Omaha’s Prospects, 1857

Correspondence of the New York Daily Times, May 29, 1857, from Omaha, Nebraska Territory: “The mania for land speculation and town shares is now at its height, and . . . we are rushing on regardless of any future except such as shall yield its thousands of per cent upon our hopeful investments.

“Nebraska, though rich in her agricultural elements, is poor in the actual products of her soil; and though honest farm labor would be abundantly profitable, yet almost every one seems to leave agriculture and take to the manufacture of fancy towns and embryo cities, believing that every ‘claim’ can be staked and platted and its many corner lots made into sudden fortunes. The consequence is provisions of every sort are high and have to be imported, while City Scrip is a drug in the market and can be disposed of only by exportation. The plateau upon which lies Omaha is seven miles long, yet it is all laid out into town lots, commencing with South Omaha and continuing on through the several distinctions of Omaha City, Scrip Town, Saratoga and Florence, and the holder of each lot enjoys the prospective fortune which the future imaginative population of several hundred thousand will be sure to yield.

“But the prospects of Omaha never were brighter to one whose anticipations have not been of the very brilliant order. Here will grow up steadily and naturally, a city of importance, but of what population and in what time, the development of the country about it alone will determine. Building of every description goes on as rapidly as the supply of material will permit, and it is safe to say that Omaha will double her importance this summer. Lots are held at $75 per foot and claims within five miles of the city, in cases where Government title is obtained, cannot be bought for less than $10 to $15 per acre. Emigration, chiefly from the East, is coming in rapidly and prices are advancing. This emigration is good in character, it coming chiefly from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Those who have come this season have come more to settle and improve the country, than to speculate out of and prove a curse to it. . . . Trains from California, Oregon and Utah are now leaving here almost daily for their weary, lengthy journey. How much of suffering and toil, of privation and death, will they see ere they reach their destination!”

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