ADDRESS OF J. R. BUCHANAN,2
DELIVERED BEFORE, THE AN-
NUAL MEETING OF THE NEBRASKA STATE HISTORICAL
SOCIETY, AT LINCOLN, JANUARY 14, 1902.
The railroads and the Bible are the two most potent agencies of modern times which have operated in the western country
The railroad makes a new or unoccupied
country accessible, and creates or establishes markets in
The Bible with its devotees follows, giving a moral tone to the locality, which means safety, law, and tranquillity.
Only the sturdy, hardy, and industrious should -- but, unfortunately, many others do -- go to the new country. Usually, however, the percentage of the better class which occupies a new section is sufficiently large to impress its virtues on such country in time of need. Education follows is a correlative necessity -- a prerequisite to good citizenship.
A generous and responsive soil and a good climate constitute the reasons for populating a new country and determine its destiny.
With the earliest settlements in north Nebraska I am not personally familiar. I am in a general way informed that the original wagon trails to the mountains, the Salt Lake Basin, and the Pacific Coast from Omaha, Council Bluffs, or Florence, were through Douglas and the western part of Washington county into Dodge, striking the Platte river at the present site of Fremont, or perhaps for a portion of the year avoiding the lower land, touching at Fontenelle, a small settlement from Quincy, Illinois, and thence to the Platte river, but later centering at Fremont, which became a prominent frontier trading point. Settlement took root in that vicinity, and as the danger from Indians receded, spread up the Elkhorn valley sparsely, the impression generally prevailing that, as all territory west of the Missouri river had been known as a desert, it was necessary to keep in the val-
leys or near the watercourses. The settlements were very
slow and scattering. Attention was mainly directed to the country
along and south of the Platte, afterwards pierced by the Union
Pacific R. R., prospects for building which widely advertised that
section, and later by the Burlington & Missouri River R.
January 20, 1869, the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley R. R. was organized, and commenced building up the Elkhorn valley. I am assured by Judge E. K. Valentine, of West Point, that he moved the United States land office from Omaha to West Point in May, 1869. There were then only twelve houses in West Point, mainly a little colony of Germans from Watertown, Wisconsin, conspicuous amongst whom was the father and family of our present state treasurer, William Stueffer.
The Elkhorn railroad built in 1869 from Fremont to Maple Creek, ten miles, and rested the winter. In 1870 it was built from Maple Creek to West Point, twenty-five miles, arriving there on Thanksgiving Day. Small settlements had scattered along up the valley as far as "French Creek," now the railroad station of Clearwater. Perhaps as conspicuous a settlement as any was a small colony of thirty-seven families of German Lutherans, also from Watertown, Wisconsin, who sought a new country where, with their very limited means, all could locate together and support jointly a church of their faith. They were piloted to the present site of Norfolk in 1866 by Mr. Stueffer, their former townsman in Wisconsin, who had preceded them, locating at West Point. One of their number, Mr. Herman Praasch, in 1870, platted the original town of Norfolk. Nearly all of that colony, with a numerous growth of children and grandchildren, are still living there. A notable fact is cited by one of the descendants, to the effect that the children and grandchildren of these pioneers, that were bred in Nebraska, are all taller, larger of frame, and usually more robust than their ancestors, and they attribute this to the healthful, invigorating climate.
As the railroad opened markets and
extended its line, settlements became more numerous.
In 1871 the railroad was extended to Wisner, where it rested until 1879.
In 1873 a small colony from Beloit, Wisconsin, headed by one John T. Prouty, settled a little east of the present site of O'Neill, but later scattered or was replaced by Gen. John O'Neill, who, with eighteen Irishmen -- mostly Fenians who had accompanied him in his raid in Canada on the 31st of May, 1866, and known as O'Neill's Irish Brigade -- took up land and settled in Holt county.
A party, with whom was Mr. Jonas Gise, a civil engineer and member of the city council of Omaha, made a trip in 1873 north to the O'Neill settlement, also from Norfolk to Niobrara. They reported that from about four miles north of Norfolk there was not a sign of habitation on the way to Niobrara until they reached some ranches on the Niobrara river. Whenever they found habitations, they were of the order known as "dug-outs" or "sod houses" or occasionally a cabin of cottonwood logs. There was very little stock of any kind, and the most primitive kind of living possible. The streams were unbridged and the roads were "across the prairies."
Here are two incidents which ought to pass into history. In 1869 Judge Valentine was judge of the district court. He was driving up the Elkhorn valley near what is now Pilger, when he noticed a woman some distance from the road whose strange actions decided him to go to her. He found a comely looking young woman with her hands tied behind her back, and a rope securely fastened around her waist, and tied to a stake driven into the ground. Near by were a shanty and two stacks of grain. She was entirely alone. After he had cut the ropes, the woman, who was a German, told him, as well as she could in broken English, that her husband had engaged the threshers for three successive days previous, and she had cooked and prepared for them the first two days, they failing to come. The third day she refused to cook again, and
they came, and the husband, to punish her and emphasize
his authority, had tied her hands and lariated her out in the sun.
He disappeared and was not seen afterwards.
The other incident was as follows: In 1870 a Mr. Newburn, who lived on a homestead near the present site of the town of Beemer, had cultivated a patch of watermelons. A party consisting of Hon. Lorenzo Crounse (then district Judge and since governor of Nebraska), Z. Shedd, M. B. Hoxie, and C. W. Walton, attorneys, was driving past en route to West Point. Crounse, Shedd, and Hoxie entered the melon patch to test the products. Each took a melon under each arm and started to their wagon, when Newburn appeared, demanding in angry tones, "what kind of a set of d--d thieves" were stealing his melons. Shedd, gathering his senses first, replied indignantly by asking what he meant by such language, and asked if he knew whom he was addressing, explaining, "This is his honor, Judge Crounse, and I am Z. Shedd, a lawyer from Fremont," etc., to which Newborn replied, "I do not care a d--n who you are, you will pay me fifty cents each for those melons, or I will go with you to West Point and have you arrested, as you deserve." Three dollars were promptly paid, and the party left. Shortly after they arrived at West Point, Newborn came in, and as he had known the Judge and Shedd all the time, he told the story, which their friends enjoyed, he returning the three dollars and giving the party more melons. Newborn was satisfied, and all enjoyed the joke.
In 1879 the Elkhorn R. R. was extended to Battle Creek, in 1880 to Neligh, the present county seat of Antelope county.
In the fall of 1880 I came to the road. I found all that northern portion of the state very sparsely settled or wholly unoccupied, and in fact but little known about it. I found there were millions on millions of acres of government land which was available under the "homestead," the "pre-emption," and the "tree claim" or "timber culture acts," whereby a man could procure 160 acres, and after living on it fourteen
months could commute the remaining four years by paying
$1.25 per acre and get patent. That he could move onto another 160
acres as a "homestead" and at the same time file on another 160
acres as a "tree claim," and by planting a certain number of
trees, ten acres, I believe, plowing a fire-guard around them, at
the same time occupying his homestead, at the end of five years,
it he had done the stipulated small amount of work on the
homestead, and could also make affidavit that the requisite number
of trees were alive and growing on his claim, he could get patents
for both. Thus, in six years, he could acquire 480 acres of land,
only having paid the filing fees, about $14 on each quarter, and
the commutation of $200 on one quarter.
These conditions, with some knowledge of human nature, gave me the inspiration on which I promptly acted, advertising in flaming posters and seductive, but more modest, folders
That was my slogan, or rallying phrase. It headed every circular, folder, and poster which I issued, and I issued them by the million. I spread them over Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, and even worked some in New York and Pennsylvania. Everywhere, and in every possible publication and newspaper, printed in black, blue, and red ink, in the English and German languages, this sentence of
There seems to be ail inherent desire in human nature to get "something for nothing," and here I was offering free homes -- 160 acres of good American soil -- by the million. It took with the people, and the tide of immigration started to north Nebraska. There was a very sparse population in the counties upon our line as far as Antelope county. This will appear from an old folder which I issued, probably in 1883
or 1884 (it was not dated), which states in English and German that there were
"The above invitation is to all who come
Then, for those who have money and want a home nearer by, I say-
"In Washington county there are 150,000 acres of unimproved land available at from $10 to $20 per acre."
In Dodge county were 190,000 acres unimproved land at from $7 to $20 per acre.
In Cuming county there were 240,000 acres unimproved land at from $3 to $7.50 per acre.
