The Blockhouse at Tekamah
By Albert Watkins
The new courthouse for Burt County was
dedicated on Tuesday, March 19, 1918. In an account of the
dedicatory exercises, the Burt County Herald of March 22 quotes
the inscription of a historical tablet which was placed in the
courthouse, in part as follows:
"This new courthouse stands on the site
of the old Blockhouse built by the United States war department
in 1855 to protect the first white settlement in this county
from Indian depredations." In the account it is said further
that General John M. Thayer organized a military company at
Tekamah, the members of which "were mustered into the regular
United States army."
The first military organization in the
Territory of Nebraska was formed in accordance with an
admonitory proclamation issued by Acting Governor Cuming on
December 23, 1854. The organic act of the territory declared
that "The governor . . . shall be commander-in-chief of the
militia thereof." But the first Legislative Assembly did not
exercise its power to authorize the organization of a militia.
This was first done by the second assembly, in 1856. So the
acting governor's undertaking was legally premature. He directed
that there should be two regiments, the First regiment by, for
and of the North Platte section; the Second, by, for and of the
The proclamation prescribed further that
"Said companies shall elect their own officers, the regimental
officers being commissioned by the commander-in-chief.
"Said companies are recommended to keep
such arms and ammunition as they can procure, in good order and
ready for service; also in the frontier settlements to . . .
provide blockhouses for shelter, in case of attack, until word,
can be sent to other companies.
"In pursuance of this proclamation I
have this day appointed and commissioned regimental officers,
viz: one colonel, one Lieut. Colonel, one major, and one
adjutant for each regiment."
In a book named Executive Proceedings
and Official Correspondence, Territory of Nebraska there is a
partial record of the organization of this provisional militia,
or rather the undertaking to organize it; for while I was
writing the first volume of the history of Nebraska I
cross-examined General Thayer about this incident, and he
informed me that very little of practical importance was done.
This record shows only the appointment of officers for the
Second, or South Platte, regiment, "up to January 1, 1855"; but
it discloses that on February 7, 1855, the acting governor
commissioned Andrew J. Hanscom colonel of the First Regiment
Nebraska Volunteers, William C. James lieutenant colonel, and
Hascall C. Purple major; also, John M. Thayer brigadier general,
and Anselum Arnold adjutant of the first brigade, as the entire
organization, consisting of the two regiments, was designated.
Thus it appears that the war department
of the United States took no part in the building of the
blockhouse at Tekamah and that the local company of men who
built it were part of a purely territorial and extemporized
militia. General Thayer first entered the army of the United
States soon after the beginning of the Civil War. The fact that
he became a brigadier general in that war probably led to the
confusion and misapprehension I have pointed out.
Source: Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days, Volume I,
Number 1, Published Monthly by the Nebraska Historical Society,
Please stop by again!!
Copyright August © 2011 -
AHGP The American History and Genealogy Project.
Enjoy the work of our webmasters, provide a link, do not copy their work