Brownville in 1859 was a small but growing settlement on the Missouri River in Nemaha County. One of the town's early settlers, journalist and agriculturist Robert W. Furnas, that year published Brownville and Nemaha County in 1859, a short historical sketch that included the town charter and ordinances and a Brownville business directory.
Furnas reported the arrival in 1854 of Richard Brown and the platting of Brownville in 1855. He recorded his own significant role in the early history of Brownville: "On the 9th of April, 1856, R. W. Furnas, the present Editor and proprietor of the 'Nebraska Advertiser' arrived at Brownville with a press and material for the purpose of publishing a paper. On the 7th of June in the same year the first No. of the Advertisermade its appearance, and has been published regularly since."
The 1859 publication extolled the countryside surrounding Brownville. "The population of the county is supposed to be between 4,000 and 5,000. There are between 20,000 and 25,000 acres of land under cultivation this season. The past year there was a surplus of corn of over 100,000 bushels; several thousand bushels of potatoes, and respectable quantities of other products. On the first day of May, 1859, there were 100,647 acres of land pre-empted in Nemaha County. The inhabitants are from nearly every portion of the Union, mostly, however, from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and Michigan."
Brownville itself in 1859, according to the Furnas publication, consisted of "about one thousand moral, industrious and enterprising inhabitants. . . . The educational advantages are as good as could reasonably be expected in so new a country. Thus far schools have been in active operation the most of the year. Under the excellent new school system adopted by the last Legislature, free schools will be kept the entire year hereafter. The Brownville College, a chartered institution, is located at this place, . . . The Medical Department of the Brownville College is organized and in operation; its Professors having already delivered two courses of lectures." Also in Brownville were four mercantile houses, one clothing store, one boot and shoe establishment, a drugstore, and a steam ferry.