NEBRASKA AS A TERRITORY
Map of Nebraska Territory, 1854.
(Drawing by Miss Martha Turner.)
Nebraska Territory Five Times as Large as Nebraska State.-- Nebraska Territory, in 1854, was five times as large as the state of Nebraska is now. All the way from Kansas to Canada, from the top of the Rocky Mountains to Minnesota and Iowa was Nebraska. Very few white people then lived in the land. Fur traders had built log cabins in a few places along the rivers. Every summer thousands of emigrants to Oregon and California traveled the great Oregon Trail across the territory. At Fort Kearney and Fort Laramie on the Oregon Trail were companies of soldiers. At Bellevue was a little village of fur traders and missionaries. All the rest of Nebraska was wild plains and mountains, the home of Indians, buffalo and beaver.
The First Settlers.-- Soon after Nebraska was named and made, people began to settle there. Most of the first settlers came from Iowa. Some came from Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts. All they had to do was to cross the river and choose the most beautiful land for their homes. In March, 1854, the Omaha and Otoe Indians ceded to the United States their country along the Missouri River. No surveys had been made. All the land was open to the first comers. Most of those who came from Iowa picked out the land that suited them, built log cabins to hold it and went back to Iowa to make their living.
Nebraska's Ferry Across Elkhorn River, 1854
The First Governor, Francis Burt.-- Francis Burt, Democrat, of South Carolina was the first governor of Nebraska. He and the other first officers of Nebraska were appointed by President Franklin Pierce and were paid by the United States. He was a slender, handsome man who loved books and was not used to frontier life.
Gov. Francis Burt
The long journey from his home, part of it by stage and steamboat, brought him worn out to Nebraska City. Nebraska City had then one house and one wagon. In the wagon Governor Burt was driven to Bellevue, where he arrived October 7, 1854. He grew worse and died on October 18th. His body was taken back to the old home in South Carolina. There was great sorrow in the little village of Bellevue over the death of the first governor, for all who met him learned to love him.
Thomas B. Cuming
Acting Governor Cuming.-- The secretary of state, Thos. B. Cuming of Michigan, became acting governor. He was very different in mind and person from Governor Burt. His eyes were dark, his hair straight and black, his mind bold and shrewd.
Old Bellevue.-- Bellevue was the oldest town in Nebraska, for Fort Atkinson had been abandoned. It was in fact the only town. Here was the old fur trading post. Here the Indian agent having charge of the Nebraska Indians lived. Here the first Christian missionaries came and built the only mission house then in Nebraska. It was expected that Bellevue would be the capital of Nebraska.
First Territorial Capital, 1855
New Omaha.-- Eight miles above Bellevue, in the woods fronting the Missouri river, men from Council Bluffs, Iowa, had started a town which they named Omaha. There they built a two-story brick building which they offered to give for a Capitol. Acting-governor Cuming called the first legislature to meet there on January 16, 1855. Very bitter were the quarrels which followed this act. The first census of white settlers taken by order of the acting-governor showed 2,732 people. It was claimed that many persons counted did not live in Nebraska at all, and that some came over from Iowa, voted and went back and did not settle in Nebraska.
The First Legislature.-- The first Nebraska legislature was the only part of the government elected by the settlers. It had a council of thirteen members and a house of representatives of twenty-six members. Twenty-one members came from the North Platte and eighteen from the South Platte. By the count of the first census there were nearly twice as many settlers in the South Platte region as in the North Platte.
The Dividing Platte.-- The Platte River cut the scattered settlements of early Nebraska sharply into two parts. The people were too poor to build bridges, the river was too wide and shallow for ferries and its sandy bottom was too soft to make good fords. The fight between the North and South sections began at the first session of the legislature and continued through the years.
Iowa Law Becomes Nebraska Law.-- There was much for the first legislature to do. First there was a contest for permanent location of the capital. In this Omaha won. A body of laws was needed to govern the territory. The legislature met this need by taking a book of Iowa laws and enacting them for Nebraska. In this way most of the Iowa law was made Nebraska law. The eastern end of the country between the Niobrara River and Kansas was divided into counties by the governor and the legislature. All the rest of the great territory was an undivided wilderness. Laws were passed for making roads and ferries. Public roads were made sixty-six feet wide and continue to be so at this day. A law was passed prohibiting any one from selling or giving away liquor. Whisky had made much trouble with the Indians in Nebraska while it was still the Indian country and in 1834, the United States had forbidden its sale here.
