Nebraska Moments

By Donald R. Hickey; Susan A. Wunder et al. | Go to book overview

2. Old Bellevue

Bellevue, Nebraska’s oldest town, resembled many a frontier community. Located on the western bank of the Missouri River about eight miles north of the Platte River, Bellevue began as a fur-trading post. As an entrepôt for the fur trade and gateway to the West, Bellevue quickly became the most important settlement on the middle Missouri. Once Nebraska Territory opened to settlers, however, Bellevue lost its unique position. Other towns sprang up on the Missouri and Platte, and Bellevue went into eclipse.

Legend has it that Bellevue received its name from the Spanish fur trader Manuel Lisa. Born in New Orleans in 1772 to a mother from the oldest Spanish North American settlement, Saint Augustine, and a father from Spain, Lisa emerges in history as a young trader very much at home on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri rivers. Lisa reportedly stopped at the future site of Bellevue around 1805 when he was in the process of looking for an ideal location for a trading base. An entrepreneur of significant ability, Lisa moved easily among the various cultures of the region.

Supposedly Lisa followed an old Indian trail to the top of a hill overlooking the Missouri, where he beheld a breathtaking vista. Stunned by this magnificent view, Lisa is said to have exclaimed, “Belle vue!”—what a beautiful site! This story is probably apocryphal because Lisa would have more likely spoken in his native Spanish, or even in Omaha or English. Still, he was conversant in French, the language of the fur trade, so Bellevue’s namesake is quite possibly attributed properly to Manuel Lisa. There is no denying, however, that Bellevue was located in a superb setting and that it was named for the beauty that surrounded it.

Lisa frequently reconstituted his business relationships, and the

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