If Indiana is the “Crossroads of America,” Nebraska could be “America’s Main Thoroughfare.” The Platte River and its tributaries have been a natural east-west trail for ages. As the United States pushed westward, railroads began to look at Nebraska as a desirable route for a transcontinental railroad. If your ancestors ended up in the West, chances are good that they passed through Nebraska.
Though Nebraska was formed as a territory in 1854 as part of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, it wasn’t until after the Civil War that its population really began to grow. Nebraska went from a population of 122,993 in 1870 to more than one million in 1890. This explosive growth came from a variety of factors. Businessmen saw opportunities in Omaha and in towns that sprang up along the railroad. There was also in influx of immigrants from Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Russia.
Advancements in agricultural tools made a huge impact on the appeal of Nebraska as a land to settle in. With better implements, the tough prairie soil was much easier to cultivate.
If you have Cornhusker ancestors, be sure to check out our new free guide, “Nebraska Resources: Family History Sources in the Cornhusker State.” It is filled with resources to help you discover that part of your family tree. It’s one of many state guides that are available.