In Stanton county 225,000 acres unimproved land at $2.50 to $5 per acre.
In Madison county 200,000 acres at $2 to $7 per acre.
Antelope county 500,000 acres at $1.25 to $6.50 per acre.
Holt county 300,000 acres at $1.25 to $6.50 per acre.
Pierce county 200,000 acres at $2.50 to $6 per acre.
Knox county 160,000 acres at $1.25 to $6 per acre.
Over 2,000,000 acres in these counties at $1.25 to $20 per acre. It is perhaps needless to say that now no land can be purchased in Dodge county on the east at less than $45 to $60 per acre, nor in Holt county, the farthest west of the counties named, for less than $20 to $40 per acre. I rode over a farm in Antelope county a few weeks ago for which $50 per acre was offered and declined, and which I know at the time of the above advertising could have been bought at $5 or less per acre.
All that territory west of Holt county, now embraced in the counties of Rock, Keya Paha, Brown, Cherry, Sheridan, Box Butte, Dawes, Sioux, and all that part of Boyd lying south of Keya Paha river, was attached to Holt county for judicial purposes, and known as Sioux county, otherwise unorganized. There were not five hundred people in all of them. I am not able to say what was in Wheeler, Garfield,
Blaine, Thomas, Hooker, Grant, or Scotts Bluff, lying
immediately south of the large unorganized country named, but no
doubt they were as unsettled as the above. In fact, outside the
little settlement by General O'Neill's party and a few others
there were no settlements in Holt county, only about 3,000 people
Now, there is a population of over fifty thousand in those new counties, most of which, at the time I referred to above, were attached to Holt county for judicial purposes.
There is an increased population in Holt county and the counties east of our main line, of about one hundred thousand.
There are half as many more, or an increase of at least fifty thousand, in that territory west of our main line and along and west of the branch line since built, which leaves the main line at Scribner, passing through Colfax, Platte, and Boone counties, and joining the main line again at Oakdale.
The extension of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley R. R. enabled me to continue this, as it pierced that wholly unoccupied section. The railroad was extended in 1880 from Norfolk to Plainview; in 1881, from Plainview to Creighton, and from Neligh to O'Neill, and to Long Pine; in 1882 from Long Pine to Thatcher; in 1883 from Thatcher to Valentine; in 1884 the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley R. R. was purchased by the Chicago & North-Western Ry. Co., and its future extension directed under that ownership. In 1885 it was extended from Valentine to Chadron, and from Chadron to Buffalo Gap, at the base of the Black Hills; in 1886 from Buffalo Gap to Rapid City, South Dakota, and the same year another line was constructed starting from Chadron, or rather starting from a point now called "Dakota Junction," which is five miles directly west of Chadron, whence it ran through Nebraska to the Wyoming state line, and thence through Wyoming in succeeding years to Casper, in Natrona county.
This railroad had no land grant, and
the Union Pacific and the Burlington & Missouri R. R. both
having large grants, out of which they could pay for liberal
advertising, and offer other liberal inducements, drew people to
the South Platte. I was at a great disadvantage; our company was
running into an unoccupied country, and had little business
comparatively; and I trust I may be forgiven for having resorted
to the only method within my means and at my disposal to attract
attention to the north Nebraska country. At any rate, it dearly
resulted in adding at least two hundred thousand people to the
population of that portion of the state, and the section is now, I
believe, recognized as the very best in the state, and the people
are prosperous, thrifty, and contented.
When I commenced advertising--
I knew the land and conditions in all the northeastern part of the state, and as far west as Holt county were superb, and would respond bountifully to good farming. 1 took pains to have the soil west of there analyzed, and found the constituents adapted to cropping. I had also investigated the rainfall. An army officer at Ft. Niobrara took account of it regularly and reported to me the precipitation was 16 to 22 inches in the spring, summer, and fall. At the same, time, the precipitation at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and at Rochester, New York, was reported about 18 to 23 inches during the same time. This, I believed, justified my belief that there was sufficient precipitation to warrant the expectation that crops would grow where there was so much vegetation growing. Then, too, I shared the common belief that turning up the moist soil would add to the moisture in the atmosphere, resulting in added precipitation, and so that each such effort and growing crops would aid in redeeming that portion of the so-called arid belt, and I accordingly encouraged -- even piloting some colonies to go well westward, where I knew there was excellent soil. Those who confined themselves to crop
raising exclusively in these western sections proved to
themselves and to me that it was a mistake, and I quit advising
farmers to go so far out. Those who acquired the free land and put
a little stock on it were delighted and prosperous, and all who
have gone since and pursued the same plan have prospered. The
raising of vegetables, especially potatoes, proved successful and
profitable, but corn, wheat, and general cropping were
unprofitable. The "farmers" proper ultimately moved eastward into
that section cast of about the one hundredth meridian, and they,
too, have prospered.
