Yesterday and Today
Pioneers first started to settle in the Doniphan area in the 1860’s. Today, Doniphan has a population of 829 (2010 US Census), with new families moving into the community to enjoy its small town charm, beautiful natural setting, and boundless opportunities for leading a fulfilling life.
DONIPHAN AREA HISTORY BY JOHN AMICK
The Doniphan area began as an early settlement and development around the Nebraska City/Fort Kearny trail which ran along the south side of Platte River. In the 1860s, early pioneers began settling along the trail, several which had road ranches that traded with freighters and pioneers traveling west along the trail. Early settlers included W.J. Burger, who would eventually found the town of Doniphan; George Martin, whose sons were pinned together by arrows in the famous Martin raid incident; and the Graham, Campbell and Warren families who all settled near each other in what is now the Amick Acres area just west of Doniphan.
The Indian raid on the Campbell and Warren homesteads in 1867 resulted in the death of Mrs. Warren, and the kidnapping of four Campbell children. The children were eventually returned during negotiations between local Indians and the Gen. Wm. T. Sherman at the Union Pacific railroad roundhouse in North Platte. Historical markers detailing the incidents are located west of Doniphan on Platte River Road. The Campbell gravesite and other historical markers are located on Amick Avenue and Monument Road in the Amick Acres subdivision.
The town of Doniphan can attribute its start to an unlikely source – New York financier and infamous robber baron, Jay Gould. By the 1870s, Gould owned a major share of the transcontinental Union Pacific railroad. At the time, the terminus for the Union Pacific was Council Bluffs, Iowa at which point the railroad received or delivered its passengers and freight traffic from three railroads: the Chicago & Northwestern, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, and the Rock Island. The three railroads, known as the Iowa Pool, were a source of irritation for Gould due to the rates they charged for exchanging traffic. Gould’s solution to his competitors was to purchase the St. Joseph and Western Railroad, which by the 1870s had reached Hastings, Nebraska. By constructing a 24-mile connecting line between Grand Island and Hastings, Gould could divert eastbound trains at Grand Island through Doniphan and Hastings, and on to other connecting railroads owned by Gould in St. Joseph and Kansas City, Missouri. Having outflanked the Iowa Pool railroads, he then had the leverage he needed to receive more favorable rates from his Iowa competitors.
When the St. Joe line to Hastings was completed, W.J. Burger purchased land and platted the original town of Doniphan. The town is named after Col. John Doniphan, an attorney in St. Joseph, Missouri who worked for Gould and the St. Joe railroad. From its start, Doniphan thrived as a farm community. At the turn of the century, the town boasted five grain elevators, a brickyard, two banks, a lumber yard, several general stores, and a myriad of other businesses common to al small towns of the period.
Today, Doniphan continues to thrive and grow. A stroll down Main Street in Doniphan shows that many buildings have been renovated, and all buildings on the street are being used for business. In recent years, nearly 200 new homes have been built at the Amick Acres and White’s Sunny Slopes subdivisions just west of town. The Hoffman Subdivision just east of Doniphan is providing a new residential neighborhood in town.
In the late 1990s, the Doniphan school system merged with the Trumbull school and consolidated their location at Doniphan. With the recent sale of farmland just west of Hwy. 281 to Johnson Imperial Homes of Hastings, a new commercial business district along the highway and additional home sites overlooking the Platte River Valley are planned for the near future.
A guide showing the location of all the historical sites and markers around Doniphan, and all of Hall County, is available from the Hall County Historical Society. For more information about Doniphan, contact the Doniphan Village Office at 402-845-6609, or John Amick at 402-845-2341.