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Amazing Omaha


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The Omaha Indian Tribe

The word Omaha means ‘those who go upstream’ or ‘against the current.’

The Omaha Indian nation were the inhabitants of a large territory to the west of the Missouri river, between the Platte and the Niabrara Rivers. It appears that the Omaha originally lived on the Atlantic Coast. Over time they migrated west until, by the 17th Century, the had settled in Missouri. They were driven from that land, however, by the Dakota Indians and, by the mid 1700s, were dwelling in the area of modern day Nebraska where they encountered the white man.

The Omaha lived in tipis during the summer period when they were hunting and in earthen lodges over the winter. Tipis were made of buffalo skins and supported by cedar lodge poles. The construction of the tipi was always done by the women. Two women working together could do this job in about two hours. The earth lodges used in the wintertime were about eight feet high and featured a dome shaped roof. The roof had a hole at the top that would let in sunlight and allow ventilation for the smoke from the fire, which was always placed in the middle of the lodge.

The Omaha were hunters and planters, in accordance with the seasons. During the planting season the men would clear the fields in preparation for planting, whereupon the women would actually do the planting. Hunting was the primary responsibility of the men, with buffalo, deer, bear and small mammals being the targets. Birds and fish were also a part of the Omaha diet. The women would also gather roots and plants like ground nuts, artichokes and mushrooms. The principal crops grown were beans, maize, squash and melons. Omaha women were also skilled craftspeople. They made pots, wove baskets and made tools from bone and wood.

The Omaha were late in utilising the horse. The first Omaha brave to spot this strange beast thought he had happened upon a large elk. The animal followed him back to his village and soon the people were able to capitalise on the mild nature of the horse. It would be used extensively for both hunting the bison, going on the warpath and as a mode of haulage. The Omaha would use a travois – a couple of poles attached to a horse or dog – carry their belongings from one camp to the next.

The Omaha dressed in typical plains Indian fashion. The men wore buckskin leggings and shirts which were embroidered and fringed. On their feet they would wear moccasins. The men wore their hair long and loose. Men would also wear ear rings.

The Omaha were a musical people. From an early age children were taught to make instruments, as well as to play them. The pow wow was a highlight of the Omaha social calendar.

Lewis and Clark came across the Omaha in 1804. William Clark noted in his journal regarding the area of Nebraska in which he came across the Omaha that ‘this would make a good location for a trading and military post.’ And so it came to be. A trading post was set up by the French in 1812. But white encroachment on the land of the Omaha was stalled for a further 20 years. The Omaha people generally established friendly relations with the Mormons who trekked through their lands on the way to Utahin the 1850’s. In 1854 the Omaha tribe gave most of it’s hunting grounds in the eastern Nebraska rea to the United States Government. In return they were paid nearly $850,000.

In 1854 a reservation was established for the Omaha people in Nebraska. The majority of Omaha still live there today.

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The City of Omaha

The earliest portions of downtown Omaha originated on the same lands as an ancient village of the Otoe natives or at least their burial grounds.  The burial mounds were noted by the Lewis and Clark expedition.  By the time that Omaha was being built, the mounds had mostly disappeared or shrunk in size from the effects of the weather.  Part of the early grading and excavations revealed Native American burial sites.  Several were documented to be around 11th Street around Douglas and Dodge Street areas.

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Post Office in a Hat

The first postmaster of Omaha was Alfred D. Jones, who, since there was no post office building, carried the letters in his hat as he went about his work. When people asked him for mail, he removed his hat, sorted through the letters, and returned the others to his hat-post office. He was appointed postmaster in 1854. He was also a bricklayer, surveyor, and member of the bar and city council. He died in 1902 at the age of 88.

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The Old Arcade and Cribs, 908 Dodge St.
Late 1800s to early 1900s

It is hard to imagine that Omaha, now widely regarded as a sedate, serene metropolis, was once seen as the wickedest city between Chicago and San Francisco. But in the latter part of the last century, Omaha was a major rail hub and trading center and a laissez faire attitude towards law enforcement usually prevailed. This combination of factors led to a flourishing underground of gambling, drinking and prostitution establishments.