It was the advancing railroad and the
Advertising which accomplished the result and peopled north Nebraska. This, not only immediately along the line of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley R. R., but the population spread out to the north boundary of the state on the north, and covered two and more counties to the south of the line of our railroad, and the entire north part of the state is fairly well settled.
PRESENTED BY J. H. AGER1 AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF
NEBRASKA STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, JANUARY 15, 1902.
The subject assigned to me is "Nebraska Politics and Nebraska Railroads." The inference carried by the title would seem to be that the railroads entering Nebraska are more or
less active in politics, and this inference I readily
grant. In discussing the subject, I hope to be able to give you,
from the railroad's standpoint, sufficient reasons for their right
to take such interest as well as the extent and objects of their
A recital of the history of the railroads of Nebraska would be but the telling of the story of the marvelous growth and development of this rich and fertile state. The railroads of Nebraska pay into the several treasuries of the state nearly one-sixth of all the taxes paid, and, second only to the brain and brawn of the men who conceived and built its cities, and changed its unbroken prairies into productive farms, have been the most potential factor in its development and in multiplying many times the value of its fertile acres. Preceding the commencement of the construction of the two great systems of railroads in Nebraska, the territory which they traverse was popularly supposed to be practically uninhabitable as an agricultural country; but the far-sighted, sanguine men who invaded the territory and risked their capital in railroad construction saw farther than the men whose judgment pronounced the country an arid waste. They found here a fertile soil and a genial climate, that gave promise of a rich field for the agriculturist and stock man.
Simultaneously with railroad construction they began the work of supplying to the people of the eastern states such information as to the country's natural resources as had induced them to send their capital west, and as would bring immigration. Lured by the promises of future rise in values, and the hope of securing homes and a competency, the strong, ambitious, and sanguine first sons of families in other states came to Nebraska and engaged in its development, undergoing the hardships and privations inevitable to pioneer life, and in this work each individual became a partner of the railroads, laboring to the accomplishment of the same end -- the utilization of natural conditions to the betterment of themselves and all the people.
The railroads through their agents said
to the people of the East, "Out there in Nebraska there is a soil
unsurpassed for fertility and ease of tillage, a climate as
favorable to agricultural pursuits as any in the world, We are
going out there to spend our money in its development, and we want
your help. Our railroads can not do the work alone. We want you to
go out and cultivate the lands, build cities and factories, raise
cattle, horses, hogs, and sheep. Our part of the work shall be to
haul your surplus products to market and bring you such things as
you may need from other sections of the country." Upon this
proposition hands were joined, and the work of settlement,
development, and railroad construction has, with few
interruptions, gone continuously forward, and Nebraska has reached
a place well toward the head of the procession in the sisterhood
of states, the result of cooperation and a community of interests
of the railroads and the people.
Take an instance typical of most. A man from the East, equipped with health, industry, and a determination to succeed, homesteaded a quarter-section of government land, or perhaps bought from the railroad at $1.25 per acre, a farm, say in Kearney county, in the central part of the state. Previous to the advent of the railroad his land had but little value, other than the speculative value based upon the coming of a road. True, he and his family might derive from its cultivation the provisions necessary to their existence, and a restricted local market might be found for a limited surplus.
In time the road was built, and a station opened within hauling distance of his farm. A market town sprang up. While the productive value of his land in bushels and pounds was unchanged, its market value was multiplied two, four, or perhaps ten times, because the railroad had created a new value for its products. The gate which heretofore stood closed between the products of his land and the consumers of the East was pushed open by the locomotive, and he then learned that the value of his wheat and corn was affected
more by a thirty-mile haul in a farm wagon than by a
thousand miles in a freight car. It was as though the manufacturer
of the East, the fruit grower of Florida and the Pacific Coast,
the lumberman of Michigan, and the coal men of other states had
moved into Kearney county and become his neighbors, in respect to
the facility and cheapness with which an exchange of his products
for theirs could be effected.
