H.O. Jones

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Examination of Omaha’s Annexation History: Elkhorn

At last, we’ve arrived at the final installment of our annexation series.

The town of Elkhorn was founded in 1865 and platted in 1867 by George Crawford and H.O. Jones. It was officially incorporated on December 30, 1886. The area had first been settled by homesteaders in the 1850s. Like many young towns, its pragmatic placement on the Elkhorn River provided abundant water, and the building of the Union Pacific Railroad brought booming business and new inhabitants. The railroad through town was completed in 1866, and the connection it provided to other parts of the country proved invaluable for the expansion of Elkhorn business interests.

Photograph of Pacific Street, ca. 1880’s. Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Historical Society, First Century of Progress.


A few fun facts, thanks to the Elkhorn Historical Society’s publication The First Century of Progress: [1]

  • A 1911 ordinance stated that the speed limit within the city was 8 miles per hour – any speeding was subject to a fine of up to $50.
  • The first long-distance phone call from Elkhorn to Omaha was placed in 1882.
  • Ice was cut in blocks from the Elkhorn River and the small lakes nearby.
  • In 1895, a fire damaged the entire block of Main Street south of Center Street, destroying a hotel, bakery, hat and dressmaking shop, and confectionery.
  • Elkhorn served as the stage for a shootout between feuding pioneers in 1871. An old land dispute between Tom Keeler and Dan Parmalee was brought to a head and Parmalee shot Keeler dead in a cornfield.[2] Media coverage of the time exonerated Parmalee, who was by all accounts an upstanding citizen, of any wrongdoing.
  • Elkhorn’s first sewer system was laid in 1934 as a WPA project.


Metz Brothers Brewing Company on Pacific (“Upper) Street looking north into Elkhorn. Photo courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.


Omaha’s most recent annexation took place in the not-so-distant past – the city moved to annex in 2005. Elkhorn’s population was just over 6,000 in 2000. The same state law used in the cases of Millard, Benson, Florence, and South Omaha (permitting forcible annexation of towns with populations below 10,000) stood. In an attempt to thwart the city of Omaha’s plans, Elkhorn tried to annex surrounding smaller communities to bump its population above 10,000. The two communities took the issue to the courts from 2005-2007 when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Omaha had the right to declare annexation, and that Elkhorn had effectively “ceased to exist” two years before when Omaha began the annexation process.[3]

[1] Centennial Book Committee Elkhorn Women’s Club. The First Century of Progress. 1967.

[2] “Daniel Stevens Parmalee. From the Omaha Bee, December 7, 1871. https://www.thefamilyparmelee.com/x01-0528.html

[3] Ruggles, Rick and C. David Kotok. “Elkhorn annexation ruling favors Omaha; Fahey offers assurances.” Omaha World-Herald. January 12, 2007.

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