History of Ashland, Nebraska
From: Past and Present Saunders County, Nebraska
A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement
Charles Perky Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chiago 1915



The name of Ashland was given to the town by a Mr. Argyle. It is said that he was a great admirer of Henry Clay and that many years ago, while conversing with A. B. Fuller, the present oldest living settler in the county, told him that while making a fishing excursion up the Salt Creek, he was attracted by the beauty of the scenery and the advantages of the location for a town site, and accordingly had named it Ashland in honor of the home of his ideal statesman, Clay.

Ashland was formally organized at its first meeting, held March 4, 1870. Dennis Dean was elected chairman and Mr. Willie clerk of the board of trustees. At a meeting held June 17th J. H. Snell was appointed treasurer and it was ordered by the board that the collector call upon Messrs. Hiemer and Locke and require them to take out a city license to retail malt and spirituous liquors, as required by the statutes of the state. This was the first official business of the town. C. M. Folsom was appointed clerk in place of Willsie, who resigned. On May 22, 1871, the second election was held and the following officers elected: Andrew Marble, chairman; H. H. Packard, treasurer; A. B. Chamberlain, clerk; J. B. Lininger, street commissioner.

The election of 1872 was held on May 31st and the following were elected: Henry Johnson, chairman; A. B. Chamberlain, clerk; M. C. Long, treasurer. The election of May 19, 1873, resulted as follows: Henry Johnson, chairman; H. W. Curtis, treasurer; J. A. Jury, clerk; J. G. Whitlock, marshal and street commissioner. On May 11, 1874, William B. Morris was made chairman; J. B. Lininger, treasurer; and J. A. Jury, clerk. The issue of this election was the temperance question and the drys were in the majority.

On May 11, 1875, J. M. Bond was chosen chairman of the board; H. W. Curtis, treasurer; Joseph Arnold, clerk; B. S. Clark, marshal; J. G. Whitlock, street commissioner. On May 23, 1876, Henry Johnson was again named as chairman; H. B. Curtis, treasurer; Joseph Arnold, clerk; O. A. Pierce, collector; and George Buck, marshal and street commissioner. The same officials were chosen in the following year.

On April 16, 1878, Ashland was organized as a city of the second class and the following officers were elected: Ben S. Clark, mayor; J. R. Watts, city clerk; J. H. Snell, A. D. Frazier, E. M. Park, W. C. Scott, councilmen, the first two for the First Ward and the other two for the Second Ward. The business of the first meeting of this new body was to learn whether or not their organization as a city government was legal in every respect; they found that everything was according to law. City Treasurer Jury resigned November 2, 1878, and H. W. Curtis was elected to fill his place by a special election on January 4, 1879. H. H. Packard was elected councilman to fill a vacancy. On January 14, 1879, the council voted to purchase fire apparatus for the city and on January 22d a contract was closed for three chemical engines and a hook and ladder truck, costing $1,700, and it was voted by the city to issue its bonds to that amount, which was done, and shortly after the contractors, Champion Fire Extinguisher Company of Louisville, Ky., sent the machines.

The second city election was held April 5, 1879, and the following officials were chosen: Ben S. Clark, mayor; H. W. Curtis, city treasurer; A. H. Gould, clerk; J. H. Snell, Dennis Dean, Samuel Stratton, councilmen; David Wingood, police judge; William Hardin, city engineer; George Hoffman, marshal. The first action by the new city officials was to refuse to carry out the contract for the fire apparatus and to deliver the bonds. A law suit was begun by the Louisville company against the City of Ashland, which suit was subsequently withdrawn and the apparatus shipped back to the plant.

At this time Ashland faced the same situation as Wahoo and many other towns over the state. The Legislature passed an act in 1879, making it necessary for a city to have a population of 1,500 inhabitants in order to retain its franchise as a city of the second class. The best Ashland could do was 1,100 inhabitants and so the city administration died and April 8, 1880, Ashland was organized as a village, with the following trustees and officers: Dennis Dean, J. H. Snell, H. W. Curtis, Samuel Stratton and O. A. Pierce, trustees; H. W. Curtis, treasurer; A. H. Gould, clerk.

