Nebraska History

The area that now forms the state of Nebraska was originally settled by Native American tribes. Nebraska, meaning “flat water,” was the name the Native Americans gave to the river now called the Platte. Some of the tribes that lived in this area were the Pawnee and the Lakota (Sioux).

First exploration under France and Spain (1541 – 1803) [ edit | edit source text ]

Initially, both France and Spain wanted to control the area. Without visiting the area, French explorer René Robert Cavelier de La Salle claimed the area for France as part of Louisiana in 1682.

According to watchtutorials, in the late seventeenth century, Spain had contact with the nomadic Apaches, who also settled in present-day western Nebraska. Several years later, in 1703, France also traded regularly with the natives living along the Missouri River in Nebraska. The French built forts along the Mississippi and Missouri. In 1714, the commander of French Fort Orleans (more to the southeast in present-day Missouri), √Čtienne de Bourgmont, visited the mouth of the river he called the “Nebraskier.” This river is known today as the Platte. Bourgmont thus became the first European to approach the current name of the state. By 1719, the French had signed several treaties with these tribes. Meanwhile, however, a war had broken out between Spain and (among others) France (the War of the Fourfold Covenant), which prompted Spain to dispatch an armed expedition under Lieutenant General Pedro de Villasur in 1720. Villasur left Sante Fe for present-day Nebraska. However, his expedition was attacked and destroyed at present -day Columbusby a large force of Pawnees and Otoes, both of whom were allied with the French. The defeat repelled Spanish interest for decades to come. In 1726 Fort Orleans would be abandoned by the French and most European influence disappeared.

In 1763 France had to (temporarily) cede the area to Spain. Nebraska formally belonged to New Spain, but Spain would not pay immediate attention to the area. The area was too far from the center of New Spain; for example, the distance Mexico City – Nebraska was more than 2000 kilometers and there were deserts such as the Chihuahuan desert on the route. Since 1773, there has been limited trade between the British in the east and the Native American tribes in Nebraska. Spain responded with two trading expeditions in 1794 and 1795. During the second expedition, the leader, James Mackay, established the first European settlement in Nebraska, near the mouth of the Platte into the Missouri. Later in the same year, Mackay’s party established a trading post “Fort Carlos IV” near present-dayNebraska.

France regained Louisiana at the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800, but sold most of present-day Kansas to the United States in 1803 as a result of the Louisiana Purchase.

Disorganized US Territory (1803 – 1854)

In 1804, Lewis and Clark ‘s expedition passed through eastern Nebraska on the Missouri River on their way to the northwest. In 1806 another expedition, by Zebulon Pike, visited what would become Kansas (south of Nebraska). Pike also visited a Pawnee village in southern Nebraska.

From June 4, 1812 to August 10, 1821, Nebraska was organized as part of the Missouri Territory. In 1819, Fort Atkinson (just east of present-day Fort Calhoun) was established: the first U.S. Army post west of the Missouri. The fortress was abandoned again in 1827: more “more interesting” areas had been discovered to the west. From 1821 to 1854, the area again became an unorganized territory of the United States. Colonization activities in this area, “Indian Country”, were prohibited. Beginning in the 1840s, the Oregon Trail ran west through Nebraska. The route largely followed the Platte in Nebraska.California. Fort Kearny, an army post founded in 1848, provided a safe resting place for the travelers along the Oregon and California Trail in this new, “hostile” country. In 1850, a ferry service was established near what would later become Omaha to take these travelers from Iowa, on the east bank, to the west bank. Nebraska itself at the time was still a disorganized area with limited settlements. It was only a transit area on the way west.

Opening of the Territory (1854) and Rapid Population Growth

Covered homesteaders in Nebraska heading west. Photo from 1866, three years before the opening of the railway.

The United States Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which gave Nebraska and Kansas territory status. However, Nebraska territory also included parts of the present-day states of Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The capital became Omaha. Many settlers rode covered wagons through Nebraska, heading west. They could count on the help of military personnel at military strongpoints such as Fort Kearny and other forts along the Platte between 1846 and 1869. In 1861 the Dakota territory was split off. The first significant numbers of settlers settled in the 1860sin the area after the US government forced Native American tribes to resettle in reservations.

Lincoln in 1868, one year after the “hamlet” became state capital.

Thanks to the Homestead Actmany thousands of settlers moved to Nebraska to claim free land. The first wave brought in enough (American) residents that on March 1, 1867, Nebraska formally became a state of the United States as the 37th. Since 1854, the capital of Nebraska had been Omaha, located in the east of the new state, 20 miles north of the Platte. Omaha was also by far the largest city in the territory. Most residents of the new state of Nebraska, however, lived south of the Platte. The capital was moved from Omaha to more central Lancaster (later renamed Lincoln). It was feared that the southern part of Nebraska might want to join Kansas and the village of Lancaster, to the south and much more west than Omaha, was proposed as a site for a new capital. An Omaha senator tried to avoid this by renaming Lancaster “Lincoln,” an unloved president among southern Nebraska residents with Confederate sympathies. This was in vain and Lincoln became the new capital. The village, formerly Lancaster, had 30 inhabitants at the time. To this day, Omaha remains Nebraska’s largest city, before Lincoln.

Settlers (” homesteaders “) in front of their residence in Central Nebraska in 1888

The Union Pacific Railroad was commissioned in 1869. This California destination railroad was the first transcontinental railroad. He followed the Platte Valley from Omaha in eastern Nebraska. The railway replaced the covered wagons. After the arrival of the railroad, Nebraska’s population grew rapidly during the 1870s and 1880s, from 123,000 in 1867 to more than 1 million in 1890. The main contributing factors were vegetation, agricultural renewal, and climate. Nebraska’s natural vegetation is mostly prairie, which lends itself to animal husbandry. An easy start in (extensive) livestock farming also allowed the settlers to easily explore the area. During the same period, the use of barbed wire, simple windmills, and the steel plow spread, allowing settlers to use Nebraska as prime cropland. By the 1880s, Nebraska’s US population had already risen to 450,000. After 1890, population growth slowed sharply.

Nebraska History