First Claim Cabin in Nebraska
Land and Claim Clubs.-- The first settlers of Nebraska were not satisfied with the land laws. The United States law allowed a man to take 160 acres of land and after living on it for six months to buy it by paying to the United States $1.25 per acre. The settlers said that the first pioneers should have 320 instead of 160 acres. In order to hold this land "Claim Clubs" were organized. Each man in a claim club promised to defend every other member in holding his 320 acres. When the later settlers began to come they were warned that they would be driven off by force if they tried to settle on the land held by members of the claim clubs. The first legislature passed a law giving each member of a claim club 320 acres. This was contrary to United States law and was therefore illegal. For several years there were quarrels and wars between the claim clubs and the later settlers. In the end the claim clubs disbanded.
Governor Izard Arrives.-- The second governor of Nebraska, Mark W. Izard, Democrat, of Arkansas arrived at Omaha February 20, 1855, and acting-governor Cuming became again secretary of state.
Petalesharu -- Chief of the Pawnee Nation.
The Council with the Pawnees.-- In the spring of 1855, Indians stole cattle from the settlers on the Elkhorn River near Fremont. Governor Izard sent John M. Thayer and O. D. Richardson to hold a council with the Pawnee tribe. With them went Rev. Samuel Allis who had been missionary to the Pawnees for many years and spoke their language. A council was held with Petalesharu, the great chief of the Pawnees, at his village on the high bluff four miles southeast of Fremont. The Pawnees said that the Poncas killed the cattle. They promised, however, to keep the peace. This was the first council held by the territory with Nebraska Indians. Fifty years afterward, a monument was placed on the site of this council and General John M. Thayer, standing for the second time on this bluff, made the speech of dedication.
The First General -- John M. Thayer.-- Soon after the council with the Pawnees, John M. Thayer was made general of the Nebraska militia composed of settlers who were armed to protect the frontier. The militia were first called out in July, 1855, when Sioux Indians made a raid into the Elkhorn valley. The soldiers made a camp on the river. They saw no Indians but caught many catfish. This is sometimes, in jest, called the "Catfish War."
The Rival Cities -- Omaha and Nebraska City.-- During the year 1855 settlers came slowly into the new territory. The census in October of that year found 4,494, of whom 1,549 were in the North Platte section, 2,945 in the South Platte section. Nebraska City had become the largest town in the territory, the leader of the South Platte section and the chief rival of Omaha.
The First Schools.-- The first schools in this region were held in very early days. There is good reason to believe there were children of the garrison at old Fort Atkinson as far back as 1820 and school for them. The next schools were for the Indian and half-breed children. Such schools were taught at Bellevue by the first missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Merrill, in 1833 for the Otoes, and soon after for the Pawnees by Rev. Samuel Allis and Rev. John Dunbar. The Mormon schools came next. Thousands of Mormons wintered in log cabins and sod houses where Florence now is and also near Bellevue in 1846-47 while on their way across the plains to Utah. Schools for their children were held during the winter.
Free schools came to Nebraska with her first government. The terms were short and the schoolhouses made of rough logs, but wherever there were children schools were started. Sometimes the first school was taught in a log cabin home by the mother, the children sitting on benches split out of trees. One of the acts of the first territorial legislature, dated March 16, 1855, was to provide free common schools. Each school district could vote what studies should be taught in the district. Teachers were very hard to get. The district school board examined those wishing to teach and the subjects in which they must pass examination were reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, grammar, geography and United States history. These examinations were oral.
Mormons Setting out from Florence, Nebraska, to Cross the Plains
The School Boards and Teachers.-- Frontier school boards were often good hunters and trappers, having little knowledge of books, and many amusing stories are told of the examinations given by them. Sometimes the school board and teacher got into an argument over what was the right answer to a question. The law provided for a county superintendent, but the salary allowed was so small that few cared for the office and in some counties there was none. So these first Nebraska schools were run very much as each neighborhood wished. There was so little money to pay the teacher, that she often "boarded round" the district, a week at each house. The schoolhouses were rough, the books few and the term only a few weeks in the winter. All the children were eager to go. The grown-up boys and girls recited and studied in the same room with the little ones and made one big family in their studies, in their outdoor play, and at noon when they ate their lunches together seated about their home-made desks.