Nebraska is essentially an agricultural state, and upon the occupants of the farms, more than upon any other class, do the railroads depend for business. Crop failures and short crops mean to the railroads idle cars and idle men, with consequent loss of revenue, without a corresponding decrease in the fixed charges which constitute about 80 per cent of the gross outlay of the railroad. The conditions necessary to insure good crops are as anxiously hoped for and their presence bailed with as much satisfaction by the managers of western railroads as by the tillers of western farms.
The state, by reason of its long distance from the grain markets of the East, is naturally somewhat handicapped, but the managers of the railroads have sought to so regulate the rates as to overcome this disadvantage, and enable the Nebraska farmer to successfully compete in the marketing of his products with the farmers occupying the high priced lands of Iowa, Illinois, and other eastern states, and complaints have been lodged with the Interstate Commerce Commission by the farmers of the latter named states, charging discrimination by the railroads in grain rates, in favor of Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas. Twenty years ago the average freight rate per ton per mile, received by the Nebraska roads, was a fraction more than three cents. The average rate received for the year ending June 30, 1900, the latest data I could obtain, had fallen to one cent and 11/100 of a mill. Today the wheat of Nebraska is being taken to the Atlantic seaboard for export, for 6.2 mills per ton per mile, and corn for 4.97 mills. At this rate a farmer hauling one and one-half tons per load, thirty miles per day, would revenue for the day's work for himself and team 25 1/4 cents for
hauling wheat, and less than 17 cents for hauling corn.
It used to cost $10 to get a barrel of flour carried from Buffalo
to New York. That amount will now carry a ton of Nebraska wheat
from Hastings to New York, a distance of 1,565 miles, and leave
thirty cents unexpended. The amount that it took in 1859 to send a
letter weighing one ounce, from the Missouri river to San
Francisco by Col. Alexander Major's pony express, will send a ton
of Nebraska corn 1,006 miles on its journey for export to
The first passenger tariff issued by the Union Pacific railroad, taking effect July 16, 1866, as far as Kearney, made the rate of ten cents per passenger per mile. The average rate received by the Nebraska railroads, excluding free transportation, for the year ending June 30, 1900, had fallen to 2 33/100 cents per mile. These comparisons are made to show that the railroads have been continually and voluntarily doing their part to assist the people in the work of the development of the state by reducing rates as fast as increasing business would enable them to do so.
It will be remembered by those present that during the almost total failure of crops in western Nebraska, in 1880, and again in 1893 and 1895, the railroads voluntarily came to the relief of the sufferers by furnishing free transportation to thousands of the citizens of the drouth-stricken localities who came to the eastern part of the state, or went to other states in search of employment, and to the numerous agents of different localities who went east to solicit aid from their more fortunate brethren; and in one year, more than a quarter of a million dollars in freight charges was rebated to the people of the western part of this state on seed grain and feed for teams and other stock, and relief goods.
The foregoing has, I believe, established the right of the railroads to an interest in the politics of the state, for in almost every case political issues resolve themselves into mere business issues, in which so great a factor as the railroads of Nebraska are certain to be affected one way or the other.