The center of vice in Omaha was the "Old Burnt District," also called "The Badlands." This neighborhood of iniquity was bounded by Cass Street on the north, Douglas on the south and stretched west from the river to 16th Street. Nameless, uncountable houses of ill repute were located in this area, and some of the most notorious were collectively known as the Old Arcade and Cribs.

The Cribs were a row of one-story brick houses on Capitol Avenue between 9th and 10th streets. Three hundred prostitutes paid $2.00 a day for the use of the Cribs, which were patrolled by security guards, fenced and lighted. Based on that steady influx of cash, the Cribs’ owner, M. F. Martin, became a wealthy man. Despite that, he was unable or unwilling to pay $1,000 in taxes on the Cribs in 1900. Thus, the city of Omaha got into the pimp business when it took over the illicit business for three weeks, collecting the rent directly from the prostitutes.

The end of the Cribs’ tenure as the center of sin in Omaha ended in 1908 when a grand jury forced their closing. April 1 of that year saw a parade of strumpets leaving the area for more hospitable digs. In 1914, the high-minded legislators in Lincoln passed the Albert Law, which closed down all the houses in the Old Burnt District, forcing the ladies of the evening (then numbering around 2,500) to find lodging in other parts of the city. Typically, this dispersed the problem without ending it.

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May Allison and Ram Cat Alley, between 15th and 16th streets, between Webster and Burt streets

The reason for the name is vague, but from all accounts Ram Cat Alley was a sinister avenue in Omaha in the late 1800s. Unsuspecting souls landing in Omaha via the Webster Street Station on 15th and Webster streets or passersby were prime targets for violent thieves milling around, waiting to beat and rob them. The most vicious of these villains were May Allison and her (as the press would have it) "Negro" lover Bill Grimes.

Allison arrived in Omaha in 1888 with her husband. He was run out of town, but she chose to stay and keep company with Grimes in Ram Cat Alley. Omaha history indicates that the two probably lived in the alley.

Allison, referred to in her World-Herald obituary as the "queen of bedlam," was described as an amazon in stature and "easily a match for two men in fist fights." She was menacing to even more men if she took out an iron bar or axe. Allison and Grimes were known for beating men senseless and robbing them of their valuables.

Allison and Grimes were expert at their trade, most likely because they took to practicing on each other. Sometimes they became dangerous even to each other, for there were two known instances when one was injured because the other attacked with a knife. But twisted between love the two kept each other from pressing any charges. In one such instance, Allison sliced a substantial piece of Grimes’ nose off. Grimes refused to pursue the charges, and both landed in jail for disturbing the peace.

Eventually even the unsavory regulars of Ram Cat Alley became intolerant of the couple’s antics and booted them from the alley. Allison and Grimes then took up residency at the Jones Street dump until the city closed it off, and they moved beneath the 16th Street viaduct. Eventually they moved into what must have been a house at 1015 Davenport St., which the World-Herald described as "a miserable place."

And it was in that house that Allison lived her final days in Omaha and on earth. Her obituary stated that she died from "the dissipations of a reckless life," which is usually the newspaper euphemism for syphilis or some other form of venereal disease.

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Ottway G. Baker: Omaha’s first axe murderer, 12th and Farnam streets
Nov. 21, 1866

An autumn night in 1866 set the foundation for Omaha’s second legal execution — and bore our city’s first axe murderer, Ottway G. Baker.

Baker was the porter and Woolsey D. Higgins the bookkeeper at a grocery store in a building on the southeast corner of 12th and Farnam streets. Records show that the two men slept there, though it is unclear as to whether they lived in the building as well.

On the evening of Nov. 21, 1866, Baker became aware that Higgins had received $1,500 in cash after the banks had closed, which was locked in the store’s safe. Higgins always carried his keys, including the key to the safe, on his person, so when Baker decided to steal the money, he also determined he would need to kill Higgins to gain possession of the keys.

Late that night, Baker awoke, grabbed an axe and approached Higgins’ bed. He lifted the axe to Higgins and plunged it into the sleeping man’s body. Then, as though to insure the death of Higgins, Baker lifted the axe a second time and dealt another brutal blow.

