Letter/IconIRST LEGISLATURE. In accordance with the proclamation of Acting Governor Cuming, the first legislature of Nebraska territory convened at Omaha, Tuesday, January 16, 1855, at ten o'clock in the morning, in the building which had been erected for the purpose by the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company. This company was incorporated under the laws of Iowa, and Enos Lowe was its president. This Iowa corporation embodied or represented the Omaha that was to be; for the future metropolis then existed only in the imagination, the hope, and the ambition of its Iowa promoters. Iowa men had procured the incorporation of the territory and shaped it to their wishes; and an Iowa man had organized it into political form and arbitrarily located its temporary

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33 x 75 FEET. COST ABOUT $3,000.00

seat of government contrary to the wishes of its real residents. It was fitting that Iowa capital and enterprise, which were to fix the seat of the government, should also temporarily house it. -- "This whole arrangement," we are told by the Arrow, printed in Council Bluffs, "is made without a cost of one single dollar to the government."
   This first tenement of organized Nebraska government was located on lot 7, in block 124, as platted by A. D. Jones, fronting east on Ninth street between Farnam and Douglas. The structure was known as "the brick building at Omaha City," indicating that it was the first building of brick in the town. It was occupied by the legislature for the first two sessions, and was afterwards used as the first general offices



of the Union Pacific Railway Company, until, in the fall of 1869, they were transferred to other quarters.
   The first meeting house of the legislature is thus described by the disappointed but no doubt faithful contemporary chronicler of the Palladium:

    First Capital Building. The building in which the session is to be held is a plain, substantial, two-story brick edifice, which we should judge was about 30 by 45 feet.

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President of the first territorial council

The entrance to the building is on the east side into a hall, from which the various state apartments above and below are reached.
   As you enter the hall below, the representatives' room will be found on the left, and the governor's apartment on the right. A winding staircase leads to the hall above, at the head of which, upon the left, you enter the council chamber and the committee rooms on the right. The building is a neat and substantial one, but altogether too small for the purpose intended.
   The speaker's desk is elevated two or three steps above the level of the floor, and likewise that of the president of the council. The desks are well proportioned and tastefully finished.
   The desks for the representatives and councilmen are designed to accommodate two members, each having a small drawer to himself, and a plain Windsor chair for a seat. The furniture, including the secretaries' and speaker's desks and chairs, is of the plainest character, and yet well suited to the purpose for which they were designed.
   The size of the legislative rooms are so small that but very few spectators can gain admittance at one time.
   We were struck with the singularity of taste displayed in the curtain furniture of the different rooms, which consisted of two folds of plain calico, the one green and the other red, which we took to be symbolic of jealousy and war -- which monsters, we fear, will make their appearance before right is enthroned and peace established.

   On the 13th day of October the Arrow tells us that, "But a few short months ago and not a sign of a habitation was visible upon the site where now are constantly 1 in progress and will be completed, within another month, a town numbering some 175 or 200 inhabitants."
   The legislature was composed of a council of thirteen and a house of twenty-six members. It cannot be said that a single member of this first legislature had a permanent footing in the territory, and many of them had not even "declared their intentions." But the men from Iowa were there in full force. Mr. J. L. Sharp, the president of the council, nominally from Richardson county, lived at Glenwood, Iowa, and never became a resident of Nebraska. Out of a total membership of thirty-nine at least five, namely, Sharp, Nuckolls, Kempton, Latham, and Purple never were actual residents of the territory, and many of the rest were mere sojourners -- driftwood, temporarily stranded on this farther shore of the westward stream of population, but destined soon to be caught by its constant on-

   1 Memorabilia, Andrew J. Poppleton.



ward flow and carried off to the boundless country beyond.
   The members of the first territorial council were Benjamin R. Folsom of Burt county, Lafayette Nuckolls of Cass county, Munson H. Clark of Dodge county, Taylor G. Goodwill, Alfred D. Jones, Origen D. Richardson, Samuel E. Rogers of Douglas county, Richard Brown of Forney county, Hiram P. Bennet, Henry Bradford, Charles H. Cowles of Pierce county, Joseph L. Sharp of Richardson county, James C. Mitchell of Washington county.
   The first territorial house of representatives was comprised as follows: Burt county, Hascall C. Purple, John B. Robertson; Cass county, William Kempton, John McNeal Latham, Joseph D. N. Thompson; Dodge county, Eli R. Doyle, J. W. Richardson; Douglas county, William N. Byers, William Clancy, Fleming Davidson, Thomas Davis, Alfred D. Goyer, Andrew J. Hanscom, Andrew J. Poppleton, Robert B. Whitted; Forney county, William A. Finney, Joel M. Wood; Pierce county, Gideon Bennet, James H. Cowles, James H. Decker, William B. Hail, Wilson M. Maddox; Richardson county, David M. N. Johnston, John A. Singleton; Washington county, Anselum Arnold, Andrew J. Smith.
   It does not require the full spelling of these Christian names in the record to safely conclude that there were three "Andrew Jacksons" in the house. The circumstance that this representation of strenuous names from the North Platte outnumbered that of the South Platte, two to one, might have had much to do with the success of the first named section in achieving its heart's desire.
   Hiram P. Bennet of Pierce county was chosen temperary (sic) president of the council, and it is his recollection that J. C. Mitchell of Florence nominated him for that office and put the question to the council. After temporary organization the council proceeded to the chamber of the house where the governor delivered the first message to the joint assembly. With characteristic imperiousness he first undertook to administer the oath of office to the members. Mr. Bennet thinks that he required as a condition for taking the oath that members should have received certificates of election from him. At any rate three South Platte members, Bennet, Bradford, and Nuckolls, refused to take the solemn vow by the governor's sanction, and after the reading of the. message both council and house acknowledged the irregularity of the proceeding by going through the ceremony before Judge Ferguson and Judge Harden respectively. This

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President pro tem. of the first territorial council

is the Palladium's unfortunately meager account of the first actual skirmish of the irrepressible and endless conflict between the North Platte and South Platte factions:

    The acting governor made an attempt to get control of the council, but was peremptorily denied the privilege by the president (Mr. Bennet), by whom he was told that he had no business to do what he was attempting to do, and that he was not needed, and not wanted there, that he was not set in authority over that body, and that his pretensions could not be recognized by it.2
   At the afternoon session Mr. Bennet, having become convinced that Mr. Sharp hav-(sic)

   2 Nebraska Palladium, January 17, 1855.



been playing both sides, and had agreed to transfer his support to the North Platte, refused to act as temporary president, and Benjamin R. Folsom of Burt county was elected in his place.
   Messrs. J. L. Sharp and Hiram P. Bennet of the council were advertised as lawyers of Glenwood in the Palladium, during and after the legislative session, and that faithful chronicler of the doubtful deeds of all whom it classed among the wicked says that immediately after final adjournment the president of council "led off for Glenwood, Iowa, at about 2:40 on the first quarter." The ordinary restraints to the game of grab for the capital, which was organized at Council Bluffs soon after if not before the passage of the organic act, were lacking. These restraints are a settled interest in the community or state which the non-resident does not have, and the pride and fear of reputation which are invoked in public representatives only by the knowledge and fear that the eye of a real and responsible citizenship, with moral standards by which it will reach moral judgments, is upon them. It was to be expected, therefore, that the preparation for, and the first step in lawmaking should do violence to moral law.
   Omaha promoters intended to make that place the capital, and with well-founded confidence they relied upon the Napoleonic Cuming to carry out their intention. The citizens of Bellevue had insisted that their settlement should constitute a separate legislative district. It far exceeded in numbers any other settlement excepting Omaha and Nebraska City. "There were two points in the county though lying side by side were actually heaven-wide apart in interest and feeling. No union existed between them any more than if an ocean rolled between. If there were any points in the territory needing a district representation, these were the ones."
   Mr. Decatur, in arguing his case as contestant for the seat of Mr. Poppleton in the house January 31st, is quoted as saying that "In the original organization of Omaha county, now recognized as Douglas county, there were two separate and distinct districts." The inference from this is that during the negotiations, or cross-bidding between Bellevue and Omaha, conducted by Governor Cuming, he had at first intimated or agreed that in the first organization Omaha City and Bellevue should be kept apart in distinct districts, and the county was to be named Omaha instead of Douglas. And so Mr. Decatur charges that, while the Nebraska bill makes it obligatory upon the acting governor to so district the county that each neighborhood should be represented, Bellevue is unrepresented.
   By the governor's tactics, however, Bellevue was thrown into the Omaha district where her hostile vote was safely swallowed. But Bellevue voted for a distinct set of legislative candidates, and the tabulated vote is an interesting page in history.
   Bellevue, determined to emphasize to the utmost her distance from her northern rival, threw most of her vote for delegate to Congress to a resident of the far South, Savannah, Missouri -- Napoleon B. Giddings -- while Omaha voted for Hadley D. Johnson, actually of Council Bluffs but constructively of Omaha.
   The Bellevue candidates contested, or rather attempted to contest the seats of the Omaha candidates -- who had of course received certificates of election from Governor Cuming. In the council they made a test of A. W. Hollister's claims. On the second day of the session, by a close vote of 7 to 6, Dr. Geo. L. Miller of Omaha was chosen chief clerk over Mr. Isaac R. Alden, the temporary clerk, who, being from Washington county and Florence, presumably was not sound on the capital question; 0. F. Lake was chosen assistant clerk, S. A. Lewis, sergeant-at-arms, and N. R. Folsom, doorkeeper. Then Mr. Mitchell offered a resolution "that a committee of three be appointed to investigate the claims of A. W. Hollister of Douglas county to a seat in this body," which on motion of Richardson of Douglas was tabled. A similar resolution



