Cities, Towns, Villages
Bennington; Boys Town; Elkhorn; Omaha; Ralston; Valley; Waterloo
Douglas County is one of the eight counties that made up the original Nebraska Territory. In June 1854, President Franklin Pierce announced the ratification of a treaty made with the Omaha Indians which ceded the land along the Missouri River to the government for settlement. It was the responsibility of acting Gov. Thomas B. Cuming to divide the land into counties based on census figures.
The fact that Douglas County, which was named in honor of Illinois Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, was located in the geographic center of the eight counties played an important role in its development. When a census of the eight-county region was completed in November 1854, it showed the territory had a population of 2,732. Gov. Cuming then issued a proclamation ordering an election for members of the Territorial Legislature. Once its members were elected, the body convened for the first time on Jan. 15, 1855, in Omaha.
When it came time to locate the territorial capital, Omaha was a logical selection due to its central location. It would remain the capital until Nebraska was admitted to the Union in 1867, at which time it was moved to the present city of Lincoln.
Even though the capital was relocated to Lincoln, Omaha and Douglas County would enjoy tremendous prosperity in the 1860s and 1870s. It began in 1863 when ground was broken at Omaha for the Union Pacific Railroad. Rapid development followed and within six years Omaha would be designated as a city of the first class.
Douglas County has had three courthouses since its boundaries were established. The first dates back to 1858 when a two-story structure was built in downtown Omaha. Soon the county outgrew the building and plans were made for a replacement. In 1882 a new courthouse was unveiled. Within 25 years the county had once again outgrown its courthouse. Between 1910 and 1912 the county's third courthouse was built. Along with the Civic Center, this building still serves the county today.