1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nebraska
NEBRASKA, a state just N. of the centre of the U.S.A., lying approximately between 40° and 43° N. and between 18° 18′ W., and 27° W. from Washington. It is bounded on the N. by South Dakota, on the E. by Iowa and a corner of Missouri, on the S. by Kansas, on the S. and W. by a corner of Colorado, and on the W. by Wyoming. The Missouri river extends along the eastern and north-eastern border. The extreme length of the state is about 430 m., and extreme breadth about 210 m. The area is 77,520 sq. m., of which 712 are water surface.
Physical Features.—The state lies partly in the physiographic province of the Great Plains (covering more than four-fifths of its area) and partly in that of the Prairie Plains, and slopes gently from the N.W. to the S.E. The altitudes of extreme geographical points are as follows: Rulo, in the S.E. corner of the state, 842 ft.; Dakota city, in the N.E., 1102; Benkelman, in the S.W. in Dundy county, 2968; Kimball, in the S.W. in Kimball county, 4697; Harrison, in the N.W. corner, 4849 ft. There are three physiographic subdivisions; the foot-hills (and Bad Lands), the sand-hills and the prairie—all three being portions of three great corresponding regions of the Great Plains and Prairie Plains provinces.
The western portion of the state lies in the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountain system, and is much rougher than western Kansas. The surface of western Nebraska is characterized by high, barren tablelands, broken by canyons, dotted with buttes, and dominated by some bold and lofty ridges. Pine Ridge, a picturesque escarpment of the Great Plains, cuts across the N.W. corner of Nebraska from Wyoming into South Dakota. A ridge of low hills and bluffs, often precipitous, marked by buttes and deeply cut in places by canyons, it is the most striking surface feature of the state. The altitude in this region varies from 3500 to 5000 ft. In the fork of the North and South Platte are the Wild Cat Mountains with contours rising to 5300 ft., in which Wild Cat Mountain, long reported as the highest point in the state, attains 5038 ft., Hogback Mountain 5082 ft., and various other hills—Gabe Rock (5006), Big Horn Mountain (4718), Coliseum Rock (5050), Scotts Bluff (4662) &c.—rise to heights of 4500 to 5000 ft. In the extreme N.W. the White river and Hat Creek have carved canyons in deep lacustrine deposits, creating fantastic cliffs and buttes, bare of vegetation, gashed with drainage channels, and baked by the sun. The buttes—bare, pyramidal or conical, flat-topped, precipitous hills, and often fantastic, towering pinnacles—are rather widely distributed through the foot-hill region. They are never more than 600 to 1000 ft. above the surrounding country. Nature is not grand in any part of Nebraska, but the Bad Lands are imposing, and in the wooded foot-hills there is an abundance of bold and attractive scenery, particularly in Sioux county, and in Cherry county around Valentine and on the canyon of the Snake river. East of the Bad Lands is the sand-hill region, which includes an area of possibly 20,000 sq. m. The sand-hills proper are scattered over an area of perhaps 15,000 sq. m., between the meridians of 98° and 103° W. long., lying mainly N. of the Platte; though there are some along the Republican river. In places they rise in tiers, one above another, like miniature mountains, and are 200 to 300 ft. high; but in general they are very low (25-50 ft. high) and are scattered over a plain. Their present contours are wholly the result of wind action. Save in rare instances, however, they have long ceased to be shifting dunes; for, with the cessation of prairie fires and the increase of settlement, they have become well grassed over and stable; although sand-draws, and even occasional “blow-outs” scooped by the winds in the summits or sides of the hills are still characteristic landmarks. All about and inter-penetrating the foot-hill and sand-hill regions are the prairies, which include three-fourths of the state. They are sometimes characteristically flat over wide areas, but are usually gently rolling. Stream valleys and bottom lands are the conspicuous modifying feature of the prairie region; but in general, owing to the gentle slope of the streams and the great breadth of the plains, erosion has been slight; and indeed the streams, overloaded in seasonal freshets, are building up their valley floors. The water-partings are characteristically level uplands, often with shallow depressions, once lakes, and some of them still so. The valleys of the greatest streams are huge shallow troughs. The valley floor of the North Platte in the foot-hills, the flood-plain of an older river, is in places 700 ft. or more below the bounding tableland, and 10 to 15 m. wide; the present flood-plain being from 1 to 4 m. in width. Hundreds of small tributaries to the greater streams (especially along the Republican and the Logan) complicate and beautify the landscape. No farming country is richer in quiet and diversified scenic charm than the prairies of the eastern half of the state. The Missouri is noteworthy for high bluffs cut by ravines, which border it almost continuously on at least one side. In the foot-hills there are typical canyons, as along the Platte forks, and in the northern edge of the sand-hills. Those of the upper Republican are the largest, those of the Bad Lands are the most peculiar; and the Niobrara tributary system is the most developed.
Rivers.—The Missouri skirts the eastern border for perhaps 500 m. It is not navigated, and save at Sioux City and Omaha serves practically no economic purposes, irrigation being unnecessary in the counties on which it borders. Its bluffs, cut for the most part in the loess but at places in the rock, are frequently from 100 to 200 ft. high. At Vermilion, South Dakota, its alluvial plain, 1131 ft. above the sea, is 330 ft. above the mouth of the Nemaha. The current is always rapid and heavily loaded with sediment, and its axis is forever shifting. Large areas of soil are thus shifted back and forth between Nebraska and the bordering states, to the encouragement of border lawlessness and uncertainty of titles; some portions E. of the thread and apparently well within Iowa remain under the jurisdiction of Nebraska, or vice versa; and Yankton has been seriously threatened with a sudden transfer from the South Dakota to the Nebraska side. The Platte system is also heavily loaded with sediment in Nebraska. The North and South forks both rise in Colorado; each, especially the latter, has a rapid primary descent, and a very gradual fall down the foot-hills of the Great Plains. Across Nebraska it maintains a remarkably straight course and an extraordinarily even gradient (about 6 ft. per mile). In the spring freshets it is a magnificent stream, but in summer its volume greatly shrinks, and it is normally a broad, shallow, sluggish, stream, flowing through interlacing channels among the sand-bars it heaps athwart its course. The underflow is probably much greater than the summer surface flow in volume. The Loup system is remarkable for the even dip of its parallel feeders, which once joined the Platte separately, until the latter banked up its deposits across the mouths of their more sluggish currents. The Republican and South Platte—the former an intermittent stream—suffer in their flow from the drain made upon their waters in Colorado for irrigation. The upper course of the Niobrara above the Keya Paha is in a narrow gorge. Its immediate bluffs and the shores of some of its tributaries, notably the Snake, are modified by cañons. This system is also notable among Nebraska streams for a number of pretty water-falls. The White river, heading on Pine Ridge, falls 1100 ft. in 20 m. Some streams wholly dry up in the dry seasons, and in the foot-hills and sand-hills there are a few that disappear by sinking or evaporation.
Surface Water.—Swamps and bogs, apart from purely temporary weather ponds, are confined to a few restricted regions of the Missouri river bottoms and the prairies of the S.E. There are some cut-offs or oxbow lakes along the Missouri, and many lakelets originally such are scattered along the Platte, Elkhorn, Big Blue and other rivers. Scores of lakes are scattered about the heads of streams rising in the sand-hills, especially in Cherry county. Some of them are fresh and some alkaline. Springs also are numerous in the sand-hills, where they form considerable streams. They often flow with force and are known locally from this peculiarity as “artesian” springs, or sometimes, from this and their large size, as “mound” springs. The state fish-hatchery is on springs at South Bend; at Long Pine springs of large flow supply the town and railway shops with water, and led to the establishment here of Chautauqua grounds.
Underground Water.—The so-called blowing-wells are peculiar. They occur over much of the state, but most frequently S. of the Platte, and are evidently sensitive to barometric conditions; alternately “blowing” or “sucking” as these vary; so that, in cold weather water-pipes may be frozen 100 or more feet below the surface of the ground. Atmospheric pressure is probably the principal cause of their action; they are therefore termed “weather wells” in some localities. Nearly all counties have a practically inexhaustible supply of ground water. Well-depths vary from 15 to 20 ft. in the stream valleys and from 30 to 35 ft. on the loess prairies to 100-400 ft. in the western foot-hill region and isolated prairie areas. Artesian water is also available in many parts of the state. At Niobrara, in Knox county, a well 656 ft. deep, drilled in 1896, yielded for a time 2500 gallons per minute at 95-℔ pressure (in 1903 1900 gallons at 65-℔ pressure), and furnishes power for a flour-mill and municipal water and electric lighting works; the pressure forces the water about 210 ft. above the mouth of the well, i.e. to a height of 1450 ft. Another (1430 ft. deep), in the environs of Omaha, supplies a daily flow of 1,100,000 gallons under a pressure of 15 ℔. In some small and exceptional regions the water is very alkaline, and in the counties of the south-east it is so generally saline that it is difficult, below 150 ft., to avoid an inflow of salt water. Saline wells at Lincoln (2463, 1050 and 570 ft. deep) and at Beatrice (1260 ft.) are notable in this regard.
