Story of the Douglas County Court House and Jail, Soon to Vanish
.. I -I
i - .
'u ; i
4 ' ' '
Pi ' 1 -
" - -y ' ?"? it ' ,'fV':
1-.. v- v .. ' .
,f ' .- 5 .W'.t.li"' .?"'!' 1
I11-... t- 1.r ".
, Vju',."" i w ""
... Jrrn -:
DOUOLAS COUNTY COURT HOUSES AND JAIL WHICH WILt. BE5 REMOVED TO MAKE ROOM FOR A MORS COMMODIOUS AND MODERN BUILDINO. COURT ROOM NO. 1. WHERE- CRIMINAL. COURT SITS, AND WHERE MANY FAMOUS TRIALS HAVE BEEN HTTLH,
HE Douglas county court house.
TT 1 which If shortly to tlve way to
I I I munificent modern million
aonar structure, whs aeipr
mined on a.t a meeting; of the
Board of County Commissioner
on September 11, 1880, when It was unan
imously voted by that board to direct tha
Issuance of a proclamation calling for an
elprtlon to vote 1125.000 and not to exceed
H50.C00 bonds for the construction of the
present edifice. The members of the board,
of county commissioners were Frederick
Drexcl, Frank W. Corlles and Benjamin
P. Knight, with John R. Manchester om
The bonds were to be dated January 1,
1S8L, to run for twenty years at 6 per cent
Interest per annum, and not more than 16
per cent of the levy to be made In any
one year on the principal; provided al
ways that in no event shouldf bonds be
issued to a greater amount than 10 per
cent of the assessed valuation of all tax
able property of Douglas county, and
what the bonds should be redeemable at
the option of the county board.
The election on the bond proposition took
place November 1, 1880, and the proposition
was declared carried. The board of com
missioners met on November 9. 1880, and at
once directed the county clerk to advertise
for proposals for the purchase of the J12S.O0O
bonds, the entire amount of the bonds to
be delivered on January 1, 1881.
The conditions In the proposals were that
no levy should be made to pay any part of
the principal of the bonds until after the
expiration of ten years and that Interest
should be only paid, on and after the date
of the sale of the same. The bonds were
to be delivered, $26,000 on January 1, 1881;
taO.OOO July 1, 1S81, and SOO.000 January 1,
The bonds were sold on December 27.
1880, tbe purchaser being Exra Millard of
Omaha, at the rate of, for the 125,000 bonds
to be delivered January 1, 1S81, at $23,281.25;
the $50,000 to be delivered on July 1, 1S81,
at $50,562.60; and the $50,000 to be delivered
January 1, 1882, at $50,437.50. Mr. Millard
put up a bond of $26,000 as a guarantee.
Other bidders for the bonds represented
New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chi
cago financiers, but Mr. Millard's proposi
tion was considered the beat and was ac
cepted. The bonds having been successfully
floated, the remainder of the winter was
devjted by the board to the consideration
of plans for the new structure, which
was Intended to make it the handsomest
and most spacious court house In the en
tire west. Architects were invited to sub
mit plana, and other propositions came
from best architects from every quarter
of the country. Finally, after much parley
and repeated adjournments of the board,
on April , 1881, the plans of Architect E. E.
Meyers of Detroit, Mich., were accepted
by the county board and the contract was
awarded to him. He executed the requisite
bond for the faithful performance of his
work. The contract for building the new
structure was let to John F. Coots of
Omaha, and the work on excavating for
laying the foundations was begun In May.
The brick used in the structure and in
the county Jan were burned on the ground
where the Patterson block now stands at
Seventeenth and Farnam streets. It was
further proposed that the brick from the
old court house at the corner of Sixteenth
and Farnam streets should be also utilised
In the new structures. The Juil building
was built first, and during its building
the same questions regarding the cells for
the. new Jail were thrashed over and over
again as prevails In this later 1908. The
question then was whether the cells In the
old Jail should or' could be used in the
new. There is no records at present avail
able to tell Just how the controversy was
Ths new court house was to be built of
Peres stone, and others was tranp!anted
from ths Buckeys state, the first big ship
ment of lis stony product to the soil of
the transmlMslsslppl country.
At the time of the building of the court
house the grade level of Farnam, Harney,
Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets was
from fifteen to twenty feet higher than the
present grade, and while the new building
occupied a commanding and attractive site,
It was then the most conspicuous land
mark of Omaha, with the single exception
of the high school building.
