About BrownvilleA few months after the Oto Indians surrendered their land in 1854, Richard Brown of Oregon, Mo., built a log cabin on the banks of the Missouri River and founded Brownville. The town became a booming river port and the county seat almost overnight. Businesses thrived as settlers poured in and river traffic increased.
Brownville soon began entertaining hopes of becoming the state capital, and land was set aside for government buildings. A depression followed the Civil War, river traffic declined, the town was bypassed by the railroad and the county seat moved to Auburn. People began leaving as fast as they had once moved in; Capitol Square turned to underbrush.
Brownville did rebound, however. By the mid-1900s the city had developed into a center of trade for the surrounding orchard region. Capitol Square has since been restored as a city park, which offers views of the Missouri River Valley.
Two historic houses can be toured weekends in summer. The 1860 Italianate Carson House at 231 Main St. was built by Richard Brown, the town's founder. It later became the home of John Carson, a prominent bank president, who expanded the house. Carson’s descendants lived in the house until 1966. Visitors can see many original furnishings that were purchased in St. Louis and shipped by steamboat. No modern conveniences mar the house’s historic integrity.
The second house is the seven-gabled Victorian Captain Bailey Museum and Gardens at 402 Main St., the residence of a Civil War veteran. Period furniture, toys, clothed figures and a quilt collection are displayed. Originally near the Missouri River, the house was moved to its current location in 1877 when the river's change of course put the home in harm's way.
Two-hour walking or driving tours of Brownville's seven-block historic district are offered mid-May through late October by appointment, when staff is available. Self-guiding tour brochures and maps are available at area retail outlets. Among the highlights are Dr. Spurgin's Dental Office, furnished with period equipment, and the Brownville Depot and Railroad Museum. For more information about tours of the historic district, phone the Brownville Historical Society at (402) 825-6001.
River sightseeing cruises depart from the Brownville State Recreation Area south of town. One-hour sightseeing and dinner cruises are offered on weekends aboard the Spirit of Brownville, which docks at 72898 648 A Ave.; phone (402) 825-6441. Hiking and biking are available on the Steamboat Trace Trail, which begins at the recreation area and follows the Missouri River and an old railroad route.
Visitor Centers Brownville Information Kiosk Boettner Park Second and Main sts. Brownville, NE 68321. Phone:(402)825-6841
Things to Do Steamboat and Museum of Missouri River History
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