Geology.—The eastern part of the state is covered with a thick mantle of Quaternary (Pleistocene), and the greatest part of the western portion with very thick deposits of Miocene and Pliocene (Tertiary). To the Pleistocene belong the alluvium, loess and glacial drift, and in part the sand-hills. The drift covers the eastern fifth of the state. In striking contrast to Iowa, the Nebraska deposit is very thin, seldom thicker than 1 or 2 ft. Above the drift there is usually a heavy covering of loess or “bluff deposit” (particularly typical in the neighbourhood of Omaha and Council Bluffs). Though thin and worn out in places, it averages probably 100 ft., and is often as much as 200 ft. in thickness, and runs diagonally across the state from the N.E. to the Colorado inset. The opinion that it is of aqueous origin (and probably dates from the close of the glacial time) has the weight of authority. It was spread by the rivers: some evidences of wind action may be attributed to a later period. The sand-hills, which overlap the loess N. of the Platte, are probably mainly derived from the Arikaree, but probably also in part from the early Pleistocene. West of 102° long. there are beds several hundred feet thick of late Tertiary sands and clays. The Arikaree (Miocene) and Ogallala (Pliocene) formations of the North Loup beds are superficial over much of the western half of the state, the former to the N., the latter to the S. The buttes are characteristically Arikaree or Gering formations topping Brule clay. The same is true of at least considerable parts of Pine Ridge. In the Bad Lands there are scanty outcrops of the Chadron formation (known also as “Titanotherium beds”), the oldest of the Tertiary beds. The thick superficial coverings over the state make difficult the determination of the underlying strata. There are only very scanty outcrops except along the rivers. No Archean rocks are exposed in Nebraska, and the sedimentary formations are undisturbed in situ. The Palaeozoic era is represented only by the Pennsylvanian series of the Upper Carboniferous and a scanty strip of Kansas-Nebraska Permian, and is confined to the S.E. counties. But, though small in area, the Carboniferous is by far the most important formation as regards mineral resources within the state. It is buried probably 2000 or 3000 ft. in central Nebraska, outcropping again only in the Rocky Mountains. Upon it, in the trough thus formed, rest conformably the basal strata of the Cretaceous; the Jurassic and Triassic being wholly absent (unless in the extreme north-west). The E. limit of the Cretaceous extends across the state from N. to S. between 98° and 99° W. long. Its groups include the Dakota formation, characterized by a very peculiar rusty sandstone, and the Benton, both of which are rather widely accessible and heavy; the Niobrara; the Pierre shales, which apparently underlie about three-quarters of the state in a deep and heavy bed; and, in the extreme west, the Laramie. There are almost no Cretaceous outcrops except on the streams, especially the Niobrara, Republican and Platte rivers—and in the Bad Lands. The superficial Miocene and Pliocene deposits in the west, above referred to, are underlaid by the White river groups of the Oligocene, whose outcrops of Brule clay and Chadron formation also have been mentioned. The Bad Lands are essentially nothing but fresh-water mud excessively weathered and eroded. They are often intersected by dikes of chalcedony, formerly mistaken for lava. The Bad Lands and the Arikaree are famous fossil fields, the latter being the source of the Daemonelix, or “Devil’s cork-screw,” a large spiral fossil, apparently a lacustrine alga. It was once generally supposed that the Pliocene epoch in Nebraska was distinguished by the activity of geysers; but the so-called “geyserite” now known commonly and correctly as “natural pumice” and “volcanic ash,” which is found in the Oligocene and later formations, has no connexion whatever with geysers, but is produced by the shattering of volcanic rock. It occurs widely in Nebraska and adjoining states.
Minerals.—Mineral resources are decidedly limited; the total value of the mineral output (excluding coal) in 1907 was $1,383,916, of which $953,432 was the value of clay products, $324,239 of stone, and $54,227 of sand and gravel. The state, however, is particularly rich in good clays, which are probably its greatest mineral resource. Calcite of excellent quality is the commonest mineral. Gravel is widely obtainable, and sand of the finest quality is available in inexhaustible quantities, and is an important article of export. Flint (valuable for railway ballast) occurs in immense quantities about Wymore and Blue Springs. The underground salt water flow promised once to be a resource of value, especially in the vicinity of Lincoln, but has proved of little or no value in comparison with the great salt-beds of Kansas. A native plaster is yielded by the Arikaree and Ogallala rocks, but though otherwise of excellent qualities it is ruined by slight exposure to the water. A diatomaceous earth in central Nebraska, occurring especially in the region of Loup, is a good polishing powder, and is used for packing steam pipes. Limonite in the form of ochre occurs in considerable quantity. Of building stones limestones are the most abundant and important, the best comes from the Benton beds and when “green” can be sawed into blocks. The Dakota formation, though its sand-stones are in general coarse or otherwise inferior, yields some of splendid quality. Its clays, which are of all colours, are the most valuable of the state. The finest building stone is a beautiful green quartzite rock of dense, fine texture and lasting quality. It is related to the Ogallala beds and occurs only in small areas. The quarries and clay pits of the state are mainly in the Carboniferous region of the S.E. Cretaceous lignite occurs in small quantities in the N.E., and peat more widely. The Carboniferous formations carry only thin seams of coal, never thicker than about 2 ft., and rarely readily accessible, and they can never be of more than small and merely local importance.
Flora.—Nebraska lies partly in the arid, or Upper Sonoran, and partly in the humid, or Carolinian, area of the Upper Austral life-zone; the divisional line being placed by the United States Biological Survey at about 100° W. long. The most marked characteristic of Nebraskan vegetation is its immigrant character, and the state has been called “one of the finest illustrations of the commingling of contiguous species to be found anywhere in America” (C. E. Bessey). Immigrant species have even come from Texas and New Mexico, from the Dakotas and the Rockies. From the last-named various species have crept two-thirds of the way across the state, one (the buffalo berry) wholly covers it, and some have barely crossed into the border foot-hills from Wyoming. A very few trees and shrubs, and some grasses, are strictly endemic to the plains and to Nebraska. Four floral regions lying in north to south belts across the state, and closely corresponding to—though in boundaries by no means coinciding with—its great topographic divisions are distinguished in the regions of the Missouri border, the prairies, sand-hills and foot-hills. In 1896 some 3196, and by 1905 fully 3300 species had been listed, “representing every branch and nearly every class of the vegetable kingdom” (C. E. Bessey). There are at least 64 trees and at least 77 shrubs growing native in the state; but of their joint number a mere half-dozen or so can be classed as strictly endemic. Small woods of broad-leaf trees (and red cedars) grow very generally along all the water-courses of the state; and coniferous species grow along Pine Ridge and the Wild Cat Mountains. In the East, various trees are readily grown on the uplands; in the West the honey-locust, the Osage orange and Russian mulberry for windbreaks; the green ash, and red cedar are perhaps the most valuable drought resisting species. The conifers are spreading naturally. In the sand-hills the sand-bar willow of the rivers and the cottonwood growing naturally, evidence the good conditions of moisture; and the forestation of much of the region is undoubtedly possible. Forest reserves were established on the Dismal river in 1902 and millions of seedlings had been grown by 1906 for transplantation in Nebraska and other states of the Great Plains. Arbor Day (the 10th of April) was instituted by the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture in 1872 at the instance of Sterling Morton, later secretary of agriculture of the United States (see Arbor Day). It has been yearly observed by the public schools of the state, and no state has done more than Nebraska for the forestation of its waste and prairie lands. In such a purely agricultural state a large wooded area is not desired. Plums, grapes and the dwarf “sand-cherry” (Prunus demissa) of the sand-hills are prominent among many wild fruits. The flora is decidedly rich in species as compared with other states, but less so in the number of individuals. Grasses are perhaps the most noteworthy vegetable forms. Nebraska claims a greater variety of native hay and forage species than grow in any other state of the Union. No less than 200 grasses, at least 154 being wild or commonly cultivated, had been listed in 1904. Of the total 200 species 150 (130 indigenous) are valuable for forage, 34 (20 indigenous) are classed economically as weeds, 10 are non-indigenous cereals and 6 are ornamental. The short buffalo-grass was originally everywhere abundant, but it had practically disappeared by 1890 from the eastern half of the state, and since then has steadily become more restricted in habitat. The native prairie grasses have been in considerable part displaced by grasses introduced from more humid regions. Weeds are very numerous (about 125); and some, notably the sand-bur (Solanum rostratum), cockle-bur, and tumble-weeds among indigenous, and the Russian thistle (Salsola tragus) and purslane among non-indigenous species, are agricultural pests. Nothing can surpass in beauty the rank grasses and bright flowers that grow on the lowlands and rolling uplands of a virgin prairie—now hardly to be found in the state. The common sunflower (the most conspicuous weed of the state) and allied flowers, which spring up in myriads even in the midst of unbroken prairie wherever this is disturbed, line the roads with yellow bands from horizon to horizon, enclose the broken fields and choke waste places.