The excavating and laying of the founda
tions took up a greater part of the building
season of lbM. and It was not until In Oc
tober, 1S83, that the cornerstone was finally
laid. This interesting ceremony took place
os the afternoon of October K, 1883, and
was one of the most brilliant and elaborate
functions occurring in Omaha up to that
' time. The day was made a holiday and
all Omaha was decked In gala attire, with
bunting floating from all the business
block. The ceremonies were conducted
under the auspices of the Masonic Grand
Lodge of Nebraska, of which George W.
Lirunger was then grand master. The day
was extremely chilly and raw, but the
ardor and enthusiasm of the good people of
Omaha and Douglas county was at fever
Long before the ceremonies began Court
House square was thronged with people ad
miring ths symmetrical foundations which
bad been more or less obscured by the ar
tistic stone water tables and some four
feet of the Stone superstructure, givliig a
: 'f X
A i t.-l it ; .;.
.-. . -.."'...'.. r . ... : i ' j l ' ,'.''r
' $f ' ' - ''
'.- ; . . fj- ... ii ' - i'v1'
J mmummSSSj '"-ii'- M .;
. : t
kj. -frtiifir-ii'ririii.t-ii Vr- fl i f ' -
IN THE COUNTY JAIL KITCHEN.
INTERIOR OF MAIN CORRIDOR IN COUNTY JAIL.
comprehensive Idea of what the beautiful
finished product would be.
The afternoon program contemplated an
elaborate procession, which began forming
In front of Masorric temple, at Sixteenth
street and Capitol avenue. The procession
started promptly at 8 o'clock and paraded
the principal streets, marching south from,
point of starting to Douglas on Sixteenth,
east on Douglas to Ninth, south on Ninth
to Farnam and west on Farnam to Court
House square. The procession was made
up of a number of brilliantly uniformed
orders and societies, and the line was re
splendent with American, Irish and Danish
national flags and society emblems and
banners. The procession was formed in
Grand Marshal Frank E. Moores.
City Marshal and Deputies and Platoon of
Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division No.
1 (fifty strong).
Cigar Makers (thirty).
Danish Society (100).
Danish Brotherhood (fifty).
Omaha Turnverien (fifty).
Mayor James B. Boyd and Hon. A. J.
poppleton, orator of the day, In carriage.
Concordia Society (fifty).
Omaha Glee Club (twenty).
Board of County Commissioners.
Architect Meyers and County Officials.
Old Settlers' Association.
Union Pacific Band.
Mount Calvary Commandery, Knights Tem
plar No. 1. Escort (fifty).
Master Masons, St. John's Lodge No. 28.
Covert Lodge No. U.
Capitol Lodge No. t.
Grand Commandery, Knlphts Templar.
Grand Masonic Lodge of Nebraska.
The procession extended from Ninth street
half way up to the Farnam street hill
leading to the court house block, and was
fully half a mile in length. The program
at the court house was begun as soon at the
officials and grand lodge officers had
reached the places assigned them on the
temporary platform from which the cere
monies were to taks place. As soon as all
were tn their places there came a blaze of
trumpets announcing that the proceedings
Architect Meyers read "the invitation which
bad been extended to the Masonic fraternity
to lay the corner stone. Grand Master
Oeorge W. Llnlnger replied to the Invita
tion. Prayer was then given by the
masonic grand chaplain. Then came' a song
by the Omaha Glee club. The grand treas
urer then presented the casket to the grand
secretary and read a list of Its contents,
the same to be placed in its proper re
ceptacle In the corner stone. The Glee club
followed with a song. The laying and
placing of the stone was then performed
by Grand Master Llnlnger, who tested It
by the Implements of Masonry. Th
stone was then consecrated by being
anointed with corn, wine and oil, after
which the implements of operative Masonry
were delivered into the hands of Architect
The ceremonies concluded with the ode,
"Amerl a," which th' entire assembly Joined
after which the customary donation of
coins gathered by collection from among
the assembly was placed on the atone for
the benefit of the workmen employed on
the building. The address of Andrew J.
