Omaha, Millard’s Recollections of

The Omaha Excelsior of September 30, 1916, published a number of recollections written by Omahans who had arrived in the city’s earliest days. Among them was an account by Joseph H. Millard, an Omaha banker and U.S. senator from 1901 to 1907. Millard, who settled in Omaha in 1856, recalled in 1916:

“There were a few settlements along the [Missouri] river and nothing in the interior at all except possibly a few families at what was afterwards Fremont and further on at Columbus. I remember one settler as far west as Central City. Omaha was but a straggling village. Many of its inhabitants really lived in Council Bluffs, which was quite a little Center at that time. There was sharp rivalry between Florence, Saratoga, Omaha and Bellevue then, all being about the same size.

“The Bank of Nebraska was located in a little one-story brick [building] about eighteen feet wide and, say, twenty feet deep, at the corner of Twelfth and Farnam streets. Here I found my first job. Sam Moffat was cashier and Dave Moffat, . . . was his assistant. There was a rough counter across the center with a space on one side to go behind, and back of this they placed boards to hide the sleeping room where Dave and I bunked . . . .

“In addition to my work at the bank I found that I could make a nice fee every now and then by locating titles of western land. Soldiers’ warrants were being sold in the east, and these entitled the holder to 160 acres of land. It was to discover these tracts that I was employed. The government survey had but recently been completed and the stakes marking the sections were to be found without much difficulty. I do not suppose that one of them is left today. I got hold of a mare and used her in my trips out toward the setting sun, and she became very smart concerning the location of these posts, away out on the prairie, because whenever we stopped at a post she was allowed to graze. She could see a distant post further than the human eye could reach, and make a bee line toward it. My fee was ten dollars for every claim I found and entered at the land office here in Omaha. I was familiar with the country from here to Columbus, beyond which I did not believe anything could grow.”

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