Towns and Villages in Douglas County, NE (Part 1) Aleright to Elkhart Junction
From: Omaha: The Gate City
and Douglas County, Nebraska
Arthur C. Wakeley, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago 1917

TOWNS AND VILLAGES

The "get rich quick" spirit is not confined to the people of the present generation. In the settlement of the West, the townsite speculator was among the early arrivals in almost every community. No sooner was a settlement started than town companies would be formed, the most available sites preempted and towns laid out, some of them rivaling in proportions (on paper) the largest cities of the country. In fact, in many localities, there seems to have been a sort of mania for laying out towns, the principal object of the founders being to sell lots to new comers or to people in the older states. Advertising circulars - not always truthful in their representations - were distributed liberally, and many unsuspecting persons purchased lots in cities that never materialized. A visitor to one of the early western settlements wrote: "Nearly every man we met had a town, if a paper plat constituted a town; and every man who had a town had a map of the county marked out to suit his town as a county seat."

Of course, not all the towns projected could become county seats. But some fortunate circumstance, such as the building of a railroad or the development of a water power, gave life and activity to a town here and there, while others perished. Fortunately for Douglas County, the mania for founding towns was not as great as in some communities, though scattered over the county are a number of towns and villages, some of which are business centers of considerable importance, while others are merely small railroad stations, neighborhood trading points, or postoffices for a given district. Others have disappeared entirely from the map, and it is quite probable that none of them has come up to the hopes and expectations of the founders.

From an examination of old maps, plat books, documents and newspaper files, the following list of towns that are now, or have been at some time in the past, in Douglas County has been compiled: Albright, Bellevue, Bennington, Benson, Blakesly, Briggs, De Bolt, Dodge, Dundee, East Omaha, Elk City, Elkhorn, Elkhorn Junction, Florence, Gibson, Ireland's Mill, Irvington, Lane, Mercer, Millard, Parkvale, Ralston, Saratoga, Sarpy, Seymour, South Cut, South Omaha, Valley and Waterloo. Several of these towns have no special history, but such facts as the writer could gather concerning them are given in this chapter.

ALERIGHT

This is the first station southwest of Omaha on the Chicago, Rock Island Pacific Railroad, five miles from the city and in the northern part of Douglas Precinct. It has no business interests of consequence, but does some shipping.

BELLEVUE

Although this town is no longer in Douglas County, when the county was organized in 1854 it included Bellevue, which figured rather prominently in early history. When Lewis and Clark went up the Missouri River in 1804, they landed on the bluff where Bellevue was afterward located, and the description they gave of the place no doubt influenced the American. Fur Company to establish a trading post there a little later. In 1823 the fur company built a large, two story log house for a warehouse and a few settlers located near the post The warehouse was afterward removed about three miles west and converted into a barn. The same year it was erected at Bellevue the Indian agency was removed there from Fort Calhoun, in what is now Washington County. It was then known as the "Council Bluffs Indian Agency at Bellevue," the one at the present City of Council Bluffs being called the "subagency."

John Dougherty, who was for several years in charge of this agency for the Omaha, Otoe and Ponca tribes, in 1835 employed Moses Merrill as a school teacher for the children of those tribes and the halfbreed children about Bellevue, for which he paid Mr. Merrill $500 per year. J. O. Goss, in a paper read before the Nebraska Historical Society on January 14, 1896, says one object of this contract was to give Mr. Merrill pecuniary aid, and another was to give him governmental support and sanction in his work as a missionary among the Indians. Mr. Merrill's son, Samuel P. Merrill, who was born at Bellevue on July 13, 18J5, was probably the first white child born in Nebraska.

In 1846 the Presbyterian Board of Missions sent Rev. Edward McKinney to select a place for an Indian mission "somewhere in the country west of the Missouri River." He selected Bellevue and the same year built a log house for his residence. The following spring Walter Lowrie, secretary of the board, visited Bellevue, approved the site selected by Mr. McKinney, and formally located the mission. The mission house was completed in 1848.

In 1849 the first United States postoffice in Nebraska was established at Bellevue, through the efforts of Peter A. Sarpy, in charge of the trading post there, and D. E. Reed was appointed the first postmaster. Mr. Reed's wife afterward taught the first school for white children in Nebraska Territory.

The first marriage was between Louis Saunsausee, a half breed, and a white woman who came to the Missouri River with the Mormons. Rev. Edward McKinney refused to solemnize the marriage and a messengar was sent across to Council Bluffs (then called Kanesville) for Orson Hyde, one of the elders of the Mormon. Church. Mr. Hyde promised to come, but failed to keep his promise. Elder Smith was then balled upon to officiate and united the couple according to the rites of the Mormon faith. The groom soon afterward deserted his white wife and returned to the Indians, and the bride in time became one of the wives of Brigham Young.

