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by Morris W. Werner

Settlers were few and far between when Nemaha County was organized in 1855, but in the next five years many enterprising pioneers took up claims and established settlements along the existing emigrant and military trails. Some of these settlements became thriving, prosperous communities, but some never contained more than one or two houses, perhaps one of which housed a store and/or post office. Indeed, some were "paper towns," existing only in the imagination of the promoters and on a survey map. Railroads were constructed through the county between 1867-70, but only those towns fortunate enough to secure rail accommodations were able to survive and continue to grow. Within a few years, stores, hotels, saw mills, blacksmith and wagon shops closed their doors, and the owners moved to towns along the railroad or retired to their farms. A few post offices, schools and churches struggled on for a few years, but Rural Free Delivery closed many post offices in the early 1900s.

At least twelve ghost towns exist in Nemaha County. A few contain buildings surviving from the Territorial period, but most physical evidence consists of abandoned cemeteries, root cellars and wells or springs.

It is difficult to visualize the excitement and vitality these settlements once exhibited. Emigrant caravans, stage coach and pony express arrivals and departures, freight trains bound for Denver City or Utah, and droves of livestock headed for Western ranges were common events. Farmers came to town to sell or barter their produce, collect their mail and discuss politics or the weather. Hotels were filled with land seekers and livery stables did a thriving business. Grist mills and sawmills prospered where water power was available; horse or steam powered mills served in other areas. Liquor was a commodity much in demand by freighters and local "members of the legal profession who practiced at the bar." Wives and families soon joined their husbands on the frontier, and schools and churches made their appearance.

Hot political topics included the slavery question and selection of a county seat. Richmond, located two miles north of Seneca on the South Fork of the Nemaha, was designated the first county seat by the Territorial Legislature. It was founded by Cyrus Dolman and other pro-slavery men, but the majority of settlers in the county were free-state in sentiment. In the elections which followed, Seneca won out over Richmond, Central City, Wheatland, and other contenders.

Several settlements were colonized by Easterners, at least partially motivated by free-state sentiments. These colonies were loosely organized groups of related families and neighbors. Galesburg, Illinois, provided the nucleus of settlers at America City and Centralia. Albany, two miles north of Sabetha, was populated by families from Castle Creek and Painted Post, N.Y. They named their town after the capital of their native state. Some of these colonists were professionally trained in medicine, law and education. A few of the first settlers also found leadership opportunities in the Union Army during the Civil War. When these men returned to their homes at the close of the War, they were accompanied by other veterans seeking homesteads and business opportunities in the new state.

Freighters, stage drivers and pony express riders found Nemaha County attractive, and many retired to farms and hamlets along the routes they had traveled during their working days. Many salvaged stage coaches, harness and weapons and maintained them in mint condition.

Two of the ghost towns profiled below were actually located in the western edge of Brown County. They are included because they were colonized by settlers from Nemaha County.

ALBANY 1857, at center of S35 T1S R14E, on Elwood and Marysville Territorial Road in 1859.
P.O. 1858, John Shumway, postmaster
Hotel 1858, Edwin Miller, prop., bldg. moved to Sabetha 1871.
Store 1860; schoolhouse; an original frame house remains.
Cemetery: USGS Sabetha Quad.
Leadership: Elihu Whittenhall, N. H. Rising, George Graham (Capt. in 7th Kansas Cavalry), J. E. Price (Union Army veteran and medal winner), Samuel and Emma Burke Slosson (Mrs. Slosson was first woman M.D. in Nemaha Co.), John Tyler, Arthur W. Williams (Capt. in 8th Kansas Vol. Infantry).

AMERICA CITY 1857; on Parallel Road from Atchison to Denver, 1859.
P.O. 1859, George Randel, postmaster
Store 1857, Samuel Dickson, prop.
Hotel; schoolhouse; United Brethern Church, "Uncle Dan" Rose, pastor.
Leadership: Dr. N. B. McKay, P. A. Shepherd, Peter Hamilton.
Jacob Jacobia, a freighter on the Plains, drove a hack on the Atchison/Louisville Post Road c1862.
Cemetery: USGS Havensville Quad.

ASH POINT 1857, center of S8 T2S RllE on Ft. Leavenworth and Ft. Laramie Military Road.
P.O. 1858, Horace Bemus, postmaster.
"Uncle John's Grocery," John O'Laughlin, prop. His well remains; a permanent historical marker was dedicated Aug. 1941.

CAPIOMA 1856, center of S23 T3S R14E, on Ft. Leavenworth and Ft. Laramie Military Road. Named for Kickapoo Indian chief.
P.O. 1857, David Magill, postmaster.
Hotel 1857, Walter Gage, prop. (Used as residence in 1916)
Sawmill and Blacksmith shop c1865, William Robinson, prop.
Cemetery: USGS Woodlawn Quad.
Leadership: Dr. J. W. Graham, Union Army veteran, who married Alma, daughter of N. H. Rising; moved to Wetmore c1870, and was Wetmore's first mayor, living in 1930.