Fauna.—The fauna of the state is not known with the same thoroughness and detail as the flora, but it too is varied. This is notably true of birds and of insects. Of the latter there are probably 12,000 to 15,000 species, including 140 butterflies, at least 180 grasshoppers, several hundred bees, &c. The so-called “grass hoppers,” true locusts, have done great damage at times in Nebraska. About a third of all the species known in the United States are found within the state or close to its borders, and of these, 9 or 10 are so common that their increase under conditions favourable to their development may be a danger. Such conditions are found in dry years, unfavourable to their chief parasitic enemies, favourable to their own breeding, and the cause of their migrations. There were locust plagues in 1874, 1876 and 1877. Fungus parasites have been used with some, but on the whole rather slight, success, and mechanical appliances with perhaps greater success, in combating these pests. Birds are more effective. As in the case of plants, western, eastern, northern and southern avian species meet in Nebraska. In 1905 some 415 to 420 species had been found within its borders, and more than half of these were known to nest in the state; 120 had been counted in the winter. The lakes of the sand-hills are the breeding-place—less so as settlement increases—of myriads of water-fowl. Before the advent of the white man Nebraska was full of wild mammals, the buffalo, elk, black and white tailed deer, antelope, bears, timber wolves, panthers (pumas), lynx, otter and mink being common. Almost all that remain are black bears, foxes, coyotes (prairie wolves), mink, musk-rats, raccoons and prairie dogs (or gophers). Antelope were not uncommon in the west and northwest until after 1890. The coyote is still so common even in the east as to be a nuisance to the farmer; in 1907 a bounty law was in force which provided for the payment of a state bounty of $5, on every grey wolf, $1·25 on every coyote and $1 on every lynx (wild cat). A few rodents have increased in numbers; the prairie dog especially is a pest in the alfalfa fields of the arid lands as are pocket-gophers at places in the east).
Climate.—The climate of Nebraska is typically inland or continental; i.e. it is characterized by “winters of considerable severity, summers of unusual warmth, rainfall in limited quantities, marked and sudden changes of temperature, large seasonal and daily temperature ranges, and dry, salubrious atmosphere, with a small percentage of cloudiness, and a large percentage of sunshine.” The average wind velocity for the High Plains of Nebraska and adjoining states is about 10 to 12 m.; 25 m. is not uncommon; and a velocity of 40 m. and over is recorded a half-dozen or more times every year. In spring velocities of 15 to 20 m. are common. The average velocity of winds for the entire state for 11 years preceding 1906 was 9·8 m. per hour. The prevailing directions are those common to a large part of the western Mississippi valley. The prevailing wind of the year is N.W.; but in the spring, the summer and much of the autumn its predominance is greatly reduced or overcome by S. and S.W. winds blowing from the Gulf of Mexico (but deflected by the rotation of the earth). Sometimes these winds blow in the winter—causing the curious phenomenon of melting snows on the coldest days of the year; in the summer in seasons of drought, especially in the western part of the state, this wind from the Gulf sometimes reaches Nebraska wrung dry of its moisture and so hot that in a day or two it shrivels and ruins the crops in its path. Such calamities are, however, uncommon, and the belief that Nebraska is often visited by tornadoes is erroneous.
The normal mean-annual temperature of the state is about 48·7° F, and the normals for the six approximately equal weather sections into which the state is divided by the National Weather Service are respectively about 48°, 50·5°, 48·6°, 50·4°, 47·9° and 46·6° F. This illustrates the extraordinary homogeneity of climatic conditions. But there is a considerable difference in the averages for different months—the normal means of January and July through 30 years being 20·9° and 74·6° F., and the means of spring, summer, autumn and winter respectively about 48°, 72 °, 53° and 23·5° F. Thus there is for any particular locality a wide range in absolute temperature through the year, which averages for the state probably about 120° (1897–1905). Similarly, the range is large through the day, especially in the higher altitudes, where the nights are almost invariably cool and refreshing after even the hottest day. The number of continuous days with a mean temperature above 50° F., averages probably about 175 for the state. The actual growing-season between frosts is, however, not so great. Temperature is of course lower as one moves to the N. and N.W., the initial planting and harvesting of each crop progressing wave-like across the state in from one to two weeks. Especially in the W. and N.W. there are in some winters occasional anti-cyclonic or high-area storms known as blizzards—wind—storms preceded or accompanied by snow-fall—which are very severe. They continue from one to three days, and are habitually followed by very low temperature. They are the cause of great loss to the cattle owners. Such storms are, however, rare. In the S.E. portion of the state the winters are characteristically mild and open. Temperatures below zero are rare for any locality; and the same may be said of temperatures above 95° in summer.
The normal mean-annual precipitation for the whole state is about 23·84 in. in rain and melted snow, the actual yearly fall varying through 30 years between 13·30 and 31·65 in. Such rainfall might seem inadequate for an agricultural country: moreover, the eastern half of the state is more favoured than the western, which belongs, indeed, to the semi-arid Great Plains on which the Reclamation Service of the United States Government is active. But aridity is a matter of the efficiency rather than of the mere quantity of rainfall, and in this regard, Nebraska is very fortunately situated. Rain is most plenteous in the critical months of the year. Seven-tenths of all precipitation falls in the growing season, giving the state, especially in the east, a greater amount at this time than many other states whose aggregate yearly rainfall is greater; so that Nebraska has an abundance for the safest cultivation. Moreover, nine-tenths of the rainfall is absorbed by the loess and sandy soils, only one-tenth being “run-off.” It is a widely spread but unfounded belief in Nebraska that the rainfall has been increasing since the settlement of the state. That its storage has very greatly increased as cultivation has been extended (the prairie sod sheds water like a roof) is true; moreover, the spread of scientific principles of farming has increased the advantage derived from the ground-water stored. Efficient rainfall has thus been greatly increased. Intermittent streamlets may well become perennial, and many are probably, as reported, becoming so. It is even conceivable that the settlement of the state may affect the seasonal distribution of precipitation; and that an advantageous alteration has in fact resulted is believed by many.
The climate of Nebraska is exceptionally healthy. Its beneficial qualities must be attributed to the state’s inland situation, its dry and pure air, constant winds and splendid drainage, to which its even slope and peculiar soil alike contribute. In some people, however, nervousness is induced; and the winds, in particular, often have this effect. Autumn is perhaps the finest season; the fields are green into the winter, the air is pure and fresh, though dry and warm, and the long season is delightfully mild and beautiful. The arid portion, as compared with the eastern portion, of the state has alike the advantage sand disadvantages of a climate more sharply characterized.
Soil.—Geologically Nebraska is one of the most typical agricultural states of the Union; although in the present distribution of industrial interests agriculture is by no means so predominant as in some southern states. The basis of the soils is sands (coarse, fine or silt); clay beds, though economically important, are in quantity relatively scant. In the eastern half silt, and in the western fine sand, form the bulk of the soil. There are five well-defined soil regions corresponding to the geologic-topographic divisions already indicated of drift loess, sand-hills, foot-hills and Bad Lands. The loess is a “salt, fine sandy loam with a large percentage of sand or silt, and considerable calcareous matter, and usually a small amount of clay.” It contains considerable humic matter, discolouring rapidly in the air (when exposed it is characteristically a bright buff). It is of extraordinary fertility, and its great depth (in Lincoln and Dawson counties bluffs 200 ft. thick are found) is a guarantee of almost inexhaustible resources. The glacial drift is also a useful deposit, coarse ingredients in it being of small amount (rare boulders, and some gravel). The superficial soil over most of the state, and everywhere in the E. except rarely where the loess or drift is bare, is a rich, black vegetable mould, 1 to 5 ft. thick on the uplands. The sand-hills are not inherently infertile; the soil never bakes, is always receptive of moisture, absorbing water like a sponge and holding it well. There is a great amount of fertile valley land, adequately watered. Alfalfa and other cultivated grasses are encroaching on the whole region, and even the natural arid-land bunch grasses make excellent grazing. The “butte” soil of the W. is a fine sandy soil, characteristically calcareous, derived from the Arikaree. With it also moisture is a great factor in its productivity. The Bad Lands are by no means infertile (their name, it should be noted, was originally Mauvaises terres à traverser); but they are almost destitute of ground water, though containing many green “pockets” where surface water can be stored. They contain much clay and marls, non-absorbent and subject to such excessive wash that vegetation cannot gain a foothold. In various parts of the west are small tracts of so-called “gumbo” soil; they are due to the Pierre shale, are poorly drained and characteristically alkaline. Small alkaline areas also occur about lakes in the sand-hills. Where surface water is adequate the regions of the Pierre shale make splendid grazing lands; but in general they are not very useful for agriculture. Salt lands occur about Salt Creek notably around Lincoln. The stream bottoms of alluvium are modified by loess and humic deposits, and are of course very fertile; but hardly more so than the loess of the uplands.
