Nahum Harwood in Nebraska Territory

Harwood’s recollections (based on his contemporary diary) illustrate the rapid establishment of new towns and the feverish speculation in town lots that gripped Nebraska Territory in the late summer and fall of 1856: “At this time the settlements did not extend any distance west from the river. Towns and would-be cities and capitals of the future state of Nebraska, like Nebraska City, Plattsmouth, Omaha, Florence, Ft. Calhoun, and many others, were springing up on the Missouri river, each having its energetic and enthusiastic champions. The river boats and stages came in crowded and went away empty; hotels were full and crowded to the ridge pole; there were speculators on every hand, and prices of real estate were advancing by leaps and bounds.”

On August 30, 1856, Harwood’s journal indicates that he went to Council Bluffs to consult with Joseph Johnson, editor of the Council Bluffs Bugle, “about surveying and lotting up a proposed new town called Crescent City north of Council Bluffs and opposite Florence, at the mouth of Pigeon creek, Iowa. I received the contract for surveying and platting Crescent City. The stock of this town went up like a rocket and came down later like a stick.”

In early 1857 Harwood platted the town of Rockport, “about five miles above Florence on the Missouri river, at the mouth of the punkaw or Ponca. The site was densely covered with timber, brush, grape vines, and thorns. . . . and it was a terrible place to work, far different from the open prairie of Crescent City. I do not think there were half a dozen houses ever built there [Rockport], but the plans were sent to St. Louis and lithographed, and people bought the lots at high prices.”

In the summer of 1857 Harwood made a trip “to Fremont and Columbus. There was but one building on the site of what is today the prosperous, busy, and beautiful city of Fremont. This was a one-room log cabin, unoccupied. The 160 acres comprising the townsite, or part of it, could have been bought at that time for less than $500. I advised a member of our party, a man by name of Stone from Shirley, Massachusetts, to buy it, saying that the railroad would be built through there in a few years and make him rich. I remember well his reply, that a railroad might be constructed there some day, but not in his day or mine. At Columbus, we found perhaps a half dozen buildings, among them a store, used also as a public-house.”

Harwood believed that the economic crash that punctured the speculative bubble in the fall of 1857 “had a very salutary effect in the end” because it prompted the citizens of Nebraska Territory to abandon risky speculative ventures and turn to agriculture to make a living.

The bank of Florence, chartered by Nebraska’s territorial legislature in 1856, was erected in 1857. The bank played an important role in the development of the town of Florence and is on the National Register of Historic Places. NSHS Historic Preservation DO09:254-003

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

Education Digital Learning Resources

Find games, lists, and more to enhance your history education curriculum.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

History Nebraska Services

Digital Resources

Find all of our digital resources, files, videos, and more, all in one easy-to-search page!

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.