With Higgins dead and the keys in his hands, Baker robbed the safe. At some point the atrocity of his crime must have occurred to Baker, for he gathered the money in a can and hid it beneath the sidewalk on 11th Street. Then he shot himself in the arm with a pistol and returned to the store to set fire to it, with the hope of destroying Higgins’ body and any evidence linking himself to the murder. As the building burned, Baker ran outside into the night screaming, "Fire! Murder! Thieves!" When fire trucks and police arrived, Baker fed them a story about armed robbers who had set fire to the building while he and Higgins slept.

Baker’s story didn’t quite wash with authorities, though. It was apparent to them that he had shot himself in the arm and police arrested Baker the next morning. A trial ensued, and a grand jury convicted Baker. He was sentenced to execution.

Baker motioned for a new trial, but the Supreme Court overruled that motion and the sentence stuck.

While awaiting execution, Baker sent for a priest and confessed the whole bloody deed, claiming it was "the devil’s work." The priest accompanied police to recover the money Baker hid on the night he murdered Higgins.

Baker was hanged on Feb. 14, 1868.

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Anna Wilson-Omaha Madam

Anna Wilson was a famous Madam in Omaha who was the mistress of Dan Allan (a famous river boat gambler in and around the Omaha area). After Dan died she started investing in real estate and amassed a large amount of money. As Anna's life was drawing to a close in 1911, she donated her mansion -- land and all -- to the City of Omaha for use as an emergency hospital. She asked only $125.00 a month rent until her death. Anna, who was 76-years-old at the time, was said to be worth upwards of a million dollars, and claimed she didn't have one relative in the world. When asked about her gift to the city, she said she wanted to help humanity. She made the stipulation in her will that she was to be buried under 9 feet of concrete, so that the "respectable" society women of the town didn't disinter her body from her resting place by her lover.

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History of Rosenblatt Stadium

Omaha Municipal Stadium was built in 1947 to host the single-A Omaha Cardinals for the 1948 season. The St. Louis Cardinals farm team was the first professional baseball team to call Omaha its home. During the next few years Rosenblatt would see several different teams play there. In 1969, the Kansas City Royals decided to move their triple-A franchise there.

In 1964, the stadium was renamed to honor former Omaha mayor Johny Rosenblatt, who was instrumental in bringing professional baseball as well as the College World Series to Omaha.

Since 1950 Omaha and Rosenblatt Stadium have become home to the CWS. Currently, the NCAA and the city of Omaha have agreed to continue hosting the Men's College World Series in Omaha through the 2035 season. No other city is as closely identified with one championship event as Omaha is with the College World Series. Every year 288 baseball teams around the country begin the season with the dream of playing in "The Blatt". 64 teams reach the NCAA Tournament, and the final eight left standing get to pack their bags for 10 days in Omaha. Rosenblatt Stadium, along with the entire city of Omaha, has become somewhat of a mecca for college baseball.

The City of Omaha has put tremendous resources into the stadium to accommodate teams and fans. In 2001 alone, more than $7 million was spent on the stadium. One of the main features was the addition of 10,000 new seats, bringing the total capacity to 23,145. The series has grown so much over the last 20 years that this number is actually needed to fulfill the high demand for tickets. In 2002 the mark of 5,000,000 spectators in the history of the CWS in Omaha was reached. In 2011, the CWS will be moving to a new stadium and the Omaha Royals will be moving to a new stadium in Sarpy County.


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The Omaha Rollergirls is Omaha's premiere all-female flat-track roller derby league. Inspired by the nation's recent roller derby resurrection, the ORG was founded in January of 2006 by skaters Go-Go Gidget AKA Erica Tremblay and Magaret Fracture AKA Lynden Eckery. The ORG has grown from its original 5 members to a current roster of 25+ skaters.

The ORG is comprised of Omaha's swiftest and strongest ladies. Buff and bruised, the ORG promises to deliver a powerful punch of sport and spectacle. All falls and the spills are the real deal. The only things fixed on an ORG rink are the garter belts and pin curls. So check out our calendar and crash the next Omaha Rollergirl party. For more info visit


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The Mafia in Omaha? Fugettabout it...!