Nebraska Territorial Legislature

The Nebraska Territorial Legislature was held from January 16, 1855 until 1865 in Omaha City, Nebraska Territory.

Nebraska Territorial Legislature
Nebraska Territory
HousesLower: House of Representatives
Upper: Council
Succeeded byNebraska Legislature
Seats39 (13 Council; 26 House)
Meeting place
Omaha City

Major issuesEdit


In 1854 the Kansas–Nebraska Act created the Nebraska Territory, overturning the Missouri Compromise by allowing legislatures of the Nebraska and Kansas territories to determine whether to permit or abolish slavery. Slavery was a contentious issue for the territorial legislature between the creation of the Territory in 1854 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861.[1][2]

State CapitolEdit

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 territory legislators to keep the capital in Omaha. Their aggressive efforts to secure land to give away to legislators led to the platting of Scriptown. However, their bid failed, and in 1865 the state capitol moved to Lincoln.



The new legislature immediately passed the Free Public School Act of 1855, which created free public schools for children across the territory. Positions for a territorial superintendent and county school superintendents to be elected by popular vote were also created. County superintendents were supposed to organize school districts and levy property taxes to support schools; however, not every locale levied the taxes or built schools.[3]

The first incorporated city in Nebraska, Nebraska City, was granted its charter by a special act in 1855.[4] In 1855, the Omaha Claim Club imposed their will on the territorial legislature, forcing the passage of a territorial law granting 320 acres (1.3 km2) per settler, they doubled the federally imposed limit of 160 acres (0.6 km2).[5]


In January 1856, the territorial legislature chartered the Bank of Florence, which failed three years later.[6]


On February 11 the territorial legislature gave permission to a group of citizens to found the University of Nebraska at Saratoga, Nebraska. However, when they did not complete the task of meeting in Saratoga and establishing a campus within one year they lost their permission to charter.[7]


In January, 1858 a group of representatives illegally moved the 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 City, 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.[8]


In early 1860 the territorial legislature authorized a special election to consider forming a state constitution, which did not pass.[9]


The territorial legislature had a variety of powers, including granting every incorporated town or city its charter, which lasted through the 1864 session, when the first general incorporation act was passed and signed by the governor.[10]


Six years later, on January 9, 1866 the territorial Governor Alvin Saunders urged the Legislature to consider statehood.[11]

Municipal incorporationsEdit

The territorial legislature had the sole power of incorporating every municipality throughout the territory until 1864. A number of incorporations existed only on paper and were never actually settled. In 1864, the first general incorporation act was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor which allowed county commissioners to incorporate towns.[12]

