First Nebraska Territorial Legislature

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The First Nebraska Territorial Legislature first met in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 15, 1855. The Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company provided the first meeting place, which was a building "constructed for public purposes". Standing out from the estimated twenty shacks in the young town, it was the first brick building in Omaha, which was founded the year before when the Nebraska Territory was created.[1] Responsible for several important decisions that laid an important foundation for the future statehood for Nebraska, the Nebraska Territorial Legislature made controversial decisions and provided leadership for the territory.

Issues[edit]

The first legislature, along with several subsequent gatherings, drew criticism for a perceived lack of representation of the population south of the Platte River.[2] Legislators from south of the Platte wore red blankets over their shoulders in the first session to indicate their hostility towards the northern legislators.[3]

Although the then current Omaha capitol building, built in 1857-58, was apparently sturdy enough to house legislative sessions for several years and was well located in relation to Nebraska's 1867 population, it was still north of the Platte. Forces from the south launched a major verbal and legal initiative to move the seat of government to their part of the state.[4] The first Legislature was also responsible for chartering Nebraska University in Washington County.[5] Slavery in Nebraska was a topic of the first legislature, where members were largely influenced by events in neighboring Kansas. The first legislature considered an exclusion measure designed to keep former slaves from the territory. After the bill was postponed the issue continued to be raised, ultimately delaying statehood.[6]

Members[edit]

Few of the members had actually spent more than a night in the districts they represented, and most ferried to Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the end of each day for rest. The new territorial governor, Mark W. Izard, was successful at persuading members to adopt Iowa's legislative rules.[7] Omaha members bribed other legislators to keep the capitol in Omaha by offering them lots in their new city. This land, which now wraps around the north and west ends of Downtown Omaha, was called Scriptown.[8]

Although not a member, Reverend W.D. Gage served as the chaplain, and later the legislature returned the favor by naming Gage County after him.[9] Joseph W. Paddock, who had immigrated to the territory from New York in 1854, served as the chief clerk.[10]

Members of the First Nebraska Territorial Legislature incomplete
Name Dates of service Occupation Representing Notes
William Byers
Alfred D. Jones
Samuel Maxwell
Origen D. Richardson
Robert W. Furnas 1856-
Turner M. Marquette 1857–1859
Stephen Friel
Lafayette Nuckolls
Samuel Hitt Elbert 1860-
Henry W. DePuy
William Byers
George L. Miller 1855 1856

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lawrence H. Larsen, Barbara J. Cottrell, Harl A. Dalstrom (2007) Upstream Metropolis: An Urban Biography of Omaha and Council Bluffs. University of Nebraska Press. p 47.
  2. ^ "More about Nebraska statehood, the location of the capital, and the story of the commissioner's homes", Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 12/14/08.
  3. ^ Lawrence H. Larsen, Barbara J. Cottrell, Harl A. Dalstrom (2007) Upstream Metropolis: An Urban Biography of Omaha and Council Bluffs. University of Nebraska Press. p 47.
  4. ^ Lawrence H. Larsen, Barbara J. Cottrell, Harl A. Dalstrom (2007) Upstream Metropolis: An Urban Biography of Omaha and Council Bluffs. University of Nebraska Press. p 47.
  5. ^ "Nebraska University", Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 12/14/08.
  6. ^ Eugene H. Berwanger. (2002) The Frontier Against Slavery: Western Anti-Negro Prejudice and the Slavery Extension Controversy. University of Illinois Press, 2002. p. 120.
  7. ^ Lawrence H. Larsen, Barbara J. Cottrell, Harl A. Dalstrom (2007) Upstream Metropolis: An Urban Biography of Omaha and Council Bluffs. University of Nebraska Press. p 47.
  8. ^ Andreas, A.T. (1882) "Douglas County", History of the State of Nebraska. Chicago, IL: Western Historical Company. p. 841.
  9. ^ "Early Nebraska sermons", Nebraska State Genealogical Society. Retrieved 12/14/08.
  10. ^ "Paddock, Major Joseph W." in Albert Watkins, History of Nebraska: From the Earliest Explorations to the Present Time with Portraits, Maps, and Tables, Vol. III (Lincoln: Western Publishing and Engraving Company, 1913), 506.