Agriculture.—Agriculture is not only the chief industry but is also the foundation of the commerce and manufactures of the state. In 1900, of the total area 60·8% was reported as included in farms, and 37·5% as actually improved. The rank of the state in the Union was 13th in value of farm property, and 10th in value of farm products. The farm value was $747,950,057, an increase since 1890 of 46·1%; while the total product-value was $162,696,386—an increase (partly factitious) of 143·4% in the same period. A greater part of the state was reported improved in 1890 than in 1900; the change was due to the increase of stock-raising in the West. Similarly, the size of the average farm increased from 156·9 acres in 1880 to 190·1 in 1890, and 246·1 in 1900, although in eastern Nebraska there was a contrary tendency. Under the Kincaid law, which permits entire sections instead of quarter sections (160 acres) to be homesteaded, this movement has been fostered. In the years 1880–1900 the number of farms operated by cash tenants rose from 3·1 to 9·6%; of share tenants from 14·9 to 27·3% of the total. There is no appreciable tendency toward management for absentee owners. The census of 1900 showed that not less than two-fifths of the total net income came from live stock or from hay, grain and forage on farms representing together 96% of the farm-value of the state—live stock being a trifle more important; dairying was similarly predominant for 1·6%, and beet-sugar for 0·1%. Other crops were unimportant sources of revenue. Sugar-beet culture has developed since about 1889; it is localized largely in Lincoln county, near North Platte, though beets are raised over a large part (especially the western part) of the state. In 1907 about 11,000 acres were planted to sugar beets. The principal factory for the slicing of the beets is one built at Grand Island, Hall county, in 1890. The dairy interest is rapidly growing, but is still exceeded in other states. Omaha is a great dairy market. Nebraska ranks very high in the production of cattle and hogs. A fourth of all animal products are represented by milk, butter and cheese, eggs and poultry; the rest by animals killed on the farm or sold for slaughter, most of them going to supply the meat-packing industry of South Omaha. Wild, salt and prairie grasses make up the bulk of the forage acreage, but the cultivated crops—especially millet and Hungarian grasses and alfalfa—are more important. Holt county in the Elkhorn valley, and Sheridan county in the foot-hills, produce more than half the hay-crop of the state. Alfalfa can be grown with more or less success in every county of the state, not excepting areas where clay or sand form the sub-soil; but on the uplands of the central part of the state it is produced with the greatest success and in the greatest quantities. In 1908, according to the reports of the state Board of Agriculture, the crop of Custer, Dawson and Buffalo counties was about 15% of the total crop (1,846,703 tons) of the state. The product was quintupled between 1899 and 1905, and between 1905 and 1908 the increase was about 40%. It has been a great aid to western Nebraska as to other portions of the Great Plains. Sorghum and kafir corn are also excellent, and broom-corn fairly good, as drought-resistant crops; the last, which is of lessening importance, is localized in Cass, Saunders and Polk counties. Cereals are by far the most important crops, representing in 1899 four-fifths of farmed land and crop values. Allowing for variations in “off years,” but speaking with as much exactness as is possible, Nebraska has established her position since about 1900 in the third, fourth and fifth rank respectively among the states of the Union, in the production of Indian corn, wheat and oats. Of these, Indian corn is by far the most important, representing normally about two-thirds of the total crop value; while wheat and oats each represented in 1906 about one-seventh of the total crop, and rye, barley, kafir-corn and buckwheat make up the small remainder. Indian corn is grown to some extent all over the state, except in the north-west, but the great bulk of the crop is produced east of the 99th meridian. It is rarely cut, but is left to mature and dry on the stalk in the field. The yearly yield in the decade 1895–1904, according to the most conservative state statistics, varied from 298,599,638 to 72,445,227 bushels, and the average was 178,941,084 bushels, or 190,773,957, omitting the failure of 1901; the yield per acre being similarly 26·35 or 27·9 bushels (12·4 in 1901); in 1906 the crop was 249,782,500 bushels, and the average yield per acre 34·1 bushels; in 1907 the crop was 179,328,000 bushels, and the average yield only 24 bushels per acre. According to the report of the state Board of Agriculture, Custer, Lancaster and Saunders counties produced the largest amounts (each more than 5,000,000 bushels) of Indian corn, in 1908. Since 1900 Nebraska has become one of the foremost winter wheat states, second only to Kansas. Little spring wheat is now sown except in the northern counties, the state being on the northern edge of the winter wheat belt. From 1880 to 1890 the acreage devoted to wheat greatly diminished, because the spring variety was not relatively remunerative, but the acreage trebled in the next decade as autumn planting increased. The winter varieties have the advantages of larger yield, earlier ripening and lesser loss from insects, and afford protection to the soil. The growth of durum (macaroni) wheat is also increasing, but is hampered by the uncertainty of market, which is for the most part foreign. The wheat crops of the decade 1895–1904 averaged 33,208,805 bushels a year; or ranged from a minimum of 9·8 to a maximum of 20·9, averaging 15·8 bushels to the acre; in 1906 the crop was 52,288,692 bushels, and the average yield 22 bushels per acre; and in 1907 the crop was 45,911,000 bushels, and the average yield 18·1 bushels per acre. In 1908 Clay, Adams and Hamilton were the principal wheat-growing counties in the state. The corresponding figures for oats were: average yield for the decade, 48,145,185 (range, 28,287,707 in 1901 to 66,810,065 in 1904); range of yield per acre, 17·9 to 34·0, and average 27·6 bushels per acre; in 1906 the crop was 72,275,000 bushels and the average yield per acre 29·5 bushels; in 1907 the crop was 51,490,000 bushels, and the average yield 20·4 bushels per acre. In the decade 1890–1900 the state did not rise above the 10th rank in the Union; after 1900 her rise was rapid. The same is even more markedly true of rye; in 1907 the crop was 1,502,000 bushels (from 88,400 acres), a yield exceeded in only five states in the country. Apples are raised in the N.E. and S.E. sections of the state, and are much the most important fruit grown. Peaches are next in importance, and horticultural enthusiasts believe that the possibilities of this crop are very great. Other fruits are raised with much success, and in 1904 at St Louis the horticultural exhibit of the state led those of all other states in the medals received for excellence; but nevertheless its relative rank in the Union as a fruit-producing state is still low.
In a period of 30 years (1869–1898) there were, according to the state Board of Agriculture, four seasons whose crops could reasonably be classed as failures, three more as “short,” one as fair, eighteen as good, and four as great. Compared with adjoining states—Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri—none shows a greater, if indeed any shows so great an average value per acre in the yield of Indian corn, wheat, oats, barley and rye; and this despite the assumed handicap of the western half of the state. In fact the yield of this section relatively to cultivated acreage is normally fully equal to that of the eastern section; a result quite consistent with the scientifically proven fertility of semi-arid lands. The real handicap of the western counties would be shown in comparing aggregate yields per given area; for much land is normally inarable. Alfalfa, stock raising and dairying, afforestation, “dry-farming” and irrigation are, however, proving that the West can maintain prosperity by not relying upon ordinary agriculture. Alfalfa is not easily started, however, on the uplands of the extreme western part of the state; and dry-farming (the Campbell dust-mulch system) has the expensiveness in labour of intensive cultivation. The above-mentioned delusion that climate is changing and adapting itself to agriculture, thus relieving the farmer of accommodating his methods to the climate, has considerably handicapped him in progress. Systematic experiments in dry-farming throughout the Great Plains were provided for on a great scale by Congress in 1906. By attention to crop rotation, soil physics and world-wide search for plants adapted to the Great Plains (such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has long been conducting), a very great deal can be accomplished—no one can say how much; but certainly the Western must long remain at a great disadvantage in comparison with the Eastern portion of the state as regards the growth of cereals.
Irrigation.—Water for the western part of the state is a resource of primary importance, and irrigation therewith a fundamental problem. Very generally, especially in the butte regions, the country lends itself to the impounding of surface water. The lakes are of great importance for the stock ranges of the sand-hills. It is commonly believed that of underground water, and generally of artesian water, even the driest counties have an abundance. This is great exaggeration. Though both in central and western Nebraska there are strata that generally yield a considerable flow, the supply is usually limited and the expense is great. Up to 1906 dependence was mainly upon the streams, which it is estimated might furnish 3 or 4 million acre-feet—enough to irrigate between 10 and 15% of the arid section—were all the water available, and the land irrigable. As compared with the streams of Colorado, where irrigation is much more advanced, the streams of Nebraska have a very constant flow; the relative supply-capacities of the Arkansas and Poudre in Colorado, and the Loup and North Platte in Nebraska being about as 1·000, 1·193, 3·347 and 4·632 respectively, according to the estimates of the state engineer (Nebraska Public Documents 1901–1902, vol. iii. p. 144). An irrigation law was first passed by Nebraska in 1895. One of the greatest improvement projects undertaken by the national Reclamation Service is one on the North Platte, begun in 1903, which contemplates a reservoir in Wyoming of sufficient capacity to store all the surplus waters of that stream, about 600 m. of canals, and the reclamation of 107,000 acres in Nebraska; it was 74% completed in 1909. The work of the national service began in Nebraska in 1902. Some farmers on the uplands between the valleys in western Nebraska irrigate by means of wind-mills, and although the underground water is 175 ft. or more below the surface one wind-mill often supplies sufficient water to irrigate ten acres. The extent of irrigated acreage increased about thirteen-fold from 1889 to 1899. In the latter year there were 1701 m. of ditch costing about $751·00 per m., irrigating 148,538 acres, which yielded crops averaging $6·61 per acre in value. The greatest part of the irrigated acreage is in the valley of the North Platte and the Upper Platte—probably nine-tenths in 1906—in Scotts Bluff, Lincoln, Cheyenne, Dawson, Keith and Deuel counties. There is, however, a large ditch in Platte county—the farthest E. of any large ditch in the country; and though agriculture is normally quite “successful” here without irrigation, nevertheless it is more profitable with it. In fact, in 1899 about a quarter of the irrigated acreage lay E. of the section classed as arid.
