In the early development of Tecumseh and Johnson County seven historic trails criss-crossed the county as commerce and transportation made their way from the east and south to developing areas. Being one of the earliest settlements, Tecumseh became the crossroads where most of these trails converged as a supply center.
Nebraska City Short Cut - This trail, which was used as the short cut from Nebraska City to the Oregon Trail, entered Johnson County from the northeast. "Just southwest of the Maple Grove school house, was a fine spring grown around with calamus. There was abundant wood on Turkey Creek, for there this creek was forked, and the place was utilized as a campground by the trains of emigrant wagons. Old settlers have told us what a sight it was to see as many as 50 wagons with nice white canvas tops, winding slowly over the prairie. The camping ground on Turkey Creek was the third night out from Nebraska City."
That there was heavy traffic on this trail was shown by the fact that on the Robert Harrah homestead (Sec. 34-4-10) where this old campground was located, 16 pairs of wagon ruts could be seen. When the ruts became too deep a new road was started.
Brownville-Fort Kearny - The second important trail to cross the county was known as the Brownville to Fort Kearny Trail, and came into being about 1850. From 1855-1865 it was laden with pioneer settlers and freighters moving west through Johnson County. The state coaches were also traveling east and west on the trail and maintaining a regular schedule at that time. The Nebraska City to Marysville trail made a junction with the trail two miles east of Tecumseh, which caused an increase in traffic at this point. This trail was the dominant factor in the establishment and location of the Tecumseh townsite in July, 1856.
Nebraska City-Beatrice Trail - In the 1850s a trail was established from Nebraska City to Beatrice promoted by proprietors of the pioneer townsite of Helena. The trail entered Johnson County from a northeast direction two miles west of Cook.
Salt Creek Trail - During the 1860s settlers had to secure their salt from Salt Creek in Lancaster County. Therefore a wagon trail was established from Tecumseh to Salt Creek and became known as the Salt Creek Trail. It followed the north side of the Nemaha river from Tecumseh to the head of the river, then across to a point where Lincoln now stands.
Pawnee City-Lincoln Trail - The Pawnee City-Lincoln trail entered the south boundary of Johnson county near Turkey Creek, where it crossed the Nebraska City-Marysville trail. Nebraska's first governor, David Butler of Pawnee City, used this trail to commute to and from the capitol at Lincoln, either by carriage or horseback from 1867 to 1871.
Settlement Trail - After a small settlement had been established at Tecumseh, a trail was started which entered the county near the northeast corner. Ruts of this trail were plainly visible in 1931. This trail crossed the Nemaha river south of First Street and ran in a southwesterly direction to the ford on Turkey Creek.
Tecumseh-St. Joseph Trail - The Tecumseh-St. Joe trail followed along the east side of the Nemaha river, past the pioneer town of Butler which was located one mile northwest of the present town of Elk Creek. From there it continued in a southeast direction toward Table Rock.
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