The extent to which the railroads participate in politics is, and has always been very greatly overestimated. Politicians and the press have very often found it seemingly to their interest to mislead the people on this subject, and the defeated candidate in convention and at the polls has many times jumped to the conclusion that he was beaten by the railroads, when as a matter of fact the railroads had no object or participation in his defeat. As in every other state, so in Nebraska, large numbers of men seeking public office have sought to gain favor with the people by charging all their misfortunes to oppression by railroads and other corporations, and some years back a great party, which for several years swept the state, was created and built up on the theory that the interests of the railroads and the people were divergent and conflicting, and that the former were engaged in robbing the latter of the legitimate fruits of their toil. Demagogues in all parties encouraged this idea, and the state was overrun with candidates for office, and politicians demanding the most stringent and unjust legislation against nearly all forms of corporate enterprise. Up to this time railroad participation on state politics has been more in the nature of rivalry between the Union Pacific and the Burlington roads in their efforts to settle up the territory north and south of the Platte, through which their respective lines run. But the aggressive action of the new party caused the rival roads to make common cause against threatened adverse legislation. A legislature was elected, a majority of which was pledged to radical rate regulation, and a bill known as the Newberry bill was introduced. Neither the introducer of the bill nor a single member of that legislature pretended to know anything about the numerous factors that enter into the adjustment of railroad freight rates, and as a matter of course were unable to say whether the then prevailing rates were unreasonable or not. The question had been made political issue, and they were bound by party pledges to reduce rates anyhow. There was not a man in the body who had ever spent a single day in the service of any railroad
company, making rate sheets. And from the very nature of
things they could not have known whether or not railroad rates
were too high or too low. This fact was emphasized when, some days
after the bill was introduced, it was discovered that the bill
actually raised nearly every rate in the schedule. When this fact
became known, the bill was withdrawn and another introduced,
making an average rate so low as to have finally been declared by
the United States Supreme Court to be unconstitutional because the
reductions were so great as to make them confiscatory. However,
the agitation for a reduction of rates was continued by the
politicians, although the people themselves were making little if
any complaint. I do not think that so much misinformation was ever
furnished to the people of this state on any other subject by the
politicians who hoped to secure office for themselves or friends,
by arousing and taking advantage of prejudice against the
corporations. One incident in illustration: one of the founders of
the new party, a former farmer but at that time publishing a
newspaper, made complaint before the board of transportation,
charging the railroads with extortion amounting to robbery on
grain rates to Chicago. After a radical speech to the board on
these lines, in which he stated that he represented the farmers of
this state, I asked him if he thought the farmers of Nebraska
would be satisfied with a rate which would carry their wheat to
the Chicago market at three cents per ton per mile. He replied,
"yes, if the railroads would make that sort of a rate, I would not
be here to complain." When I showed him that there was at that
time no rate in the state higher than a cent and a quarter per ton
per mile, he admitted that he knew nothing at all of the details
of the rate question, and was relying on the oft-repeated charge
that rates were too high.
The prejudices engendered in the public mind were taken advantage of by individuals, usually not members of either branch of the legislature, to procure the introduction and passage by the house or senate of all sorts of bills attacking corporate interests, with no other motive than that of per-
sonal gain by traffic in their real or assumed influence with the members. The business has grown from year to year, until it has almost assumed the dignity of a profession, and many members of the legislature have afterward become aware of the fact that they had unwittingly lent themselves to the consummation of the schemes of the professional holdup, during more than one session of the legislature regular syndicates have been formed for the introduction of what have by long familiarity become known to the general public as hold-up bills. These bills have not always attacked corporations. Bills to reduce fees of sheriffs, county clerks, clerks of the courts, and other county officers, so-called pure food bills, attacking a single article of manufacture, bills for the regulation of various kinds of business have been introduced with the purpose and expectation of causing the parties threatened to hurry to the state house and raise a fund to be disbursed for the defeat of such legislation. During the last session of the legislature bills were introduced to regulate freight rates, to regulate the length of freight trains, prescribing the number of brakemen to a train, to compel the railroads to equip their engines with certain kinds of ashpans, to equip Pullman cars with fireproof safes, and numerous other bills of like character. Believing that the rates attacked were just and reasonable, and that the details of the management and operation of the road could better be left to the men who by years of service in the employ of the roads had become familiar with the subject, the railroad companies of course opposed such legislation. There has scarcely been a bill of this character affecting the railroads, introduced in the last ten years, that some man assuming to have great influence with the members has not sought out a representative of one or more of the railroad companies and offered for a consideration to prevent its passage. It is due to the members of the legislature, however, to say that in most instances these offers have come from the outside, from men who have sought to use the members of the legislature for purposes of personal gain, although I have known of regular syndicates
being formed almost entirely of members of the two
houses, and I recollect one instance in which a demand was made on
an auxiliary railroad corporation for $8,400, and two annual
passes, the two latter to be given to an employee of the senate
and his partner, who drew a certain bill and had it introduced. A
representative of the corporation attacked hurried out from
Chicago, and before seeing any member of the syndicate asked me
what I would advise his doing. I advised public exposure of all
the men implicated. He did not see fit to follow my advice, and I
was afterwards informed by a representative of the company that,
$2,000 had been paid to defeat the measure. As I stated before,
this was not a railroad bill, and the railroads had nothing to do
with it. The foregoing is but one of several like incidents which
have come within my knowledge. It has been charged by those
ignorant of the facts that large sums of money are paid by the
railroads to defeat legislation. So far as this charge applies to
any period of which I have knowledge, which covers at least the
last six sessions of the legislature, not one single dollar has
ever been given to a member of the legislature, to anybody for
him, or to any member of any syndicate, for this or any other
purpose of like character.