Manufactures.—The rank of Nebraska among the states of the Union in 1900 in population, in value of agricultural products, and in value of manufactured products, was respectively twenty-seventh, tenth and nineteenth. In the decade 1890–1900 the state increased the value of its manufactures somewhat more than half. The per capita product-values for agriculture and manufactures in 1900 were $153 and $135 (as compared with $63 and $88 in 1890). Only 2·3% of the population were engaged in manufacturing in 1900. Of the total factory product (in 1900, $130,302,453; in 1905, $154,918,220), 84·7% were urban (i.e. were for the three cities which in 1900 had a population of at least 8000) in 1900, and 81·7 in 1905; the percentage for these cities being 53·3 in 1900 and 43·5 in 1905 for South Omaha, 29·2 in 1900 and 34·9 in 1905 for Omaha, and 2·1 in 1900 and 3·4 in 1905 for Lincoln; Nebraska City, Fremont, Grand Island, Beatrice, Hastings, Plattsmouth and Kearney were the only other manufacturing centres of any importance. In 1907 there was a beet-sugar factory at Grand Island; at Nebraska City there are several distinctive industries; at South Omaha very important meat-packing houses; and the other cities have interests rather extensive or varied than distinctive. As yet manufactures are insignificant except in lines immediately dependent upon agriculture, the combined output of the packing, flour and grist mill, dairy and malt-liquor establishments constituting in 1900 nine-tenths of the total state output. Meat-packing is by far the most important single interest, South Omaha being the third greatest packing centre of the country, employing in 1900 and in 1905 a quarter of all wage-earners and yielding nearly one-half the total product-value of the state ($71,018,339 in 1900; $69,243,468 in 1905). The malt-liquor industry is favoured by the great production of barley in Iowa; the value of malt liquors manufactured in 1900 was $1,433,501, and in 1905 $1,663,788 Nebraska wheat, like that of Kansas, combines for milling the splendid qualities of winter wheat with those characteristic of grain grown on the edge of the semi-arid West; flour and grist-mill products were valued at $7,794,130 in 1900 and at $12,190,303 in 1905. The first creamery in Nebraska was established in 1881. A creamery at Lincoln is said to be the largest in the United States. Many co-operative dairies have persisted since the early days of farmers' granges. The value of cheese, butter and other dairy products was $2,253,893 in 1900 and $3,326,110 in 1905. Of manufactures not dependent upon agriculture perhaps the most promising is that of brick and tile products (valued at $839,815 in 1900 and at $1,131,913 in 1905), and the largest in 1905 was the manufacture and repair of steam railway cars (valued at $2,624,461 in 1900 and at $4,394,685 in 1905).
Communications.—There is no longer any river navigation. There were 6,101·5 m. of railway in the state at the end of 1907; the great period of railway building was 1870–1890, the mileage in 1870 being 705, in 1880, 1953, and in 1890, 5407. The eastern half of the state is much better covered by railways than the western. Six great east and west trunk-lines connecting the Rocky Mountain region and Chicago enter the state at Omaha (q.v.), and two others, giving rather an outlet southward, enter the same city and serve the eastern part of the state. In 1908 all but 5 counties out of 90 had railway outlets. A marked tendency toward north and south railway lines is of great promise to the state, as outlets towards the Gulf of Mexico are important, especially for local freight. Omaha and Lincoln are Federal ports of entry for customs.
Population.—In 1900 the population of the state was 1,066,300 and in 1910, 1,192,214. In 1900 16·6% were foreign-born, and 43·3% natives of other states than Nebraska. The latter came mainly from the north-central states. Of the foreigners, Germans, Scandinavians and British (including English Canadians) made up four-fifths of the total. The most numerous individual races were Germans (65,506), Swedes (24,693), Bohemians (16,138), Danes (12,531), Irish (11,127), English (9757), Russians (8083) and English Canadians (8010). In 1900 three cities had a population above 25,000—Omaha, 102,555; Lincoln, 40,169; South Omaha, 26,001—and seven others had a population between 5000 and 8000—Beatrice, Grand Island, Nebraska City, Fremont, Hastings, Kearney and York. The population of Nebraska was 28,841 in 1860, 122,993 in 1870, 452,402 in 1880 and 1,062,656 in 1890. The increases of population by decades following 1860 were 326·5, 267·8, 134·1, 0·3, and 11·8%. From 1880–1890 the absolute increase was exceeded in only four states, and was greater than in any state W. of the Mississippi except the enormous state of Texas; from 1890–1900 it was less than in any state of the Union except Nevada (whose population decreased). In this decade 35 counties out of 90 in the state showed a decrease: the shrinkage was mainly in the first half of the decade, and was due to the cumulative effects of national hard times, a reaction from an extraordinarily inflated land “boom” of the late ’eighties, and a remarkable succession of drought years, and consequent crop failure in the West. Between 1885 and 1895 Kansas and Colorado went through much the same experience, due to a too rapid settlement of their arid areas before the conditions of successful agriculture were properly understood. Many homes, and even small settlements in Nebraska—though not to the same extent as in Colorado and Kansas—were abandoned. Urban population (the population in places having 4000 or more inhabitants) also fell, constituting 25·8% in 1890, and in 1900 only 20·8% of the total population of the state. In the case of some cities that showed a great decrease (e.g. Lincoln 27·2%, and Omaha 27%) notoriously “padded” censuses in 1890 were in part responsible for the bad showing ten years later.
In 1906 there were in the state 345,803 communicants of various religious denominations; of these 100,763 were Roman Catholics, 64,352 Methodists, 59,485 Lutherans, 23,862 Presbyterians, 19,121 Disciples of Christ, 17,939 Baptists and 15,247 Congregationalists.
In 1890 there were in the state 2893 untaxed and 3538 taxed Indians, the latter being citizens; in 1900 there were 3,322 altogether, all of them taxed; and in 1908 there were 3720, of whom 1270 were Omaha, 1116 Santee Sioux, 1060 Winnebago and 274 Ponca.
Among the Indians who occupied Nebraska immediately before the advent of the whites and thereafter, the only families of much importance in the state’s history were the Caddoan and the Siouan. The Caddoan family was represented by the Middle or Pawnee Confederacy; the Siouan family by its Dakota, Thegiha, Chiwere and Winnebago branches. Included in the Dakota branch were the Santee and Teton tribes, the latter comprising the Brulé, Blackfeet and Oglala Indians; in the Thegiha branch were the Omaha and Ponca tribes; and in the Chiwere branch, the Iowa, Oto and the Missouri tribes. Other tribes were of less importance; and tribes of other families—with the exception of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes of the Algonquian family, whose permanent hunting grounds embraced the foot-hill country of the West—were of negligible importance, being only roamers within the borders of the state. The Pawnees contested the plains against the Sioux with undying enmity. Before the Civil War there were no very general troubles between Indians and whites, despite constant frontier difficulties, except the bloodless “Pawnee War” of 1859–60; but in 1863–64 the Indians rose rather generally along the frontier, and many settlers were killed. In 1890–91 there was another war—with the Sioux—marked by the battle of Wounded Knee, just across the line in South Dakota. In dealings with the Indians there have been in Nebraska the usual discreditable features of administration. The maltreatment of the Poncas, a fine and peaceable tribe, was peculiarly and inexcusably harsh. Segregation on reservations was generally accomplished in 1870–1880. There were in 1900 small reservations for Omahas and Winnebagoes in Thurston county and for the Sioux in Sheridan county, and an agency for the Santees and Poncas near the mouth of the Niobrara; and at Genoa, where the Pawnee agency and reservation had been located, there was in 1908 an Indian school maintained by the United States government with 350 boarding pupils. In 1908, however, almost all the tribal lands had been distributed in severalty: the Niobrara Reservation (under the Santee government boarding school for the Santee Sioux and the Ponca) had only 1130·7 acres reserved for agency, school and mission purposes; the Ponca Reservation (under the same school) had only 160 acres reserved for agency and school buildings; the Omaha Reservation (under the Omaha School) had 12,421 acres unallotted; the Sioux Reservation (under the Pine Ridge Agency) for Oglala Sioux had 640 acres; and the Winnebago Reservation (under the Winnebago School) had 1710·8 acres unallotted and 480 reserved for agency, &c.
