"Times ain't now as they used to was"
There were several frontier issues on the minds of the men of Brownville in August of 1857. Of course there was the Indian problem. The Cheyenne or Sioux, or both, had just finished up murdering several men of two surveying parties out in southwest Nebraska, although, there was some doubt as to whether it was either of these rambunctious tribes. A conspiracy theory was gaining traction that it was actually the Pawnee who just didn't want the credit, and suggested the deed was done by their enemies. At least this was the opinion of the Surveyor General, arguing that the crime could only profit the Pawnee, who had a claim on the lands being surveyed and were somewhat suspicious of the government's intent.
The solution to the Indian Problem, it appears, was to make sedentary dirt farmers of the wandering buffalo hunters. At least this was in view for the Ottawa tribe of Indians residing in Kansas. As of July 31, 1857 the plan was to have the US Senate ratify a treaty with the Ottawa that would divide up their land into family sized farms and declare the newly established agriculturalists full-fledged American citizens. I suspect there would be land left over that could be sold to others and result in a benefit for all, government, settlers, and Ottawa Indians . . . at least from a certain perspective.
Another concern of the frontier was the horse problem. James Coleman opened up his livery in Brownville but soon discovered his business would fare better with mounts and driving horses, and forthwith paid for an ad in the Advertiser to see if any could be had for a generous price. But this interest in horses extended beyond the boundaries of the frontier. The Advertiser couldn't resist in relating to its readers the purchase of a horse in Cincinnati. It was a gray stallion, some fourteen hands high and six years of age. Quite a specimen was Cossack. However, I'm not sure anyone would have wanted the horse on the frontier with all of its Indian problem, as Cossack's singular achievement in life was to have carried a certain Captain Nolan to certain death in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava.
In addition to horses, the men of Brownville needed settlers to grow their town and perhaps fatten their pockets by selling wares and real estate to the newcomers. It was difficult, though, to drum up business in Brownville if settlers couldn't reach town from their homesteads. And the Advertiser made this known to its readers. The forty families who settled in the new (but now nonexistent) town of Saint Frederick, (not far from present day Johnson, Nebraska), traveled to far off Nebraska City to trade rather than come to Brownville which was five miles closer. All because their horses objected to swimming the Little Nemaha River. If the Brownvillians and their neighbors of Nemaha county could settle on paying for a bridge, business would come their way.
I'm not sure this would be an easy task, mining resources from the penniless homesteaders to build a bridge. Just paying for a school house in Brownville, an institution that not only the men but all the ladies deemed necessary for the community's health and future, was literally taxing the limit of what settlers could do. After more than one issue of the Advertiser published the names of men due to pay the school tax, no doubt hoping to shame them into completing their duty, only two citizens had anteed up. "This wont build a house," declared the newspaper, saving the ink of an apostrophe. Though one might think the two payments might have gotten the outhouse in place.
As noted in another blog entry, the men of Brownville were very concerned about pleasing the women. A town can't grow without children, and children can't be born without women, though the Advertiser did report that orphans were being gleefully rounded up in the East for export to the West. But still, even an orphan ultimately needed a mother. And women were in short supply. Just across the river, in Holt county Missouri, an area that had been settled, there were still too few women. A recent census counted 2,663 white males and only 2,432 white females. Supposing that the 279 slaves were mostly male, the odds were against a young man finding a helpmate.
And this is why the schoolhouse was important. Such an institution would attract a mother. And also the streets needed to be safe, which explained why the new owner of the confectionary saloon, Mr. W. Alderman had to report to Judge Samuel Black to plead for clemency for having incited a riot. Furthermore, if anyone thought of abusing a woman, the Advertiser warned, they should pay attention to the news from New Hampshire, wherein one woman, abused by her husband, awaited the night, then sewed her man up in his bed clothes while he was asleep, and then "thrashed him within an inch of his life."
It's hard to know if all the stories related in the Advertiser are true, like the one recounting how Henry Hoffman caught a catfish weighing 120 pounds off the Brownville wharf on August ninth, but the moral lessons are clear: treat women like ladies and boost a frontier town any way you can.
Newspapers of 1857 carried some very serious stories as well as a column of jokes. Today, it's not always clear which variety amuses us more. In any case, this blog is dedicated to analyzing the pages of the Nebraska Advertiser newspaper of 1857. Chime in if you've run across some interesting stories from the time period.