In 1856 Thomas Weston Tipton moved to the town to serve as a minister. Furnas, the signer of the first declaration of Arbor Day. The population was 146 at the 2000 United States Census census.
Established in 1854 and incorporated in 1856, Brownville was the largest town in the Nebraska Territory, with a population of 1,309 by 1880. The arboretum is named in honor of Nebraska's second governor, Robert W. Mercer later served as a long-time United States House of Representatives Representative from Nebraska.