Bellevue can boast of being the home of the first newspaper published in Nebraska. The Nebraska Palladium was started in the summer of 1854 by D. E. Reed & Company, with Thomas Morton as editor, though the first fifteen numbers of the paper were printed at St Mary's, on the Iowa side of the river. It is said the territorial officials witnessed the printing of the sixteenth number, at the head of the first column on the last page of which was the following statement: "This is the first column of reading matter set up in the Territory of Nebraska; it was put in type on the 14th of November, 1854, by Thomas Morton." The paper suspended publication on April 11, 1855, "until a sufficient amount of town pride springs up to pay the expense of its publication." It was never revived.

In 1854 the first Masonic lodge in Nebraska was instituted at Bellevue, and the following year a Presbyterian Church was organized. When civil government was first established in the territory, Bellevue was a formidable rival of Omaha for the territorial capital and for a time there was "bad blood" between the two towns.

The Bellevue Town Company was organized on February 19, 1854, and was composed of Peter A. Sarpy, Stephen Decatur, Hiram Bennett, Isaiah N. Bennett, George Hepner, William R. English, James M. Gatewood, George T. Turner, P. J. McMahon, A. C. Ford and A. W. Hollister. Bellevue was incorporated as a city in 1856, and when Sarpy County was cut off from Douglas by the act of February 7, 1857, it was made the seat of justice of the new county. Its connection with Douglas County history then ceased.

BENNINGTON

The incorporated Town of Bennington is situated in Jefferson Precinct and is a station on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, twenty miles northwest of Omaha It grew up after the railroad was built and was incorporated on April 12, 1892, with H. C. Timme, Eggert Oft, Gustav Paulson, Peter Hoest and Henry Simonson as the first board of trustees. In 1900 - the first United States census after the incorporation - the population was 229, and in 1910 it was 276. Bennington is a shipping and trading point for a rich agricultural district. It has two banks, a large grain elevator, a system of waterworks, a weekly newspaper (The Herald), an opera house, a hotel, several mercantile houses handling various lines of goods, a public school that employs four teachers, a Lutheran Church, and a number of cozy homes.

BENSON

Benson, a suburb of Omaha, though separately incorporated as a city, is situated in the precinct of the same name on the western outskirts of Omaha, with which city it is connected by street railway. The beginnng of Benson dates back to 1893, when a few families settled there. Among the citizens entitled to recognition as pioneers may be mentioned Peter Gravert, Charles Hansen, James A. Howard, Jacob Gehrig, Charles G. Keller, Dr. W. H. Loechner, Edward McArdle, J. J. McGuire, Benjamin R. Morton, B. H. Post, Claus Sievers, George Snell, John Sorensen, John A. Speedie, Chris Stieger, Charles Voss, James Walsh and G. R Williams, On December 4, 1897, Benson was incorporated as a village, with William D. Beckett, Samuel Finlayson, Edward E. Hoffman, Joseph McGuire and Chris Stieger as the first board of trustees.

The village became a popular place for suburban residents and its growth was so rapid that in April, 1916, it was incorporated as a city, of which James A. Howard was elected the first mayor. From a single small schoolhouse in 1895, the school system has developed until there are now four modem buildings, valued at $94,000, and thirty teachers are employed. A waterworks system was installed about the time the city was incorporated and now turns into the city treasury about ten thousand dollars net profit annually. A city hall was recently erected at a cost of $25,000, and in 1916 a septic tank sewer system costing $43,000 was put in, The city hall contains quarters for the fire department, which consists of two paid men and about one hundred volunteers. The city also boasts an auditorium, valued at $15,000, and a public gymnasium.

A small Methodist Church was built in Benson while it was in the village state, but the religious interests have been developed until in 1916 there were seven churches, representing as many different denominations, The Catholics have recently erected a parochial schoolhouse at a cost of $25,000, and the St. James Orphanage, a Catholic institution, is located within the city limits.

Business interests have kept pace with the growth of population. At the time the village was incorporated in 1897, there was but one general store in Benson. In 1916 there were a score of well stocked mercantile establishments handling all leading lines of goods, Two banks, two grain elevators, five garages, three coal and lumber yards, all doing a flourishing business, and a number of small shops, restaurants, etc, constitute the representative business institutions, Benson has four improvement clubs, a public welfare board, and the grounds of the Omaha Country Club are located within the corporate limits. The population of Benson in 1910 was 3,170,

BLAKESLY

On some maps of Douglas County a small hamlet called Blakesly is shown in the western part of Jefferson Precinct, near the west line of section 16, township 16, range 11. It was never officially platted, has no special history, and, like Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin, it "just growed,"

BRIGGS

This is a small flag station on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, in the western part of Florence Precinct and northwest of the City of Florence, It does not appear on the regular time tables issued by the railroad company and only an occasional train stops there for passengers,

DE BOLT

Seven miles northwest of Omaha, on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, is a little station commonly called De Bolt, but which appears on the railway time tables as "De Bolt Place." It is a small place and has no business interests of importance.

