History, Department of


Date of this Version



Pamphlet edition, April 2012.


Copyright © 2012 Paul Collister. Used by permission.


Valuable as old settlers' reminiscences and early local histories are, the researcher may still find surprising details concerning the development of a community. Research in documents closer to the times depicted may uncover realities that were not supposed to have existed, things that had dropped out of collective memory that were contrary to normal procedures or legal definitions. The founding of the village of Lancaster, the predecessor of Lincoln, Nebraska, in Lancaster County's Salt Basin may present such surprises. The traditional accounts of the founding of Lancaster/Lincoln sketch a rather strange beginning. Local settlers chose a townsite for a county seat to be called "Lancaster" at a meeting under a great elm in fall 1859 as part of an effort to organize a county government. Then these settlers went back to their normal occupations, and the townsite remained entirely uninhabited and undeveloped until the arrival of Reverend John M. Young's colony in 1863.4 But evidence exists that some sort of village had functioned at Lancaster all along from 1859.