First County Map of Nebraska, 1854.
(Drawing by Miss Martha Turner.)
The First Churches.-- In the social life and in the formation of the public sentiment of early Nebraska, religion had its part. Missionaries taught the first schools and pioneer preachers were among the earliest settlers in the territory. Nearly all of the churches in Nebraska of to-day trace their beginnings here to little groups of settlers inspired by a common faith who gathered in the cabins and sod-houses to hold their first meetings and sometimes in summer in groves for the larger assemblies. There was great warmth of good feeling in the pioneer churches as in other pioneer associations. The members were nearly equal in riches and in poverty and rarely did any misfortune come to one which was not shared by all. The pioneer preachers were a peculiar class, fervent and untiring in spirit, always poor and always welcome in every settlement where they brought messages of good will and the friendly news from settlements at a distance. To found schools, colleges, and libraries was the dream of many of these early missionaries. In some cases the dream was realized. Many Nebraska towns and country neighborhoods to-day bear the impress in their social ideals of these early preachers and the churches and the schools which they founded. Bellevue, Brownville, Fremont and Fontanelle are examples.
1856 was a year of promise to Nebraska settlers. Timely rains had fallen. The few little fields of wheat and corn had borne good crops. Gardens of plenty smiled by the side of log cabins. Elk, deer, antelope, grouse and wild turkeys were everywhere. Buffalo were abundant just west of the settlements. The Sioux had been badly beaten at Ash Hollow by General Harney and desired peace. Fifty thousand dollars had been voted by Congress to build a new capitol at Omaha and fifty thousand more to make a good road from Omaha to Fort Kearney. The joy of living in a new country and faith in its bright future were in every heart.
The Hard Winter.-- Then came the severe winter of 1856-57. It began with a great storm on the first of December and grew fiercer with each month. The ravines were filled with snow. Elk and deer perished. Roads were blocked. Hardly could the pioneers venture from their cabins to chop the wood which kept their families from freezing. This was always known among the early settlers as the "Hard Winter."
County Map of Nebraska in 1856.
(Drawing by Miss Martha Turner.)
Dreams of the Pioneers.-- Most of the pioneers were poor in pocket but they were rich in hope. They saw how black and fertile was the soil, how thick and tall the grass in the valleys, how smooth and level lay the land ready for the plow. Much they thought and dreamed and foretold about this beautiful land in which they had come to live. There were dreams of the great Pacific railroad, of mills and factories by the riversides, of farms and orchards and homes and schools where then waved only prairie grass.
Money was what was needed, everybody said. They thought if only they had money to start things, to hire men, to buy goods, to let the world know how good the country was, people would come rushing in, the lands would be settled, towns be quickly built and all would easily get rich together. There were such splendid sites for towns and cities, at the ferry crossings upon the Missouri, where creeks and rivers came together and on the beautiful slopes where the woodland and prairie met. Many of these were staked off into town lots. Each one's dream was a little more certain to him than his neighbor's dream.
Money was needed. There was very little of it in Nebraska for the settlers as yet raised almost nothing to sell. Each man grew a little patch of garden and grain, killed a little game and swapped the little surplus with his neighbors.
Nebraska Wildcat Currency
How to Make Money.-- When the second legislature met in 1856, some of the men who wished to make things go faster said: "Pass a law that will let us join together in a company and start a bank. Let the bank issue bank notes. Everyone can use these notes for money and we will grow rich together." So the legislature made such a law. Only a few brave men, among them J. Sterling Morton and Dr. George L. Miller, opposed it.
The Good Times.-- Five men could then start a bank. They did not need to put in any money at the beginning. Each one promised to pay money at a certain future time. Then the bank opened. Thousands of dollars of bright beautiful bank notes were printed by each bank and loaned to those who wished to borrow. This was the money which the banks promised to make. Everyone soon had plenty of this kind of money. Everybody was willing to buy. Town lots rose rapidly in price. Business was booming. Population doubled, the census of that year showed 10,716 people. Everyone seemed to be getting rich. More banks were started in order to make more money. Towns of only two or three log cabins had a bank. In one year over $400,000 of these bank notes were issued in Nebraska. Since the bank money was so plentiful and so easy to get, everyone freely bought with it, and those who sold things for a high price at once sought to buy other things. So the market was always lively.