Poppleton followed. He began his address
with a reference to the Louisiana pur
chase of 1803, stating that from that period
up to 1854, Nebraska was known as the
Indian country and had Deen untouched
by civilization. He alluded to the blight
ing financial panic of 1857, and stated that
Is was during this period that Douglas
county had its birth. The first boundaries
of the county extended from the mouth of
the Platte river northward along the Mis
souri river to a point one mile north of
Omaha, westward along the line of Wash
ington county twenty miles, thence tun
miles south more or less to the Platte river,
thence east to place of beginning. These
limits then Included the whole of Sarpy
county or as it was then known as Sarpy
precinct, so it will thus be seen that the
northern boundary was not farther north
than Sulphur Springs. Fort Oinuha was
then situated in Washington county, the
northern limits of Omaha being at that
time at Burt street. February IS, 1855, a
bill was passed In the territorial legislature
fixing the boundaries of Omaha county, as
It was then sought to name the new county,
but the friends of "Douglas" county wero
insistent and the name of Douglas county
was preserved. Sarpy precinct was segre
gated from Douglas county after an ani
mated discussion on February 7, 1857, and
the county seat established at Bellevue,
which closed a long and fitter controversy
between the two sections.
The first court of record In this district,
the Fir3t Judfcial district of Nebraska, was
opened in the Mission house at Bellevue by
Fenner Ferguson, chief Justice of the ter
ritory, with Ell K. Doyle as marshal.
Little or no business was transacted. The
next district court was held in the "only
brick building in Omaha." This building
was used by the legislative assembly, and
was situated on lot 7, block 124, on Ninth
street, between Farnam and Douglas
streets. This building was subsequently
used as Union Pacific headquarters until
that company moved to Its present quar
ters In the old Herndon hotel, In the fall
Court wss afterwsrds held in the Pio
neer block. I'p to that time the Judges
presiding were Fenner Ferguson, Augus
tus Hstt, William Pitt Kellogg, William
Kellog, George B. Lake, James W. Sav
age and James Neville. The county then
had a population of 40,000. John C. Cowin
was county attorney at the time of the
laylrg of the cornerstone, October 25, 1882,
and Frederick Drexel, Benjamin P.
Knight and F. W. Corliss, county commis
sioners. The Inscription on the cornor
stc.ne Is as follows: "Erected 1S82. Fred
erick, Drexcl, Frank W. Corliss, Ben
jamin P. Knight, commissioners. E. EX
Meyers, architect. D. L, Shane, superin
tendent. "Laid by the Mascnlc fraternity. O. W.
Llnlnger, O. M. of Masons, Oct. 25, 1KS2.
"John F. Cocts. builder."
The cornerstone Is laid at the northeast
corner of the structure, facing the corner
of Seventeenth and Farnam streets.
While the conditions provided In voting
the bonds, limited the amount of such
bonds to $126,000 and not to exceed $160,000
boi ds, only $126,000 wtre originally issued.
When ths building was about completed In
1886. the grade of the surrounding streets
had been lowered very materially and It
became necessary to build a retaining wall
about the court house square. Additional
bonds to the amount of $26,000 were then
Issued to build this wall, thus bringing the
limit of bonds up to the authorised maxi
mum of $150,000. Only a smnll proportion
of the principal of the original bonds have
ever been paid.
Following the removal of the courts to
the Pioneer block In 1889, the matter of
the erection of a court house was agitated
and the first court house owned by Drug
las county was a two-story brick, built at
the corner of Sixteenth and Farnam, where
the Paxton block now stands, and here
the affairs were conducted until the com
pletion and dedication of the new struc
ture In 1886.
Dedication of ths Court Hour,
The formal dedication cf the court house
took place In the rotunda of the new struc
ture the night of May 29, 1885. An elabor
ate program of the evening's ceremonies
had been printed, upon which was stated
in bold letters: "Dedicated May 18, 183.
Cost, $204,151.06." The ceremonies brought
together the beauty and chivalry of Omaha
and Douglas county, tho splendid building
being magnificently, decorated and Illumin
ated for the occasion. The formal pro
ceedings began with the presentation of
the completed building to the county com
missioners by Architect E. E. Meyers. The
Collesre Freshmen at the National Corn Show
KB of the most interesting fea
tures of the National Corn
show at Omaha was the dem
onstration work of the fresh
man students from the Iowa
Agricultural college. Grizzled
farmers who stopped with a tolerant grin
to hear what the boys had to say, found
their grin changed to an expression of'
open mouthed Interest before the talk
was half completed.
The mysteries ot the testing box were
explttlned and the advantage of this
method of testing seed corn over the old
way of burying a few kernels in an old
tin can on the back porch was mad
car. When the layer of sawdust was pulled
hark and the squares of mouldiy, dead
kernels disclosed among ths vigorous
sprouts of the good B ruins, like the sheep
among Uie goats. It did not take much ar
gument to convince the farmers that the
careful use of the testing box would do
much to Increase the stand. The point
Uiat the boys hammered In the hardest
was that each of tnese moldy kernel
meant one ear less at husking time, and
a consequent reduction ot the profits.
