Excursion to Lincoln, 1868

In the spring of 1868 a small group of Kansans traveled north to the new city of Lincoln, designated the Nebraska state capital only the year before. The Enterprise of Marysville, Kansas, on June 13, 1868, published a letter from “J.D.B.” describing the trip and the bustling new city in Lancaster County as well as several southeast Nebraska stops along the way.

“After having supplied ourselves with a quantity of commissaries, consisting principally of a little more whisky, and a few more cigars, [we] set sail for Lincoln about ten o’clock, A. M. Traveling up Blue River, our first stop was at the Otoe Agency [Gage County], where we met Maj. [John L.] Smith [agent], who was preparing to go with the Indians on a buffalo hunt.” After leaving the agency, the party traveled on, noting about two miles north of Blue Springs “the stone quarry where they get the stone for the new Capitol of Nebraska.”

“After a night’s rest [in Beatrice] we set out for Lincoln. One of the party remarked, ‘Lincoln by 4 O’clock or bust.’Behind a spanking pair of bays, we reached Lincoln on time. . . . [W]e found the town full of speculators, from Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Omaha and Nebraska city. On Monday business lots on Market Square were readily selling for one thousand dollars, 25 x 14 feet. Lincoln is situated on Salt Creek about two miles from the salt basins. These basins look like large lakes without any inlet or outlet, but are supplied by springs. There is millions of untold wealth in these salt springs or basins; all it wants is machinery to manufacture it. At the next session of the Legislature provision will be made to lease these salt lands.”

J.D.B. commented on the enthusiasm for railroad building then rampant in Lincoln. “Among the different roads talked of by the Lincolnites none appear to be talked of so favorable as the Fort Riley Road. A meeting was called before we reached there for Monday evening, and when the hour of meeting arrived, a large crowd gathered in market square, when the meeting was organized and addressed by gentlemen from Chicago, Omaha, Lincoln and other places. . . . The first day books were opened in Omaha, $315,000 was subscribed. Since then contracts have been made for grading, etc., and in less than two weeks five hundred men will be at work on the Omaha, Lincoln and Fort Riley Railroad.”

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