The Great Panic.-- These good times lasted a little over a year. Then came the great panic of 1857. All over the West banks broke and closed their doors. People who had beautiful, bright bank notes could buy nothing with them. People who thought they were rich, found that they had nothing. Those in debt, found that they could not pay their debts, for no one would take the bank notes. There was great distress and poverty and suffering for a number of years.
The Wild Cat Days.-- Then the people ceased to dream of getting rich in a few months and began to plow up their town sites, plant crops, and live in a quiet and modest way according to their means. The years 1856 and 1857 are called to this time, the "Wild Cat Days" of Nebraska because the bank notes used were known as wild cat money.
The Effort to Move the Capital to Salt Creek.-- While the wild cat bank note fever was high, the third Nebraska legislature met on January 5, 1857. It is noted for two acts. It passed a bill to remove the capital from Omaha to Douglas in Lancaster county by a vote of nine to four in the council, and twenty-three to twelve in the house. Douglas was a "paper town," somewhere near Salt Creek, no one knew just where, as no one lived there. As Governor Izard vetoed the bill, Douglas never started to grow and no one knows to this day where the capital would be if it had been moved from Omaha in 1857. The legislature of 1857 also repealed the criminal code, that part of the law which provides for punishment of those who commit crimes. It was said this was done to keep a certain man, a murderer, from being punished. The law was restored at the next session.
Second Territorial Capitol, Afterward Omaha High School.
(From photograph collection of A. E. Sheldon.)
The War between North and South Platte.-- The fourth legislature which met in Omaha, December 8, 1857, is known as that of the "Florence Secession." The war between the North Platte and South Platte sections had become fierce and bitter. There were twice as many settlers in the South Platte country as in the North. A majority of both houses of the legislature were from the South Platte. The North Platte by Governor Izard's veto had been able to hold the capital at Omaha. The South Platte was determined to take it across the river. A bill for that purpose was introduced. A fist fight on the floor followed between members from Omaha and members from the South Platte. The next day, January 8, 1858, a majority of both house and council adjourned to the town of Florence six miles above Omaha. There they met and passed laws, while the other members met in Omaha. Among the acts passed at Florence was one providing for the removal of the capital to Neapolis. This was another paper town on the south bank of the Platte, near where Cedar Bluffs, Saunders County, is now located.
Gov. Wm. A. Richardson
Governor Richardson Comes to Nebraska.-- Nebraska's third governor, William A. Richardson, Democrat, of Illinois, arrived at Omaha January 12, 1858, in the midst of the Florence secession. He refused to recognize the members at Florence or to sign the laws passed there, because that was not the capital. So both the Florence and the Omaha legislatures went home, at the end of forty days, with nothing done. Soon after this Secretary of State Cuming died and J. Sterling Morton, leader of the South Platte section, was appointed by President Buchanan to fill the place.
The Early Colonies.-- In these territorial days, settlement by colonies began. These were groups of people with some common bond, sometimes that of the same neighborhood in an older state, sometimes that of a common language or religion. Usually the first comers in these colonies wrote back for others and the colony spread, so that the county where they settled became known as the home of a certain class of people. In this way Germans settled in Hall, Cuming and Otoe counties in 1857, both French and Germans in Richardson County, and an Irish colony in Dakota County in 1856.
The Republican Party.-- In the year 1858, party politics appeared in Nebraska. At first all the settlers were Democrats because they came from states where that party was strong. When the Nebraska-Kansas bill was passed in 1854, the new Republican party was born. But although the Nebraska-Kansas bill was the cause of the birth of the Republican party there were at first no Republicans in Nebraska. The Democratic party in the North and the South was dividing into two camps on the subject of slavery. The southern camp said, "A man has the right to take and hold his slaves anywhere in the Union." The northern camp said, "Let the people in each state decide whether that state shall have slaves or not." The Republican party said, "No more slave territory anywhere."
Slavery and the Political Parties.-- Most of the people in Nebraska were opposed to slavery. As the Democratic party was divided on the question there was a call to organize the Republican party, and on January 18, 1858, the first meeting for that purpose was held in Omaha. Only a few were present. They were called "Black Republicans" and not looked upon as quite respectable. In some counties they combined with Democrats and called their ticket "people's ticket" to avoid using the unpopular name "Republican."
