Ten years were permitted to roll around after Platte County became an organized subdivision of the state, before the bailiwick had a courthouse worthy of the name. The board of commissioners began discussing the project of building a courthouse, however, long before final action was taken. Then the question of issuing $16,000 of the county's bonds was submitted to the electorate.
By authority of an act passed at the twelfth regular session of the Territorial Legislative Assembly, entitled "an act to empower the county commissioners of Platte County to raise money to erect a courthouse and jail in Columbus, in said county, and to fit up and furnish the same," approved February 18, 1867, an election was called for the 22d day of April, 1867, "to vote for or against the commissioners of Platte County making a loan of $16,000, and to issue county bonds for the same, which bonds shall bear an annual interest of 10 per cent, payable in twenty years from their date, or sooner, at the pleasure of the commissioners."
At the time Nelson Toncray, F. G. Becher and John Kelly, comprised the board, the latter named being chairman. The canvass of the votes on the courthouse proposition showed that 96 votes were polled in its favor and 29 votes against it. The members of the canvassing board were Charles H. Whaley and C. A. Speice.
To C A. Speice was delegated the task of preparing plans and specifications for the temple of justice. He evidently did his work satisfactorily, as an item in the clerk's minutes dated September 16, 1867, shows that the clerk was ordered to draw on the county treasurer for $50 to be paid Mr. Speice for his services. The location for the building was selected and designated as the southeast quarter of Columbia Square and it is here that the building was built and stands today.
At an adjourned meeting of the board of commissioners, held at 7 o'clock in the evening of April 6, 1868, a very spirited discussion
took place on the subject of building a courthouse, which was participated in by the board, also John Rickly, C. H. Whaley, G. C. Barnum and others. The bid of John H. Green, of Omaha, was opened and found to be $21,737; the bid of J. P. Becker was $18,000 and he it was received the contract for putting up Platte County's first and only courthouse.
Under the direction of E. W. Toncray, who was appointed by the board superintendent of construction, the county building was completed and handed over by the contractor, J. P. Becker, in July, 1870. It appears, however, by the minutes of the county clerk that the first meeting of the board of commissioners held in the new courthouse was on February 1, 1870. S. C. Smith was chairman of the board; his colleagues were Guy C. Barnum and George W. Galley; H. J. Hudson, clerk.
In June, 1870, all that remained to be done by the contractor was to turn the keys of the courthouse over to the board of commissioners and obtain a formal acceptance of his work. H. J. Hudson, then county clerk, a very close observer, and a facile descriptive writer, penned the following, which appeared in the Omaha Herald:
"Our courthouse is completed and will be delivered by Major Becker, the contractor, to the commissioners at their next meeting. The workmanship throughout is first class and pronounced by all that have examined it the most substantial and complete in its appointments of any courthouse in the state.
"Special reference has been had in the construction of the court room to make it safe, that no such disasters can occur as recently were witnessed at Chicago and Richmond, where the courthouse fell, a mass of ruins, and the only excuse that could be offered was that the court room was crowded beyond its capacity -- an admission that only aggravated the terrible tragedy and entailed upon the authorities the severest censure for accepting or permitting any public building to be constructed that could by any possible human foresight be inadequate to sustain the dense mass of human beings that may upon some extraordinary occasions attract the wisdom, skill and intelligence of the entire county within its walls. The brick work and masonry was done by Withnell Brothers, of your city (Omaha), the carpenter work by Speice & Weaver, the plastering by Callaway & Rose. The roof was put on by H. P. Coolidge. David Anderson did the painting, and though last, by no means the least feature in the finishing touches that close the labors of the contractor, all the wood work is oak grained. The beauty and naturalness of the graining can be
referred to with an artisan's pride, that David Anderson need not be ashamed of. The offices of the probate judge, sheriff, treasurer and county clerk are refreshing to enter; neatly furnished, lofty and roomy, in marked contrast with some of the dingy holes too many of our county officials are required to burrow in, undermining their health, laying the foundation for dire disease, because of the parsimony and worse than dotage of the guardians of public trusts. Eighteen thousand dollars was the contract price to build the courthouse and it stands out in bold relief as another beacon of Platte County enterprise."
