NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library



J. W. Dawes, republican, 72,835; J. Sterling Morton, democrat and greenbacker, 57,634; J. G. Miller, prohibitionist, 3,075. The legislature in 1883, passed a township orgainzation (sic) law, a mutual insurance law and an appropriation for the main part of the new capitol building, to cost $450,000. The greenback party disappeared from Nebraska politics. The republican party was divided into two wings, the anti-monopoly, and the railroad or machine. The controversies between these two factions was for some years the most interesting feature of our political life. Eventually the anti-monopoly faction disappeared. The legislature of 1885 to quiet anti-monopoly agitation passed the first act providing for a board of railroad commissioners with three secretaries who were to adjust any complaints against railroad companies. Another important act was one providing for the sinking of a test well at the salt basin in Lincoln to determine the presence of coal, salt or other minerals beneath Nebraska soil. The well was sunk 2,463 feet, and the result confirmed the already expressed opinion of geologists, that
Picture or sketch

A Sunday School Gathering on the Plains. (Photo by Kimberly.)

coal in paying quantities would not be found in Nebraska. A new state institution was added--the Institution for Feeble Minded, at Beatrice.

      In 1886 the vote for governor was, John M. Thayer, republican, 75,956; J. E. North, democrat, 52,656; H. W. Hardy, prohibitionist, 8,175; J. Burrows, nationalist, 1,422. The legislative session of 1887 resulted in the defeat of Senator C. H. Van Wyck for re-election and the selection of A. S. Paddock. This was a triumph of the "regulars" over the antimonopoly or mugwump republicans. Three new state institutions were created by this session,--the Insane Asylum at Hastings, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home at Grand Island, and the Woman's Industrial Home at Milford. Two new bureaus of state administration were made,--the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oil Inspector's office. The legislature made a recount of the vote upon a constitutional amendment, lengthening the legislative session to sixty days, and declared the same carried. An act reapportioning the state into legislative districts was passed, which remains



unchanged on the statute book to this day. An act was passed forbidding pooling by grain dealers in Nebraska, and another prohibiting non-resident aliens from acquiring lands in the state.

      For governor in 1888, John M. Thayer received 104,282 votes, John A. McShane, democrat, 83,820; George E. Bigelow, prohibitionist, 9,715, and David Butler, the first governor of the state, who now appeared as the labor candidate,--3,631.

      The decade beginning 1890, came in, apparently, for Nebraska on a flood tide of harmony and prosperity. The previous ten years had witnessed the greatest material growth in the state's history. The census figures indicated a population of 1,058,510 against 450,022 in 1880. It is now known and admitted, however, that the federal census of that year was padded by the officers in charge from 50,000 to 100,000 names. Wealth, by the same census, had grown from $385,000,000 to $1,275,000,000, indicating that while population had doubled wealth had trebled. Whether these figures, also, were padded or not, much of this vast increase in wealth was fictitious--

Picture or sketch

Eagle Creek Mill-Dam, Turner, Holt County, Nebraska

speculative values and the conversion of cattle ranges into 160-acre farms, and cornfields into town lots. But there were the figures, and an active army of real estate boomers hailed them with delight and proceeded to lay off more additions. The political sky was likewise almost cloudless. The factional fight in the republican party had almost disappeared and everything seemed to promise a long continuance of existing conditions. It is true there was some discontent among farmers over low prices for grain, and a rapid organization during the year 1889 of Farmer's Alliances, a new agricultural organization,--but nothing so far to indicate the great role it was to play in the near future.

      With the summer of 1890 the season changed from the wet to the dry cycle of years. Week after week of hot dry weather prevailed. Over more than half of the state there was no corn to husk, and a very light crop elsewhere. The brilliant soap bubble of speculation burst. Cornfield town lots found no purchasers. The era of borrowing was at an end. Pay day was at hand, and nothing to pay with.

     The political campaign of 1890 in Nebraska



Picture or sketch

A Typical Nebraska Residence Built by Ex-Governor Nance

was a never-to-be-forgotten one. A constitutional amendment prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor was to be voted upon by the people. The interests involved were thoroughly aroused, and a campaign of great energy was maintained upon that issue. The republican party nominated L. D. Richards, of Fremont, for governor, and tried to avoid committing itself on the liquor question. The democrats nominated J. E. Boyd, of Omaha, as an outspoken opponent of all prohibitory laws, and forced the fighting on that issue. The Farmers' Alliance organization entered the field for the first time with a ticket headed by John H. Powers, and challenged both the old parties to a combat on economic questions. On July 1, 1890, there were 1,500 alliances in the state with 50,000 members. The feature of the campaign was the enormous farmers picnics and processions addressed by the orators of their organization. There were no crops to gather so the people gathered in numbers never seen before or since, out in the groves away from the towns. Farmers' Alliance parades seven and eight miles long were among the sights of the campaign, and the enthusiasm of the monster meetings defied description. Every where there was a breaking away from former political affiliation, and the chorus "Good bye old party, Good bye" was chanted with religious fervor by thousands of throats. The Hon. Church Howe of Nemaha county, one of the republican leaders, expressed the situation when he said "the old ship is leaking." When the returns of the November election were canvassed it was clearly seen that a political revolution had taken place. The new peoples independent party had elected a majority of

Prior page


Names index
Picture or sketch

@ 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller