History of Lancaster, Lancaster County, Nebraska
From: Lincoln the Capitol City and
Lancaster County, Nebraska
BY: Andrew J. Sawyer
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago, Illinois 1916


The Government survey of the the land upon which Lincoln is now located was made in the year 1856 and, of course, the feature of the survey was the report made upon the salt springs. The stories of fabulous wealth spread to all parts of the Middle West, and for that matter, into the East. Many an adventurer and pioneer trekked to Nebraska Territory, fully expecting to return to his eastern home with pockets bulging. In 1856 the Crescent Company was organized at Plattsmouth, Neb., and Capt. W. T. Donovan, then commander of the steamer Emma, running from Pittsburgh to Plattsmouth, was appointed to represent the company at the newly discovered salt basin. Donovan, accompanied by his family, came and settled on section 23, on the west bank of Salt Creek, just south of the mouth of Oak Creek. During the same summer William Norman and Alexander Robinson, representing another company, came and located on section 21, near the salt basin, but in the next spring they left, dissatisfied with the outlook. As stated before, the attitude of the Pawnee Indians became very threatening during 1858 and Captain Donovan himself left the new settlement and retired to the Stevens Creek colony for safety. In 1861 he returned and settled in the vicinity of the salt basin once more, at a point near the present state hospital, then called Yankee Hill.

In the autumn of 1859 a meeting had been held to consider county organization and a committee, composed of A. J. Wallingford. Joseph J. Forest and W. T. Donovan, were appointed to select a site for a county seat and there lay out a town. In accordance with their instructions the men selected the site of Lincoln, and called it Lancaster. It is said that Donovan gave the name. He had previously, in 1857, named his first settlement at the basin Lancaster.

On July 2, 1861, Captain Donovan introduced Mr. W. W. Cox to the basin and the latter, in company with Darwin Peckham, began to boil salt on August loth in section 21. During the winter, when the business of trading salt was at a standstill, Cox quartered with Donovan at Yankee Hill.

During the year 1862 John S. Gregory arrived at the basin and also opened up a salt business on section 21. In the latter part of the month of May Milton Langdon and his family arrived and settled on the north side of Oak Creek, near its junction with Salt Creek.

The passage of the Homestead Act in February, 1862, brought many new settlers into this county, where they took up their claims, some of them staying and others moving on after a few months.

In the fall of 1861 the first frame building in Lancaster County was begun and finished during the following spring. W. W. Cox, by trade a carpenter, did the construction work for Richard Wallingford. The doors were of black walnut.

During the winter of 1862-63 the family of Joseph Chambers was presented with a son, which child was probably the first born within the limits of the present City of Lincoln. The child lived only a short time.

In the spring of 1863 John S. Gregory constructed a small frame house, in the vicinity of the present West Lincoln, and about the same time was made postmaster at the basin; the office was called Gregory's Basin. Mr. Gregory engaged in the making of salt, along with William Imlay and Milton Langdon. Mr. Gregory was elected to the Territorial Legislature for Lancaster County on October 13, 1863.

On July 4, 1863, the little settlement at the salt basin was augmented by several newcomers. Tradition has it that Mr. W. W. Cox, while picking gooseberries along Salt Creek for the Fourth of July dinner, heard men shouting to him. Upon closer inspection he found that the new arrivals, namely, J. M. Young, Peter Schamp, Dr. J. McKesson, E. W. Warnes, Luke I avender and Jacob Dawson, were seeking a place to locate and plant a colony. The party accepted Mr. Cox's invitation to join in patriotic exercises and during the day Elder Young and his associates became impressed with the possibilities of the salt basin site. Young returned to the basin on July to, 1863, and located on section 23, a part of which he designated as a town and named it Lancaster. No effort was made to encourage settlement in the town until the next year, 1864, and this date may properly be said to have been the starting point of the Village of Lancaster, later to blossom into the state capital of Nebraska.

Upon the occasion of Elder Young's death on Saturday, February 23, 1884, or shortly afterward, the Nebraska State Journal had the following to say of him:

"It is seldom that the Journal is called upon to chronicle the death of a man who, living. had so many claims to the love and respect of his fellow men, and who, dead, leaves so great a lesson of faith and works behind him, or is so sincerely mourned. as Elder J. M. Young, who has at last, after seventy eight years of labor in his Master's vineyard, gone to receive the reward of his faithful toil.

"Up to within a year Elder Young had been quite vigorous and active. notwithstanding his burden of years. For the last year he had been suffering from bronchial affections, and for about two months was confined to his bed.

"Elders J. M. Young was born in Genesee County, N. Y., near Batavia, on the old Holland purchase, November 25, 1806. In 1829 he married Alice Watson, at that time eighteen years of age, who now survives him at the age of seventy four. The following year he moved to Ohio, and from Ohio he went to Page County. Iowa. in 1859. In 186o he came to Nebraska and settled at Nebraska City. In 1863, near the end of the year, he came to Salt Creek. and selected as a site for a town and what he predicted would be the capital of Nebraska, the present site of Lincoln. The following named persons located her at the same time: Thomas Hudson. Edwin Warnes. Doctor McKesson. T. S. Schamp. Uncle Jonathan Ball, Luke Lavender, Jacob Dawson and John Giles. It was the original intention to make the settlement a church colony, but the idea was never utilized as projected.

