Nebraska Firsts

Here are some Nebraska “firsts,” according to Nebraska newspaper columnist Will M.

Maupin who published this list in 1930.

“The first railroad was laid by the Union Pacific, in Douglas County. The first railroad laid

south of the Platte was laid in Cass county, at Plattsmouth, by the Burlington and Missouri

River Railroad in Nebraska, now the Burlington.

“The first capitol building at Lincoln was built of stone quarried by convicts, and much of the

construction work was done by convicts whose labor was contracted to ‘Boss’ W. H. H.


“The first road constructed in Nebraska with public money, construction of which began in

1858, began on the north side of the Platte river about six miles west of Plattsmouth, and

following the general course of the Missouri river was surveyed and bridges built for a

distance of 205 miles to the present city of Niobrara. The money was appropriated by


“Hadley D. Johnson was the first delegate to congress from the unorganized territory now

known as Nebraska. He was also elected in October 1853. He was a resident of Iowa at the

time of his election. He and a number of his Iowa friends crossed the Missouri river and

established an election precinct in what is now Sarpy County and proceeded to vote. Johnson,

of course, received the majority of the votes. He went to Washington and was

unceremoniously ‘bounced.’ He later returned to Nebraska and established a residence, and in

1858 was elected territorial printer. He established the Omaha Democrat but that did not last

much longer than his ‘congressional’ honors.

“Probably the first man arrested in Nebraska on a charge of murder was Dr. Charles A.

Henry, a native of New York who located on a claim near Bellevue in 1854. In April, 1855

he was charged with the murder of George W. Hollister. The shooting was the outcome of a

quarrel over a land claim. Chief Justice Ferguson, before whom Dr. Henry was brought,

ordered the prisoner to be shackled, handcuffed, and chained to the floor.

Andrew J. Poppleton, and Oliver P. Mason, defended Dr. Henry. This was Mason’s first

appearance in Nebraska legal history, and his fiery denunciation of Judge Ferguson’s order

brought him instant recognition. Judge Ferguson amended the order. The grand jury failed

to indict. About that time George L. Miller was the only practicing physician in Omaha.”


–Pierce County Leader

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