We’re going back in time to revisit the history of Omaha and the surrounding areas. From our Omaha Indian Tribes to the Pacific Railroad and the beginning of the Omaha Stockyards. There is a LOT of history here, and if we jump ahead to the late 1950’s, we begin the history of Bronco’s Hamburgers. And unlike so many things from out past, Bronco’s is still here and blessed enough to keep serving our local community. We hope to continue for many years to come. Thank you for your support!
Today, we’re back to the beginning, learning when and how the City of Omaha got it’s name. Where does the word “Omaha” come from, what does it mean and why was the local tribe called “Omaha”?
… History of Omaha
The territory that would eventually become the city of Omaha, Nebraska, was acquired as a part of the Louisiana Purchase, which was completed by Thomas Jefferson in 1803. The open plains of the central United States were, at this time, uncharted lands which held uncertain potential for the developing nation.
Native American groups were the first inhabitants of the region. These groups included the Pawnee, Otoe and Sioux. By the early eighteenth century the Omaha Indians, a group of Indians who shared cultural traditions with the Pawnee, had moved into the vicinity of present-day Omaha. The word “Omaha” means “against the current.” It is speculated that the Omaha Indians were referred to as such due to their earlier, northward movements against the current of the Mississippi River.
On July 21, 1804, William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, passed through the area and noted that the territory would be a good area for the establishment of a trading and fortification outpost. The fur trade played a significant role in the early development of the region.
During their trek west, Mormons established the first non-Native settlements in the region at what would become known as Cutler’s Park. This area served as temporary quarters for individuals as they moved west from June, 1846, until the Spring of 1848. Travelers suffered many deaths during their stay in the area due to the challenging climate, poor living conditions, lack of adequate food and resulting disease.
After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854, the land on the west bank of the Missouri River across from Council Bluffs, Iowa, was opened to settlement and quickly gained the attention of developers. Though the land was not legally surveyed until 1857, Alfred D. Jones surveyed the land for the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company and plotted the land around present-day Capitol Avenue. Businessman Jesse Lowe selected the name of the city as “Omaha City.” On July 4, 1854, a picnic was held on Capitol Hill (the present day location of Central High School) to celebrate the opening of the new territory. By July 11, the first resident of Omaha City, William P. Snowden, had built a crude log structure at Twelfth and Jackson Streets. The structure would eventually become known as the St. Nicholas Hotel and served as an early claim house for settlers. Omaha was officially incorporated by the state legislature on February 2, 1857.
Controversy surrounded the location of the territorial capitol, which would remain in Omaha until the first session of the Nebraska State Legislature in 1867. Citizens of Bellevue, Florence and Omaha, all recognized the potential for economic gain that would result from the seat of government. It was also speculated that such an area would be a prime candidate for the passage of the transcontinental railway.
We’ll continue this article with our next blog post. Stay tuned!