DODGE

On the map of Nebraska prepared by the State Railroad Commission, Dodge is shown as a station on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad a few miles northwest of Omaha, but the time tables published by the railroad company do not mention such a station. It has probably been discontinued,

DUNDEE

Dundee, now a part of the City of Omaha, lies west of Forty eighth Street and extends from Dodge Street on the south to Hamilton Street on the north, In the fall of 1894 a petition signed by fifty nine residents asking for the incorporation of Dundee as a separate municipality was presented to the county commissioners, and on December 8, 1894, the petition was granted, The first board of trustees was composed of D. L. Johnson, W. L. Selby, A. B. Carmichael, E. R. Hume and J. N. H. Patrick. The United States census of 1900 showed a population of 400 and that of 1910 a population of 1,023. On June 10, 1915, it was annexed to the City of Omaha. Dundee is pleasantly situated and is one of the prettiest residence districts of Omaha.

EAST OMAHA

In the latter '80s, when the officials of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company were looking for a location for their Omaha yards, they decided upon a large tract of level land just northeast of the city. Parcel after parcel of this land was purchased until they had control of over one thousand acres, This was really more than they needed for their tracks and on February 15, 1887, the East Omaha Land Company was incorporated with Richard C. Cushing, president; George W. Holdrege, vice president; Henry W. Yates, secretary and treasurer. On June 1, 1887, Arthur S, Potter was made manager of the company. At his suggestion about three hundred thousand dollars were expended in making improvements, such as removing willows, opening and grading streets, etc., before any of the lands were offered for sale. The same men also organized the Omaha Bridge & Terminal Railway Company for the purpose of building a bridge across the Missouri River, They also organized the Inter-State Street Railway Company, which constructed a line on Locust Avenue from Sixteenth Street eastward for 2 1/2 miles, giving the residents of East Omaha and the employees of the factories in the new district street car accommodations. The suburb is now a part of the City of Omaha.

ELK CITY

Johnson's History of Nebraska, published in 1880, says: "Elkhorn City, on the old military road twenty five miles northwest of Omaha, was a flourishing village in the early days of the county, but is almost entirely deserted, It was surveyed and platted in the spring of 1856 and while staging and freighting across the plains lasted it was a lively business point, The largest cheese factory in the county is located here."

The location given by Johnson corresponds to the site of the present hamlet of Elk City, which is in section 11, township 16, range 11, in Elkhorn Precinct. The village has a public school, a general store, a hotel, and is connected with Washington by daily stage. The population is less than one hundred.

ELKHORN

The incorporated Town of Elkhorn is situated in Chicago Precinct and on the Union Pacific Railroad, nineteen miles from Omaha. It is one of the old towns of the county. The site was originally entered by William Janney, who sold out to George N. Crawford and H. O. Jones. The new proprietors platted the town early in 1867. The first house was built by a man named Powers and the second by George N. Crawford, who was the first merchant. He was succeeded by A. W. Stewart in 1871. When the postoffice was established it was named Chicago, after the precinct in which the town is located, but mail was frequently sent to Chicago, Ill. The name was then changed to Elkhorn, but again confusion resulted on account of Elkhorn City being so similar, and the name was changed to Douglas. A Catholic Church was established soon after the town was laid out, but a storm in 1868 demolished the church, which was rebuilt in 1870. The public school building was erected in 1869 and about the same time the Methodists built a parsonage for the circuit rider. A Methodist Church was organized Dome years later. The first physician in the town was Dr. C. Howcroft, who remained but a few months, when Dr. T. H. Bowman located in Elkhorn. The town was incorporated on December 30, 1886, with H. A. Nolte, William Korner, Daniel W. Canon and H. Bierbach as trustees. Elkhorn has a bank, a flour mill, two grain elevators, a public school, a hotel, Catholic and Methodist churches, two general stores and some minor business enterprises. The Exchange, a weekly newspaper, is the Elkhorn edition of the Waterloo Gazette. Population in 1910 was 291.

ELKHORN JUNCTION

Several branches of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad system come together a few miles northeast of Omaha, near the south line of Florence Precinct, and the place has been named Elkhorn Junction. No plat of the village - if such it may be called - was ever filed with the authorities and the railroad interests constitute the only business activity. A few dwellings have been built near the junction.


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