John Rickly [RG3049.AM]


RG3049.AM: John Rickly, 1815-1889

Papers: 1856-1956; mostly 1856-1900
Columbus, Nebraska Territory: Pioneer
Size: One box; 0.25 cu.ft. and one reel of microfilm


John Rickly was born in the canton of Berne, Switzerland in 1815. There he was educated, and apprenticed to a butcher until he emigrated to the United States, landing in New York in 1834. He worked through New York for the next couple of years, mostly at his butcher’s trade. In 1838 he traveled to Ohio, married Catherine Benningus, and settled at Columbus, Ohio. The couple had five children. Catherine died in early 1849, and that summer he married again, this time to Caroline Bauer. John and Caroline Rickly ultimately had eight children, one of whom, Albert, may have been the first white baby born in the village of Columbus, Nebraska Territory. Caroline Bauer Rickly died in 1864.

In 1956 John Rickly had left his family and gone west, arriving in Omaha, N.T., in July of that year. Late in July he went with a group of friends to help survey claims at the site of the proposed town of Columbus. Although he had lots claimed in several other town sites (among them, DeSoto and Council Bluffs), he brought his family to live in Omaha (1857) and later to Columbus. Rickly built the first saw and grist mill at Columbus and seems to have continued to prosper with that enterprise. He was an active and respected man in the community, as demonstrated in 1859 when he was named captain of the Columbus Guards in the Pawnee Wars. In later years he was to run three times for the state legislature, winning a seat on his third try. Before his death in 1889, he had also served one term as Platte County sheriff, and several terms on the Columbus City Council.


This collection consists of a diary kept by John Rickly between the years 1856-1861. Entries are regular in 1856-1857, but become rather sporadic after that. Rickly noted such things as his personal expenses, financial transactions, and travel notes. Much of the diary is filled with notations and figures concerning his buying and selling of land in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and mainly in Nebraska. Also of interest are his mentions of the troubles in Kansas during his trip to that state in 1856, and a brief note of supplies bought in July 1859, for the “Pawnee War Co.”.

Also included in the collection are deeds, warrants and biographical material.

Accompanying the diary (on microfilm) is a partial transcript made by an unknown party. This transcript contains errors and deletions of words and series of pages. However, it does identify places and persons named in the original (only their initials). Because the diary is rather dim in places, the transcript was filmed as well, but this should not be relied upon for accuracy.

The Rickly diary and transcript were originally loaned for microfilming by Miss Marguerette R. Burke, a granddaughter of Rickly, from Omaha, Nebraska, November 1966. The additional material was added July 26, 1971. History Nebraska added the original diary (2008.0298) to the collection in 2009.


Box 1

  1. Diary, 1856-1861 (also on microfilm)
  2. Deeds, warrants and documents (see also oversize)
  3. Biographical material and miscellaneous


Subject headings:

Columbus (Neb.) — History
Diaries — Frontier and pioneer life
Platte County (Neb.) — History
Rickly, John, 1815-1889


JEP/DDS/pmc 07-29-1971
Revised TMM 05-14-2009; 11-29-2023

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