Government.—The present constitution, adopted in 1875, replaced one adopted in 1866. In 1871 a convention framed a constitution that was rejected by the people. It provided for compulsory education, and for the taxation of church property; prohibited the grant by counties or cities of financial aid to railway or other corporations, and enjoined that railways should have an easement only in their right of way. The last two provisions were mainly responsible for the defeat of the constitution. The instrument of 1875 presents a few variations from the normal type, and under it a few interesting problems have arisen. The constitution provides two methods for amendment. A convention for revising or amending the constitution is to be held in case a recommendation to that effect made by the legislature (a three-fifths vote of all the members of each house being required) is accepted by a majority of the electors voting at the next election for members of the legislature, but no amendment agreed upon by the convention is to take effect until approved by a majority of electors voting on it. Without calling a convention, however, the legislature may, by a three-fifths vote of all the members of each house, adopt an amendment, which is to come into effect only if approved by a majority of electors voting at the next election of senators and representatives—the publication of the proposed amendment in some newspaper in each county once a week for three months before the election being required. This has been interpreted by the courts as requiring a majority of the votes actually cast for senators and representatives. As there is less interest in amendments than in the election of members of the legislature, only two out of a large number of amendments proposed from time to time by three-fifths of the members elected to each house have been adopted. The first of these, increasing the pay per day to the members of the legislature and providing for longer sessions, was declared lost by the official canvassers, but when (1886) the ballots had been recounted by the legislature it was declared adopted. The second (1906), creating a railway commission, was endorsed by a political party in state convention, was printed on the same ballot-paper with the names of the party candidates for office in order to secure for it all “straight” party votes, and by this procedure, which was upheld by the state supreme court in 1907, it was adopted. All male persons who are citizens of the United States or have declared their intention to become such at least thirty days before an election have the right of suffrage provided they have attained the age of twenty-one years, have resided in the state six months, are not of unsound mind, and have not been convicted of treason or felony. Women who have either children or taxable property may vote on questions relating to schools. The general election of state and local officers is held annually on the first Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November, but municipal and school district elections may be held at other times. The secret ballot was adopted in 1891; the use of the voting machines was authorized in 1899; and the nomination of candidates by primaries was made mandatory in 1907. By a provision unique in 1875, the constitution authorized the legislature to provide that the electors might express their preferences for United States senators; but this was not treated as mandatory on the legislature, and though votes were at times taken (1886, 1894), they were not officially canvassed, nor were any senatorial elections materially affected by them. In 1907, under a direct primary law, the nomination of candidates for United States senator was transferred from the party convention directly to the people; and in 1909 the “Oregon plan” was adopted, whereby each candidate for the legislature must go on record as promising, or not, always to vote for the people’s choice for United States senator; on the ballot which bears the name of each candidate for the legislature there appears a statement that he “promises,” or that he “will not promise,” to vote for the “people’s choice.” In the same year the state enacted a law providing for the non-partisan nomination of all judges, of all superintendents of public instruction and of regents of the state university; nominations are by petition, and there is a separate “official non-partisan ballot” bearing the names and addresses of the nominees and the titles of the office for which they are nominated. The legislature of 1909 also provided for open election primaries and for the framing of state party platforms by convention before the time of the primary.
The governor is the chief executive officer of the state, but quite independent of him are a lieutenant-governor, a secretary of state, an auditor of public accounts, a treasurer, a superintendent of public instruction, an attorney-general and a commissioner of public lands and buildings, who, as well as the governor, are elected for a term of two years. The governor’s appointing power is almost entirely limited to officers of state institutions, and for every appointment he makes the approval of the Senate is required; but he need not ask the consent of that body to remove for incompetency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office “any officer whom he may appoint.” His constitutional power to pardon is regulated by an act of the legislature (1907) which requires that he shall in no instance grant a pardon until the attorney-general shall have investigated the case and conducted a public hearing. His veto power extends to items in appropriation bills, but any bill or item may be passed over his veto by three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the legislature. The most important board of which he is chairman is the state board of equalization. As the present constitution was adopted in the year after a grasshopper plague, which had caused great financial loss, it limited the salary of the governor, auditor of public accounts and treasurer, as well as that of the judges of the supreme and district courts, to $2500 each and that of other important officers (including the secretary of state, the attorney-general and the superintendent of public instruction) to $2000. This economy has somewhat hampered the growing state. Salaries have been too low to attract the ablest men; and as the constitution forbade the creation of new offices, and no amendment of this clause could be secured, resort was had to the creation of additional “secretaries” and of boards constituted of existing state officials or their secretaries.
The legislature consists of a Senate of 33 members and a House of Representatives of 100 members, and meets in regular session on the first Tuesday in January of every odd-numbered year at Lincoln, the capital. Both senators and representatives are apportioned according to population, and are elected by districts in November of each even-numbered year for a term of two years. They are paid at the rate of five dollars a day during 60 days of a regular session and not exceeding 100 days during their entire term. No bill or joint resolution may be introduced at a regular session after its fortieth day except at the request of the governor. Special legislation of various kinds is expressly prohibited, and in the bill of rights it is declared that “all powers not herein delegated remain with the people.” This clause would seem to leave the state government with no powers not expressly granted, and to make the rule for interpreting the Nebraska constitution similar to that for interpreting the Federal constitution; but in their practice the Nebraska courts have been little influenced by it, and it is chiefly of historical interest.
The administration of justice is vested in a supreme court, 15 district courts, county courts and courts of justices of the peace and police magistrates. The supreme court consists of three judges elected for a term of six years, one retiring every two years; each district court consists of one to seven judges elected for a term of four years, and each county court consists of one judge elected for a term of two years. The county courts have exclusive original jurisdiction in the probate of wills and the administration of estates, concurrent jurisdiction with the district courts in civil suits for sums not exceeding $1000, and important jurisdiction in criminal cases. Perhaps the most unique provision of the Nebraska constitution is that relating to appeals; it appears in the bill of rights and reads as follows: “The right to be heard in all civil cases in the court of last resort, by appeal, error or otherwise, shall not be denied.” Regardless of this provision, however, the civil code denies the right of an appeal from an inferior court in cases that have been tried by a jury, and in which the amount claimed does not exceed $20, and the courts have decided that this denial is not in conflict with the constitution; but in at least one instance an appeal was allowed because of the constitutional guaranty, and that guaranty has doubtless had much influence on judicial legislation.
County government exists under both the district-commissioner system and the township supervisor system, the latter being rare. Cities are governed in classes according to population.
Except in Omaha there is no great field for social economic legislation; but the record of the state has been normally good in this respect. Railways have given rise to the most notable laws. Regulation has been a burning political question since 1876, the constitution making it the duty of the legislature to “correct abuses and prevent unjust discriminations and extortions in all charges of express, telegraph and railroad companies” within the state. The influence of the railways has been very great, and a constant drag on just taxation and other legislative reforms. In 1885, 1887 and 1897 the legislature created a Board of Transportation consisting of existing state executive officers or their secretaries, but this could do little except gather statistics, investigate alleged abuses, and advise the legislature, upon which the regulation of rates remained mandatory by the constitution. The Board was eventually declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court. In 1893 a maximum freight-rate Act was passed, but the rates thus fixed were declared by the United States Supreme Court to conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment, being “unreasonable.” The right of the state to fix “reasonable” rates remained unquestioned, but American experience has not found such laws efficacious. In 1906 all political parties conducted campaigns on promises of radical legislation on railway rates, passenger and freight; and a constitutional amendment creating a railway commission was adopted in the manner above described. A result of this campaign was a remarkable series of enactments in 1907 for the regulation of railways. The legislature framed a stringent anti-pass law, reduced passenger fares and express and freight charges, provided for equitable local taxation of railway terminals, regulated railway labour in the interest of safe travel, fixed upon railways the responsibility for the death or injury of their employes, and gave to the newly-created railway commission complete jurisdiction over all steam-railways in the state, over the street railways of the cities, and over express companies, telegraph companies, telephone companies and all other common carriers. In 1909 provision was made for an annual corporation licence tax and for the physical valuation of railways. In the same year, following the example of Oklahoma, Nebraska passed a law guaranteeing bank deposits from a fund created by an assessment on the basis of total deposits. Useful child-labour and pure-food laws were enacted in 1907. Prohibition of the liquor traffic had been established in the Territory in 1855, but liquor licences were introduced in 1858; in 1909 the licence fee was fixed at $1000. A law enacted in 1907 made it illegal for breweries to own retail liquor houses, and one of 1909 required all saloons to close from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. A homestead law exempts from judgment liens and forced sale a homestead not exceeding $2000 in value and consisting either of a farm not exceeding 160 acres or of property not exceeding two lots in a city or village; the exemption, however, does not extend to mechanics’, labourers’ or vendors’ liens upon said homestead or to a mortgage upon it that has been signed by both husband and wife or by an unmarried claimant. A woman’s rights to her property are not affected by marriage, except that it becomes liable for payment of debts contracted for necessaries to the family when a judgment against the husband for the payment of the same cannot be satisfied. The rights of dower and courtesy have been abolished, and husband and wife have instead equal rights to inherit property from the other; but the portion of the property of a deceased spouse that descends to the survivor varies from one-fourth to all according to whose and how many are the children concerned. The grounds for a divorce are adultery, incompetency at the time of marriage, sentence to imprisonment for a term of three years or more, abandonment without just cause for two years, habitual drunkenness, extreme cruelty, and refusal or neglect of the husband to provide a suitable maintenance for his wife. The period of residence in the state required to secure a divorce was formerly six months, but in 1909 it was made two years.
Finance.—The constitution limited the debt that the state might contract to meet casual deficits to $100,000, unless in time of war, and required taxes to be laid to maintain interest on such debt (bonds). These provisions were construed to mean that not more than $100,000 of debt could be contracted in addition to appropriations made by the legislature. There was from the beginning a constant issue of state “warrants” on the general fund, dependent on taxation. These warrants when issued and presented for payment were paid by the state treasurer, were sold to the permanent school fund, and drew 4% interest until cancelled from the general fund. The floating debt of warrants was practically cancelled in 1909, after a one-mill levy for four years for this purpose. Since 1900 there has been no bonded debt whatever. The constitution also prohibited state aid to railways and other corporations, leaving this to cities and counties under limitations. In 1903 the assessed valuation of property was $188,458,379; in 1905, $304,470,961; in 1906, $313,060,301; in 1907, $328,757,578, and in 1908, $391,529,673. The increase was due largely to a new revenue law of 1903 ordering property to be assessed at one-fifth of its actual value. The average tax-rate in the year 1904 was 62 mills; in 1905, 1906 and 1907, 7 mills; and in 1908, 61 mills;.