CENTRAL CITY 1855, S31 T1S R13E, about 2 m. s.e. of Baker's Ford
P.O. 1858, Hiram H. Lanham, postmaster
Store 1855, Benjamin Shaffer, prop., sold to H. H. Lanham and J. L. Newton.
Baptist Church, Rev. Thomas Newton, pastor.
Founded by William Dodge. J. L. Newton, son of Rev. Newton, was a freighter from Atchison to Ft. Kearny in 1860s.
Eli Williams' family settled 2 m. east in 1855, family cemetery shown on USGS Oneida Quad.
A party of Mormons camped at Murphy Lake in Aug. 1855; perhaps 40 died from cholera and are buried nearby.
FARMINGTON c1856, located 1 m. s.w. of Baker's Ford on St. Joseph and Calif. Road. Rut swales still visible near spring. Store, hotel and blacksmith shop, Rosalvin Perham and J. E. Perley, props.

LINCOLN 1860, crossing of S. Fork Nemaha River at mouth of Illinois Creek
P.O. 1861, Luther Jones, postmaster
Founded by J. E. Hocker. Two stores, sawmill and blacksmith shop.

LOG CHAIN 1860 SW1/4 Sl9 T3S R14E.
P.O. 1864, John Hazzard, postmaster
Pony Express Station 1860 still stands, N. H. Rising, prop. His son, Don, was an Express rider at age 16.
Robert Sewell, alias "Old Bob Ridley" was a popular driver for the Overland Stage Co. He moved to Wetmore c1870.

MOORESTOWN/URBANA 1854 at Baker's Ford, S. Fork Nemaha River.
Urbana P.O. 1855 John Jett, postmaster.
W. W. Moore and Walter Beeles built a toll bridge and felled a large tree at the ford to force use of their bridge. High water carried the tree downstream and destroyed their bridge.

PACIFIC CITY 1856, located at center of S24 T3S R14E.
Hotel, Orrin Gage, prop., torn down 1902. A good well on a high hill was the inspiration for construction of the hotel.

Pleasant Spring P.O. 1856, David Locknane, postmaster
Granada P.O. 1864, William Letson, postmaster
Granada Hotel 1859, N. H. Rising, prop. David Locknane, prop. 1860-.
Store 1856, Manaoh Terrill, prop.
Drugstore, hardware store, schoolhouse, lodge hall and about 10 houses.
William Letson, merchant and farmer, had been a messenger on COC&PP Express and Overland Stage 1859-63. Moved to Horton in 1880s.
Cemetery: USGS Wetmore Quad.

POWHAT(T)AN 1856, center of S32 T5S R15E about 3 m. n.e. of Wetmore.
P.O. 1857, Russell Newell, postmaster
Cemetery: USGS Wetmore Quad.
Post office relocated to Wetmore in 1867; another town of the same name was located about 10 m. n.e. c1887 when the Rock Island Railroad was constructed. A road connected Kennekuk and Powhattan along the south edge of the Kickapoo Reserve.

RICHMOND 1854, located on Ft. Leavenworth and Ft. Laramie Military Road at crossing of S. Fork Nemaha River. First county seat of Nemaha County.
P.O. 1855, James Thompson, postmaster
Store 1855, Albert G. Woodward, prop., who also operated a hotel which was constructed by H. H. Lanham.
Founded by Cyrus Dolman.
A cache of gold was buried near the crossing c1854 by a returning gold seeker who feared robbery by "border ruffians." It has never been recovered.

TYLER'S c1860, located at crossing of Grasshopper (Cedar?) Creek 2 m. s.w. of present Fairview. Perhaps Gilliam Co. campsite, May 25, 1844.
P. O. 1864, John Tyler, postmaster; Tyler family cemetery is shown on USGS Fairview Quad.

SABETHA 1858 located on St. Joseph and California Road.
P.O. 1858, Arthur W. Williams, postmaster.
Hotel 1859, Arthur W. Williams, prop, was a station on the Overland Stage, and provided stable for stage teams.
Store 1859, N. H. Rising and George Lyons, props.

SENECA 1857 located on Ft. Leavenworth/Ft. Laramie Military Road at crossing of S. Fork Nemaha River.
P. O. 1857, John E. Smith, postmaster.
Hotel 1857, John E. Smith, prop., home station for Overland Stage and Pony Express. Hotel demolished c1972.
Store 1857, Finley Lappin, prop.
Hotel c1860, John Doyle, prop.
Blacksmith Shop 1857, Levi Hensel, prop., he contracted services for Overland Stage Co., and was correspondent for New York Times.
Ed "Sandy" Sterling, a driver on the Overland Stage, retired to Seneca in early 1870s and operated a livery stable known as the "Overland Stable" for 25 years.
Hiram Mathews, a freighter on the Plains, retired to Seneca and married a niece of John Doyle.

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