Centennial County Histories

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.

The Red Cloud Chief reported on July 6, 1876: “There were five histories read, from Potsdam, Inavale, Walnut Creek, Stillwater, and Red Cloud. The histories of the other precincts were written but not read. The people of Red Cloud were especially pleased with their history, which abounded in humorous hits and incidents, and caused everybody to feel funny. Everybody agreed that Mr. Jackson was just the man for historian.

“Mr. Knight gave the history of Inavale in the style of the chronicles, and told the leading facts of that precinct in a racy, interesting and agreeable manner. Mr. Snow related the history of Potsdam in a manner and style that attracted the attention and approval of the audience.

“R. B. Fulton gave a history of the ‘peaceable precinct,’ Walnut Creek. Mr. Fulton is an unusually able writer for a homesteader, and his history was up to his usual style, and confirmed the judiciousness of his selection as the narrator of the settlement of Walnut Creek.

“Abram Wells represented Stillwater by a calm clear business-like relation of the progress and improvements of that precinct. The reading of the histories was one of the most attractive features of the day.”



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

(July 2011)


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