Education.—The public schools have been endowed by the United States, beginning in 1854, and by the state; in 1909 the permanent school funds derived from the sale of educational lands amounted to $8,450,557, invested in state securities, county, school district and municipal bonds. The percentage of illiterate population (i.e. population unable to write) above 10 years of age was in 1880 and 1890 smaller than that in any other state in the Union, and in 1900, when it was 2·3% (for native whites, foreign whites and negroes respectively 0·8, 6·8 and 11·8), was smaller than that in any other state except Iowa (whose percentage was also 2·3); the percentage for males of voting age (2·5%) being the least in the Union. There are four state normal schools—one at Peru (opened 1867), one at Kearney (1905), one at Wayne (originally private; purchased by the state in 1909) and one, provided for by the legislature of 1909, situated in the north-western part of the state. The university of Nebraska at Lincoln was established in 1869 by an act of the state legislature, and was opened in 1871. The university is governed by a board of six regents, elected by the electors of the state at large, each for six years, two going out of office each year. The revenue of the university is from the income of Congressional land grants under the Morrill Acts and from a one mill per one dollar tax on the current assessment roll of the state. Connected with it and governed by the same regents are the State College of Agriculture (including the School of Agriculture) and the Agricultural Experiment Station, on the university farm of 320 acres, 21 m. E. of the university, which receive support from the United States government, and an experimental sub-station at North Platte. The botanical and geological surveys of the state are carried on by the university; the former has been largely under the supervision of Charles Edwin Bessey (b. 1845), professor of botany. The university as reorganized in 1909 embraces a college of arts and sciences, a graduate college, a college of agriculture, a college of engineering, a teachers’ college (1908), a college of law (1891), a college of medicine, a school of pharmacy, a school of fine arts, an affiliated school of music, and a summer session. The medical school is in Omaha. The university has no preparatory department. Its library in 1909 had about 85,000 volumes. In 1908–1909 the university had an enrolment of 3611 students (2077 men and 1534 women). The granting of university degrees is conditioned by a “credit-hour” system; 125 credit hours are required for a bachelor’s degree. Elisha Benjamin Andrews (b. 1844) became chancellor of the university in 1900; in 1909 he was succeeded by Samuel Avery (b. 1865). Most of the educational institutions of the state are coeducational. Among the private educational institutions of the state are: Nebraska Wesleyan University (1888, Methodist Episcopal), at University Place, a suburb of Lincoln; Union College (1891, Adventist), at College View, suburb of Lincoln; Creighton University (1879, Roman Catholic), at Omaha; York College (1890, United Baptist), at York; Cotner University (1889; legally “The Nebraska Christian University”), at Bethany, a suburb of Lincoln; Grand Island College (1892, Baptist), at Grand Island; Doane College (1872, Congregational), at Crete; Hastings College (1882, Presbyterian), at Hastings; and Bellevue College (1883, Presbyterian), at Bellevue. State penal and charitable institutions include soldiers’ and sailors’ homes at Grand Island and Milford, an Institute for the Blind at Nebraska City (1875), an Institute for the Deaf and Dumb at Omaha (1867), an Institute for Feeble Minded Youth at Beatrice (1885), an Industrial School for juvenile Delinquents (boys) at Kearney (1879), a Girls Industrial School at Geneva (1881), an Industrial Home at Milford (1887) for unfortunate and homeless girls guilty of a first offence, asylums or hospitals for the insane at Lincoln (1869), Norfolk (1886) and Hastings (1887), an Orthopedic Hospital (1905) for crippled, ruptured and deformed children and a state penitentiary (1867), both at Lincoln. A Home for the Friendless, at Lincoln, incorporated in 1876, was taken over by the state in 1897; admission was restricted to children, and in 1909 its name was changed to the State Public School.
History.—Local pride has prompted some Nebraskans to begin the history of the white race in their state with the march of Coronado, in 1541, across the buffalo plains to “Quivira,” N. of the Arkansas river in Kansas; but the claim is not warranted by the evidence. Marquette mapped the Platte from hearsay in 1673; French explorers followed it to the Forks in 1739; and, after Nebraska passed to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase, successive American exploring expeditions left traces in its history. Major Stephen H. Long, in particular, followed the Platte and South Platte across the state in 1819, and his despairing account of the semi-arid buffalo plains—whence arose the myth of the Great American Desert—finely contrasts with the later history and latter-day optimism of dry-farming and irrigation. Meanwhile, fur traders who drew their goods from the country of the Platte had long been active on the Missouri. Trading posts were probably established in Nebraska in 1795, 1802, 1807 and 1812; the last two near the present towns of Ft. Calhoun (about 20 m. N. by W. from Omaha) and Bellevue. Manuel de Lisa, a noted Cuban trader and plainsman, was probably the first white settler (1807). In 1823 Bellevue became an Indian agency, and in 1849 the first United States post-office in Nebraska. Ft. Atkinson was maintained near the present town of Ft. Calhoun in 1819–1827; in 1825 the government acquired the first Indian lands, and in the ’thirties of the 19th century missionaries began to settle among the tribes; the first Ft. Kearney was maintained where Nebraska City now stands in 1847–1848, and in the latter year was re-established on the Platte, some 175 m. inland from the Missouri. Meanwhile there had begun the passage of the Mormons across the state (1845–1857), marked by important temporary settlements near Omaha (q.v.) and elsewhere, the travel to Oregon, and to California, for which depôts of supplies were established at Bellevue, Plattsmouth, Nebraska City and old Ft. Kearney, or Dobey Town. Thus the country was well and favourably known before Congress organized it as a Territory in 1854.
Movements in Congress for the creation of a new Territory on the Platte began in 1844, several attempts at organization failing in the succeeding decade. In 1852–1853 Iowans and Missourians along the border of what are now Kansas and Nebraska held elections W. of the Missouri and sent delegates to Congress. A provisional Territorial government formed by Wyandot Indians and licensed white residents on Indian lands in Kansas (q.v.) forced Congress to take action. With what followed, the rivalry of the Platte and Kansas river valleys for the Pacific railway route, and the opposing interests of pro-slavery Missouri and anti-slavery Iowa, and possibly the personal ambitions of Stephen A. Douglas and Thomas H. Benton, had important relations. In the outcome Nebraska was one of the two Territories created by the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854. This creative act bore evident traces of the pro-slavery sentiments of the Congress that passed it in the limitation of the suffrage to whites, and the explicit application of the national fugitive-slave laws for the last time in a federal statute. Under the provision of “popular-sovereignty” it was thought that Nebraska, as the more northerly Territory, would become a “free” state, if not a free Territory. There were slaves within its borders from the beginning, and anti-slavery ideas were embodied in several legislative bills, until a territorial law of 1861 excluded slavery. But the future of slavery was settled in Kansas, and events in Nebraska throw only a small side-light on that struggle. John Brown and James H. Lane spent considerable time in the south-eastern counties, and across these an “underground railroad” ran, by which slaves were conducted from Kansas to Iowa and freedom.
As organized in 1854 Nebraska extended from 40° N. lat. to British America, and from the Missouri and White Earth rivers to the “summit” of the Rockies; but in 1861 and 1863 it was reduced, by the creation of other Territories, to its present boundaries. By 1860 settlement had spread 150 m. W. from the Missouri, following the river valleys and the freighting routes. Many who had migrated to Pike’s Peak in 1859, stopped in Nebraska on their return eastward; and settlement was stimulated by the national Homestead Act of 1862 (one of the first patents granted thereunder, on the 1st of January 1863, was for a claim near Beatrice, Nebraska), and by the building and land-sales of the Union Pacific and Burlington railways following 1863. Thus in 1861 there were probably 30,000 inhabitants in the Territory, and 3300 men were sent into the field for the Union army in the Civil War. Until well into the sixties freighting across the plains was a great business. The “Oregon Trail,” the “Old California Trail,” and the “Old Salt Lake Trail”—all nearly identical in Nebraska—ran along the Platte across the entire state with various terminal branches near the eastern border, to the Missouri river towns; while branches from St Joseph, Missouri and Leavenworth, Kansas, ran up the valleys of the Big Blue and Little Blue rivers and joined the Nebraska roads near Ft. Kearney. The Oregon and California migration was of large magnitude by 1846. St Joseph, Leavenworth and Nebraska City (q.v.) were the great freighting terminals of the West. Over these roads was run in 1860–1861 the famous “pony express” whose service ended with the completion of the overland telegraph in the latter year; it covered the distance from St Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in eight days, and even less. Freighting ended when the Union Pacific was extended across Nebraska between 1863 and 1867.
