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James Potter

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Email alerts New issue alert. Advance article alerts. Article activity alert. Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic. Citing articles via Google Scholar. The U. Army established Fort Atkinson near today's Fort Calhoun in , in order to protect the area's burgeoning fur trade industry. In , the Missouri Fur Company built a headquarters and trading post about nine miles north of the mouth of the Platte River and called it Bellevue , establishing the first town in Nebraska.

It became a well-known post in the region. In , Moses P. Merill established a mission among the Otoe Indians. In , John C. He sold his mules and government wagons at auction in there. Platte is from the French word for "flat", the translation of Ne-brath-ka, meaning "land of flat waters. The Kansas—Nebraska Act of established the 40th parallel north as the dividing line between the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.

As such, the original territorial boundaries of Nebraska were much larger than today; the territory was bounded on the west by the Continental Divide between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; on the north by the 49th parallel north the boundary between the United States and Canada , and on the east by the White Earth and Missouri rivers. However, the creation of new territories by acts of Congress progressively reduced the size of Nebraska. Most settlers were farmers, but another major economic activity involved support for travelers using the Platte River trails.

After gold was discovered in Wyoming in , a rush of speculators followed overland trails through the interior of Nebraska. The Missouri River towns became important terminals of an overland freighting business that carried goods brought up the river in steamboats over the plains to trading posts and Army forts in the mountains. Stagecoaches provided passenger, mail, and express service, and for a few months in — the famous Pony Express provided mail service. Many wagon trains trekked through Nebraska on the way west.

They were assisted by soldiers at Ft.

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Kearny and other Army forts guarding the Platte River Road between and Fort commanders assisted destitute civilians by providing them with food and other supplies while those who could afford it purchased supplies from post sutlers. Travelers also received medical care, had access to blacksmithing and carpentry services for a fee, and could rely on fort commanders to act as law enforcement officials. Fort Kearny also provided mail services and, by , telegraph services.

Moreover, soldiers facilitated travel by making improvements on roads, bridges, and ferries. The forts additionally gave rise to towns along the Platte River route. The wagon trains gave way to railroad traffic as the Union Pacific Railroad —the eastern half of the first transcontinental railroad—was constructed west from Omaha through the Platte Valley. It opened service to California in In Colorado was split off and Nebraska, reduced in size to its modern boundaries, was admitted to the Union.

The act creating the Dakota Territory also included provisions granting Nebraska small portions of Utah Territory and Washington Territory —present-day southwestern Wyoming , bounded by the 41st parallel north , the 43rd parallel north , and the Continental Divide. Governor Alvin Saunders guided the territory during the American Civil War — , as well as the first two years of the postbellum era.

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He worked with the territorial legislature to help define the borders of Nebraska, as well as to raise troops to serve in the Union Army. No battles were fought in the territory, but Nebraska raised three regiments of cavalry to help the war effort, and more than 3, men served in the military. The capital of the Nebraska Territory was at Omaha.

During the s there were numerous unsuccessful attempts to move the capital to other locations, including Florence and Plattsmouth. Morton , local businessmen tried to secure land in the Omaha area to give away to legislators. The capital remained at Omaha until when Nebraska gained statehood, at which time the capital was moved to Lincoln , which was called Lancaster at that point. A constitution for Nebraska was drawn up in There was some controversy over Nebraska's admission as a state, in view of a provision in the constitution restricting suffrage to White voters; eventually, on February 8, , the United States Congress voted to admit Nebraska as a state provided that suffrage was not denied to non-white voters.

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The bill admitting Nebraska as a state was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson , but the veto was overridden by a supermajority in both Houses of Congress. Nebraska became the first—and to this day the only—state to be admitted to the Union by means of a veto override. Railroads played a central role in the settlement of Nebraska. The railroad companies had been given large land grants that were used to back the borrowings from New York and London that financed construction. They were anxious to locate settlers upon the land as soon as possible, so there would be a steady outflow of farm products, and a steady inflow of manufactured items purchased by the farmers.