In 1886 Ashland again returned the second class status and has so remained.

An account of the first people to come to the site of Ashland is written in the chapter treating the early settlement of the county. This was the first community to be formed in the county, due principally to its location and the presence of a splendid ford. In 1867 Haine and Valentine opened a large stock of general merchandise on the north side of Main Street and in the fall of 1868 built the first stone block upon the south side. The Snell Block was constructed in the winter of 1869-70, the Bank Block in the fall of 1871 on Silver Street and the courthouse in the summer of 1870. The courthouse, after it passed out of usage, was purchased by Dr. A. S. von Mansfelde, modernized, and turned into a private hospital. James H. Snell, who built the Snell Block, circulated a petition in February, 1866, and was instrumental in having the Legislature change the name of the towns Saline Ford and Flora City and merged into Ashland. He was elected first village treasurer in June, 1870, and also served several years as councilman and as a member of the school board. He built the first brick house in Saunders County in 1867 and in 1869-70, as above mentioned, erected the Snell Block at the corner of Fourth and Silver streets. Mr. Snell, with his brother William, started the second store in the town and ran it for ten years, or until 1876. Many of the early business structures of the town were built by him as contractor. In 1890 he built the Jewell Roller Mills and was engaged in operating this plant until July, 1911, when he was forced out of business by the action of the Clear Creek Drainage District in removing his power and mill dam in Salt Creek. He moved to Lincoln in 1912.


Archibald Wiggins was the first to come on to the town site, in 1857. Fuller and Moe erected the first frame building and opened a general store in the spring of 1863. The same year Hume and Border erected a dam across Salt Creek and constructed a flouring mill. The original portion of the business section was located on the lowland near Salt Creek, and after 1869 gradually moved up to the high land. Joseph Humes, M. K. Hall and Giles Fruman were settlers within the corporate limits of the town; Doctor McClung early began the practice of his profession here; Humes and Warbritton operated a sawmill in conjunction; Howe opened a wagon shop; M. K. Hall a blacksmith shop. William Warbritton opened a general merchandise store in 1863 and by some authorities this is claimed to have been the second in the town, also in the county. After Dennis Dean constructed his mill in the year 1864 the town began to grow more rapidly and from this date may be computed the true development of Ashland.

At the first general election in 1867 the county seat was located at Ashland and at a regular meeting of the commissioners for and in Saunders County on February 2, 1870, a petition was presented, signed by C H. Walker, M. Willsie, A. B. Fuller, I. N. Atkinson and thirty eight others, asking that the town be incorporated. This was granted and Dennis Dean, T. W. Valentine, T. B. Wilson, J. H. Snell and M. Willsie were appointed trustees. John L. Tidball, J. M. Bond and W. P. Snell were apopinted judges, and G. W. Sheppard, E. V. Kidner, clerks of election. After a long contest, in the fall of 1873, the county seat was taken away from Ashland and moved to Wahoo.

A list of Ashland business houses published in the late '70s gives the following: A. Marble, drugs; V. Albert, harness; Ashland Liberty Club Saloon; H. W. Curtis & Company, grain; S. S Abbott, confectionery; W. A. Knapp, blacksmith; Snell Brothers, groceries; E. A. Wiggenhorn, lumber and coal; N. H. Whittemore, bakery; Ashland Elevator, Palmerton & Sanders; Cole and Morris, hardware; J. S. Green, Lola Mills; A. D. Fraser, groceries; Girard Oxenburcher, tailor; J. R. Watts, jeweler; Hobart Brush, drugs; Lee Miller, windmills; H. H. Shedd, general store; John McMillan, boots and shoes; James M. Bond & Company, hardware and stoves.