Prohibition Repealed.-- The fifth session of the legislature was called by Governor Richardson to meet on September 21, 1858. Its most noted act was to repeal the prohibition law and in its stead provide a license for the sale of liquor. Republicans were the leaders in making this change.
The First Surplus Crop and First Territorial Fair.-- 1859 was an eventful year in Nebraska history, for in that year the first corn was shipped to market. Through all the season, steamboats were carrying the golden grain from the towns along the Missouri River, where it had been hauled in wagons by the settlers. From that year there was no longer doubt that Nebraska was a farming country. In September of that year, the settlers' victory over the great American desert was celebrated at Nebraska City by the first territorial fair. Robert W. Furnas was president. J. Sterling Morton, the orator of the occasion, made an historic speech recounting the hardships which the settlers had endured and foretelling Nebraska's great future.
Gold in Nebraska.-- Gold was found in Nebraska, in 1859, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, in the sands of the streams, at the headwaters of the South Platte. Soon there was a rush of thousands across the plains eager to dig for this gold in Nebraska sands. The new gold mines were in sight of Pike's Peak and the gold seekers painted "Pike's Peak or Bust" on the canvas covers of their wagons.
The Steam Wagon Road.-- Nebraska City laid out a new short road to the gold mines, crossing the prairies along the Blue rivers. It was sometimes called "The Steam Wagon Road" because a steam wagon, which soon broke down, was made to travel it. This new road was very popular and helped to develop Nebraska City and the South Platte very much. The new territory of Colorado was organized in 1861, taking away from Nebraska her gold mines at the foot of the mountains, but never, either then or since, has so much wealth been dug from the Rocky Mountains as has been produced from the prairies of our state.
Gov. Samuel W. Black
Governor Black.-- The fourth governor of the territory, Samuel W. Black, Democrat, of Pennsylvania arrived at Omaha, May 2, 1859. The feud between the North and South Platte regions had now become so bitter, the South Platte people resolved that they would no longer live in Nebraska.
The South Platte Tries to Secede.-- They determined to secede and join Kansas, taking the entire South Platte country with them. To this end they sent delegates to Kansas and to Washington asking Congress to separate the South Platte region from Nebraska and to join it to Kansas. This attempt failed, but the quarrel between the North and South Platte regions went on.
Pawnee Council Rock.
(From photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)
The Pawnee War of 1859.-- What is known as the Pawnee war occurred in 1859. For a great many years, a large Pawnee village was upon the bluff above the Platte where General Thayer held the first Indian council in 1855. White settlers were coming in, and the Indians had agreed to give up their land there and move to the valley of the Loup. In July, they gathered their ponies, packed their goods upon them, and started up the valley of the Elkhorn, under their great chief Petalesharu. But they had a "bad heart," as Indians say when they are angry. On their way they robbed the settlers and shot and wounded a man near West Point. When the news reached Omaha, Secretary Morton ordered General John M. Thayer to get together as many soldiers as possible, follow the Pawnees and punish them. About 200 men with guns and horses and one cannon joined General Thayer. They came from Omaha, Fontanelle, Fremont and Columbus. Governor Black overtook and joined the command. For four days they followed the wide trail of the Pawnees up the Elkhorn River. At daybreak on the morning of July 12th they surprised the Pawnees in camp on a little creek, ten miles west of where Norfolk now is General Thayer, at the head of his 200 soldiers, charged upon the camp at once. The Pawnees, men, women and children, came rushing out of their tepees in great terror. Their chief seized an American flag and rushed toward General Thayer calling out, "Good Indian! No shoot!" General Thayer halted his soldiers and after a parley agreed that the Pawnees should surrender six men who had attacked the settlers, should pay for all damage they had done, and should march overland with the soldiers to their future home upon the Loup.
Battle Creek.-- Thus the Pawnee war ended without a battle, but the little creek where this took place was named Battle Creek and is so called to this day.
The First Attempt to Make Nebraska a State.-- The year 1860 is noted in Nebraska annals for the first attempt to make the territory a state. The people voted upon the question with the result that there were 2,094 votes in favor, and 2,372 against and so statehood was postponed.
Slavery Prohibited.-- The sixth Nebraska legislature passed a bill to prohibit holding slaves in Nebraska. Governor Black vetoed the bill, claiming that there were so few slaves in Nebraska it was not worth while to pass such a bill and that the people could settle the question when Nebraska became a state. The legislature repassed the bill over his veto.
