A BRIEF SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN P. S. REAL.
Read before the State Historical Society, January 14, 1896,
by Father William Murphy, of Seward.
the best government on earth, and possessed, moreover,
the absolute affections of his heart. He called upon those present
to point out a single wrong ever done to any citizen by that
government. Such language seems simple and easy in 1896, but in
1861, in the city of New Orleans, alone and far from loyal
citizens, it required something of the heroic to give utterance to
it. Having been immediately informed that a longer residence in
that city would endanger his safety, he set out in a day or two
for St. Louis, where, responding to the first call of Abraham
Lincoln in 1861, he enlisted as a private in company E, Seventh
regiment of Missouri volunteers, from which he was transferred one
year later to company K, Ninetieth regiment of Illinois
Right here he again manifested one of his remarkable characteristics. His soldierly and civic virtues attracted to him the attention of his comrades, and won their confidence to such an extent that in the election of officers he was chosen captain, to the exclusion of him who had enlisted and formed the company. While Mr. Real ardently desired that office on account of the honor and greater opportunities it gave him of performing more effective deeds for his country, he nevertheless refused to accept it, and informed his comrades that justice and honor required them to elect for their captain him who had labored so patriotically to enlist the company, and that he himself was determined for the present not to wield the sword, but to shoulder the musket. The other was accordingly elected captain, but after a short experience in the field had to retire, because, he wanted those qualities which alone can win the confidence of men in actual warfare. Mr. Real was immediately elected to the vacancy and was distinguished by his soldierly virtues to the end of the war, in which he participated in twenty-five general engagements, among which may be mentioned Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and all through the Atlanta campaign. To have been a soldier of that army in such a campaign, familiarly known as Sherman's march to the sea, to have shared the hardships, to have overcome the dangers, to have won every battle in obtaining the objective of a campaign so unique in the history of warfare,
either ancient or modern, to have followed a commander so
distinguished for extraordinary military genius and success that
he stands out alone in all history, is glory enough for any man,
how exalted soever may have been his rank. It is enough for
Captain Real to have performed well the duties that devolved upon
him as a captain in that magnificent array of wonderful men, and
thus with theirs to have his name written upon the scroll of
I will now narrate some of those actions which portray a few of his special characteristics. He took special pleasure in speaking in the highest terms of his commander, General Sherman, and of the absolute confidence reposed in him by the soldiers. Nothing, how small soever it apparently might be, was beneath the attention of that general. On one occasion Captain Real wished to mail a letter he had written to the young lady who afterward became his wife. It happened that he inquired of some soldiers marching by about the mail agent. General Sherman, who had not been noticed, was close by on horesback (sic), and hearing the captain's inquiry, said to him: "Captain, I will take charge of your mail and see that it will be forwarded." It was by such courtesies and attentions, seemingly small, as well as by his transcendent abilities, that General Sherman won the hearts of his soldiers and fused them into one with his own.
Although engaged in the terrible business of waging war, Captain Real did not deem it necessary to become sullied with any vices. He looked upon war as the supreme effort of man to administer justice. He revered justice as one of the four cardinal virtues. In the exercise of virtue he could not see why vice should be contracted. While striking heavy and deadly blows in the midst of battle, the lips of his heart often invoked the God of justice and of armies. He fought for pure love of country and of right, not from hatred of his fellow man in the form of all enemy. When the battle was ended he extended to his subdued antagonist the right hand of fellowship and all the sympathies of the human heart. For him the war was ended with submission to the supreme law of the land. He was thus in truth a man
of virtue and of great humanity, although he had the
grizzly appearance of that cold, grim determination which was so
remarkable in that great commander, General Grant, and which
concealed beneath it all the gentleness of a little girl and all
the suavity of the most sensitive. It will now be easily admitted
that he would not be afraid to observe the precepts of virtue in
any circumstances. To illustrate this I will narrate the following
fact. In a battle, the name of which I cannot now recall, some
stimulants were offered to the soldiers of his company just as
they were about to be ordered to make a terrible charge. The
captain replied for himself and his men in the following language,
as nearly as I can now remember his words: "We do not need this
artificial bracing up of our courage. When we enlisted we knew
that war was death. We are now ready to. face death for this
government, but at the same time we want to meet our God in a
state of sobriety. We will not take these stimulants." That charge
was made and those soldiers were not defeated.