The also built towns that were needed to service the railroad itself, with dining halls for passengers, construction crews, repair shops and housing for train crews. The towns attracted cattle drives and cowboys. In the s and s Civil War veterans and immigrants from Europe came by the thousands to take up land in Nebraska, with the result that despite severe droughts, grasshopper plagues, economic distress, and other harsh conditions the frontier line of settlement pushed steadily westward.

Most of the great cattle ranches that had grown up near the ends of the trails from Texas gave way to farms, although the Sand Hills remained essentially a ranching country. The Union Pacific UP land grant gave it ownership of 12, acres per mile of finished track. The federal government kept every other section of land, so it also had 12, acres to sell or give away to homesteaders. The UP's goal was not to make a profit, but rather to build up a permanent clientele of farmers and townspeople who would form a solid basis for routine sales and purchases. The UP, like other major lines, opened sales offices in the East and in Europe, advertise heavily, [14] and offered attractive package rates for farmer to sell out and moved his entire family, and his tools, to the new destination.

In the UP sold rich Nebraska farmland at five dollars an acre, with one fourth down and the remainder in three annual installments. It gave a 10 percent discount for cash. Sales were improved by offering large blocks to ethnic colonies of European immigrants. Germans and Scandinavians, for example, could sell out their small farm back home and buy much larger farms for the same money.

European ethnics comprised half of the population of Nebraska in the late 19th century. A typical development program was that undertaken by the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad to promote settlement in southeastern Nebraska during — The company participated enthusiastically in the boosterism campaigns that drew optimistic settlers to the state. The railroad offered farmers the opportunity to purchase land grant parcels on easy credit terms. Soil quality, topography, and distance from the railroad line generally determined railroad land prices. Immigrants and native-born migrants sometimes clustered in ethnic-based communities, but mostly the settlement of railroad land was by diverse mixtures of migrants.

By deliberate campaigns, land sales, and a vast transportation network, the railroads facilitated and accelerated the peopling and development of the Great Plains, with railroads and water key to the potential for success in the Plains environment. Populism was a farmers' movement of the early s that emerged in a period of simultaneous crises in agriculture and politics. Farmers who attempted to raise corn and hogs in the dry regions of Nebraska faced economic disaster when drought unexpectedly occurred.

When they sought relief through political means, they found the Republican Party complacent, resting on its past achievement of prosperity. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, was preoccupied with the prohibition issue. The farmers turn to radical politicians leading the Populist party , but it became so enmeshed in vehement battles that it accomplished little for the farmers.

In Populism faded and the Republicans regained power in the state. In they enacted a number of progressive reform measures , including a direct primary law and a child labor act, in what was one of the most significant legislative sessions in Nebraska's history. Prohibition was of central importance in progressive politics before World War I.

Many British-stock and Scandinavian Protestants advocated prohibition as a solution to social problems, while Catholics and German Lutherans attacked prohibition as a menace to their social customs and personal liberty. Prohibitionists supported direct democracy to enable voters to bypass the state legislature in lawmaking.

The Republican Party championed the interests of the prohibitionists, while the Democratic Party represented ethnic group interests. After the issue shifted to the Germans' opposition to Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy. Then both Republicans and Democrats joined in reducing direct democracy in order to reduce German influence in state politics. The political leader of the state's progressive movement was George W. Norris — He served five terms in the U. House of Representatives as a Republican from until and five terms in the U. Senate from until , four terms as a Republican and the final term as an independent.

Norris was defeated for reelection in Since the average size of farms has steadily increased, whereas number of farms rapidly increased until about , remained stable until about , then rapidly decreased, as farmers buyout their neighbors and consolidate the holdings. Total area of cropland in Nebraska increased until the s, but then showed long-term stability with large short-term fluctuations. Crop diversity was highest during —, then slowly decreased; corn was always a dominant crop, but sorghum and oats were increasingly replaced by soybeans after the s.

