A settlement called “Forest City” in western Sarpy County was the actual beginning of Gretna. Several dugouts and log cabins were built in this vicinity by Irish immigrants in 1853. Known as “a lively group,” many stories are told about their “carryings on.” A pre-emption claim was filed by Wesley Knight and streets for a town were survayed in 1854. Incorporation papers were filed in 1858.
It is said that “Ranger” Jones was among the first inhabitants. Living in a large dugout a few miles north in “Jones’ Ravine,” he headed a gang of outlaws who collected tribute from prospective settlers. If they refused to pay, he would kill them, or run them out of the area. Not long after Nebraska became a territory, Jones left for “parts unknown.”
Gretna started shortly after the Burlington Railroad built a short line between Omaha and Ashland in the summer of 1886. Before the beginning of the Village of Gretna, this new laid rail line was the cue for the exit of the nearby trading post of Forest City, which had existed since 1856. In its day, Forest City, located 2.5 miles southwest of where Gretna now stands, was a flourishing and busy place, but it was doomed by the rail road which passed it by. The only marker that exists today to show the site of old Forest City is the cemetery (Holy Sepulcher) which is located a little east of what was the center of activity in the settlement.
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