To me it seems beyond doubt that if Captain Real had had in his youth the benefit of a scientific and military training he would have taken a place in the history of the war among those generals who have attained to high distinction. While he was a strict disciplinarian, as far as the enforcement of discipline belonged to his rank, his intuition of the characters of men enabled him to enforce it in ways unknown to men of less intuitive minds. The following incident will explain this characteristic of him. One of his men was condemned, for some act I do not now recall, but which from the punishment would seem to have been an act of cowardice or of desertion, to be placed with hands tied behind his back in front of the army in the next battle. Coming on the field Captain Real stepped forward, untied the man's hands, gave him a musket, and ordering him to look at the flag addressed him as follows: "Now defend that flag and win back your life and honor." The commanding officer, observing the action of the captain, rode up and asked why he had untied that man's hands. The captain, cool and calm, replied that he required all his men to use the musket in battle. The captain often told this incident
to friends and used to say that until the end of the war
no truer or braver soldier ever defended the stars and stripes
than was that man. In severe engagements, when hard pressed, the
captain often used a musket and allowed the sword to hang loosely
by his side. He used to say that on such occasions he would feel
the need of something in his hands besides the sword, which seemed
more for ornament than for usefulness.
Sinking beneath the surface of the great conflict he often made an effort to comprehend its causes and grasp its consequences. The army having on one occasion marched all day in a drenching rain, bivouacked at nightfall in deep mud. Captain Real happened to be near a small shed, or rather four erect poles with two or three boards on them, beneath which he arranged a couple of sticks found there, upon which he stretched so as to be out of the mud, while the boards overhead shed some of the rain from him. The lightning was blinding and the thunder like the roaring of many battles. In this position he was both unable and unwilling to sleep, for the reason that he imagined himself to be one of the happiest of men for possessing such a luxurious lodging. He passed that night in soliloquizing on what the war meant for the present and for future generations; soliloquizing on all that was contained in the idea of home, the cradle of man, of civilization, of refinement, of morality, of religion; soliloquizing on what part a government acts in creating, diffusing, perfecting, preserving all those manifold and ineffable blessings, and just before the reveille concluded that to suffer and even to die for a government that conferred on its citizens more of such blessings than any other that had ever existed was one of the highest and holiest of duties, and rose from that luxurious couch, if possible, a more resolute and determined soldier of the Union.
While he gloried in the army and used to say that nothing in all history, nothing on earth, equaled the perfection and irresistibility of the volunteer army in defending a government the roots of which were entwined around every ligament of the heart, while he still clung to the associations formed and friends made in time of war, nevertheless, like all his comrades, when the final victory
was won he converted his sword into a plowshare, turned from the field of blood and carnage to the beautiful undulating prairies of Nebraska, adorned with every flower and resonant with the song of birds. The eyes that had so long feasted on scenes of destruction were charmed with the peacefulness of this new panorama. Having been mustered out of service, he married Miss Ellen Purcell, of Henry county, Illinois, came to Nebraska in 1871. and took a homestead claim in Fillmore county. He often used to say that he came as far west as the Burlington and Missouri River railroad could carry him, for it put him off at the end of its tracks. In Fillmore county he acquired 2,000 acres of land, and later purchased some in Kansas. Besides utilizing his lands he engaged in various kinds of business. He built and conducted stores, elevators, hotels, managed lumber and hardware and implement businesses. He was chiefly instrumental in laying out and building the town of Grafton. Later on in life he retired from all other business and devoted all his attention to the management of his lands. He built a beautiful home on the edge of the village, replenished it with comforts and attractions that made his children become home loving, generously entertained friends and acquaintances, and even strangers ever found there hospitality and cheerfulness. He led all his children to desire higher education and furnished to each as he attained the proper age the means of attaining it. Idleness he never allowed to enter his home. During vacation he allotted to each certain employments on the farm and during the rest of the year those who were not in college had to labor some morning and evening. He never cut off from his children the pleasures proper for their age, but he prevented excess and took cognizance of those permitted. When visited by friends he would often call all the children around the piano and have them sing while one of them played the accompaniment. He often joined in with them; but he was not a musician and only supplied the discord. His favorite was "Way Down Upon the Swanee Ribber." Sometimes when he would like to have the children sing this he would say: "Well, call up the colored troupe." Then the little ones would
gather around and he himself would become a child again
with them. Captain Real's idea of domestic government is worthy of
notice. In the miniature republic of his home there never was a
rebellion, never even a divided government. Neither did he absorb
the whole government in himself, so as to be an absolute despot.
