|The first United States Government expedition was made in 1819, under Major Long, who traveled up the north side of the Platte, and crossed just above the forks of the two rivers; thence going up the valley between the two rivers about two miles, and then traveling south they passed over the present site of the town North Platte, and crossed the South Platte about two miles below the town, probably near where the Iron Wagon Bridge is now, and then proceeded up the south side of the South Platte.
Titian Peale, the naturalist, now living in Philadelphia at an advanced age, was with this expedition. The Peale family, now living at North Platte, are relatives of his.
In 1835, Colonel Henry Dodge visited this country in the United States Government employ, with an expedition of 117 men, for the purpose of persuading the Arickaree Indians, then occupying this region, to leave their wild life and become civilized. He had the authority from the Government to give aid to them should they accept the offer. Colonel Dodge camped with his men at the Cottenwood Springs, afterward called Fort McPherson, and attempted to hold council with the tribe, but they feared the soldiers and fled to the timbered region at the head of the Fremont Slough.
On July 5th, Colonel Dodge finally held a council with the indians at this place, near what is now known as the Scherz Farm, ten miles southwest of the town of North Platte. The object of the meeting was to have the indians accept a reservation; the only real result was the usual presents from the whites; and promises of good will and friendship from the indians.
In 1843, Colonel J. C. Fremont, making his expedition up the Platte. Traveling up the south side of the Platte until he reached the forks, he crossed the South Platte at the place which is now the farm of Alex Struthers, about two miles from the present town of North Platte. He marched west between the rivers, camping for the night about eighteen miles west of the forks near what is now known as Keith’s ranch.
During 1844, travel up the Platte River became quite frequent, and the first building in the county was built by an unknown Frenchman near the present resident of Mrs. Burke, at Fort McPherson. The building was made of cedar logs, with iron doors, and was used as a trading post, but was abandoned in 1848.
In 1852, a man named Brady settled on the south side of the island now bearing his name, and built a house of cedar logs, about one quarter of a mile from the present residence of Mrs. Burke. Brady was thought to have been killed some time during the following year by Indians.
In 1858, the first permanent settlement in the county was made at Cottonwood Springs, and the first building was built by Boyer & Robideau in the fall of that year, to be used as a trading post. The place was named Cottonwood Springs, made up of about one hundred acres, surrounded by heavy growth of cottonwood trees.
Also, in 1858, another trading post was started at O’Fallon’s Bluffs, located on the south side of the river and several miles above the town of O’Fallon’s.
Several trading posts were established at convenient distances all the way from Fort Kearney to the mountains.
In 1859, a second building was built in Cottonwood Springs by Dick Darling, but it was purchased by Charles McDonald. He put in a large stock of supplies for the freighters and emigrants, and in fact a supply of everything that would sell to white men or Indians.
In the winter of 1860, he moved his wife, Orra McDonald, from Omaha, she then became the first white woman to settle in the county. It was three years before another white woman came to Cottonwood Springs. Although during 1860, several white women came to the county with their husbands. Mrs. Davis, living a few miles from Cottonwood Springs, was the second white woman in the county. Mrs. McDonald is now living at North Platte, where her husband is engaged in banking. She is the most intelligent and refined of ladies, and was responsible for must of the information given about the early history of the county.
In the spring of 1860, J. A. Morrow built a ranch about twelve miles west of Cottonwood Springs, and the mail company established a mail station on Box Elder Creek.
The cause for the establishment of all of these posts was the increased travel and freighting carried over this route during the great rush of emigrants and gold seekers to the Rocky Mountains and on to California. It was necessary for these posts to be built at convenient distances so that the freighters and emigrants could purchase their supplies. These posts were at first some distance apart and were soon increased in number until it was only about ten to twelve miles distance between stations, the larger staions had multiple trading posts.
Mail and stage lines were established along the routes.
In 1861, Edward Creighton, of Omaha, completed his telegraph line. For many years, until the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad, the entire route had a constant stream of travel pouring up this valley. It was not uncommon to have hundreds, maybe a thousand wagons pass on a single day.
In June of 1861, the first white child was born in the county. His name is William H. McDonald, he now lives with his parents at North Platte.
What is now known as Lincoln County was first organized as a county under the Territorial government of Nebraska, in 1860.
Cottonwood Springs was made the county seat.
The following officers were elected:
J. P. Boyer, J. C. Gillman and J. A. Morrow – Commissioners
Charles McDonald – Judge
W. M. Hinman – Treasurer
Instead of being called Lincoln, the county was called Shorter. Nothing more important than the organization was done because the only officers that ever took the trouble to qualify for their respective offices were J. A. Morrow and Charles McDonald.
In 1866, steps were taken to reorganize old Shorter County, since the first organization had no effect so far as the government of the county was concerned. The officers elected in 1860 having failed, with two or three exceptions, to qualify, and no other election having been held, the organization of the county was practically of no effect.
On September 3, 1866, a meeting was held and arrangement made to re-organize Shorter county under the name of Lincoln, in accordance with the Territorial laws of Nebraska, as this was before Nebraska became a state.
An election was called for the following October. The early records are so incomplete that it is impossible to give the names of all the officers elected at this time.
A partial list was:
J. C. Gillman, W. M. Hinman and J. A. Marow – Commissioners
S. D. Fitchie – Judge
William Baker – Sheriff
Charles McDonald – Clerk
The county seat remained Cottonwood Springs.