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RG4335.AM:  Nebraska University (Fontanelle, Nebraska)

Records:  1855-1874

Fontanelle, Washington County, Nebraska:  Congregational College

Size:  0.25 cu.ft.; 1 box


Nebraska University at Fontanelle was one of a number of colleges chartered by the Territorial Legislature.  It was opened in 1858 under the auspices of the Congregational Church with hopes that it would become Nebraska’s major institution of higher education.  Promoters in Fontanelle, as in many fledgling communities, hoped that a thriving university would aid in gaining the Territorial Capitol for their city.  Fontanelle was founded by members of the Nebraska Colonization Company, a group made up of settlers from Quincy, Illinois.  The Company donated land to endow the college, which was organized by a committee under the direction of Rev. Reuben Gaylord.  A building was completed for the admission of students in October 1858.

The Nebraska University operated successfully for a time, although early growth was slow.  In 1865 a fire destroyed the main building, dealing the institution a severe blow.  By 1872 a new building was under construction, but it was damaged by a windstorm.  In June of that year, the Congregational Association voted to place the Congregational College at Crete, Nebraska, thus removing denominational support for the Nebraska University.  In 1874 the University properties were sold.


This collection consists of the records relating to the organization and operation of the Nebraska University at Fontanelle, 1855-1874.  It is arranged in five series:  1) Correspondence, 1864-1873; 2) Minutes, 1855-1873; 3) Bylaws and Resolutions, 1859-1874; 4) Fiscal Records, 1864-1873; and 5) Miscellany.  Correspondence and minutes of the Board of Trustees, 1855-1873, form the bulk of the material. Also included are records describing the financial affairs of the College and bids and contracts for construction of buildings.  The miscellany contains a register of students, 1868-1869.

Note:  See the photo component [RG4335.PH] for images relating to Nebraska University.

Materials relating to the Nebraska University may also be found in other Nebraska State Historical Society collections.  RG4371.AM, the Arley B. Show collection, contains transcripts of various sets of minutes and other materials about the Nebraska University.  It is likely that the much of this material was collected by Show as part of his research on the history of Fontanelle, Nebraska.  Nebraska University items [transcripts, etc.] also form part of the Leroy Bisbee papers, RG3125.AM.  Records of the Nebraska Colonization Company are preserved in RG4369.AM.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1864-1873

Box 1


  1. 1864-1867

  2. 1868-1869

  3. 1870-1871

  4. 1873

Series 2 – Minutes, 1855-1873

  1. Minutes of the Executive Committee, Book I, June 1858 – Oct. 1867 [reference photocopy]

  2. Minutes of the Executive Committee, Book II, 1867-1873

  3. Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 1855-1873 [reference photocopy]

  4. Minutes of the Building Committee, 1869-1870

Series 3 – Bylaws and resolutions, 1859-1874

  1. Articles of Incorporation

  2. Bylaws and Rules of Nebraska University, 1859-1867

  3. Resolutions, 1866-1874

Series 4 – Fiscal records, 1864-1873

  1. Financial statements, 1868-1872

  2. Contracts, Bids, and Bonds, 1867-1870

  3. Bills and Receipts, 1864-1873

  4. Subscriptions, 1864

Series 5 – Miscellany

  1. School register and tuition list 1868-1869

  2. Chronology of Nebraska University history; list of trustees

  3. Undated Circular describing the University, courses, fees & instructors.  Speech by Rev. R. Gaylord, 1858


Subject headings:

Colleges and universities — Nebraska

Congregationalism in Nebraska

Education — Nebraska — Washington County

Fontanelle (Nebraska) — History

Washington County (Nebraska) — History


JEP/ht                 03-14-1974

Revised kfk          02-25-1999