In the management of family affairs neither the children nor
friends were ever witnesses to any differences of opinion between
him and his wife. They always consulted together in the privacy of
their room, agreed upon a course to be pursued, and in the
carrying of it out acted as one. In that domestic republic no
child ever learned the habit of appealing to one parent when
refused by the other, thus dividing the house against itself. As
the children grew up he gave them an insight into his affairs and
consulted with them. This made them something more than mere
stayers at home, and gave range to their growing energies and
ambitions. He taught them to respect not only ecclesiastical, but
civil holidays also, and how to profit by the sentiment
As to his humanity and charity, Captain Real gave proofs of them on proper occasions. To the poor renter he often supplied a complete farming outfit and waited for pay until the renter could spare it from the production of his labor. During the years of drouth, and hot winds, and hail, and grasshoppers, he furnished many with necessaries, remitted rents and written obligations to debtors, and to those who fell not into despair, but remained and hoped for a better day, donated seed, accompanied with words of encouragement. In all such works he never considered the recipient's political or religious convictions, or ethnic relations. He was as broad as the brotherhood of man, and did not exclude even those who had offended him. From this, however, it must not be inferred that he was a man without fault, for he was human; but he labored to minimize them and to prevent others from suffering from them. One day, sitting and chatting with comrades of the G. A. R. in front of the postoffice, he said: "Well, my friends, when you bury me, bury my faults with me." One of the comrades remarked in a joking way: "I don't know,
Captain, that would take a pretty large grave." It can be
said of him that he never brought sorrow to any home, but often
dispelled the clouds and made the sun to shine and wiped away the
When the catholics of that place were building a house of worship he allowed them to take the lumber from his yards and kept little, if any, record of it. Respecting the religious convictions of his fellow men, he did not refuse them assistance when they wished to build for the same purpose. He laid out and donated to the catholics a beautiful cemetery about a mile from town. Right beside it he donated a similar one to the protestants. He always respected the dead and wished to see their remains laid away decently and reverently.
The following incidents will show some of the characteristics for which be was noted in ordinary life, and especially his supreme fearlessness. On one occasion, during those years of crop failures, a priest came to minister to the people of that county and was entertained by Captain Real. On the day when religious services were held the people, being very much impoverished, contributed but very little to meet the priest's expenses. When about to take his departure Captain Real asked him if he had received sufficient to meet expenses at least. He thoughtlessly replied that perhaps he had received enough to get him "the cigars." In his grim, freezing way the captain said: "Can you devote the money spared to you by a religious but impoverished people to such needless purposes?" The rebuke was severe, but well timed and proper. It taught a view of Christianity sometimes forgotten even by ministers of the Lowly Nazarene.
Another time a rector was appointed to that mission who was in many ways incompetent. The captain called upon the bishop to remonstrate, but to no purpose. Departing dissatisfied he said to the bishop: "You seem to have sent him there for revenue only," alluding to political doctrines agitated at that time.
Memorial union services on the occasion of the death of General Grant were held in one of the churches. Many speakers, clerical and lay, made addresses, and among them Captain Real.
Almost all profusely referred to the cablegram of
condolence sent by England's queen. It impressed Captain Real that
so much profusion, amounting to obsequiousness, ill became the
dignity of citizens of so great a republic, or the well-known
character of the dead hero. In his turn to speak he arose like the
blizzard from the northwest and pointedly remarked that the
bullets which stretched thousands of his comrades on many bloody
battlefields were moulded by subjects of England's queen. While
such remarks chilled they threw another light on the scene. Such
manners are sometimes called blunt, but they are bluntly honest
and bluntly instructive.
Finally, for the last few years of his life he began to be troubled severely with infirmities contracted during his army life, from which he sought relief by spending the winter seasons either in California or Florida. The last winter of his life he spent in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There he continued to decline. On the 10th of May, 1893, he wrote me a letter that he would soon start for home, and would, on reaching Kansas City, send me a telegram to meet him at the depot when he would pass through my town. From this letter I will quote the following words, which are worthy, like the metonic Cycle, to be engraved in letters of gold on pillars of marble: "I am about ready to retire from the stage. I have tried to do my duty to the best of my ability, both to my God and to my country. I hope for an eternal reward. Pray for me that I may not be disappointed and that God will have mercy and compassion on me." I met him at the railway station at Tecumseh as he passed through it on his way home. On that occasion, too, he manifested his indomitable will power; for, though actually dying, he walked out of the passenger coach to meet me, spoke calmly and deliberately about the end, which, he said, was at hand. He was accompanied by his wife, ever faithful and worthy companion. He was anxious to reach his home that his children might surround his dying couch. A few days afterward, May 23d, 1893, with all the members of his family by his bedside, patiently and meekly bearing his sufferings, having received the sacraments for the dying, he calmly breathed
his last. The funeral services, conducted under the auspices of the G. A. R., James Shield's Post No. 33, of which he had been for many years commander, were held in the Catholic church of Grafton, and his remains, preceded by the flag he had followed and upheld on so many battlefields, were borne away by his comrades and buried in the cemetery close by the village, there to await the archangel's reveille.
BELLEVUE. ITS PAST AND PRESENT.
A poet once sang in simple yet touching strains that
"Little drops of water,
Simple as these lines are, they contain
a truism and a principle that is fully exemplified in all the
business relations, conditions, and operations of life - in the
increase of population and the growth of villages, cities, states,
and nations. In the matter of history, it is the little grains
thereof, gathered here a little and there a little, that go to
make up the sum total of nations and of peoples. The timely and
constant gathering and garnering of those grains by individuals in
their respective localities will, in the end, render more complete
and perfect the accumulated whole. Nebraska is as yet
comparatively in her infancy. The bulk of her history has yet to
be written. The foundations of that history have been laid, and it
devolves upon her citizens of this and succeeding generations to
contribute both materials and labor toward the building and
completion of a grand and glorious historical monument to, of, and
for our state, that will be its pride and glory.
On the west side of the Missouri river, about ten miles above the mouth of the Platte, on a beautiful plateau, there stands a village that is not altogether unknown to history. Small though it is, it has nevertheless occupied somewhat of a prominent position in Nebraska's prehistoric times and in its early history. In fact, this unostentatious village can, with truth, say, "Before Nebraska was, I am." What is somewhat remarkable about it is that it had a name selected for it long before it came into exist-
ence. While the stones, bricks, and timbers of which its
buildings were composed were yet in the quarry, the earth, and the
forest, the name by which it has since been designated and known
was applied to the locality and spot on which the village is now
located. In 1805 a Spaniard named Manuel Lisa, on ascending the
bluff at this point and viewing the beautiful plateau on which he
stood, with its background of grand sloping hills, before him the
valley of the Missouri, with its turbid stream rolling onward and
ever onward to the gulf, and beyond this stream and valley the
picturesque bluffs of Iowa spread out like a vast panorama, was
compelled by the grandeur of the scene to exclaim "Bellevue," - a
foreign term, which, when translated into our language, means
"beautiful view." This name was indelibly stamped upon these
beautiful bluffs and plateau and remains there to this day.
The glowing reports of this region by the Lewis and Clarke expedition in 1804-6 as to the nature of the country, the facilities here offered for intercourse with the Indians for trading purposes, undoubtedly had its influence on the American Fur Company and induced them to establish an agency at. this point and appoint agents to take care of their interests. This in its turn had its influence on the establishment of other enterprises - each tending to the final culmination in what is now our village of Bellevue. In 1823 this company built a large two-story log house on the bank of the river in which to keep its stores and for the purposes of barter with the Indians. In this year also the Omaha, Otoe, and Pawnee Indian agency was established at this point. The trading post was torn down in 1870, and now graces a barnyard about three miles from Bellevue. As an historical reminiscence it should have been preserved as one of the landmarks of "ye olden time," but progress has no predilections for the past, civilization no sympathy with that which apparently has been contaminated with the touch of barbarism, only so far as the same may be utilized for speculative purposes. In 1848 was completed a Mission House, as it was then called, - to-day such an institution would undoubtedly be dubbed a college.
But to retrace a little, let us go back to the year 1835. In July
of that year Samuel P. Merrill was born somewhere within the limits of what is now Bellevue.* When he was about four years old his father, who was a missionary to the Indians in the vicinity. more especially to the Otoes, died, and was buried on the east side at the Missouri river, near a sawmill, probably about half way between Bellevue and Council Bluffs. This Samuel P. Merrill came from the east a few years ago for the purpose of endeavoring to find the location of his father's grave but his efforts in that direction were futile. While at Bellevue he was the guest of the writer of this article and related many little incidents of the latter part of his early life in Nebraska, some of which were indelibly impressed on his memory. He remembered especially the period of leaving Nebraska on the steamboat and the trip to the far east to the old home of his mother. Every day of that trip seemed to open to his youthful mind scenes more bright and fascinating, and when, a day or two after arriving at the old homestead, he went to play with some of the children there. He was so enraptured that he rustled into the house exclaiming, "O, Mamma! Ain't we in heaven?" - his only playmates theretofore having been papooses. While at my house he, exhibited to me a contract, which was executed in duplicate, between John Dougherty, Indian agent, on behalf of the United States, and Moses Merrill - a copy of which I here submit. It speaks for itself as to its object, date, etc. I endeavored to procure the original for this society, but failed, as it was too highly valued and prized by the Merrill family.
"Article of agreement, made and concluded
at Bellevue the 1st day of April, 1835, by and between John
Dougherty. Indian agent, of the first part, and Moses Merrill of
the second part, witnesseth:
"First - That said Moses Merrill of the 2nd part, for and in consideration of the covenants and agreements hereinafter stipulated, promises and agrees by these presents to perform the
duties of Schoolmaster for the youth of both sexes of the
Ottoe and Missouri tribes of Indians diligently and faithfully,
and to transmit, previous to the 20th of October of each year
during the period he shall be so employed, a detailed report of
the number of pupils under his instruction, their ages, sexes,
studies and progress, accompanied by an account, with vouchers for
the expenditure of the moneys received by him from the
"Second - And that the said John Dougherty of the first part, for and in behalf of the Failed States, guarantees to the said Moses Merrill, of the second part, as a full compensation for his services the sum of $500 pr annum, commencing this day and date, to be paid quarter yearly, or as funds may be on hand for that purpose, by one of the military disbursing agents of the Department, with the St. Louis Superintendency, on the certificate as requested of the agent or sub-agent, setting forth the due performance of the first article of this agreement. It is mutually agreed upon, that the right is reserved to the agent to dismiss the party of the first part for disobedience of orders, intemperance, or lack of diligence in the discharge of his duties, and that the party shall have no claim to compensation after the period of such dismissal.
"In testimony whereof the parts have hereunto affixed their hands and seals the day, and year first above written.
"JOHN DOUGHERTY, Agent. [SEAL.]"MOSES MERRILL. [SEAL.]
"H. DOUGHERTY, Witness."
The above agreement was probably made for it
three-fold purpose: First, with a view of assisting the missionary
in a pecuniary manner; second, of giving him governmental
authority and support; and third, to benefit the Indians in an
educational point of view. The interest of Nebraska in educational
matters was displayed even at this early day, and has been fully
kept alive to the present.
That this place was quite a favorite place of resort and of residence with the Indians is clearly demonstrated, both by traditions current among the Omahas, Pawnees, Otoes, and others
even to this day, and also by the evidences of warfare,
burial, etc. which surround us on every hand. In excavations made
for cellars and other purposes the bones of those aboriginal
settlers and trinkets of various kinds that were buried with them
are often found. The highest points of the bluffs and of the
surrounding hills were selected by the Indians as burial places
for their dead. One of the highest of these points is one which in
all the past years has been known as "Elk Hill." At the top of
this hill, about two hundred and twenty feet above the level of
the Missouri river, in the year 1846 was buried "Big Elk," a
prominent chief of the Omahas, since which the hill has always
been known as "Elk Hill." A few years since the Presbyterians
built a college on this hill and are trying to change the name to
"College Hill." The Omahas, for years after the white settlement
here, came yearly to visit the spot where lay the mortal remains
of their loved chief. On their behalf and in the name of the
pioneers and founders of Bellevue, I here enter a solemn protest
against the change in name of that ancient landmark. The grave of
Logan Fontanelle, another of their loved and honored chiefs, is in
the northern part of the village, as is also their former council
chamber - a large excavation in the bluffs, with an entrance which
has undoubtedly been filled up, as it cannot, or at least has not
so far, been found by the whites who have sought it.