In 1864 Mr. Warbritton built a house partly of logs at the foot of what is now Third Street. The house consisted of two rooms and an attic. In 1865 he traded it to Mr. Barnhill, who had been keeping a ranch near the Butler County line. He enlarged the log cabin with a porch and made a hotel of it. This was the first hotel in this part of the country and perhaps the first west of Plattsmouth. This building was enlarged from time to time and from 1866 to 1870 did a very large business, as there was a great amount of overland travel and many settlers coming in to look for land All the business at that time in Ashland was on the bottoms. The next hotel was the Munhall House, afterward the D. Snell residence. It was built in 1869 by a Methodist minister named Mimhall, but was operated only a couple of years, the opening of the Snell House destroying its business. The Snell House was constructed in 1869 by J. H. and W. P. Snell and John Palmerton. It was opened in the spring of 1870 when the railroad came through and A. B. Fuller was the first landlord. Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Snell, Mr. Patton, Jordon, Mr. and Mrs. N. H. Whittemore, and Mr. and Mrs. Molven ran the place at different times until 1884, when it was transformed into a business house. The Exchange Hotel was the next, a two story frame, built by a stock company and opened July 4, 1880, with Elder Clarke as landlord, followed by Hackney and H. K. Dunbar. This structure was burned in 1887. The Selma Hotel was built after the Exchange burned. The Wiggenhorns put $20,000 into a very handsome block and it was opened in 1888 with Dunbar in charge. The Clifton House was built in 1885 by Clifton Hinkley and the Platte Valley House was also opened up sometime in the '80s. These old hotels were places of much interest and entertainment. In those days there were no motion picture shows to entertain the people and the hotel was naturally the congregating place for the town. Many interesting stories are told of the early Ashland hotels, not the least of them being the eccentricities of Mr. Patton, who once ran the Snell House. He gained fame by the use of a large farm bell hung on the outside of the house, which he would ring violently at meal times. Many pranks were played on this man by the youth.of the town.


The first bank in Ashland was a private bank operated by the Simongton Brothers. This was in 1871. It was succeeded by the Bank of Ashland, with John R. Clark, cashier of the First National Bank of Lincoln, as president, and Samuel Waugh as cashier. This bank continued in business for two or three years. Then came the First National Bank in 1873, organized by John Simongton with a capital stock of $25,000. The bank ran until 1883 and then was suspended from business. In March, 1883, John R. Clark, D. D. Cooley, John Fitzgerald, O. M. Carter and Samuel Waugh organized the National Bank of Ashland with a capital of $50,000. A building was constructed in 1889. This bank is now in operation at Ashland; Randall K. Brown is president; J. C. Railsback, vice president; F. E. White, cashier; and Leon H. White, assistant cashier. The capital stock is $60,000, the surplus $20,000, and the deposits average $200,000.

In 1883 E. A. Wiggenhorn started in the private banking business. In 1904 the bank was incorporated as a state bank with E. A. Wiggenhorn as president and H. A. Wiggenhorn as cashier. During the same year the former died and then H. A. Wiggenhorn became president, a position which be still holds. E. C. Wiggenhorn is the cashier of the institution and E. A. Wiggenhorn assistant cashier. W. A. Harnsberger is the vice president. The bank has a capital of $75,000, a surplus of $25,000, and the deposits average about $565,000.

In no town in Nebraska of similar size are there better banking facilities and financial credits than in Ashland. The two banks are of confirmed standing, veterans in the banking game, and always have been judged worthy of extreme confidence. The size of the deposits, practically $800,000 in a town of Ashland's size, is ample proof of the amount of business done in the southeastern corner of Saunders County.


Addison Carr, while teaming in the winter of 1867, hauled the first printing press to Ashland, bringing it overland from the Town of Plattsmouth. Can happened to be the first man to marry in the county which, however, has nothing to do with the printing press. The Ashland Gazette was started in 1879 by John Richard, and then was owned by T. J. Pickett, now editor of the Wahoo Wasp, W. N. Becker, F. L. Carroll and Glenn Howard. The latter purchased the plant of Carroll in June, 1914, and today is publishing a very successful paper and with a good subscription list.

J. B. La Chappelle owned and edited a paper called the Saunders County Journal from 1897 until 1907, when the plant was destroyed by fire and the paper never revived.

George B. Pickett published the Ashland News from 1897 to 1899, when it also died.

A paper called the Summer Breeze was published in Ashland for a short time in 1896 by Harry Graves Shedd.

The first newspaper in the town was the Ashland Times, which was established on April 8, 1870, by Orin H. Matthews.

[Continued in part 2 - Ashland Notes]

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