Romance of Omaha, Chapter XXXII

Several years before the founding of Omaha, there was a frontier town on the eastern bank of the Missouri river almost directly opposite the future site of this city. It was known as Miller's Hollow, Council Point and Kanesville. Later its name was changed to Council Bluffs and a thriving city took the name of the frontier settlement.

The exact beginning of Council Bluffs is not definitely fixed. The first settler on the site of the present city is said to have been a fur trader by the name of Hart or Heart, who is supposed to have lived there as early as 1824. Some historians say Hart was an Indian.

As early as 1838 Father DeSmet established a Jesuit mission on the site of Council Bluffs. He reported finding none but Indians at that time. The same year or the next John C. Fremont visited the site. In 1842 United States dragoons camped in or near Council Bluffs to protect the Pottawattamie Indians against threatened attacks by the war-like Sioux.

Founded by Mormons

Brigham Young and his Mormons came in 1846. They settled approximately on the present site of Council Bluffs and called the place Miller's Hollow, after a Mormon elder named Miller.

Two years later the name was changed to Kanesville, in honor of a gentile who had befriended the Mormons when they were driven out of Missouri and Illinois. The Mormons founded the present city of Council Bluffs.

After they had established themselves at Florence, Neb., in 1846 and 1847, they had trouble with the Indians in Nebraska and nearly all returned to Kanesville. Later, when Brigham Young ordered all his people to join him in Salt Lake City several hundred remained in Kanesville, and for a few years controlled the town and county, politically, financially and socially. It was Brigham Young himself who requested the Iowa legislature to create the county of Pottawattamie. In 1851 the first county election was held. Kanesville was chosen the county seat.

Council Bluffs City was incorporated by the state legislature in 1853, but was not legally named untill 1855. Business men used Council Bluffs City on their stationery for two years before the name was officially changed from Kanesville.

End of Civilization

Council Bluffs is a city whose history is filled with romance and thrills. In its early life it was a wild place. It was the last outpost of civilization before the pioneers entered upon the long trek over the western plains.

The Mormons are credited by early settlers with keeping strict order in the new town, but after their influence waned and gentiles came in, the usual "wide open" condition of the frontier obtained.

The first church, a combination of Congregationalists and Methodists, was established in 1851. The first newspaper, the Frontier Guardian, a Mormon publication, was published in 1849. The Nonpareil was established in 1857 as a weekly.

For a number of years Council Bluffs depended upon the Missouri river for transportation. It was for several years after Omaha was founded the larger of the two, but the belief of the pioneers that cities on the west bank of the Missouri were destined to outgrow those on the east bank led many prominent citizens of the Bluffs to cross the Missouri and settle in Omaha. Council Bluffs may properly be called the father and mother of Omaha.

No Indian Trouble

The people of Council Bluffs faced the common hardships of life on the western frontier. But they were spared, almost entirely, serious trouble with Indians as the Iowas and Pottawatamies were very friendly to the white men.

Along in the 40s Council Bluffs at one time had a population of 7,000 or more. When the Mormons continued westward the population dropped to about 2,500. However, the town grew steadily. The advent of the railroad, the first being the Chicago & Northwestern, gave it great impetus. It was the end of the railroad for several years. Up to the time the Union Pacific spanned the Missouri with a bridge, all the passengers and freight from the east was unloaded in the Bluffs and transported to Omaha by ferry across the river.

At that time the Union Pacific transfer in Council Bluffs was the most important railroad station in the central west.

At the present time, Council Bluffs is served by the Northwestern, Illinois Central, Burlington, Wabash, Rock Island, Milwaukee and Great Western. It is well equipped with transportation facilities other than railroads. Four great motor highways terminated there. It is connected over paved or graveled roads, east, north, south and west.

City of Homes

Council Bluffs is even more a city of homes than Omaha. It is estimated that 70 per cent of the homes in the Bluffs are owned by those who live in them. The city has 17 parks, approximately 1,000 acres in extent, and connected by 20 miles of boulevards.

Its banks and business houses are adequate to serve the community which has become quite a manufacturing and grain center. The population of Council Bluffs is estimated at 42,000, with at least 50,000 persons living in the immediate territory. Its bank deposits exceed $15,000,000. Its manufacturing output is valued at about $20,000,000 a year. It has more than 200 retail establishments and is a large wholesale and jobbing center. The spirt of Council Bluffs was shown recently when the old Grand hotel burned down. Within a short time arrangements were made for erection of the Chieftain hotel, one of the finest hotels of its size in the country.

Council Bluffs is growing, its business men are energetic and forward-looking. Its churches and educational institutions are of a high order. Closely linked with Omaha in many ways, it is a city in itself and a neighbor of which Omaha is justly proud.

Chapter XXXIII
Return to Table of Contents Homepage