Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a big-deal Spanish explorer, sets out looking for the Seven Cities of Cibola, legendary cities made of gold.
He didn't find them, but he did find Kansas and Nebraska. (Consolation prize?) He claimed the land for his home country, not bothering to check in with the Native Americans already living there to make sure they were okay with this.
Father Juan de Padilla, a Spanish Catholic priest, returns to Kansas after accompanying Coronado on his trip the year before. Father Juan attempted to Christianize the members of the Native American tribes he found there, thus earning a place in history as America's first Christian martyr.
France claims a ginormous portion of North America as its own, naming the entire area Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV. Just a hair larger than the current state of Louisiana, New France reached from the Appalachians to the Rockies, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and all the way up into present-day Quebec and Montreal.
French explorer Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont, the first recorded European in Nebraska, names the Platte River the Nebraskier River (Oto for "flat water"), and thus the future name of the Cornhusker State was born.
Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont sets up shop in Kansas and begins trading with local Native American tribes.
Spain gets all of France's claims west of the Mississippi after Great Britain beats France in the Seven Years' War.
The U.S. officially becomes the U.S. and no longer belongs to the British.
If our indoor cat somehow escapes from the house and is found by someone else, we can just go and get Mr. Whiskers and bring him back home. Back in the day, slaves were treated the same way: if one ran away, its owner could just go and get him or her and bring them back home. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made this practice legal.
Spain returns to France the territory it had acquired in 1763, save about 7,500 square miles it kept for itself.
In the deal of the century, the United States shakes hands with France and takes about 827,000 square miles of land off its hands for the cool price of $15 million.
This deal, known as the Louisiana Purchase, included land in what we now know as Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and—wait for it—Louisiana. Areas in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were also involved.
The Lewis and Clark expedition maps the eastern border of Nebraska and experiences the delight of chowing down on fresh, delicious catfish in their camp outside of Omaha.
When it was built, Fort Atkinson in Nebraska was the first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River, created to help the growing fur trade. Unfortunately, it was abandoned in 1827 when the Army decided to make new forts elsewhere. Now it's a State Historical Park with a bustling social calendar.
Fort Leavenworth, the oldest active army installation west of the Mississippi, is established to protect travelers and frontiersmen (and frontierswomen) as they made their way across the country. Fun fact: its original name was Cantonment Leavenworth.
President Jackson signs into law an act that forces bajillions of Native American tribes to leave their land and go park it somewhere west of the Mississippi. It went over like a lead balloon, and the forced relocation went on for years.
In a particularly happy and loving move, the U.S. federal government forces more than 850 Native Americans from the Potawatomi nation to ditch their homeland in Indiana and relocate to the future site of Kansas Territory. During this oh-so-not-leisurely stroll, which was accompanied by an armed volunteer militia, more than forty people died; most of the casualties were kids.
Senator Stephen Douglas introduces his first attempt at a bill to organize the Nebraska Territory, but nothing ever happened with it, and the subject was set aside. For the curious, there was zero mention of slavery in this version of the bill.
Senator Stephen Douglas introduces his second attempt at a bill to organize the Nebraska Territory. Like its predecessor, no action was taken, and it was back to the drawing board for the Little Giant.
The Northwestern Confederacy of Indian Tribes meets near Fort Leavenworth and votes to take this whole Nebraska organization thing into its own hands, feeling like they'd benefit from getting involved early in Nebraska's governance and law-making. Politicians in Washington continue to not act.
Senator Stephen Douglas' third attempt to get Nebraska organized is referred to the Committee on Territories…where it promptly dies. This had to be discouraging for the Senator, but we give him mad props for perseverance.
By 1850, the Union was more or less equally divided between slave states and free states. This little piece of legislation said that if a slave escaped to a free state, that free state was obligated to return the slave to his or her owner, even though slavery wasn't a thing in their own place of residence.
Folks in the soon-to-be Nebraska Territory vote to send a delegate to the U.S. Congress and petition for formal organization; D.C. peeps aren't thrilled about this, and some of them start thinking that maybe they need to address this whole Nebraska issue after all.
Giving Senator Douglas a rest, Congressman Willard Hall of Missouri introduced his own bill to organize Nebraska. His proposed geographical boundaries were a little different than Douglas', and he called the area "Platte" instead of "Nebraska," but even with its new bedazzling, nothing happened.
Congressman Richardson from Illinois takes Hall's December bill, changes "Platte" back to "Nebraska," and somehow finally, finally manages to get a bill on the organization of Nebraska through the House of Representatives.
Probably sighing in equal parts relief and weariness, Senator Stephen Douglas takes Richardson's Nebraska bill and puts it to the Senate without changing a single word. It was voted on, passed, and set aside for future review. Foiled again, it seemed.
Wyandot leader William Walker is elected Nebraska's first provisional Governor, even though Nebraska wasn't officially a Territory and Walker would never be recognized by the U.S. Government as a "real" Governor. He served until President Pierce appointed the Territory's first official Governor in October of 1854.
The Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory holds a Congressional election, even though their delegate will have no power in Congress…since Nebraska still doesn't officially exist.
Some cheer and some weep as the Kansas-Nebraska Act is signed into law and Territories Kansas and Nebraska are now officially organized and incorporated. The language in the act about popular sovereignty would continue to chap hides for many moons to come.
President Pierce appoints Pennsylvania-raised Jeffersonian Democrat as the first Governor of the Territory of Kansas. His tenure barely lasted a year, setting a trend amongst Kansas governors that lasted until 1873, when Governor James Harvey made history by being the first to serve his entire four-year term.
POTUS Pierce selects South Carolina politico Francis Burt as Nebraska Territory's first official Governor, sending him off on a journey that would eventually kill him.
Kansas Territory's first Governor, POTUS-appointed Andrew H. Reeder, arrives at Fort Leavenworth ready to rock his new job.
Francis Burt is sworn in as Nebraska Governor from his sickbed in Bellevue. He dies two days later of stomach problems, warning others to stay away from the sushi. (Kidding about the sushi, though if 1850s Nebraska did have sushi, we'd probably recommend avoiding it as well.)
Nebraska Territory names Burt County in honor of the Governor it had for two entire days.
A handbill calling for the removal of Governor Reeder from office is circulated around the Territory of Kansas and beyond, accusing poor Andrew of being inept, incompetent, and generally unfit for his position.
Kansas Territory's "Bogus Legislature" meets in Pawnee for four glorious days of debates, overthrowings, outdoor living, and the establishment of county lines.
Kansas Territory Governor Andrew H. Reeder's replacement, a pro-slavery guy named Wilson Shannon, takes office.
On what we're sure was a chilly day in the Sunflower State, Kansas became the U.S.'s lucky #34, naming the growing city of Topeka as its capitol.
Senator Stephen Douglas, author and #1 pusher of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passes away from typhoid fever at his pad in Chicago.
Abraham Lincoln's uber-famous Emancipation Proclamation is proclaimed, and the end of institutionalized slavery in America is finally just around the corner.
General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union, marking the last big military surrender of the Civil War and the beginning of the end for the Confederate States of America.
Beware the ides of March? Nope, says Nebraska, choosing March 1st to officially join the United States as its 37th member.