History Nebraska Blog

Nebraska’s Centennial County Histories

Commemorative ribbon, Philadelphia, 1876 Centennial. NSHS 11940-1-(51)Commemorative ribbon, Philadelphia, 1876 Centennial. NSHS 11940-1-(51) (at right).

In the spring of 1876 Congress passed a resolution asking individual counties and towns in the U.S. to compile their histories and to have them read at local Fourth of July celebrations as a part of the nation’s centennial observances. Written copies were to be filed with the clerk of each county and with the Library of Congress. The Red Cloud Chief noted on May 4, 1876, that Nebraska Governor Silas Garber had issued a proclamation recommending the preparation of such histories by Nebraska counties. The Chief called them “a valuable collection of facts for future historians of the country” and recommended that “the county commissioners of each county . . . designate some person to write up the sketch, to prevent confusion and secure the carrying out of the Congressional resolution and the proclamation of Gov. Garber.”

A number of Nebraska communities prepared histories in response to these requests. In many instances, the historical sketches were the first that had ever been compiled for their respective localities. N. H. Hemiup delivered a Fourth of July “oration” on Buffalo County history in Kearney that year. Solomon Draper gave an Independence Day speech on Knox County history, which was published at Niobrara. In Webster County, Governor Garber’s home county, individual precinct histories were compiled and read at the Fourth of July celebration in Red Cloud. Learn which precincts were so honored and who delivered the oral histories in a Timeline column on the Nebraska State Historical Society website.

Governor Silas Garber. From Portrait and Biographical Album of Otoe and Cass Counties, Nebraska (Chicago, 1889)

Governor Silas Garber. From Portrait and Biographical Album of Otoe and Cass Counties, Nebraska (Chicago, 1889)

An exhibition to mark the U.S. Centennial was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 10 through November 10, 1876, with displays sponsored by the United States government, many of the states and territories, foreign countries, and hundreds of private exhibitors. One of the most outstanding sections of the Nebraska exhibit was the Horticultural Society’s display of grapes, apples, and pears grown in the state. The Nebraska State Historical Society has in its collections a register of visitors to this exhibit.

— Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications

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