The first territorial officers were appointed under the provisions
of the organic act, by President Pierce, as follows:
Burt of South Carolina, governor
Thomas B. Cuming, of Iowa,
Tenner Ferguson, of Michigan, chief justice
James Bradley, of Indiana, and Edwin R. Hardin, of Georgia,
Mark W. Izard, of Arkansas, marshal
Experience Estabrook, of Wisconsin, attorney
Burt reached the territory, in ill health, on the 6th of October,
1854, and proceeded to Bellevue, where he was the guest of Rev. Wm.
J. Hamilton at the Old Mission house. His illness proved of a fatal
character, and he sank rapidly until his death, which occurred
October 18, 1854.
"With the death of Governor Burt the
duties of organizing the territorial government devolved upon
Secretary Cuming, who, by virtue of his office, became acting
governor. The first official act performed in the territory by an
executive officer was the issuance by Governor Cuming of the
"It has seemed good to an all wise
Providence to remove from the territory by the hand of death its
chief magistrate. Governor Francis Burt. He departed this life this
morning at the Mission House in Bellevue, after an illness
protracted since his arrival, during which he received the most
faithful medical aid and assiduous attention. His remains will be
conveyed, on Friday next, to his home in Pendleton, South Carolina,
attended by a suitable escort. In this afflictive dispensation, as a
mark of respect and affection for the lamented and distinguished
executive and a sign of the public sorrow, the national colors
within the territory will be draped in mourning, and the territorial
officers will wear crape upon the left arm for thirty days from
"Given under my hand at Bellevue, Nebraska Territory,
this 18th day of October, A. D., 1854.
(Signed) T. B.
Cuming, Acting Governor of Nebraska
The official headquarters
remained at Bellevue until the assembling of the first territorial
legislature in January, 1855, when Omaha became the seat of
government. The machinery of the territorial government was set in
motion in 1854. In October the acting governor issued a
proclamation, by virtue of which the first census was taken. It was
completed November 20, 1854, and gave the territory a total
population of 2,732. Of this number 13 were reported as being
slaves. There were 929 white males over twenty-one years of age
reported. Immediately after the census was completed, an election
was held, at which a delegate to congress and members of the first
territorial legislature were chosen.
The territory was
divided into eight counties, viz: Burt, Washington, Dodge, Douglas,
Cass, Pierce, Forney and Richardson.
Burt County was bounded as follows: Commencing at a point on
the Missouri river two miles above Fort Calhoun, thence westwardly,
crossing the Elkhorn river one hundred and twenty miles to the west
boundary of lands ceded to the United States, thence northerly to
Mauvaise River and along the east bank of the same to Eau Qui Court
or Running Water, thence easterly to the Aaoway River and along the
south bank of it to its mouth, and thence southerly along the
Missouri river to the place of beginning. This county was subdivided
into two voting precincts one called the Tekamah precinct, at the
house of General John B. Robinson, who with W. N. Byers and B. R.
Folsom formed the board of election, W. W. Maynard and N. C. Purple
clerks, and the second precinct called Black Bird, located at the
Black Bird house, with Frederick Buck, Dr. Shelley and John A.
Lafferty, judges, and Lorenzo Driggs and William Sherman, clerks.
Washington County was bounded as
follows: Commencing at a point on the Missouri river one mile north
of Omaha City, thence due west to the dividing ridge between the
Elkhorn and Missouri Rivers, thence northwesterly twenty miles to
the Elkhorn River, thence easterly to a point on the Missouri River,
two miles above Port Calhoun, and thence southerly along said river
to the place of beginning. There was one precinct of voting in this
county. It was at the post office at Florence, or "Winter Quarters."
Anselam Arnold, Charles How and William Bryant were appointed judges
of election, and Henry Springer and William More; clerks.
Dodge County was bounded as follows:
Commencing at a point on the Platte river twenty miles west of
Bellevue, thence westerly along Platte River to the mouth of Shell
creek, thence north twenty-five miles, thence east to the dividing
ridge between the Elkhorn and Missouri Rivers, thence southerly to
the place of beginning. The voting place was at the house of Dr. M.
H. Clark in Fontenelle precinct. The judges of election were William
Kline, Christopher S. Leiber and William S. Estley; the clerks,
William Taylor and E. G. McNeely.
Douglas County was bounded as follows: Commencing at the
mouth of the Platte river, thence north along the west bank of the
Missouri River to a point one mile north of Omaha City, thence west
along the south boundary of Washington county twenty miles, thence
south to the Platte River, and thence east to the place of
beginning. Two precincts or places of voting were established one at
the brick building at Omaha City and the other at the Mission house
at Bellevue. David Lindley, T. G. Goodwill and Chas. B. Smith were
appointed judges of election, and M. C. Gaylord and Dr. Pattee
clerks, in the Omaha precinct. Isaiah Bennett, D. E. Reed and Thomas
Morton were appointed judges of election, and G. Hollister and Silas
A. Strickland clerks, in the Bellevue precinct.
Cass County was bounded on the north by
the Platte, east by the Missouri, south by the Weeping Water River
to its headwaters, thence westerly to the west boundary of lands
ceded to the United States, and thence by said boundary northward to
the Platte. Two precincts were named one at the house of Colonel
Thompson, the Kenosha precinct, with J. S. Griffith, Thomas B.
Ashley and L. Young judges, Benjamin B. Thompson and William H.
Davis clerks; the other at the house of Samuel Martin, with James
O'Neil Thomas P. Palmer and Stephen Willes judges, and T. S. Gaskill
and Levi G. Todd clerks.
(now Otoe) was bounded as follows: Commencing at the mouth of
Weeping Water river on the Missouri, thence westward to its
headwaters, thence due west to the west boundary of lands ceded to
the United States (one hundred miles), thence south twenty miles to
the north line of Farney county, thence due east along the Farney
county line to Camp creek and along the north bank of said creek to
the Missouri river, thence northward along the River to the place of
beginning. The single precinct was located at the house of Major H.
P. Downs. The judges were William C. Fowlkes, Simeon Hargous and
Henry Bradford; the clerks were James H. Cowles and James H. Decker.
Forney County (now Nemaha) was
bounded as follows: Commencing at the mouth of Camp creek, thence to
the headwaters of the same, thence due west to a point sixty miles
from the Missouri river, thence due south twenty miles, thence east
to the headwaters of the Little Nemaha river, thence along said
river to the Missouri, following the Missouri northerly to the place
of beginning. One voting precinct, known as Brownville, was
established at the house of Richard Brown. Richard Brown, Allen L.
Coate and Israel Cuming were appointed judges of election, and A. F.
Benedict and Stephen Sloan clerks.
Richardson County was bounded as follows: Commencing at the
northwest corner of the "Half Breed Tract," thence westerly along
the Little Nemaha River, thence westerly to a point sixty miles west
of the Missouri River, thence south to the fortieth parallel, the
boundary between Kansas and Nebraska, thence east to the Missouri
River, thence north along the Missouri and west ten miles to the
southwest corner of the "Half-Breed Tract, "thence north to the
place of beginning. Two precincts were designated one at the house
of William Level in precinct No. 1, with John Purket, Robert T.
Archer and James M. Roberts judges, William V. Soper and John A.
Singleton clerks. Precinct No. 2 was at the house of Christian
Bobst, with Henry Shellhorn, Henry Abrams and William J. Burns
judges, Christian Bobst and W. L. Soper clerks.
county designated as Jones County was to
be created under the first division of the territory, but certain
irregularities in the surveys decided Marshal Izard to report
adversely to the measure. This county would have included the
southernmost section of the territory from sixty miles west of the
Missouri river westward, from the north corner of Richardson County
as then established along the Platte, to the one hundred and third
degree of west longitude, thence along the southwest boundary of
Another county composed of what is now
Sarpy (then commonly spoken of as the
"burnt district") was designated under the name of Omaha, but for
some reason no official promulgation of its creation was made, and
the section became a part of Douglas County.
apportionment of councilmen and representatives was made in
accordance with the census returns of November 20, 1854, viz:
Burt County, one councilman, two representatives
Washington County, one councilman, two representatives
Dodge County, one councilman, two representatives
Douglas County, four councilmen and eight representatives
Cass County, one councilman and three representatives
Pierce County, three councilmen and five representatives
Forney County, one councilman and two representatives
Richardson County, one councilman and two representatives.
The first general election for members of the legislature and a
delegate to congress was held on December 12, 1854.
Source: Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography Of
Nebraska, Alden Publishing Company, Chicago, 1912
Compendium of Nebraska
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