Forty-five years, almost a half century, have rolled around and the old temple of justice, commenced in 1868, and finished in 1870, still stands upon its original site and is performing, in the best manner possible to its condition, the duties and functions originally planned by its designers. But that is far from saying that it meets the present needs and expectations of this generation. Years and years ago it had become too small and inadequate for the big, growing county it serves. Finally, an effort was made to replace it by a new one. Bonds were voted for the purpose, but a snag was struck when the time came for choosing a site. That snag is still in the way. Certain of the citizens look upon Columbia Square with a tender, loving eye, and can see no more beautiful spot in all Columbus for the location of the courthouse. Others express themselves very vigorously against the old site, maintaining that from the trend of business it has been relegated to a residential district and is too far away from the business center of the city. There are also ambitious trading points in other parts of the county, who are not backward in setting up advantages they may have, and entertain some hopes that when a new courthouse is built, one of their number will draw the prize. But be that as it may, there is no getting around the fact that Platte County very badly needs a modern building for its courts of justice, the proper and safe deposits of its valuables and archives, and suitable offices for its public servants.
The county jail is part and parcel of the courthouse and forms an L, at the rear of that structure, the courthouse facing the west. In this part of the building are cells for the incarceration of malefactors, and for several years after its construction part of it was occupied by the sheriff and his family. No other jail has been built
by the county and this old bastile is also ready for the discard. It also serves as a prison for delinquents who come under the Jurisdiction of Columbus, the city having for years paid the county a certain price for the safekeeping of lawbreakers.
In the summer of 1875 the board of county commissioners first began to discuss the feasibility of buying a farm, on which to erect buildings for the care and comfort of the helplessly indigent persons claiming citizenship in the county. Up to this time and for some years later, applicants for food, shelter and medical attendance and without the ability to maintain a habitation, were "farmed out" to various willing ones at a stated stipend per day or week and for a definite period of time. This system of caring for dependents became unsatisfactory and irksome. However, after much discussion of the project, covering several years, the board decided to purchase a farm and, on the 6th day of November, 1896, received of Orson D. and Margaret L. Butler, a deed for 240 acres of land, located on section 29, Bismarck Township, for which $75 per acre was paid.
On February 3, 1897, Orson D. Butler was awarded the contract for keeping the "poor farm,'' by which he rented the farm he had just sold the county, agreeing to pay $2.25 per acre. His compensation for keeping each inmate was placed at $2.25 per week, which the county obligated itself to pay. Butler entered into a bond of $1,000, for the faithful performance of the obligations assumed, took over the half dozen unfortunates of the county and began his stewardship of the county farm. Some time later comfortable buildings were erected, consisting of a main structure for inmates and the superintendent's homestead, a building for the insane and barns. Today, the very few inmates have a comfortable home, on one of the best farms in Platte County.
By a glance at the early proceedings of the board of county commissioners, the reader will be informed that the first scheme adopted by the county's legislators to provide means for the traveling public and transportation of the possessions of the settlers and articles of merchandise was the laying out and building of highways. Much of the business of the early sessions of the commissioners related to the building of roads. Almost contemporary with the settlement and organization of the county was the establishment of a ferry on the Loup, to facilitate the passage of that turbulent and uncertain stream for the large bodies of homeseekers headed for the west. Columbus was on a direct line for emigrants westward bound, and thousands of them stopped here on their way to replenish their larders and outfits.