on behalf of B. Y. Shelley of Burt county who, according to the returns, had received 25 votes against 32 for Folsom, the sitting member, met with similar treatment. An attempt of the anti-Omaha forces to take up these resolutions on the following day was unsuccessful. On the 24th a resolution by Mr. Folsom to inquire into the right of Mr. Mitchell to a seat, on the ground "that he is not now and never has been a citizen of Nebraska, but that he is a citizen of Iowa," was met by another from the other side making similar charges of non-residence against Folsom, Richardson, and Sharp, the president; and then came a resolution by Mitchell that Goodwill of Douglas was ineligible because he was a resident of New York, and another by Goodwill charging that Nuckolls of Cass was a minor. These resolutions were all referred to the committee on elections from which they were never reported, probably on the ground that it was not worth while, since the reasons for the investigation were admitted on all hands and could not be denied. Resolutions calling on the governor to furnish the council with the original census returns and his instructions to census takers were referred with safety to the same committee, since two of its members were from Douglas county.
   On the 6th of February this committee reported that it was "inexpedient" to further investigate the subject of contested seats; a word fitly chosen, considering the peculiar character of the objections raised to the claimants of seats and the impartiality of their application. As Mr. Shelley had at least a plausible case against Mr. Folsom, based upon the number of votes he received and not upon the delicate one of non-residence, he was allowed the pay of a member up to February 6.
   In the house, on Mr. Poppleton's motion, Mr. Latham of Cass was chosen temporary presiding officer, and Joseph W. Paddock was appointed temporary chief clerk, George S. Eayre, assistant clerk, Samuel A. Lewis, sergeant-at-arms, and Benjamin B. Thompson, doorkeeper. As in the council, those members were recognized who held certificates of election from the governor. In the joint session, Doyle of Dodge and Decker and Maddox of Pierce refused to receive the official oath from Governor Cuming.
   On the second day Andrew J. Hanscom of Douglas was elected speaker over John B. Robertson of Burt by a vote of 18 to 7; Joseph W. Paddock of Douglas was elected chief clerk over Mastin W. Riden by a like


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Member of the first territorial assembly

vote; George S. Eayre, assistant clerk, over Mastin W. Riden by a vote of 19 to 7, and Isaac L. Gibbs doorkeeper without opposition. The Rev. Joel M. Wood, member from Forney county, seems to have acted as chaplain of the house for the first week of the session, although the Rev. W. D. Gage of Nebraska City had been formerly elected to this office. The council took no action for the selection of a chaplain until the fifth day of the session when, by resolution, the president was authorized to invite the Rev.

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