In the southern part of the village there exist to this day traces of what might be termed a fortification or breastwork - a ridge of earth, evidently thrown up for purposes of offense and defense. This ridge is very regular in shape, excepting on the east side, where it follows the conformation of the bluffs. Its outlines are of an oval character - longer from north to south, or, owing to the conformation of the bluffs, they may probably be more correctly described as two ovals joined. The distance around the outside is about 1,250 feet, its longest diameter about 490 feet, or dividing the figure into the two ovals the long diameter of each would be about 350 feet. On the land side, or rather the side farthest from the bluffs, are two wings or bastions, one each at what might be termed the northwest and southwest points of
the oval. On the farm of the Hon. B. R. Stouffer, and
about one hundred rods southwest of this earthwork, at a time
prior to the settlement of this region by the whites, was fought a
battle between the Osage tribe and the Omahas. About two years
since, Mr. Stouffer, in excavating for cellar, drains, etc., for a
new house, which he was erecting, unearthed quite a number of
skeletons, which had evidently been thrown into a trench or gully
and covered with earth. About fifty or sixty were so unearthed -
the exact number could not be definitely determined - with
evidences of a great many others being left unmolested. A short
distance from this spot was found the remains of a lone Indian who
evidently had received more decent interment, as the skeleton was
in a sitting posture, surrounded by numerous trinkets. Among these
trinkets was a flat piece of cedar wood, about three inches wide,
eight inches long, three-eighths to one-half inch thick, and in a
good state of preservation, with a piece of glass attached
thereto, or lying on it in such a manner as to indicate that it
had been so attached. There is a legend that the tribe long years
ago, on leaving the hunting grounds they formerly occupied, cut
down a cedar tree which had been held by them as sacred, separated
it into pieces, and distributed these among the members of the
tribe. May not the piece here brought to light have been a part of
In those early days, no doubt, many amusing incidents transpired, a record of which would make very interesting reading at the present day, but no trace of them can be found save in the memories of the actors in the scenes, and they are fast passing away. It is often said that society is now fast becoming graded, and that the grade depends on the quantity of the bank stock owned. Comparisons are made between the then and the now of social equality, with the scale turning much in favor of the then. This is to a great extent true, yet caste did sometimes creep into the society of those days. The writer has in his mind's eye a hotel in Bellevue of that ancient time, where travelers and quite a number of citizens sat down on either side of a long table three times a day to satisfy the wants of the inner man. The current
report was that at the head of the table the sugar was
quite white, about like the highest grade of Oxnard's celebrated
beet extract, but that at the other end of the table its whiteness
had disappeared. It may be pertinent here to remark that the same
set of boarders always occupied the upper end of the table. Among
the early settlers it was not considered an unpardonable sin for a
man to indulge in the use of ardent spirits. I do not believe,
however, that the use was indulged in so universally and to such
an extent as it is at the present day. The ardent used was not
always of the combative kind. Wit and wine were often compounded
and sometimes confounded. In the fall of 1859 :1 gentleman at the
west end of Sarpy county was elected a justice of the peace, and,
as there were none in that vicinity who could administer to him
the oath of office, he walked to Bellevue - a distance of
twenty-four miles - to have that oath administered to him by the
county clerk. That functionary was about this time suffering from
an overdose of ague antidote, and lay on his bed "hors de combat."
The would-be "Squire" was inexorable, and, after walking
twenty-four miles, would not suffer the sun to set ere he was made
a full-fledged "Joostice av the Pace." He was finally ushered into
the presence "av hizzoner," the clerk, where the following
dialogue ensued: "Justice: "Are yez Misther Bangs?" Clerk: "You
bet I am." J.: "My name is William J. Fogarty. Oi've been elected
Joostice av the Pace av Farest City precinct, an' Oi've come all
the way into be qualified." C.(rising on his elbow and gazing for
a moment): "I k-ken swar you in, b-but all h--ll c-couldn't
In the fall of 1855-56, there appeared in Bellevue a suave and polished gentleman named Kirby, from the "hub of the universe." He was on an exploring expedition through this western country, looking for a location to start a $40,000 store. Bellevue suited him, as did also several of its citizens, who generously donated of their means (as loans, as a matter of course) to tide him over until his "ship came in." C. D. Kellar was to be his confidential clerk, Bangs was to hold some important position, and every
thing was progressing finely, until finally the bubble
burst, and our expectant citizens became wiser if not better
A court-martial was held, the culprit was adjudged guilty of obtaining money under false pretenses, and condemned to receive forty stripes, but the sentence was afterwards commuted to banishment to Iowa.