To the present citizen Nebraska is the apotheosis of hogs and corn. To write of Nebraska goldfields, therefore, is likely to put the chronicler down into the company of historical novelists. And yet in 1858 fears were expressed that Nebraska would be depopulated by the hegira to the goldfields, and newspapers begged and advised that people should wait until spring, at any rate, before starting. "The rush has commenced. In all the river towns of Kansas and Nebraska the excitement is on the increase. Upwards of sixty wagons have already left Leavenworth for the diggings. From Florence, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Plattsmouth, Nebraska City, Brownville, etc., and from almost every point on the river in Kansas and Missouri, trains have started or are preparing to leave." The Advertiser copied from the Leavenworth Herald a statement that "the newly discovered gold region lies between the thirty-eighth and fortieth parallels of latitude and the twenty-seventh and thirtieth degrees of west longitude." The most important of the mines, however, were located along Cherry Creek, which flows into the South Platte at Denver, from the south
east, and so were south of the fortieth latitude and within the Territory of Kansas. But there were important mines northwest of Denver within Nebraska Territory. Another journal at this period also grows excited over the emigration to the mines, and tells us in sensational headlines that "border towns are depopulated."
The Dakota City Herald of August 13, 1859, stated that the secretary of the Columbus Ferry Company at Loup Fork informed the Omaha Nebraskan that up to June 25th of that year, "1,087 wagons, 20 hand carts, 5,401 men, 424 women, 480 children, 1,610 horses, 406 mules, 6,010 oxen and 6,000 sheep had crossed this ferry at that point." The statement included no portion of the Mormon emigration, but merely California, Oregon and Pike's Peak emigrants. The returning emigration crossed at Shinn's Ferry, some fifteen miles below the confluence of the Loup Fork and the Platte. As many of the west-bound emigrants also crossed at this ferry, it was thought that not less than four thousand wagons had passed over the Military Road westward since the 20th of March.
The Dakota City Democrat of March 9, 1861, announced that the last Legislature authorized the location of a territorial road from Dakota City to Fort Kearney or any intermediate point and that C. F. Eckhart, Joseph Brannan and Harlan Baird had been appointed under the act to locate the road. The Democrat insisted that the road should be built at once and urged as a reason that travel to the Pike's Peak region was obliged to go by way of Omaha to Columbus, a distance of 200 miles, while the direct distance by way of the proposed road would be only eighty-six miles. It was desirable to reach the Columbus market where "corn demands $1 per bushel, and increases in price as you go farther up the Platte River. This is owing to the immense travel to and from the mines."
The first ferry established in the vicinity of Columbus was by the Town Company, although it was ostensibly under the management of the Elkhorn River, Shell Creek, Loup Fork and Wood River Bridge and Ferry Company, an organization sufficiently imposing in name to overawe any competitors. Doctor Malcolm was president and James C. Mitchell, secretary. Captain Fifield (who also kept a ranch), Sam Bayless, A. J. Smith and Samuel Curtis were also interested parties. Captain Smith was principal owner.
In the winter of 1858-9, John Rickly, who was in the full tide of his prosperity as a sawmill operator, objected to being "feed" $3
every time. He brought a team over the Loup and resolved to establish a rival institution. The Elkhorn River, Shell Creek, Loup Fork and Wood River Bridge and Ferry Company had been using a common rope for their motive power. Mr. Rickly thereupon applied to the Territorial Legislature for a charter to operate a cable (wire) ferry. No doubt it would have been obtained had not Mr. Mitchell found an opportunity to appropriate it to his own use. As it was, Mr. Rickly obtained a permit to operate his ferry, but was bought out by the rival concern (with a long name), receiving among other items of compensation, a life grant to use their ferry gratis. The case passed to J. E. North and Mr. Franer. The franchise next came into possession of the Loup Fork Bridge and Ferry Company, consisting of O. P. Herford, J. H. Green and John I. Redick. Mr. Green bought out his partners. In 1863, the pontoon bridge was put across the river. In 1864 Messrs. Becher & Becker experimented in the business of ferrying.
