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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.

Examination of Omaha’s Annexation History: Millard

Like much of the rest of the Omaha area, Millard’s early origins date back to the mid-1850s. At this time, the “development” consisted of a small handful of farms along the Papio Creek about twelve miles southwest of Omaha. By the 1860s, the Union Pacific Railroad ran through the area, and in 1870, Millard was laid out near the tracks. The developer was Ezra Millard, the current mayor of Omaha (1869-1871). A Canadian-born Iowan who arrived in the Omaha area as a young man in 1857, he quickly established himself as a founding partner of Barrows, Millard, & Co., a banking firm dealing in real estate. He would later serve as President of the Omaha National Bank. He also served in the Territorial Legislature in 1860, and helped establish the Omaha Horse Railway Company in 1867. [1]

Ezra Millard, ca. 1875. Image courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.

Millard was officially incorporated as a village in 1885, and the population was approximately 400 by 1900. The area was settled predominantly by first-generation Germans immigrants. As late as the 1900s, store clerks had to read German in order fill the shopping lists written by German-speaking housewives.[2]

Millard’s first school was built at the site of modern-day 144th and L Streets, which was not actually within the town’s boundary at that time. In the early years, the school’s population consisted of about 4 or 5 pupils. Before the mid-1930s, local schools only went to 10th grade, so those who wanted to complete 12th grade had to go to Omaha to attend either Central or Tech High. Which resulted in a significant loss of the town’s young population. During the Great Depression, the population dropped to 315. A change of fortune came in the late 1930s when railroad work brought large numbers of laborers who used Millard as a base camp.[3]

Originally along the OLD (Omaha-Lincoln-Denver) Highway. Only a couple of streets were paved by the mid-1940s, and Mayor Harry P. Andersen began a campaign of improving the city with the goal of retaining and growing the population. By the late 1960s, the population had risen to over 7,000.[4]

On August 8, 1967, Omaha moved to annex Millard. Following the precedent set with the annexations of South Omaha, Florence, and Benson in the 1910s, Nebraska law states that metropolitan cities (cities with a population of over 100,000) may expand their boundaries by ordinance of the city council – without a public vote – to annex any village or city of up to 10,000 inhabitants (it’s worth noting that no other state had such a law at the time)[5]. A petition rejecting annexation was signed by over 900 Millard inhabitants and several voices spoke out against annexation by Omaha, raising concerns that annexation would threaten Millard’s infrastructure and that Omaha only wanted to take over Millard to raise the city’s tax revenues and to gain control of a Western Electric plant north of Millard.[6] In response, Omaha asserted that the separate existence of Millard stifled Omaha’s growth, and took over the city in 1971.

[1] Wakeley, Arthur Cooper. Omaha: The Gate City, and Douglas County, Nebraska. S.J. Clarke Publishing Co, 1917.

[2] Speech by Mayor Harry P. Andersen of Millard. Omaha, NE: Douglas County Historical Society, 1973.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Drozd, David and Jerry Deichert. “Nebraska Historical Populations.” Center for Public Affairs Research, University of Nebraska-Omaha. 2018.

[5] “Peril of losing W.E. ‘One Man’s Opinion.’” Omaha World-Herald. November 29, 1967.

[6] Ibid.

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