The old log cabins of that day have given way, if not to marble palaces, to commodious brick and frame buildings, where our citizens live comfortably, but probably not more happily than did those pioneers in their cabins of log, plastered with mud. The worthy president of this society doubtless remembers his 16x18, one-room log mansion, with its much smaller bedroom addition. The outward appearance of these rooms was about on a par with that of the other pioneers, but when we glance into the bedroom I am afraid our ideas of exact equality will end; for there we behold it papered with buffalo robes, purchased for the occupant by Peter A. Sarpy and Stephen Decatur at $2 apiece from the Indians. There was no protective tariff on buffalo hides in Nebraska at that day, or our honored president would probably have bought them himself without the aid of middle men. Probably, while reposing in that comfortable log bedroom, visions of a comfortable cabinet position may have unfolded themselves to his gaze, or it may be that these were reserved for that time, on New Year's day, 1856, when in his shirt sleeves, down near the mouth of Papillion creek, he sat wondering "why people came west, whether others would come in sufficient numbers to form a village, city, county, and a state," and amid these cogitations starting homeward, leaving a valuable and highly prized gun behind to take care of itself. But Wau-mush-pa-Shinga took care of the gun and returned it to its owner, who, whether these visions then confronted him or not, has since attained that position and is now filling it with honor to himself and the state he represents.
The establishment of government agency and works connected therewith, of a missionary station, postoffice, etc., has been told by others, whose papers form a part of the records of this so-
ciety. Therefore I will refrain from commenting thereon.
At the organization of the territory by the Organic Act of May 30,
1854, Bellevue cherished what Charles Dickens in one of his works
has so aptly termed "great expectations." A territorial
organization meant the location of a capitol; following this the
expenditure of thousands of dollars, a horde of officials, the
busy hum of business activity, and many other and various et
ceteras. These spread out, like a vast panorama, before the minds
of the few settlers of that day, and each fancied himself, at no
distant period, a governor, judge, United States senator,
congressman, or millionaire - mostly preferring the latter title.
But while these few settlers proposed, others disposed, and the
result was that Omaha obtained the capitol, - another illustration
of the inevitable result when cupidity is arrayed against
stupidity. In the fall of 1853, citizens of the vast territory
known then as Nebraska, but who for convenience lived in Council
Bluffs and other places on the east side of the river, to-wit,
Iowa and Missouri, held an election at Bellevue and old Ft.
Kearney which is now Nebraska City and elected a prominent lawyer
and citizen of Nebraska, to-wit, of the city of Council Bluffs, as
their delegate to congress. It is said that by his importunities
with a committee on territories at Washington he succeeded in
procuring an amendment to the bill that had been already
introduced in congress for the organization of the territory,
which amendment provided for the formation of two territories -
Kansas and Nebraska - instead of one, as before contemplated, - an
amendment which I deem it was not very difficult to obtain, as it
would provide double the number of paying positions to be filled
by patriotic politicians.
During the summer of 1854, the officials appointed under the provisions of the Organic Act came to Nebraska, moat of them locating for the time being at Bellevue. Many others came, some locating in Bellevue, others on lands adjoining, with a view of making thereof farms, or possibly town lots. As the lands were not yet surveyed, trouble often arose over the possession of those claims and the boundaries thereof. In order to
settle those difficulties a claim club was organized,
whose province it was to "hear and determine" the rights of
parties. From its decision there was no appeal. A perusal of the
records of this "Bellevue Settlers' Club" will disclose the fact
that about 125 persons became members thereof, or at least were
members thereof in the fall of 1854. Among the names there
registered we find judges, lawyers, ministers, and other
officials, to-wit, Rev. Wm. Hamilton, Judge Fenner Ferguson, Gov.