In June, 1869, the contract for building. the bridge across the Loup was awarded, and the bridge built at a cost of $7,000. This gave place to another, which was carried away during the spring freshet of 1881. The disastrous flood came down the river March 19, 1881. No such sight had been witnessed since 1867, when the waters covered the bottom lands south of the city. At this time the city was under water from the "bench," south of Eleventh Street, to the regular bed of the river. Eight spans of the Loup bridge were swept away, two of them floating down the river as gently and unconcernedly as though they had been feathers. The culvert, on the Union Pacific track, west of the depot, was damaged, also much of the track was undermined and carried off. The bridge between Duncan and Lost Creek was greatly damaged. Of the fine bridge across the Loup, but two spans remained standing. The present structure was at once thrown across the river.
The first bridge across the Platte River, and the structure now standing, was built through the enterprise and energy of the people of Platte County, and was completed in November, 1870. It is 1,716 feet in length and cost $25,000.
Stephen A. Douglas was a pioneer projector of a Pacific railway, and in a speech in the United States Senate, April 17, 1858, in advo-
cating a Pacific railway bill he said: "I suppose that Kansas City, Wyandotte, Weston, Leavenworth, Atchison, Platte's Mouth City, Omaha, De Soto, Sioux City and various other towns whose names have not become familiar to us and have found no resting place on the map, each thinks it has the exact place where the road should begin. Well, sir, I do not desire to have any preference between these towns; either of them would suit me very well; and we leave it to the contractors to decide which shall be the one. * * * I am unwilling to postpone the bill until next December. I have seen these postponements from session to session for the last ten years, with the confident assurance every year that the next session we should have abundance of time to take up the bill and act upon it. * * * I care not whether you look at it from a commercial point of view, as a matter of administrative economy at home, as a question of military defense, or in reference to the building up of the national wealth, and power, and glory; it is the great measure of the age -- a measure, that in my opinion has been postponed too long." Douglas had made precisely the same complaint regarding the disappointing delays in the passage of his bills for organizing the Territory of Nebraska, and in this speech he originated the idea which was carried out in the Pacific railway bill enacted in 1862, leaving the builders of the road to determine the route between the termini. This enterprise was pressed without cessation by Congress after Congress until the passage of a bill in 1862.
The secession of the southern states facilitated the passage of the first bill, July 1, 1862, by ending sectional controversy of the same nature as that which had retarded the passage of the bill for the organization of the territory. This act provided for the construction of a road from Omaha to San Francisco. A California company already organized -- the Central Pacific Railroad Company -- was to build the road to the eastern border of that state, and a new corporation, the Union Pacific Railroad Company, was to build all the rest of the road. Besides this main line, the Union Pacific Company was required to construct a branch from Sioux City, joining the main line at a point no farther west than the one hundredth meridian; and the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western, afterwards the Kansas Pacific Company, was required to build a line from Kansas City to a point on the Union Pacific no farther west than the one hundredth meridian. By the act of July 3, 1866, the Kansas Pacific Company was permitted to join the Union Pacific at a point not more than fifty miles west of the extension of a line north from Denver; and under the act
of 1869 the Denver Pacific line between Denver and Cheyenne was the result. While the land grant applied along the whole line from Kansas City, by way of Denver, to Cheyenne, the bonds applied only to the distance originally intended to connect with the main line, which was fixed at 319 15/16 miles. The St. Joseph or Atchison branch was to be an extension of the Hannibal & St. Joseph line, and to be built by way of Atchison westward to some point on what is now known as the main line, but not farther west than the one hundredth meridian; or it might connect with the Kansas line upon the same terms as were given to the Union Pacific. Its subsidy was to extend only to the distance of 100 miles, and so the road was built direct from Atchison west to Waterville, Kan., and there ended where its subsidy gave out. The line to connect Leavenworth with the Kansas main line was built from the city named to Lawrence; but it was not subsidized.