Political interest in the Territorial period centred mainly in a fight for the capital, waged between the towns of the Missouri river front, Bellevue, Brownville, Nebraska City, Plattsmouth, Omaha and Florence, those of the North Platte interior, and of the South Platte. This struggle engendered extraordinary bitterness, since success might mean continued life, and defeat prompt demise, to competing towns. As population increased the question of the capital was complicated by the question of statehood. Both were involved in the agitation in 1858–1859 for the annexation of the South Platte to Kansas (q.v.), which gained considerable strength; annexation promising to the former much earlier statehood than continued union with the backward region of the North Platte, and to northern Kansas also promising earlier statehood, and an advantage in the sectional struggle with southern Kansas. As the expenses of Territorial government were partly borne by the United States, statehood was voted against in 1860, and again (virtually) in 1864 after Congress had passed an Enabling Act; but in 1866 a constitution framed by the legislature was declared carried by the people by a majority of 100 votes in 7776, and Nebraska was admitted as a state (in spite of President Johnson’s veto) in 1867, after her legislature had accepted a fundamental condition imposed by Congress removing the limitation of the suffrage to whites by the new constitution. Fraud was charged in the Territorial election. At any rate the Republican party had worked for admission because it needed senators in Congress, and it got them. During part of 1866–1867 there were two de facto governments, the Territorial and the state.
The capital of the Territory remained always at Omaha, although in 1858 a majority of the legislature removed to Florence leaving the governor and a legislative rump at Omaha. In 1867 the South Platte region, having obtained a predominance in population capable of overcoming a gerrymander that had favoured the North Platte (and incidentally the Democrats), secured the appointment of a legislative committee to locate the state capital S. of the Platte. Several of the old Missouri river contestants had as representatives of their previous claims young towns located at strategic points in the interior. The committee avoided these and selected the site of Lincoln. Just ten years earlier the legislature had considered removal to another site on the Salt, to be called “Douglas” in honour of Stephen A. Douglas, then still in the heyday of his popularity.
The decade 1870–1880 was marked by the work of the two constitutional conventions described above. The first legislature under the constitution of 1875 met in 1877. The following decade was marked by a tremendous growth in population, by a feverish activity in railway construction (the mileage in the state being increased from 1953 to 5407 m. in the ten years), and by an extraordinary rise in land values, urban and rural. Farm-land prices were raised to a basis of maximum productiveness when the best interests, especially of the western section, demanded steady growth based on average crop results under average conditions. The early ’nineties were marked by an economic collapse of false values, and succeeding years by a painful recovery of stable conditions.
The Democratic and Republican parties were first effectively organized in opposition, as parts of national bodies, in the territorial campaigns of 1858. Till then there were practically only Democratic factions; after 1861 the Republicans held the state securely until 1890. After about 1890 the national tendencies towards a re-alignment of political parties on social-economic issues were sharply displayed in Nebraska. This was in the main only an indication of the general Farmers’ Movement (q.v.), but this found in Nebraska special stimulus in large losses (almost $900,000) suffered by the state from the negligence and defalcation of certain Republican officeholders. Following 1890 the “Fusion” movement—the fusion, that is, of Populists, Democrats and (after 1896) of Silver Republicans—was of great importance. The only year in which these elements carried the state against the Republicans for presidential electors was in 1896, when William J. Bryan of Lincoln was their presidential candidate; although the state delegation of representatives and senators in Congress was for a time divided. The Fusionists practically controlled the state government from 1897–1899; they held the legislature from 1891–1895 and from 1897–1899, the supreme court from 1899–1901, and the governorship and executive departments from 1895–1901; they elected a Democratic governor also for 1891–1893; but he was not of the true Fusion type, and vetoed a maximum railway freight-rate bill, although his Republican successor approved one. The year 1891 was the most feverish political year of this period. Apart from these temporary Fusion successes the Republicans have always controlled the state.
The governors of Nebraska have been as follows:—
|11 days, Oct. 1854
|Thomas B. Cuming
|Oct. 1854–Feb. 1855
|Mark W. Izard
|Feb. 1855–Oct. 1857
|Thomas B. Cuming
|Oct. 1857–Jan. 1858
|William A. Richardson
|Jan. 1858–Dec. 1858
|J. Sterling Morton
|Dec. 1858–May 1859
|Samuel W. Black
|May 1859–May 1861
|May 1861–Mar. 1867
|Algernon S. Paddock
|W. H. James
|Robert W. Furnas
|James W. Dawes
|John M. Thayer
|James E. Boyd
|John M. Thayer
|James E. Boyd
|Silas A. Holcombe
|William A. Poynter
|Charles H. Dietrich
|Ezra P. Savage
|John H. Mickey
|George L. Sheldon
|A. C. Shallenberger
|Chester H. Aldrich
Bibliography.—N. H. Darton, Professional Paper No. 17 (in U.S. Geological Survey) (1903), Geology and Water Resources of (western) Nebraska, and No. 32 (1905), Geology and Underground Water Resources of the Central Great Plains; G. E. Condra, Geology and Water Resources of the Republican River Valley and Adjacent Areas (Washington, 1907), being Water Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 216 of the United States Geological Survey; id., Water Supply Paper No. 215, Geology and Water Resources of a Portion of the Missouri River Valley in North-Eastern Nebraska (Washington, 1908); J. C. Stevens, Surface Water Supply of Nebraska (Washington, 1909) Water Supply Paper 230; E. H. Barbour, Nebraska Geological Survey (Lincoln, 1903); G. E. Condra, Geography of Nebraska (Lincoln, 1906); R. Pound and F. C. Clements, Phytogeography of Nebraska, vol. i. (Lincoln, 1898); general scientific sketches by C. E. Bessey, L. Bruner and G. A. Loveland in the Morton history and agricultural and horticultural reports; Annual Reports of the State Board of Agriculture and State Horticultural Society; Publications of the State Bureau of Statistics and Labor; and Bulletins 52 (1904) and 66 (1905) of the United States Bureau of Forestry. For government consult the biennial legislative Public Documents, embracing reports of state officers and boards; also J. A. Barrett, History and Government of Nebraska (Lincoln, 1891), Nebraska and the Nation (Chicago, 1898); and C. S. Lobinger, “The Nebraska Constitution, some of its Original and Peculiar Features,” in Proceedings and Collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society, Series 2, vol. v. (Lincoln, 1902). For early history see bibliography under article Kansas. See especially the publications (since 1885) of the Nebraska State Historical Society; and J. Sterling Morton, Albert Watkins and others, Illustrated History of Nebraska (3 vols., Lincoln, 1905 sqq.), which has superseded H. Johnson, History of Nebraska (Omaha, 1880).
- About 52 grains per gallon at low water, 404 at high.
- The North Platte falls 3700 ft. in 510 m., the South, 7200 ft. in 427 m., above their junction; the latter falling 2692 ft. in 308 m. after leaving its canyon in the Rockies.
- Senate Executive Document 115 (vol. 10), 51 Congress, 1 Session (1890), Climate of Nebraska.
- Data of the State Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics, which are lower than those of the state Board of Agriculture, and (in census years) the Federal Census. The yearly average given by the Board of Agriculture for 1895–1904 is 219,196,000 bushels. The statistics for 1906 and 1907 are taken from the Year-books of the Department of Agriculture.
- The amendment increased the pay of members from three dollars to five dollars a day “during their sitting,” and provided that sessions should last at least sixty days, and that members should not receive pay “for more than sixty days at any one sitting”; the original constitution had provided that they should “not receive pay for more than forty days at any one session” and had prescribed no minimum length for a session.
- An almost identical clause was inserted in the Ohio constitution of 1802, and one in exactly the same language appears in the present (1851) constitution of that state; it appears also in the Kansas constitutions of 1855, 1858 and 1859 (present), in the Nebraska constitution of 1866, in the North Carolina and South Carolina constitutions of 1868, and was retained in the present constitution oi North Carolina as amended in 1876.
- In 1909 the state legislature refused to accept for the university the Carnegie education pensions.
- He was born in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, on the 10th of January 1844; served in the Union army during the Civil War; graduated at Brown University in 1870 and at Newton Theological Institution in 1874; taught homiletics at Newton in 1879–1882, history and economics at Brown in 1882–1888, and political economy and finance at Cornell in 1888–1889; and was president of Brown University in 1889–1898. He was an ardent bi-metallist, and in 1892 was a member of the International Monetary Conference at Brussels. He wrote on the currency question, and published a History of the United States in our Own Times (1904) and other works on American history and economics.
- In 18 months of 1849–1850 it was officially reported that 8000 wagons, with 80,000 draught-animals and 30,000 people, passed Ft. Kearney on the way to Oregon, California or Utah.
- Nebraska was one of the states in which the collapse of the co-operative enterprises of the Grange was particularly severe. The Farmers' Alliance was organized for the state in 1887, became a secret organization in 1889, and, as in other states, was a power by 1890. The membership of Grange, Alliance and Knights of Labour went over generally speaking into the People’s party.
- Secretary, acting governor.
- Secretary, several times acting governor, 1861–1867.
- Impeached and removed from office 1871.
- Lieut.-governor, succeeding.
- Removed by decision of state supreme court on grounds of non-citizenship, 5th of May 1891; reinstated by decision of U.S. Supreme Court, 1st of February 1892.
- Acting governor.
- Elected U.S. Senator.