"On eighty acres owned by him Elder Young laid out the Town of Lancaster, which was made the county seat. He gave the lots in the city away, half to the county and school district, and half to the Lancaster Seminary, a school which he hoped to see established here for the promulgation of his faith. He built from the proceeds of the sale of some of the lots a building, which was called the seminary, and which was occupied by the district school and church. It was burned in 1867 and was never rebuilt.

"A church was organized here and Mr. Schamp was the first pastor. Eider Young was then president of the Iowa and Nebraska Conference. The next year after the capital was located the stone church was built. Elder Young's dream was to build up a strong church in the capital city. He worked assiduously for the object, and put into the work some eight or ten thousand dollars of his private means. When the church went down and he saw that his dream, in so far, had been in vain - that his dream could never be realized - he was almost broken hearted; and this was the chief cause of his departure from Lincoln, which took place in 1882, when he went to London, Nemaha County, the scene of his closing days.

"Elder Young began his labors as minister soon after he moved to Ohio, in 1829. He was president of the Ohio Annual Conference for several years and was president of the Iowa and Nebraska Conference for about twenty years. He was a man of rare vigor and fine attainments.

"Elder Young left four sons: John M., of Lincoln; James O., of London; Levi, Lancaster County; and George W., of Taos City, New Mexico. He was buried in Wyruka Cemetery on February 26, 1884. Elder Hudson conducted the funeral services, by request of the deceased, assisted by Rev. D. Kinney and W. T. Horn."

The southeast quarter and the east half of the southwest quarter of section 23 were platted by Jacob Dawson, dated August 8, 1884. The streets were named North, Nebraska, Saline, Washington, Main, Lincoln, College, High and Locust from north to south. From west to east they were numbered from one to twelve. The original plat contained sixty four blocks, of eight lots each. The streets were to be sixty ssix feet wide; the alleys were to run east and west and be twenty feet wide. Upon the plat was a courthouse square and a seminary square.

In 1864 the Lancaster colony was increased by the location on or in close proximity to the site of a dozen more settlers. Up to that time Dr. J. McKesson, Elder Young, Luke Lavender, E. W. Wanes, J. M. Riddle, J. and D. Bennett, Philip Humerick, E. T. Hudson. C. Aiken, Robert Monteith and his two sons, John and William, William and John Grey, O. F. Bridges, Cyrus Carter, P. Billows. W. Porter, Milton Langdon and three or four others were the settlers here. In 1864 Silas Pratt, the Crawfords, Mrs. White and daughter, C. C. White and John Moore located on Oak Creek, about twelve miles northeast of this Lancaster settlement.

The Indian scare of 1864 caused many of the Lancaster citizens to hastily pack their belongings and start for the Missouri River, but some of them stayed, among the latter being Captain Donovan, who had once before fled for a like cause, John S. Gregory and E. W. Warnes. The Indians committed no depredations in this vicinity.

The year of 1865 was one of little settlement, due in no small measure to the Indian troubles of the previous year.

The county seat fight of 1864 is related elsewhere in this volume.

The second hotel was opened by John Cadman on the site of the old seminary and schoolhouse which stood on the rear of the lot occupied by the present State Journal Building. The hostelry was opened to the public late in 1867. Prior to this there had been a hotel known as the Pioneer House on the southeast corner of Ninth and Q streets. It was managed by L. A. Coggin. The Pioneer was constructed in 1867 and burned down a few years later.

The afternoon of July 29, 1867, is a notable date in the history of Lancaster County. Upon this day the little hamlet of Lancaster was selected by the commissioners, Butler, Gillespie and Kennard, as the site of the capital of Nebraska. Lancaster then did not contain more than ten small houses, some of logs and some of stone. The commissioners met in the home of Captain Donovan, which stood near the southwest corner of Ninth and Q streets. This was a small stone and cottonwood house. Jacob Dawson's home was on the south side of O Street, between Seventh and Eighth, and in the front part of this house S. B. Pound had opened a small grocery store. Dawson was the postmaster at this time also. Milton Langdon resided in a small log house near the southwest corner of Eighth and Q streets. Dr. John McKesson had his home on the north side, near what is now W and Twelfth streets. S. B. Galey, who had come to the town in April, 1866, had a small stone building on P Street. near Tenth. Linderman & Flardenbergh, who were among the earliest merchants, sold a small stock of merchandise at a point now on Ninth Street, near P. They sold their shop to Martin and Jacob Pflug early in 1867 and it then was operated under the firm name of Pflug Brothers. Robert Monteith and his son, John, had a small shoe shop at what is now 922 P Street. Elder Young lived on what is now O Street near Seventeenth. The stone house erected by the elder is still standing, although it is now covered with a cement veneer and a porch added. Luke Lavender's log house was located in the vicinity of Fourteenth and O, about on the site of the present public library. Lavender's small log home was the first to be erected on the plat of Lincoln. Dawson's house was, however, constructed about the same time and the first term of court was held by Judge Dundy in his house in November, 1864. William Guy, Philip Humerick, E. T. Hudson, E. W. Barnes and John Giles had homesteads near the plat of Lancaster, all of which are now a part of the City of Lincoln. There were about thirty inhabitants of the Village of Lancaster when the commissioners decided to locate the state capital upon this site.

This ends the history of the little Village of Lancaster, for, when the plat of Lincoln was made and the site surveyed, the former plat was disregarded and the struggling little community was absorbed by the greater Town of Lincoln. Land owners of Lancaster were given equivalent estates in Lincoln, as shown by the table upon another page.

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