By the act of 1862 a subsidy of alternate sections in a strip of land ten miles wide on each side of the track was granted to the Union Pacific road and its two principal branches -- from Sioux City and from Kansas City -- 33,000,000 acres in all. In addition to this subsidy the credit of the United States in the form of United States bonds was loaned in the following amounts: For the parts of the line passing over level country, east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, $16,000 per mile; for the 130 miles of the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains and the like distance eastward from the western base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, $48,000 per mile; and for that part of the line running over the plateau region between the two mountain chains named, $32,000 per mile. These bonds ran for thirty years and drew 6 per cent interest, payable semi-annually. They were not a gift, but a loan of credit, and were to be paid by the company to the United States at their maturity.
The capital stock of the company consisted of $100,000,000, divided into shares of $1,000. When 2,000 shares were subscribed and $10 per share paid in, the company was to be organized by the election of not less than thirteen directors and other usual officers. Two additional directors were to be appointed by the President of the United States. It was also provided that the President should appoint three commissioners to pass upon and certify to the construction of the road as a basis for the issue of the bonds and lands. The line of the road was to begin at a point on the one hundredth meridian "between the south margain of the Platte River, in the
Territory of Nebraska at a point to be fixed by the President of the United States after actual surveys." The company was also required to construct a line from a point on the western boundary of the State of Iowa, to be fixed by the President of the United States, to connect with the initial point of the main line on the one hundredth meridian. A race in construction was inspired by the provision that either of the two companies, the Union Pacific or the Central Pacific, might build past the specified place of meeting -- the California boundary line -- if it should reach the line before the arrival of the other. The act required also the construction of a telegraph line with each of these lines of railway.
The law of 1862 named 153 commissioners, distributed among twenty-four states and the Territory of Nebraska, whose duty was merely to take the preliminary steps for organizing the company; and as soon as 2,000 shares of stock had been subscribed, and $10 per share paid in, the commissioners were to call a meeting of the subscribers, who should elect the directors of the company. The commissioners named for Nebraska were Augustus Kountze, Gilbert C. Monell and Alvin Saunders, of Omaha; W. H. Taylor of Nebraska City, and T. M. Marquett of Plattsmouth. It is worth noting, as an illustration of a phase of political conditions at that time, that these commissioners from Nebraska were all active politicians of the republican party. The names of the commissioners were supplied largely by the members of Congress from the various states, and Senator Harlan of the adjoining State of Iowa was active in promoting these preliminary arrangements. By the 29th of October, 1863, 2,177 shares of stock had been subscribed, and the company was organized by the election of thirty directors and of John A. Dix, president; Thomas C. Durant, vice president; Henry V. Poor, secretary, and John J. Cisco, treasurer. These officers were all residents of New York. Augustus Kountze was the Nebraska representative on the elected board of directors.
At the ceremony of breaking the first ground at Omaha, A. J. Hanscom presided. Mayor B. E. B. Kennedy, Governor Saunders and George Francis Train used the shovel, and these three, and also Dr. Gilbert C. Monell, Andrew J. Poppleton, Augustus Kountze and Judge Adam V. Larimer of Council Bluffs made speeches. CongratuIatory dispatches were read from President John A. Dix, Vice President Dr. Thomas C. Durant, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by John Hay, his secretary; William H. Seward, secretary of state; George Opdyke, mayor of New York; J. M.
Palmer, mayor of Council Bluffs, and Richard Yates, governor of Illinois. Brigham Young, then beginning to be imperator of a great industrial people, sent this message: "Let the hands of the honest be united to aid the great national improvement." The shrewd Mormon foresaw the immense enhancement of property values which would follow the passage of the road through the city of which he was founder and virtual proprietor. He gave his full share of aid in construction, through the brawn of his followers, until he saw that the company was bent on giving his city the go-by, and then, at the critical point in the great race, he withheld his aid till he saw that the Central Pacific, too, intended to reject his suit, and he must be content with a stub connection from Ogden.
