Omaha Timeline


Omaha/Douglas County History Timeline
Omaha/Douglas County History in a Trunk Project
compiled by Liz Rea, Director of Education, DCHS

pre 1800 1800-1849 1850-1859 1860-1869
1870-1879 1880-1889 1890-1899 post 1900

Omaha’s population was 30,555.  Nebraska’s population was 452,000 and that of rural Douglas County was 7500. 

A riot at the Smelting Works resulted in Governor Nance’s ordering out the state militia to restore order.  This was Omaha’s first major strike.  

The Nebraska School of Medicine was established with 14 students, two of them women.  The following year the school took the name and charter of the Omaha Medical College. 

President Rutherford B. Hayes, accompanied by Mrs. Hayes, General W.T. Sherman and others, spent a few hours in Omaha, visiting Fort Omaha and other points of interest. 

Irvington consisted of a general store, a schoolhouse, and a small Congregational church.  Established several years earlier, the village served as a trading center on the Military Road. 


Boyd’s Opera House at 15th and Farnam opened.  With a seating capacity of 1700, it expanded Omaha’s facilities for musical and dramatic theater. 

The City Waterworks Company, the city’s first waterworks and sewer system, were completed and went into operation. 

The Academy of the Sacred Heart, later known as Duchesne College, was founded. 

The Missouri River rose 23 feet in one of Omaha’s greatest floods.  The lower parts of the city were submerged, business suspended, and property damage was high.  The “Great Flood of 1881” covered low ground five miles wide between Omaha and Council Bluffs.  Lake Manawa was also created during this flood.  

The Omaha Medical College was incorporated as the new Nebraska School of Medicine. 

An amendment to the state constitution, giving women the right to vote, was passed by the Legislature, but the people in the next general election rejected it. 

The Nebraska State Farmers’ Alliance was organized. 


Omaha officially became the county seat of Douglas County.  The second Douglas County Court House was completed.   

State militia and Federal troops were called out to settle the railroad workers’ strike of workmen on the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad. 

A Board of Public Works was created with James Creighton, a cousin of Edward and John, as chairman.  Work to improve the streets was started.  Omaha’s first asphalt pavement was laid on Douglas Street, from 14th to 16th Streets. 

Street improvements included drastic changes in the contours of the downtown bluffs.  Ridges were graded down and ravines filled.  Harney, Farnam and Douglas were lowered at least 40 feet as an example of streets that underwent major redesign.


Omaha was connected by telephone with Lincoln and Plattsmouth. 

Telegraph operators all over the United States went on strike.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, Rocky Mountain and Prairie Exhibition made its first appearance on May 17th on the old fair grounds in north Omaha.  The land was owned by the Omaha Driving Park Association.  After its initial appearance in Omaha, the exhibition toured America and Europe and achieved world-wide fame.    

William A. Paxton helped organize the Union Stockyards Company of Omaha (Limited), and the South Omaha Land Company. 

Bellevue College (Presbyterian) was established. 

The Northwestern Electric Light Company was organized and housed in the Strang Building at 10th and Farnam.  It was the first company in Nebraska to operate arc and incandescent lights. 


The Union Stockyards in South Omaha received its first shipment of livestock—531 longhorns from Medicine Bow, Wyoming.  In the beginning, the Union Stockyards operated as a feeding station for stock en route to eastern markets like Chicago.

Temple Israel, the first synagogue in Omaha and Nebraska, was built and consecrated at 23rd and Harney.  It served the congregation until 1908.

The Omaha Club, the city’s oldest social club, was organized with a membership of 245.  It became the prototype for several country clubs in later years. 

Dana College in Blair was organized. 


Gilbert Hitchcock founded the Omaha Evening World, a newspaper dedicated to presenting the news in an unbiased manner.

Omaha was designated a See within the Catholic Church.  Bishop James O’Connor oversaw the largest bishopric in the country.  The territory included Nebraska, Dakota, Wyoming, and the eastern part of Montana.  Saint Philomena Cathedral was the seat of the Omaha See.  

A waterworks was built in Florence where river water, upstream from the city and its manufacturing, was processed and piped into homes and businesses. 


South Omaha was incorporated as a village. 

The Omaha Posten, the Midwest’s only large Swedish weekly newspaper, was founded. 

John S. Prince, world bicycle champion, raced Albert Schock, former champion, 50 miles for $100 and a percentage of the gate at Omaha. 


The round house of the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Omaha was destroyed by fire.

The first electric street railway was completed. 

Street car lines were laid between Omaha and South Omaha. 

President Grover Cleveland and his wife, accompanied by Mr. Cleveland’s private secretary and some of his Cabinet officers, spent a few hours in Omaha. 

The Creche, the oldest organized charity in Omaha, was founded to care for the children of working mothers.   

The Lincoln City Council was incarcerated in the Omaha jail.

Dr. George L. Miller sold the Omaha Daily Herald to John A. McShane.  

North Omaha was annexed to Omaha. 

Benson Village, an Omaha suburb, was platted by Erastus Benson who attracted buyers by hiring Buffalo Jones to graze herds of buffalo along the Military Road. 

East Omaha, an Omaha suburb, was founded by the CB&Q railroad’s East Omaha Land Company with Richard C. Cushing as president.  A total of $300,000 was spent to clear low-lying land of willows and to grade streets before lots were offered for sale. 

Gretna was founded.

The Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad founded the town of Irvington when the railroad built a station here.

Bennington was founded when the Chicago and North Western Railroad took over the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad.   


A January blizzard brought life to a standstill in Omaha and Douglas County.  Winds of 42 miles per hour created mountainous snowdrifts, and temperatures fell drastically in a few hours.  Two Omahans died within a few hundred feet of their homes.  No human lives were lost in rural Douglas County, but livestock losses were high.

The Douglas Street Bridge opened to traffic connecting Omaha and Council Bluffs. 

The first electric trolley cars of the Omaha Motor Railway Company began running. 

Joseph LaFlesche, last great Chief of the Omaha Indians, died. 

The Lininger Art Gallery opened at 18th and Davenport behind the home of G.W. Lininger, wealthy businessman and art collector.  The Omaha Women’s Club met there regularly.

St. John’s Catholic Church on the Creighton campus was dedicated.  

Fort Crook was established in Sarpy County. 


The Florence Waterworks plant, built at a cost of $1,500,000, went into operation. 

The Omaha Daily Herald newspaper was purchased, and two papers merged under the name Omaha World-Herald with Gilbert Hitchcock as the chief owner. 

The Omaha Park Commission was organized with Dr. George Miller as its first president. 

Elmwood Park was acquired.  It contained more than 200 acres, much of it donated by businessmen.  It had a spring that became a favorite location for country excursions.

The Omaha Horse Railway and Cable Tramway Company were consolidated under the name Omaha Street Railway Company. 

The Merchants and Manufacturers Exposition was held. 

The New York Life Building, Omaha’s first skyscraper, was built at 16th and Farnam.  In 1909, this 11-story structure became known as the Omaha Building when the Omaha National Bank purchased it. 

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