Colfax County - Genealogy Trails
Colfax County was originally a portion of Platte. By act of the Legislature, approved March 15, 1869, it was detached
from Platte and erected into a separate county.
The Republican voters predominating, the newly-formed county received its name, Colfax, in honor of the then
Vice-President, Schuyler Colfax. It was by the very last act of the Legislature that the creating act was passed.
By a supplementary act, Schuyler was fixed upon as the county seat. At this time the town was the property of the
U. P. R. R Co. Its buildings consisted of a railroad station, a section house, and several smaller buildings.
After the county was created, in 1869, the first meeting of Commissioners was held on March 20. Messrs. Wm. Davis,
Q. B. Skinner and Robert C. Kenney had been appointed Commissioners. The meeting was being held in the house
built by Wm. Brown, the tinner.
C. M. Greenman was appointed County Clerk until his successor could be elected and qualified.
After organizing, with William Davis as chairman, they proceeded to divide the county into three commissioner's
At the meeting held March 22, the Commissioners appointed:
Daniel Hashberger was appointed Treasurer for Buchanan Precinct
R. W. Corson was appointed Probate Judge, March 27
H. H. Foutz, Justice of the Peace for the Buchanan District
Levi Kimball, Constable
James McAllister, Justice of the Peace of Center Precinct
David Andersen, Constable.
Then, on April 5, M. B. Hoxie was worked into the roster as District Attorney. J. C. Maple as School Superintendent.
Mr. Maple refused to qualify on the 10th, and Nathan Woods became the lucky man of office. "Judge" Corson refused
to qualify as Probate Judge, and Obadiah Hall was appointed in his place.
I was agreed that all lands to be put upon the market at the next annual land sale, in June, 1869. E. E. Greenman, Levi
Kimball and George Lawrence were appointed Commissioners for the sale of the lands.
In August, the county was divided into Elderad, Shell Creek, Schuyler and Grant precincts.
In September, County Surveyor John Phinney was instructed to locate a county road across Sections 27 and 28. The
County Clerk was also authorized to advertise for building bridges across Shell and Maple Creeks, and the sloughs on the
route of the road.
The general election, were to be held October 12, 1869. The election was duly held, and resulted as follows:
Isaac Albertson, Probate Judge
R. W. Corson, Treasurer
J. W. F. Williams, County Clerk
Adolph Ernst, Sheriff
L. C. Smith, Surveyor
John Van Housen, School Superintendent
Alva Skinner, Coroner
Commissioners: J. P. Maple, Frederick Stevens and D. Anderson
On the 6th of November the Commissioners received a petition from the inhabitants of Schuyler requesting that their
settlement be incorporated as a town. The petition was accepted and placed on file, and the appointed trustees of the
new corporation were named as:
B. F. King
W. P. P. St. Clair
H. P. Upton
C. M. Greenman
S. P. Van Doozer
When Colfax County was detached from Platte, they had just erected a building for the court house. Schuyler had now
become the county seat for the new county. It then became a matter of interest if it was liable for old debts. So on
January 4, 1870, the discussion of the erection of county buildings had become foremost with the voters of Colfax
County. The commissioners offered a resolution donating $100 to E. Esterbrook, a lawyer of Omaha, for his opinion
in the matter. Finally James M. Woolworth of that city was chosen, and on the 20th he sent in his opinion as below:
J. W. F. Williams Esq.
Yours of the 19th inst. is received. You do not say whether you employ me to contest the
claim of Platte County, or to give you an opinion of its validity.
I have assumed that it is the latter service which you now wish, and I have accordingly
examined the question with the care and research which its importance demands. The
question is, whether the new county is justly liable for a proportion of certain debts of
the old county.
You mention certain circumstances as if you supposed that they qualified the liability of
your county, and I proceed first to enquire whether your supposition is correct. The first
of these circumstances is that the court house was not built when your county was erected.
You say, however, that the bonds were at that time issued, and had been then negotiated by
the contractor. It is simply the case of one party giving another his note for work done or
to be done. He certainly is indebted on the note when he gives it. He has by advancing it
contracted a debt.
So, too, Platte County having contracted for the building of a court house, and given the
contractor its bonds in part payment, had become indebted thereon. This was then, an
indebtedness of the old county which was imposed by the law on the new county.
Nor, in my opinion, is the case changed by the circumstances secondly mentioned by you,
that the people living in what is now called Colfax County voted against the bonds. When
the vote was taken they lived in Platte. They and the other people in the county in which they
all resided voted on the question. The majority were in the affirmative. They must rule.
The relations of the parties can not be changed by the minorities withdrawing, unless the Legislature
He then proceeds to cite sections of the law bearing upon the case, to the effect that Colfax county was liable, and concludes by stating:
"My fees for this opinion are $50. I have not been applied to on this matter by Platte County."
In July, Clarkson Bros., proprietors of the town of Schuyler, donated Block 113 as a site for the county buildings, and
soon afterward Colfax County settled with Platte for $5,223.48. Everything was prosperous for a start on a clean
The next important matter for the consideration of the county Solons was the issuing bonds to aid in the construction of
bridges across Shell, Maple and Rawhide creeks, and the sloughs along the county road.
The bonds were voted on and eight bridges were to be constructed by the contractor, I. D. Marlin.
A special election was called for February 11, 1871, for the purpose of voting upon the proposition to build a bridge across
the Platte River, and erect a court house.
The voters favored both propositions, and H. P. Handy was awarded the contract to construct the wagon bridge across
the Platte. It was located three-quarters of a mile east of Schuyler, its length with approaches, being 2,000 feet. The award
was made because of an informality in the bid of H. T. Clark, of Bellevue, whose figures were the lowest. The matter was
taken into the court and decided in Mr. Clark's favor.
The bridge was a very important factor in linking together Colfax County and the county to the south.
The court house is a very creditable structure of brick, two stories in height, with a tin roof and an ornamental tower. The
stone used in the construction of the court house came from the La Platte quarries, and the brick from Omaha. Charles
Lightfoot was the contractor.
The lower floor is divided into areas, for the county officers, containing also cells for the prisoners. The court room is
located on the upper story of the building.
The present county officers are:
John Lapache, County Clerk and Clerk of the District Court
Wm. Brown, Treasurer
James P. Smith, Sheriff
M. Zentmyer, Judge
J. P. Strong, Superintendent of Public Instruction
E. E. Greenman, Surveyor
Commissioners: F. J. Smith, Chairman
Source: Andreas History of Nebraska