Many of the old settlers claim that many years ago, the Pawnee Indians claimed the whole country south of the Platte river as their hunting grounds. One of their important villages was within the limits of Pawnee County, actually some claim on present site of Pawnee City. One of the principal streams for the county was Turkey Creek, which touches the southwest corner of the boundary of present area of Pawnee City.
The first white men who were ever on the present town site of Pawnee City were James O'Loughlin, Charles and Arthur McDonald. These men came up Turkey Creek about the 20th day of July, 1854, crossed Turkey Creek where the old iron bridge now stands, and came up on the high land. Looking over on the grounds beyond where the cemetery now is, they saw a large body of Indians, with their ponies grazing. They did not make themselves known, however, but returned to their places on South Fork.
Some of the early settlers were Rufus Abbott, E. W. Fowler, J. C. Peavy, Resin Ball, David Butler, Jarrett Pangburn, and Daniel Liming.
In 1856, Probate Judge J. C. Miller of Richardson County issued an order for an election to organize the county and select a site for the county seat. An election was held August 25, 1856. This election was declared illegal, and a new election was held on November 4, 1856, and the present site of Pawnee City was chosen.
The first term of court was held by the Commissioners on the 5th day of January, 1857, at the house of Rufus Abbott. Pawnee City townsite was surveyed and platted on same date by J. J. Lebo.
July 5, 1857, a two mill tax was levied for building a court house. This was a frame building and was blown down in 1860. The first house erected on the townsite of Pawnee City, except the blacksmith shop of D. M. Gallagher, was by F. F. Liming in the spring of 1857.
The first child born in Pawnee City was Andrew Perry Liming, son of F. F. Liming, in Oct. 1857. The first funeral in the vicinity of Pawnee City was that of James Goins in 1858.
The first merchants were J. B. Morton and F. F. Liming who opened their store for business in 1856. April 4, 1859, David Butler and W. B. Raper started a store at the southeast corner of the public square. At that time a weekly mail route was established from Hiawatha, Kansas, to Pawnee City. The first celebration was held in the grove above the Turkey Creek bridge. The first drug store was owned by Dr. McCasland. The first hotel was that of J. B. Morton and was located on the north side of the square. It burned down in 1862 or 1863.
The first school house erected in the county was located in the district west of Pawnee City and was called the Rosenweed School House. Miss Sarah H. Ball was the first teacher. She was the daughter of the first Superintendent of Schools in the county.
Dr. McCasland was the first physician who located in Pawnee City in 1858 and Dr. Stewart located soon after. A good many new settlers had come into the county, most of them settling along the creeks and rivers and cultivating the bottom lands and leaving the upland in grass.
1860 was a year of severe drought and many of the newcomers became discouraged and left the country. Immigration was light for a time, but it was started again in a few years and the covered wagons began to head west.
The first school in Pawnee City was in 1859 and was taught by Dr. A. S. Stewart. In this year, John Brown stopped overnight in Pawnee City on his way to Kansas.
The first building that was burned in Pawnee City was the house of Hon. D. Butler.
In 1886, Pawnee was declared a city of the second class, having more than 1,000 inhabitants, and divided into two wards, and in September, the right of way was given to the Rock Island Railroad through Pawnee City.
In 1894, Pawnee City voted bonds for an electric light plant. In 1897, the Pawnee Telephone was organized by Geo. E. Becker. It was small in the beginning, but Mr. Becker has made a big success of the company and is still the head of it.
Back in 1882, Robert Inglis built the old Opera House at the southwest corner of the Court House square. The building contained two large store rooms on the first floor, and the opera house occupied the second story. Pawnee City was quite proud of the Opera House. When finished, it was opened with a grand ball and all who attended said that it was the biggest event in our history.