It has always been my policy, which policy has been approved by the management of the Burlington road, which I have had the honor to represent, to furnish to the members of the legislature all possible information that they may require in legislating upon any subject touching the interests of the railroads, relying upon the fact that a majority of the legislators are honest men and intend when fully informed to do justice to the railroads as well as to any other legitimate interest. The last legislature, like its predecessors, for at least five sessions, contained within its membership practical representatives of most of the chief industries and professions existing or practiced in the state. Among its numbers were managers of farms, stock ranches, stores, mills, factories, banks, while lawyers, physicians, teachers, mechanics, and insurance men helped to make up the body. Yet of its entire
membership of 133, not one man connected with the
management of any portion of the 5,884 miles of railroad in
Nebraska, entering all but six of the counties of the state, built
at a cost of many millions of dollars, paving in 1900 taxes to the
amount of $1,109,474, giving employment to 14,858 men, to whom are
paid yearly salaries aggregating more than 8,000,000 of dollars,
has had a voice in the deliberations upon the floor of either
house, or a vote upon any measure upon, which it has been called
to act. This fact is referred to simply to direct your attention
to the further fact that it is only by appearing by
representatives before the legislative committees that the roads
can make known to the legislature the views of their management
upon proposed legislation affecting their interests.
The friends to whom I have confided the details of some of the schemes that outside lobbyists have undertaken to make money out of, have said, "Why don't you expose them?" My answer has invariably been that I had never taken any pains to conceal any knowledge I possessed on the subject, or to shield or excuse any man connected with the nefarious business. At the last session of the legislature one of the miscellaneous corporations did accuse a couple of outside lobbyists of procuring the introduction of several bills of this character, and instead of meeting the approval of the legislature as they had expected they would, the story was at once started that the corporation itself had stood behind the introduction of the bills, and had made the exposure in bad faith, for the purpose of bringing into bad repute any bill affecting that corporation.
A railroad manager entrusted with the care of the great properties represented by the railroad systems in this state would be culpable indeed should he not do all in his power in a legitimate way to protect his stockholders against the onslaught upon their property made for mere political purposes, or in furtherance of the money-making schemes of private individuals. At a republican state convention some years ago the then attorney general of the state stood in the
corridors of the capitol hotel importuning the delegates
to the convention to vote for the nomination of a certain man as
judge of the supreme court, on the plea that he was "against the
railroads." The case was one in which the railroads felt entirely
justified in trying to prevent his nomination, as were also the
cases of the six state senators previously referred to who formed
a combine for extorting money from the corporations, and I am
happy to state that not one of the six was nominated for a second
term although all were candidates for renomination.
In closing permit me to say that the political interests of the railroads are best subserved by the election of honest and capable men to all the offices within the state. The railroads are best served by that legislation which fosters the growth and development of its varied agricultural and commercial possibilities. Whenever a mile of railroad is built in Nebraska, somebody's land is made more valuable, and the number of his conveniences and comforts increased. Whenever a quarter-section of Nebraska prairie is turned into a productive farm, some railroad is benefited by the receipt of new business. All citizens in Nebraska should feel the same degree of pride in its splendid railroads and their unexcelled equipment and service that the managers of the roads feel in its rich and beautiful farms, its sleek herds, its great packing houses, its thriving cities, and numerous and varied manufactories. All these are the product of the joint efforts of the railroads and people, and every interest in its effort for expansion and betterment owes to all others fair, unprejudiced treatment, and willing cooperation. No legitimate interest in Nebraska or elsewhere can prosper if it becomes the oppressor of other legitimate interests. This applies as well to the treatment of railroads by the people as to that accorded to their patrons by the roads; their interests are so closely interwoven that neither can pro-per without mutual benefit, or suffer without mutual loss.
© 2000, 2001 Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller