William P. Snowden
|Also Known As:||"Uncle Billy"|
|Birthplace:||Nicholasville, Jessamine County, Kentucky, United States|
|Death:||Died in Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas, United States|
|Cause of death:||Catarrhal trouble, stomach & old age|
|Place of Burial:||Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, United States|
|Occupation:||Brick maker, hotel & tavern keeper, sheriff and marshal, carpenter, auctioneer, and doorkeeper|
|Managed by:||Erica "the Disconnectrix" Howton|
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About William P. Snowden
On August 5, 1854, " ... a man named William P. Snowden and his good wife rowed across the Missouri from a place called Kanesville and became the first permanent white settlers of the fur-trading post named for the Omaha Indians."
Two blocks to your right (west), at 12th and Jackson Streets (18), is the site at which Omaha City's first resident, William P. Snowden, completed construction of the city's first building during July, 1854, a crude log structure that would be known as the St. Nicholas Hotel. The St. Nicholas, completed nearly three years before Omaha was officially incorporated by the territorial legislature on February 2, 1857, served as an early claim house for settlers.
From Omaha Illustrated
On July 11, 1854, Mr. and Mrs. Newell came over from Council Bluffs [Iowa]. Mr. Newell was engaged to work in the brick yard, and his wife to cook for the laborers. William P. Snowden and wife, also from Council Bluffs, landed in Omaha on the same day. Mr. and Mrs. Newell remained only three weeks. Mr. and Mrs. Snowden are still living in Omaha, and can justly claim the honor of being the first actual settlers. Cam Reeves and family came next, then P. G. Peterson, Mr. and Mrs. Bedell and others followed quite rapidly. Many of the old settlers, however, did not locate permanently until late in the fall of 1855, as they had to provide accommodations for their families before bringing them over from Council Bluffs.
The first house built in Omaha was a small, rough log structure, constructed for the ferry company. It was located in the vicinity of Twelfth and Jackson streets, and was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Snowden, who kept it as a boarding house during the summer and fall of 1854 for the ferry company's employes. It was given the name of the St. Nicholas Hotel, but was generally known as the "Claim House." It was in this building that the first religious services were held in Omaha, Sunday, August 13th, 1854, by Rev. Peter Cooper, of Council Bluffs. The second house was built by Mr. Gaylord, at Burt and Twenty-second streets; the third was the "Big 6," a sod house, occupied as a grocery and saloon, north side of Chicago street, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth. Mr. Snowden built the fourth house, a log cabin, on a lot given to him by the ferry company. It was on Tenth street, just south of Turner Hall. It was the first private dwelling house that was completed, and Mr. and Mrs. Snowden moved into it after having kept the St. Nicholas for three months. The event was celebrated with a "housewarming," and the first dance in Omaha was given on this occasion.
William P. Snowden dug the first grave. It was for an old Otoe squaw, who had been deserted by her people.
The Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company built the Claim House to encourage settlers to use their ferry. The first operators of the building, William and Rachel Snowden, named it the St. Nicholas Hotel and ran it during the summer and fall of 1854. The first church service in Omaha was held by Reverend Peter Cooper of neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa on August 13, 1854.
A log cabin, the St. Nicholas Hotel consisted of one main room and an attached kitchen. Travelers and early settlers found temporary residence there, along with church services, dances and public meetings.
The Omaha Claim Club, also called the Omaha Township Claim Association and the Omaha Land Company, was organized in 1854 for the purpose of "encouraging the building of a city" and protecting members' claims in the area platted for Omaha City in the Nebraska Territory. At its peak the club included "one or two hundred men", including several important pioneers in Omaha history. The Club included notable figures important to the early development of Omaha. It was disbanded after a ruling against their violent methods by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1860 in Baker v. Morton.
The Omaha Claim Club met regularly to confer upon rules and elect officers as necessary. In February 1857 a mass meeting was held at the "Claim House" on the Pioneer Block in Omaha.
Before the public lands in the Territory had been surveyed, the laws afforded the settlers no protection against land sharpers and jumpers, and the only title they could get to the land upon which they were located was what was called the "claim," or "squatters'" title; therefore, for their mutual benefit and protection, and for the adjustment of all disputes arising in regard to claims, the settlers of the County formed themselves into a Club, electing a Judge, Clerk, Recorder, and Sheriff, and enacting a code of laws for the government of all claim matters.
The first meeting of the Omaha Club, for the purpose of organizing, was held on the afternoon of July 22,1854, under a large elm, known as the "lone tree," which stood on the bank of the river at the landing of the ferry boat. Samuel Lewis was chosen Chairman, and M. C. Gaylord, Secretary. A constitution and bylaws were prepared and adopted, after which a full sett of officers were elected, as follows: A. D. Jones, Judge; S. Lewis, Clerk; M. C. Gaylord, Recorder, and R. B. Whitted, Sheriff.
The Club was the recognized high tribunal of the land. There was no stay of execution or appeal from its decrees. Although some injustice was undoubtedly done under its workings, the community was in the main benefited by it, as claim-jumping and claim quarrels were of daily occurrence, and it was only through the arbitrary power wielded by the Club that much bloodshed was prevented.
- Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 Name: William Snowdon Marriage Date: 9 Sep 1847 Marriage County: Buchanan Spouse Name: Racheal Larison
- Chicago Chronicle New York Times Archives January 19, 1903 "First Settler in Omaha. He went there from Kentucky in 1854 and still remains."
- Johnson's History of Nebraska By Harrison Johnson. Page 279
- Omaha's First Century New City Shapes Up on a Muddy Plateau; 'Claims Club' Is Ruler.
- U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 Death Jan 9 1909
- Wikipedia: Founding figures of Omaha, Nebraska William and Rachel Snowden: The first settlers in Omaha, they operated the St. Nicholas Hotel for several months, and then built their own home.