The Union Pacific Company filed its assent to the conditions of the act of Congress on the 27th of June, 1863, and the immediate promoters of the road plunged into the solicitude and struggle for the completion of the first 100 miles within the two years' limit of the act. They were further troubled by the provision of the amendatory act of 1864 which permitted the Kansas company to continue its line to meet the line of the Central Pacific, if, when it should reach the one hundredth meridian, "the Union Pacific shall not be proceeding in good faith to build the said railroad through the territory." The act provided that when the three commissioners appointed by the president should certify that forty miles of the road were built and equipped, the proper amount of bonds and the proportionate amount of the land grant should be issued to the company. In the spring of 1864 Durant began the great task of building this section. The small paid-up stock subscription and the proceeds of a credit of over two hundred thousand dollars were soon exhausted and such parts of the stock of building material and rolling stock as could be temporarily spared were sold, so that construction might proceed. The lucid statement of Peter A. Dey, the widely known engineer, contains information and explanation, needed at this juncture. This first survey of Engineer Dey's was abandoned after a considerable sum -- probably more than a third of the first paid up capital -- had been expended on its somewhat difficult grade, and its substitute, the devious ex-bow route, is used to this day, and with all the disadvantages of the heavy grade of about three miles out of Omaha to the Mud Creek Valley. When the first forty miles of the road should be completed the Federal Government would lay and bestow its first golden subsidy egg. On the plea of necessity, on the 4th of May, 1864, a committee was appointed on the part of the company to contract for finishing
100 miles of road. Though the act of July 2, 1864, doubling the land subsidy, followed in the meantime, Durant, on the 8th of August, received from H. M. Hoxie a proposition for the famous, or notorious, contract by the terms of which he was to build the 100 miles for $50,000; and on the 4th of the following October the contract was extended to cover the whole line to the one hundredth meridian-247.45 miles.
The Omaha newspapers of the construction period advise us from time to time of the progress of the work and also as to the rising or falling fever of public hope and fear. The Republican of May 13, 1864, says that "the work of grading is steadily progressing from this point west and ties are being rapidly gotten out along the line." This is the very beginning. On the 12th of August the same paper notes that several hundred tons of iron have arrived at Quincy for the Union Pacific; that Williams, the contractor, is grading in Douglas County, and that ties are being prepared and there will soon be enough to lay track on to the Elkhorn. Soon came the vexatious delays until the following spring. On the 5th of May, 1865, the Republican announces that heavy work on the first 100 miles is confined to the section of twenty-six miles to the Elkhorn River; that the first five miles of grading from the foot of Farnam Street is nearly completed, and that grading will be completed over the first eighteen miles by July 1st, and to the Elkhorn River by August 1st. "The company have determined to use 'burnetized' cottonwood for ties on account of the scarcity of hard wood in Nebraska, until the western portion of the country is reached, where red cedar can be obtained." One steam sawmill had been in operation in Washington County, fourteen miles north of Omaha, for nearly twelve months, and 40,000 hardwood ties had already been sawed there; three more mills would soon be in operation. At this time the nearest railway connection was the Chicago & Northwestern, at Boonesboro, 120 miles east. In his report of July 20, 1865, Springer Harbaugh, a government director, says there are 49,000 ties in sight, one-third oak and walnut and the rest cottonwood; 40,000 of these ties were on the river bank twelve miles above Omaha, waiting to be rafted down. It was proposed to lay 2,500 ties to the mile and four of hard wood to each rail. There was one mill at Omaha, one on the river twelve miles above, and two sixty miles above, all sawing ties. In the intervening years dwellers upon the Nebraska plains have come to hold our native groves in tender and almost sacred regard; and though lapse of time and consideration of the difficulties under which
they wrought have somewhat softened harsh judgment against the builders of the Union Pacific road, yet the destruction of our finest forests -- and especially of our precious hardwood trees -- in the Missouri Valley will always be resented as an act of vandalism which no exigency such as they might plead could excuse or palliate.