M. W. Izard, C. T. Holloway, Silas A. Strickland, John M. Thayer,
L. B. Kinney, A. W. Trumble, Reuben Lovejoy, Stephen Decatur, and
others. In their rules, they claimed the right to hold three
hundred and twenty acres of land each against all comers.
The first Masonic lodge organized on the west of the Missouri river was in the "Old Trading Post" here, in March, 1854. The Hon. H. T. Clarke was the first person made a master Mason in the territory. The lodge has since been removed to Omaha, but it still bears its old name and number, "Nebraska, No. 1." For a few days in 1854 the blighting curse of slavery desecrated our fair soil, but it found no safe place upon which to plant its feet and soon fled to other parts. Judge Edward R. Hardin, appointed as one of the United States judges for the territory, arrived here with his "colored body servant," - a mild term for "slave," - and remained here but a short time, when he went to Nebraska City. What is now Sarpy county was at that time a part of the county of Douglas. A strong rivalry existed between Omaha and Bellevue us to the location of the capitol. This antagonism entered into the election that fall for members of the legislature. In the Bellevue district the Hon. J. Sterling Morton, Stephen Decatur, and Silas A. Strickland were unanimously elected, but the Omaha interest was too powerful and these embryonic law-makers, for reasons of state, were at that time denied the opportunity of feathering out into full-fledged statesmen. Omaha was apparently afraid of Bellevue, and I believe that I may truthfully add that this fear had not entirely disappeared until after the location of the terminus of the Union Pacific railway and the
final location and completion of the bridge over the
river at that point.
In 1856, the legislature granted a charter incorporating the "City of Bellevue," and until 1874 a city government was carried on, with its paraphernalia of mayor, aldermen, etc. The last election for these officials was in 1874, when S. D. Bangs was elected mayor, As his successor was never elected, it may be that he is holding down that seat to the present day. For the past twelve years Bellevue, as an incorporation, has been acting under the state law for the government of "cities of the second class and villages," and its municipal affairs are managed and directed by a board of five trustees, elected annually. Its plat is the same as that of the former city, as it was originally surveyed and platted by Hamilton and Schimousky - the latter being an exile from Poland, an excellent surveyor, and an expert draughtsman. Both of these died some years since. In the same year - 1856 - a large log building was erected for hotel purposes and stands alone in the line of buildings erected for that specific purpose. It was destroyed by fire in 1858. It was named the "Benton House," in honor of Thomas H. Benton, Jr., a nephew of Thomas H. Benton of senatorial fame. The "Register" of this hotel is in the public library at Omaha, and this connection I may add that I believe that the old desk used by D. E. Reed, the first postmaster, is at the Blackbird mission. The legitimate home for both these articles is in the archives of the State Historical Society, and I would suggest that negotiations should at once be opened to secure them for that purpose. At the organization of the county of Sarpy, in 1857, Bellevue was designated as the county seat, and so remained until New Year's day, 1876, when in obedience to the mandate of the people the county seat was removed to Papillion. In 1883 the Presbyterians located a college at Bellevue, the Hon. H. T. Clarke having made a donation of 240 acres of land for that purpose, and has since erected thereon a commodious brick edifice for college purposes. The building is known as Clarke Hall. Just outside of the village limits the United States government
has located what is known as Fort Crook, and erected
there a large number of fine, substantial, and commodious
buildings, expended a vast amount of money, and when fully
completed and equipped will here have one of the best forts in the
Many other incidents might have been added, but this paper has already been extended to too great a length. Yet I will here reiterate my former statement, that the history of Bellevue, when fully written and understood will stand out prominently in the history of Nebraska. Permit me, in closing, to briefly state a few of its prominent features.
Here the American Fur Company early established an important trading post.
Here was erected the first building on Nebraska soil
Here was organized the first Masonic lodge.
Here the first white child born on Nebraska soil first beheld the light of day.
The first native born Nebraskan that represented any portion of Nebraska in our state senate was born here - Hon. Harry F. Clarke.
Here was held the first teachers' institute organized west of the Missouri river.
I here acknowledge valuable hints from Hon. J. Sterling Morton, Hon. B. R. Stouffer, Mr. Henry Fontanelle, Mrs. Louis Neals, and Miss M. E. Hamilton.
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