proclamation is filed in the office of the city clerk of said City of Omaha." The proclamation was promptly filed with the city clerk and ten days later the consolidation was announced. Through the uniting of these three separate corporations was formed the "Greater Omaha."


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