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Telegraph at Brownville

The most thrilling event of the year 1860 for the residents of Brownville was the completion of the telegraph line from St. Joseph, Missouri, to their town and the transmission of the first telegram over the wires. On August 28 the Stebbins Telegraph Line (also called the St. Joseph, Brownville and Denver Line) was linked to Brownville. The following day was a day of celebration.

The telegraph office was on the corner of Main and First in Brownville in an upstairs room of the Hoadley Building. The first telegram sent from Nebraska Territory went to the Associated Press and read: "Brownville, Neb., Aug. 29, 1860. Nebraska Sends Greetings to the States: The telegraph line was completed to this place to-day, and the first office in Nebraska formally opened. Our citizens are jubilant over the event, and now realize the advantage of being connected with their Eastern friends and the 'rest of mankind' by means of a 'lightning line.' Onward!"

The first telegram received in Nebraska Territory also came into Brownville that day. Robert W. Furnas, then editor of the Nebraska Advertiser, sent a message to the St. Joseph Gazette: "The ADVERTISER sends greetings. Give us your hand. Hot as blazes; Thermometer 104 in the shade. 'Whats the News'? R. W. Furnas."

In reply the Gazette wired: "We are most happy to return your greeting--The Thermometer is at 100 and is rising like h__l--You ask the news--Douglas stock fully up to the thermometer, and rising as rapidly. St. Joe drinx Nebraska's health."

A large celebration was held on the evening of August 29 in Brownville, complete with bonfires, music, burning gunpowder, speeches, and toasts. Rounds of ammunition were fired--one for each of the states, one for Nebraska, and one for the telegraph line. Speeches were given by George H. Nixon and Theodore Hill, the mayor. Then came a parade led by the Brownville brass band. This ended the official celebration, but it was rumored that a barrel of wine was carried up to the telegraph office where an unofficial celebration continued.

(July 2000)



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