Settlers' Hardships. The Free Homestead Bill.-- The land question was still one of great interest in Nebraska. In 1859 Nebraska lands were first offered for sale by the United States. Settlers living on these lands had to pay $1.25 per acre for their claims or see them sold to speculators. Many of the settlers were so poor that they had to borrow the money at 25 to 100 per cent interest or lose their homes. For this they blamed the government at Washington. The West wished for a free homestead law, giving to each settler 160 acres of land for a home, if he would live on it for five years. The Republican party favored a free homestead law, as did also a part of the Democratic party. All the people of Nebraska, both Democrats and Republicans, were in favor of such a law because they wished to have more settlers come in, make homes here and help to develop the country. In 1860, Congress passed a homestead law, giving to each settler 160 acres of land, if he would live five years upon it and pay twenty-five cents an acre. President Buchanan vetoed the act.
The First Telegram.-- On August 29, 1860, the first Nebraska telegraph line was completed between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Brownville, and the first telegram sent was as follows:
BROWNVILLE, Neb., Aug.29, 1860. Nebraska sends greeting to the states. The telegraph line was completed to this place to-day and the first office in Nebraska formally opened. . . . "Westward the star of empire takes its way." CITIZENS.
Nebraska Changes from Democratic to Republican.-- At the election in 1860, Nebraska became Republican and remained so for thirty years. The veto of the homestead bill by President Buchanan probably did more than any other one thing to bring this about. Governor Black's veto of the anti-slavery bill also helped. A third cause was the split in the Democratic party between the North and the South.
Nebraska Soldiers in the Civil War.-- Abraham Lincoln was chosen President in 1860. Soon after came the secession of the South from the Union. President Lincoln called for soldiers. Republicans and Democrats in the North answered the call. Governor Black raised a regiment of soldiers in Pennsylvania, was made their colonel and was killed in Virginia. The people of Nebraska were poor and scattered, but they raised the First Nebraska regiment of 1,000 men which marched to the front under Colonel John M. Thayer and fought under General Grant at Fort Donelson, Shiloh and in other battles.
Governor Alvin Saunders
Governor Alvin Saunders.-- President Lincoln appointed Alvin Saunders of Omaha governor of Nebraska territory. He was our fifth governor, the first Republican governor, and held the office until 1867 when Nebraska became a state.
The Free Homestead Law.-- In 1862 Congress passed the free homestead law, giving every settler 160 acres of land. President Lincoln signed the act. The first homestead in the United States was taken by Daniel Freeman on Cub Creek in Gage county, a few miles from Beatrice. The homestead law became one of the most popular laws ever enacted. Under it Nebraska and all the great West were settled by thousands of hardy pioneers eager to get free homes for themselves and their children.
The Sioux and Cheyenne Indian War.-- The war at the South went on. More soldiers were called for and came from Nebraska as from other parts of the Union. Suddenly while the soldiers from Nebraska were absent in the South in August, 1864, the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, living on the plains of western Nebraska, raided the settlements along the Blue and Platte rivers, killing men, women and children, burning houses and driving off stock. At the same time the Sioux in Dakota and Minnesota were on the warpath and the whole frontier was in danger. The men of the First Nebraska regiment were recalled from the South and sent to Fort Kearney to protect the settlers. A second Nebraska regiment was enlisted under Colonel Robert W. Furnas and sent up the Missouri River where it helped to win a great victory over the Sioux at the battle of Whitestone Hills.
Outline Map of Nebraska in 1863
(Drawing by Miss Martha Turner.)
Nebraska Becomes a State.-- At this time the people of Nebraska thought much of becoming a state. The boundaries of Nebraska had been changed several times since it was first marked out in 1854. Between 1861 and 1863 Colorado and Idaho had been cut off on the west and Dakota on the north. For a time in 1863, Nebraska was extended west of the Rocky Mountains, but by 1864 it had nearly its present size and shape. In 1864 Congress passed an act permitting Nebraska to become a state when the people there were ready. The people were not ready until 1866, when the question was voted upon in a very hotly contested election and carried by a majority of about 100. The members of the legislature framed a constitution, which Congress would not accept because it permitted only white men to vote. Congress required the Nebraska legislature to meet again and declare that no one should be deprived of the right to vote on account of his color. When this was done, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation making Nebraska a state on March 1,1867.