The first rail of the Union Pacific, and so the first railway track in Nebraska was laid at the Omaha end of the line July 10, 1865; and on the 22d of September the Republican reports that ten miles of track had been laid and that it was going down at the rate of a mile a day. There were on hand, also, eighty miles of iron, four locomotives, thirty platform cars, four or five box freight cars, several passenger cars, spikes, switches, etc., "received from below." The construction of machine shops and other buildings at Omaha had been begun. This may be regarded as the modest first equipment of the then greatest railway enterprise of the whole world. Bridge timber already framed for the first 100 miles -- between Omaha and the Loup Fork -- was on the ground. The grade was to be finished to Columbus in thirty days after the date last named. On the 6th of January, 1866, the three commissioners appointed by the President of the United States, according to the act of Congress, examined and accepted the first forty miles of road. According to the contemporary newspaper account the passenger car used by the commissioners on their trip of investigation was constructed in Omaha and was named the "Major-General Sherman." The commissioners were Col. J. H. Simpson, president of the board; Maj.-Gen. Samuel R. Curtis and Maj. William White. Notwithstanding that, on account of his erratic temperament, George Francis Train was kept in the background by the promoters and capitalists of the enterprise, yet his remarkable ingenuity, alertness and activity commanded recognition; and on this occasion General Curtis is reported as saying in reply to a compliment to himself that Train deserved more consideration than he did.
Only about 1 1/2 miles of road had been graded previous to July, 1865, but before January 1, 1866, the line was completed fifty miles westward. From this time the work of construction progressed rapidly; 250 miles of track were laid in 1866, and during the season of 1867, 240 miles were added. Fort Sanders was passed May 8, 1868, and the following day the track was completed to Laramie. Promontory Point, Utah, was reached just one year later, and on May 10, 1869, a junction was made with the Central Pacific Railroad at-a point 1,085.8 miles west of Omaha, and 690 miles east of Sacra-
mento. The greatest trouble with Indians was experienced in Western Nebraska, but they continued to harass surveying parties and track layers in Wyoming as well, although United States troops were constantly on guard.
The first permanent bridge across the Missouri River, at Omaha, was commenced in March, 1868, and completed four years later, at a cost of $1,750,000. In 1877 this bridge was partially destroyed by a cyclone, and in 1886-7 was entirely rebuilt and enlarged to its present great proportions.
A regular train service was established early in 1866, and trains were running to Bridgers Pass by October, 1868. The first conductor on the Union Pacific was Grove Watson, deceased, and the second, Augustus A. Egbert. The first station at Omaha was built near the present site of the smelting works, and B. T. C. Morgan was appointed agent, January 1, 1865.
By September, 1867, the great highway had become progressive enough to announce that "on and after next Sunday" all trains, passenger and freight, would run on Sundays the same as week days. On the 20th of May, 1868, it was announced through the Herald that passenger fare had been reduced from 10 cents to 7 1/2 cents a mile. By this change the fare to Cheyenne, which had been $51.50, became $38.50.