Land-use changes were affected by farm policies and programs attempting to stabilize commodity supply and demand, reduce erosion, and reduce impacts to wildlife and ecological systems; technological advances e. The miles of the Lincoln Highway in Nebraska followed the route of the Platte River Valley, along the narrow corridor where pioneer trails, the Pony Express, and the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad ran. Construction began in , as the road was promoted by a network of state and local boosters until it became U.

Before only sixty of its miles were hard surface in Nebraska. Its route was altered repeatedly, most importantly when Omaha was bypassed in The final section of the roadway was paved west of North Platte, Nebraska, in November The Lincoln Highway was planned as the most direct route across the country, but that did not happen until the s, when Interstate 80 was built parallel to US 30, giving the Lincoln Highway over to local traffic. In the rural areas farmers and ranchers depended on general stores that had a limited stock and slow turnover; they made enough profit to stay in operation by selling at high prices.

Prices were not marked on each item; instead the customer negotiated a price. Men did most of the shopping, since the main criteria was credit rather than quality of goods. Indeed, most customers shopped on credit, paying off the bill when crops or cattle were later sold; the owner's ability to judge credit worthiness was vital to his success. In the cities consumers had much more choice, and bought their dry goods and supplies at locally owned department stores. They had a much wider selection of goods than in the country general stores; price tags that gave the actual selling price.

The department stores provided a very limited credit, and set up attractive displays and, after , window displays as well. Their clerks—usually men before the s—were experienced salesmen whose knowledge of the products appealed to the better educated middle-class housewives who did most of the shopping. The keys to success were a large variety of high-quality brand-name merchandise, high turnover, reasonable prices, and frequent special sales. The larger stores sent their buyers to Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago once or twice a year to evaluate the newest trends in merchandising and stock up on the latest fashions.

Many entrepreneurs built stores, shops, and offices along Main Street. The most handsome ones used pre-formed, sheet iron facades, especially those manufactured by the Mesker Brothers of St. These neoclassical, stylized facades added sophistication to brick or wood-frame buildings throughout the state.

Senator Norris campaigned for the abolition of the bicameral system in the state legislature, arguing it was outdated, inefficient and unnecessarily expensive, and was based on the "inherently undemocratic" British House of Lords. In , a state constitutional amendment was passed mandating a single-house legislature, and also introducing non-partisan elections where members do not stand as members of political parties. Government was heavily dominated by men, but there were a few niche roles for women.

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For example, Nellie Newmark — was the clerk of the District Court at Lincoln for a half-century, — She gained a reputation for assisting judges and new attorneys assigned to the court. With no cohesive federal protective legislation, Nebraska's Live Stock Sanitary Commission was created in to safeguard the public interest of Nebraska citizens through the regulation of the livestock industry. In the commission was reorganized into the Board of Live Stock Agents; it increased its collaborative efforts with the federal Bureau of Animal Industry.

The Nebraska leadership led to more federal involvement in the livestock industry, including passage of the federal Meat Inspection Act of The Nebraska initiative exemplified the spirit of the Progressive Movement in the quest to impose scientific standards especially in areas related to public health. In Nebraska, very few single men attempted to operate a farm or ranch; farmers clearly understood the need for a hard-working wife, and numerous children, to handle the many chores, including child-rearing, feeding and clothing the family, managing the housework, feeding the hired hands, and, especially after the s, handling the paperwork and financial details.

After a generation or so, women increasingly left the fields, thus redefining their roles within the family. New conveniences such as sewing and washing machines encouraged women to turn to domestic roles. The scientific housekeeping movement, promoted across the land by the media and government extension agents, as well as county fairs which featured achievements in home cookery and canning, advice columns for women in the farm papers, and home economics courses in the schools. Although the eastern image of farm life in the prairies emphasizes the isolation of the lonely farmer and farm life, in reality rural Nebraskans created a rich social life for themselves.

They often sponsored activities that combined work, food, and entertainment such as barn raisings , corn huskings, quilting bees, [34] Grange meeting, church activities, and school functions.