Date of charter Name County Notes
March 2, 1857 Nebraska City Otoe
March 5, 1857 Bellevue Sarpy Then part of Douglas
March 7, 1857 De Soto Washington
March 10, 1857 Florence Douglas
March 14, 1857 Blackbird City Burt
March 14, 1857 Brownville Nemaha
March 14, 1857 Chester Lancaster
March 14, 1857 Elizabeth Dodge and Loup
March 14, 1857 Fontenelle Washington
March 14, 1857 Plattsmouth Cass
March 14, 1857 Tekemah Burt
March 15, 1855 Carlisle Greene Greene County became Seward
March 15, 1855 Wyoming Otoe
March 15, 1855 Lawrence York
March 16, 1855 Jalape Dodge
March 16, 1855 Kearney City Otoe Merged with Nebraska City
March 16, 1855 Margaritta sic Lancaster
January 22, 1856 Elkhorn City Douglas
January 22, 1856 Kenosha Cass
January 22, 1856 Nemaha City Nemaha
January 25, 1856 Archer Richardson
January 25, 1856 Askatope Otoe
January 25, 1856 La Platte, Nebraska Sarpy Then in Douglas County
January 25, 1856 Wyoming Otoe
January 26, 1856 Decatur Burt
January 26, 1856 Rock Bluffs Cass
January 26, 1856 South Nebraska City Otoe
February 2, 1857 Omaha City Dodge
February 10, 1857 Cuming City Washington
February 10, 1857 Salem Richardson
February 10, 1857 Waterville Cass
February 10, 1857 Woodsville City Cass
February 11, 1857 Cassville Dakota
February 11, 1857 Leman Gage
February 13, 1857 Addison Knox
February 13, 1857 Bleyburg Dakota
February 13, 1857 Bradford Cass
February 13, 1857 Bow City Dixon
February 13, 1857 California City Otoe
February 13, 1857 Dayton Clay
February 13, 1857 Dewit sic Cuming
February 13, 1857 Delaware City Otoe
February 13, 1857 Iron Bluffs Sarpy Originally located in Douglas
February 13, 1857 Jacksonville Pawnee
February 13, 1857 La Loup Loup
February 13, 1857 Logan Washington
February 13, 1857 Louisville Cass
February 13, 1857 Marietta Otoe
February 13, 1857 Papillion City, Nebraska Sarpy Originally in Douglas
February 13, 1857 St. John Dakota
February 13, 1857 Spring Grove City Otoe
December 31, 1857 Nebraska City Otoe Consolidated Nebraska City, South Nebraska City, and Kearney City
December 31, 1857 Omadi Dakota
December 31, 1857 Greggsport Otoe
January 5, 1858 North Rock Bluffs Cass
January 6, 1858 Monroe Monroe Monroe County was merged with Platte County
October 2, 1858 Columbus Platte
October 19, 1858 North Bend Dixon
October 19, 1858 Wacapana Cedar
October 20, 1858 St. Helena Cedar
October 21, 1858 Dakota Dakota
October 28, 1858 Beatrice Gage
October 28, 1858 West Point Cuming
November 1, 1858 Rulo Richardson
November 2, 1858 Fremont
November 3, 1858 Rock Bluffs City Cass
November 3, 1858 St. Stephen Richardson
November 4, 1858 Bon Homme City Knox
November 4, 1858 Fort Calhoun Washington
November 4, 1858 Mahala City Butler
November 4, 1858 Parkersburg Monroe Monroe was merged with Platte
November 4, 1858 Pawnee City Pawnee
January 4, 1860 Kearney City Kearney
January 4, 1860 Table Rock Pawnee
January 10, 1860 Arago Richardson
January 13, 1860 Dixon Dixon
January 13, 1860 Falls City Richardson
January 13, 1860 Peru Nemaha


  1. ^ Works Progress Administration. (1939) "Immigration," Negroes in Nebraska. Retrieved 9/20/07.
  2. ^ Bristow, D. (2002) A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tale of 19th Century Omaha. Caxton Press.
  3. ^ "Pioneer Children: School", - State of Nebraska. Retrieved 9/17/10.
  4. ^ (1912) Bulletin. Issues 2. Nebraska State Legislature. p. 7.
  5. ^ Morton, J. and Watkins, A. (1918) "Nebraska Claim Meeting," History of Nebraska from the Earliest Explorations of the Trans-Mississippi Region. Lincoln, NE: Western Publishing and Engraving Company. p. 188. Retrieved 7/15/07.
  6. ^ "Today in Nebraska History", KMTV. Retrieved 9/17/10.
  7. ^ (1857) "An Act to incorporate the University of Nebraska at Saratoga, Nebraska City." Laws, joint resolutions, and memorials passed at the regular session of the General Assembly of the Territory of Nebraska. p. 215.
  8. ^ Bristow, D. (1997) A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tale of 19th Century Omaha. Caxton Press.
  9. ^ "Today in Nebraska History", KMTV. Retrieved 9/17/10.
  10. ^ (1912) Bulletin. Issues 2. Nebraska State Legislature. p. 7.
  11. ^ "Today in Nebraska History", KMTV. Retrieved 9/17/10.
  12. ^ (1912) Bulletin. Issues 2. Nebraska State Legislature. p. 7.

External linksEdit