This pioneer railroad, not only of Columbus, but of the whole State of Nebraska, reached this locality in June, 1866. The work of track laying was not rapid until the construction train struck the Platte Valley and its junction with the Elkhorn. The Columbus Republican, of June, 1875, described the track laying through the county seat, in June, 1866:
"The Union Pacific track was laid from Omaha to Ogden by one party -- the Casement Brothers, of Painesville, Ohio--J. S. and D. T. Casement, familiarly called by the boys Jack and Dan. They were a pair of the biggest little men you ever saw -- about as large as twelve-year-old boys, but requiring larger hats. To give some idea of how the thing was done, Sunday, June 1, 1866, and why it was done on Sunday is the object of this sketch. The thing to be done was to lay the ties and fasten the rails to them ready for the locomotive. Of course, only one pair of rails could be laid at a time, for they must be laid on iron chairs in continuous line, end to end,
and then spiked fast to the ties. This was done just as fast as four men could take the rails from a low truck close behind and lay them down on their chairs. Two athletes to each rail, one pair to each side, swayed backward and forward from the loaded truck to the place awaiting them. This motion of two pairs of men, which was nearly as regular as the pendulum of a clock, governed the movements of the whole four. To that motion everything had to conform, just as every wheel in a clock has to conform to the oscillations of the pendulum. The track layers' train was a movable village, crawling along the track a few feet at a time as the rails were laid. It comprised the rail truck in front, then the engine and tender, and after this the provision car, kitchen, dining car, wash room, sleeping bunks, granary, and lastly, the daily supply of material. The occasion of the track laying through the town on Sunday was this: The track layers were under contract and bonds to complete the track to the one hundredth mile post by a certain day, the 5th or 6th of the month, and their time was short. The progress of the work must necessarily be impeded somewhat in crossing the Loup. Two miles of track, including the original plat of Columbus, were laid that day. We were not excessively pious hereabouts in those days, and the whole city, men, women and children, about seventy-five in all, went out and for an hour or two watched the passing, industrious pageantry. Perhaps it was for some atonement of this desecration of our soil that the superintendent, a few months later, donated the freight of the first carload ever brought to Columbus for any person not an employe, consisting of the whole bill of pine lumber, for the Congregational Church."
A special election was held to vote upon the question of issuing $80,000 of the county's bonds to build the Sioux City & Columbus Railroad, now part and parcel of the Union Pacific System. When the vote was canvassed it was found that 128 votes had been cast in favor of the improvement, and only two against it. The officers of this corporation were: President, William Adair; vice president, George B. Graff; secretary, James Stott; treasurer, J. P. Eckhart; directors, J. G. Ogden, C. F. Eckhart, William Adair, C. H. Whaley, J. F. Warner, James Stott and George B. Graff. However, the road was not built at this time, but it was constructed as the Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills Railroad in 1881, and on June 16th of that
year, the day was given over to the people of Columbus in celebration of the event. The Journal in advertising the proposed celebration had this to say, in a previous issue: "Thursday, June 16, 1881, has been set apart for celebrating the completion of the road. There will be two coaches and five open cars for each arm of the road furnished free for the occasion by the U. P. Company, the coaches to be for transportation of ladies and children. The trains will start at the usual time and no freight trains will be run that day. The speakers will be John M. Thurston, of Omaha; Dr. Alexander Bear, of Norfolk; W. M. Robertson, of Madison; Loran Clark, of Albion; B. K. Edwards, of St. Edwards; E. V. Clark, of Genoa." A free ride was given all along the line between Albion and Norfolk, to Columbus.
This road was built in the '80s across Platte County. Along its line in the county its stations are Lindsay, in St. Bernard Township; Cornlea, in Granville Township, and Creston, in the township of that name. This road affords the northern part of the county good transportation facilities to points east and west. The road crosses the Sioux City & Columbus, just south of Humphrey.
On May 26, 1879, an election for the issuance of $100,000 in bonds to help in building the Atchison & Nebraska branch of the Burlington & Missouri Railroad, was held and carried. The line was completed June 25, 1880, and opened up the whole region of country to the south and southeast. Although but seven miles of road was built in Platte County, the benefits of the connection were so apparent that her citizens responded in the liberal spirit noticed above. The branch to Columbus was first generally known as the Lincoln & Northwestern Railroad, which takes in, in its route from Lincoln, the important cities of Seward and David City. By the building of the line the northern and northwestern sections of the state were thrown into close connection with Columbus. The Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills road was built in 1881, running from Columbus to Norfolk and Albion, eighty-one miles. The celebration of this event has already been related.
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