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The Territory of Nebraska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until March 1, 1867, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Unionmarker as the State of Nebraskamarker. The Nebraska Territory was created by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The territorial capital was Omahamarker.


An enabling act was passed by Congress in 1864. Delegates for a constitutional convention were elected; this convention did not produce a constitution. Two years later, in 1866, a constitution was drafted and voted upon. It was approved by 100 votes. However, a clause in this constitution that limited suffrage to "free white males" delayed Nebraska's entry into the Union for almost a year. The 1866 enabling act for the state was subject to a pocket veto by President Andrew Johnson. When Congress reconvened in 1867, it passed another bill to create the state of Nebraska, on the condition that Nebraska's constitution be amended to remove the suffrage clause. This bill was also vetoed by President Johnson. Congress then overrode his veto.

Fight for the State Capitol

After serving as the territorial capital for ten years, Omaha City wanted to be the capital of the new state. In 1854 land speculators formed the Omaha Claim Club as part of a scheme to persuade Territorial legislators to keep the capital in Omaha. Their aggressive efforts to secure land to give away to legislators led to the platting of Scriptown. Located in present-day North Omaha and NoDo, lots in the area were used to coerce legislators and push unwanted claimants from their land. The acts were later determined to be illegal by the United States Supreme Courtmarker in Baker v. Morton.

In January, 1858 a group of representatives illegally moved the Nebraska Territorial Legislature to Florence following a violent outburst at the capitol building. After repeatedly being dogged out of voting on the removal of the capital from Omaha, a skirmish pitted representatives from Nebraska Citymarker, Florence, and other communities to convene outside of Omaha. Despite having a majority of members present for the vote to remove the capital and all agreeing, the "Florence Legislature" did not succeed in swaying the Nebraska Territory governor. The capital remained at Omaha until 1867 when Nebraska gained statehood.

Early settlement

Several trading posts, forts and towns were established in the Nebraska Territory from the early 1800s through 1867, including Fontenelle's Post founded in the present-day site of Bellevuemarker in 1806. It was first mentioned in fur trading records in 1823. Fort Lisa, founded by Manuel Lisa near present-day Dodge Parkmarker in North Omaha was founded in 1812, although Lisa had earlier founded posts further up the Missouri in Montana and North Dakota.

Fort Atkinsonmarker, was founded on the Council Bluffmarker in 1819; in 1822 Cabanne's Trading Post was founded nearby on the Missouri Rivermarker. Mormon settlers founded Cutler's Park in 1846, and the town of Bellevuemarker was incorporated in 1853. Nearby Omaha Citymarker was founded in 1854, with Nebraska Citymarker and Kearneymarker incorporated in 1855. The influential towns of Brownvillemarker and Fontanellemarker were founded that year as well. The early village of Lancastermarker, later called Lincoln, was founded in 1856, along with the towns of Saratoga, South Nebraska City and Florence.

Early press

Early print media in the Nebraska Territory served the dual purposes of sharing the news and promoting the area for settlement. In 1860 the Territory had twelve weekly publications, one biweekly and one monthly, with a combined circulation of 9,750. After statehoodmarker in 1867 the newspaper industry expanded greatly

Pioneer print media in the Nebraska Territory
Name Print period Location Notes
Nebraska Palladium and Platte Valley Advocate 1854-55 Bellevuemarker Edited by Thomas Morton
Arrow Omahamarker
Nebraska News Nebraska Citymarker
Nebraskian 1854-1864 Omaha
Nebraska Advertiser 1856 Brownvillemarker Edited by Robert W. Furnas
Huntsman's Echo 1858 Near Sheltonmarker Edited by Joseph E. Johnson, this paper was influential with Oregon Trail pioneers.
Nebraska Republican 1858 Omaha The first paper in the Territory to have mechanical presses, this was later succeeded by the Omaha Republican, and in 1871 absorbed the Omaha Tribune.
Nebraska Farmer 1859 Brownville Robert W. Furnas also published the first agricultural newspaper in the Territory.
Peru Orchardist Perumarker
Daily Telegraph 1860 Omaha The first daily publication in the Territory failed, and in 1861 it was sold to the Nebraskian.
Nebraska Deutsche Zeitung 1861 Nebraska City Published by Frank Renner, this German language paper was circulated nationally and in Germanymarker. It is credited with bringing many German settlers to the Territory.
Daily Herald 1865 Omaha Edited by George L. Miller, this paper was influential in bringing the Union Pacific to Omaha.

Early military posts

With a variety of early fur trading posts, Fort Atkinsonmarker, founded in 1819, was the location of the first military post in what became the Nebraska Territory, as well as its first school. Other posts in the Nebraska Territory included Fort Kearny near present-day Kearney; Fort McPherson near present-day Maxwellmarker; Fort Mitchellmarker near present-day Scottsbluffmarker; Fort Randallmarker, in what is now South Dakota; and Fort Casparmarker, Fort Halleck, Fort Laramiemarker, and Fort Sandersmarker, in what is now Wyoming.


The Nebraska Territory's original boundaries (as specified by its Organic Act) included much of the original Louisiana Purchase; the territory's boundaries were:

Subsequent territory creation

Upon creation, the territory encompassed most of the northern Great Plainsmarker, much of the upper Missouri River basin and the eastern portions of the northern Rocky Mountains. The Nebraska Territory gradually reduced in size as new territories were created in the 1860s.

The Colorado Territory was formed February 28, 1861 from portions of the territory south of 41° N and west of 102°03' W (25° W of Washington, DCmarker) (an area that includes present-day Fort Collinsmarker, Greeleymarker and the portions of Bouldermarker north of Baseline Road.

March 2, 1861 saw the creation of the Dakota Territory. It was made of all of the portions of Nebraska Territory north of 43° N (the present-day Nebraska-South Dakotamarker border), along with the portion of present-day Nebraska between 43° N and the Keya Paha and Niobrara rivers (this land would be returned to Nebraska in 1882). The act creating the Dakota Territory also included provisions granting Nebraska small portions of Utah Territory and Washington Territory — present-day southwestern Wyomingmarker bounded by 41° N, 110°03' W (33° W of Washington, DC), 43° N and the Continental Divide. These portions had not been part of the Louisiana Purchase; rather, they had been part of Oregon Country and became part of the United States in 1846.

On March 3, 1863, the Idaho Territory was formed of all the territory west of 104°03' W (27° W of Washington, DC).

See also


  1. Bristow, D. (1997) A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tale of 19th Century Omaha. Caxton Press.
  2. Federal Writers Project. (1939) Nebraska. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska State Historical Society. p 49.
  3. Federal Writers Project. (1939) Nebraska. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska State Historical Society. p 134.
  4. Federal Writers Project. (1939) Nebraska. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska State Historical Society. p 133.
  5. (n.d.) World Almanac for Kids: Nebraska: Education.

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