"It beats the goose that laid the golden
eggs," on of the spectators remarked,
"no more tin can testing for me."
While this was going on, another of the
boys was showing how the planter plates
could be filed and tested ao a to drop
three, and only three, kernels to
each hill. Others were giving talks
on cultivating corn and showing
py the use of Illustrated charts why ths
old way of tearing up the ground to a
depth of four or five Inches was so In
jurious to the crop. The part of the ouro
pUnt that really does, ths business, ths
roots, was graphically Illustrated and Uia
mutilating action of a long shovel shown.
Still others were lecturing on harvest
ing corn, and discussing ths points of
merit in the different harvesting ma
chines and the advantages of cutting up
the corn and using it for fodder and
Silage. Front this point the work was
taken up by others, who gave practical
talks on feeding corn and corn product.
If any farmer who stopped to listen to
ths I. 8. C. boys had an Idea that a bug
was a bug, and thst so long as they
didn't bother him personally he was will
ing to let them alone, he had his eyes
suddenly opened. All kinds - of insects,
from the tiny corn root worm to the slip
pery white grub, were pictured and the
story of their lives Interestingly told.
Her th farmer learned that ths wire
worms levied a tax of ten bushels per
acre on the corn crop on his lower fc rty,
or that be was paying a still heavier
bounty to the root worms that were sap
ping the life from the corn ;jn that old
field thst was too good corn land to ever
be put Into anything efse.
It was with a vastly helghtaned reipect
for agricultural colleges and agricultural
college education that farme.s and corn
growers turned away when dinner time
cams. They learned that tbe study of corn
roots Is there regarded ss more Important
than the study uf cube root, and that live
stock and live planto are given preference
over dead languages.
As for the elrfiteen boys In the squad, ths
trip to Omaha was the crowning moment
in their lives so far. Under Die ceaseless
coaching of Mr. Sexauer. and the con
tagious enthusiasm of Professor Cruasley,
they have worked dy and night, almost.
In the keen competition to make 'the
Corn show squad." Tuey talked about corn
at meal time, between classes and at almost
every other time. Whenever two of them
met an earnest conversation on corn was
at once started. They dreamed about corn
at night, and woke up In the morning
enumerating the advantages of a test
ing box. Even the 100 or more who fallud
to make the squad wt re; amply repaid In
an Increased knowledge of corn for all
the time they put in, and by knowing the
way to greater honor will be open to them
lu competition next year.
s 2 i r::.s
' v" v "'.-: .'''..;-''",.:"-.'. . .- ' .'. , ' - ' '"..-',.. . ' ;
;.':iVv;v-:i f'i,:U-.4 -T.J.- ..vr-v: rJ.' 1"
...:v;-y..;. H- r.-'Iv
i 4 1 9. . . A .
v . V.-
. ' ' ' " , ' r
r ?, . f i v .W ; i
from Left to Right H. C. Co griff. Cedar County; James Knickerbocker. A. L. Bmlth. Creston; R. W. Cassldy. Whiting; Phln Shearer. Marshalltown. Mld
' Row Wlliam Buckland. Ames: L. E. Thomas Elvaston, I1L; Theodore Sexauer, Coach; Fred K. Long, Mama; W. C. Hsell, Cedar Kaplds; Joe Nay lor, Clear
He Bottom Kow-J. E. Nell, Loug Grove; C 0. Cathcast, Lohrville; J. F. Oilman. Dixon; Don C. Welty, Chicago; O. V. Gansseff, Polk County; Melvln MoOrew,
LAC FRESHMEN AT OMAHA CORN EXPOSITION,
presentation address on behalf of the
Board of County Commissioners of ths
structure to the court and people of tho
county was made by John C. Cowtn,
county attorney. Judge Eleazar Wakeley
accepted the dedication on behalf of the
district court of Douglss county in an
eloquent address. Judge J. W. Savage
accepted the building on behalf of the
people, and Judge John M. Thurston fol
lowed with an address, reciting the history
of the old court house and the events
leading up to the erection of the present
structure. J. M. Woolworth delivered an
eloquent address upon "The Past Juris
prudence of Douglas County," and he was
followed by John I. Redick with a rem
iniscent address upon the "Bar of Doug
las County." The sentiment of "Th Bar
of the Future Douglas County" was ex
pressed In an eloquent address by Arthur
C. Wakeley. This concluded the formal
The county commissioners In office at
the time of the dedication were Richard
O'Keefe, chairman; F. W. Corliss und
George B. Tlmme. The bar commit teo la
charge of the arrangements consisted of
B. E. B. Kennedy, W. J. Connell, B. W.
Blmeral and W. A. Redick. with O. W.
