The History of Omaha Nebraska - Forgotten Omaha

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Published: 10/26/13, 11:44 PM Pacific Daylight Time

The history of Omaha, Nebraska began before the settlement of the city, with speculators from neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa staking land across the Missouri River illegally as early as the 1840s.

Before it was legal to claim land in Indian Country, William D. Brown was operating the Lone Tree Ferry to bring settlers from Council Bluffs to Omaha. A treaty with the Omaha Tribe allowed the creation of the Nebraska Territory, and Omaha City was founded on July 4, 1854.

With early settlement came claim jumpers and squatters, and the formation of a vigilante law group called the Omaha Claim Club, which was one of many claim clubs across the Midwest. During this period many of the city's founding fathers received lots in Scriptown, which was made possible by the actions of the Omaha Claim Club. The club's violent actions led to the U.S. Supreme Court trial, Baker v. Morton, which led to the end of the organization.

Surrounded by small towns and cities that competed for business from the hinterland's farmers, the city suffered a major setback in the Panic of 1857. Despite this, Omaha quickly emerged as the largest city in Nebraska. After losing the Nebraska State Capitol to Lincoln in 1867, many business leaders rallied and created the Jobbers Canyon in downtown Omaha to outfit farmers in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and further west. Their entrepreneurial success allowed them to build mansions in Kountze Place and the Old Gold Coast neighborhoods.

With the development of the Omaha Stockyards and neighboring packinghouses in the 1870s, several workers' housing areas, including Sheelytown, developed in South Omaha. Its growth happened so quickly that the town was nicknamed the "Magic City".

The latter part of the 19th century also saw the formation of several fraternal organizations, including the formation of Knights of Aksarben. City leaders rallied for the creation of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in 1898. During the Expo, famous madames Anna Wilson and Ada Everleigh were making a good living from the crowds.

At the same time, Boss Tom Dennison compounded the city's vices in the notorious Sporting District, with the full support of eight-term mayor "Cowboy" James Dahlman. Many of these early pioneers are buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery. City leaders created Omaha University in 1908.

With reform administrations in the 1930s and 40s, the city became a meatpacking powerhouse. Several regional beer breweries developed, including Metz, Storz and Krug companies. The city's southern suburb became home to the Strategic Air Command in the late 1940s; in 1950 the Rosenblatt Stadium in South Omaha became home to the College World Series. Labor unrest in the 1930s resulted in organizing of the meatpacking plants by the CIO-FCW, which built an interracial partnership and achieved real gains for the workers for some decades.

After WWII, blacks in Omaha as in other parts of the nation began to press harder for civil rights. Veterans believed they deserved full rights after fighting for the nation. Some organizations had already been formed, but they became more active, leading into the city's Civil Rights movement.

Suburbanization and highway expansion led to white flight to newer housing and development of middle and upper class areas in West Omaha from the 1950s through the 1970s. The historically ethnically diverse areas of North and South Omaha became more concentrated by economics, race and class. These workers suffered dramatic job losses during industrial restructuring that increased rapidly in the 1960s, and poverty became more widespread.

Source Article:,_Nebraska

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