Ambrose as chairman and master of cere
monies of the dedication proceedings.
Resolutions were adopted expressing ths
thanks of tho commissioners and the peo
ple of Douglas county for the able and
honest manner In which the building had
been constructed by Architect E. E. Mey
ers and Builder John F. Coots. Th clos
ing act of the program was th presenta
tion of a gold-headed cane to D. L. Shane,
superintendent of construction, by ths
Board of Cottnty Commissioners. The pres
entation address was delivered by Com
Many sensational trials have been hell
In the old court house, some of which have
engaged national attention and which have
employed the best legal talent in ths state.
These Include the John W. Luuer case,
the Ed Neal murder trial, tho Beecther
murder trial, the Cudahy kidnaping or
Fut Crowe case and others of less import
ance, including the Davis case Just con
cluded. The first of these big trials was John
W. Lauer case. On the night of Novem
ber 21, lsi, John W. Iuer, a prominent
citizen of Omaha, and with his wife, mov
ing in the excluiilve social circles of the
city, shot and killed his wife as she stood
at tho foot of their bed, under the pre
sumption, as he alleged, that she was a
burglar. So many peculiar circumstances
surrounded the killing of Mrs. Lauer that
Iiuer was arrested on the charge of mur
der and his preliminary hearing was held
before Police Judge E. M. Sternberg the
following day, and his bond was first fixed
at $10,000, but he was subsequently re
manded to Jul without hail. Mrs. Ia.uer
was formnjly Miss Sallle Goetschlns, a
nlnce of tha Hers of Omaha. She was but
22 years of age when she became the wife
of John W. Iuer In May, 18S3. From tlie
very outset of their married life domestlo
differences arose and Mrs. Lauer was
driven from her home. Through the Inter
cession of friends a reconciliation was af
fected between the two and Mrs. Latter re
turned to her home nnd husband In 1881 and
continued living with him until the tragedy
which ended tier life. Up to 9 p. m. the
evening of tho tragedy, Mr. and Mrs. Lauer
were out riiiing and returned home much
fatigued. lJiucr s.ild that some time early
In tho morning ho vtas awakened by a
nolso In tho next apartment, a dining room,
and saw the dim outlines of a face. Ho
Bi:ppo?ed It to be thnt of a burglar and
shot Inutantly, killing the person, whom
n moment later he discovered to be his
young wife. Her sistr, then Hvlng with
the Lauers, came running Into the roen
and Laur-r exclaimed to her: "Oh, Minerva,
I thought I was shooting at a burglar and
tiavo killed Sallle."
The trial of I-au-r bcun on March 8,
185, and continued for eleven days, when,
on March 19, IPSO, the Jury oume In with a
verdict of guilty of manslaughter. Lr 8.
Etttelle was the prosecuting attorney and
was assisted In the trial of the case by
John C. Cowin. John M. Thurston was at
torney for the defense, assisted by Judge
Savage. Judge Neville presided at the trial
.of the case. William (Vburn wss sheriff.
The trial created the most intense ex
citement, and during its entire proceeding
the court room was crowded with specta
tors. Owing to the soelal standing of the
parties many of the witnesses were among
Omaha's most pr imlnent citizens, as were
many of the spectators. Lauer subse
quently secured a new trial and was ad
judged not guilty. Thl new trial took
place the following year, and the verdict
of acquittal was rendered March 19, 1887,
Just one year later than his conviction of
manslaughter. The verdict was received
by the public with many expressions of dis
approval. Another sensational case of about this
period was that of the state against Loyal
L- Smith, charged with the fraudulent
transfer of property, embracing a large
department store Smith had established
on Douglas street between Twelfth and
Thirteenth streets. Smith was arrested on
June .2, lf6. snd was held under $10,000
bends. The case never came to trial, as
Smith afterwards compromised with his
creditors snd the esse wss nolled. Smith
msde good Sll his alleged debts snd died
a few years ago In New Tork, a reputed
Ranking only second In Importance ts) th
(Continued en Pag JTour.)
xml | txt