Therefore to Andrew J. Poppleton - shut out from the dear light of day - this convention of democracy sends greetings of grateful remembrance, acknowledgement of his valuable and long services, and the assurance that the light of his labors for justice, truth, and popular government, like an unclouded sun, illumines our path towards the overthrow of class legislation and monopoly.
By Hon. J. Sterling Morton, for the January Meeting, 1897, of
State Historical Society of Nebraska.
Almost everyone remembers some time in youth
when he had the privilege of handling and looking through an
old-fashioned spy-glass, and recalls how the lenses were fixed in
tubes that shut one into another, and with what difficulty they
were drawn out and adjusted so as to extend the vision and make
things plainly visible which to the naked eye were mere shadows in
the far distance. And now, when I attempt to recall the
personalities and characters of the early days of the territory,
the years that have come between this time and that are so, many
lenses which must be deftly steadied and arranged so that I can
look through them calmly and unweariedly at a given object upon
which I endeavor to fix the eye of memory.
Among the stronger and more rugged individualities of 1855 none was more prominent for its well-defined angles and its positive and granite-like unyieldingness than that of the chief clerk of the house of representatives of the first legislative assembly of the territory of Nebraska, which convened at Omaha in January, 1855. His name was Joseph Williamson Paddock. He was one of the first pioneers to arrive upon the Omaha townsite in the early autumn of 1854. He came from St. Lawrence county, New York. Prior to leaving his native state he had engaged in mercantile and manufacturing pursuits. He was a man of sound intellect and great self-reliance. Upon his own convictions and in harmony with his own judgment, he was always
ready to act with promptness and decision. Never have I
known a human being who was more honest with himself in all his
mental processes than was Major Paddock. His positivism was
frequently facetiously called "muleishness" by his more intimate
friends, though everyone respected the integrity with which he
adhered to, and was willing to triumph by, or suffer for, any
conclusion which he had arrived at upon any question whatsoever,
whether financial, political, or theological.
In the early days Major Paddock was possessed of a. greater number of readable books than most of the pioneers, and consequently he passed a great portion of his leisure time in study. The equipoise and coolness of Major Paddock was seldom disturbed. During the session of the house whereof he acted as chief clerk there were sometimes quite turbulent and dramatic situations. Among the most exciting and exasperating was a debate between the Hon. A. J. Poppleton, of Douglas county, and the Rev. J. M. Woods, of Nemaha county. In the course of the discussion Mr. Poppleton declared that he could prove an assertion which he made by the Hon. A. J. Hanscom, who, was the speaker of that honorable body. To this utterance the Reverend Woods replied that he had no doubt as to the ability of Mr. Poppleton to secure the affidavit of Mr. Hanscom to the state of facts alleged, but that that testimony, although sworn to, would not change his (Woods') views in the case. For a moment there was an evident disposition on the part of the more timid people to escape from possible consequences of this clerical inuendo as to the veracity of the honorable the speaker of the house of representatives. But the chief clerk smilingly sat in his place and really beamed so placidly upon the lawmakers that like rays of sunshine his silent laughter quieted and soothed the angry passions which were tumultuously raging in the breasts of members.
Major Paddock seldom made an enemy; he never betrayed a friend. He never maliciously told an untruth. He never failed to maintain and defend that which he believed to be the truth, even at the risk of his own life. His genuineness was so univer-
sally acknowledged, his honesty of intention so generally
admitted, that his so-called obstinacy in maintaining his views
upon all questions became a great delight to his most intimate
friends. He was an optimist in the broadest and best sense of that
term. When, in the autumn of 1854, there were only three or four
small shanties and a few tents on the townsite of Omaha, Major
Paddock looked into the future and saw clearly, with the eyes of
hope and faith, the city which you now behold materialized in
great blocks of buildings, long avenues paved with asphalt, and
environed with all the concomitants and means and methods of
modern manufacture, commerce, comfort, and luxury. He never
doubted the ultimate development and thrift of Omaha, of Douglas
county, and the state of Nebraska. No man by his works ever showed
a more sincere belief in the possibilities - agricultural and
commercial - of this commonwealth.
After his service as chief clerk of the house of representatives, he was made the first clerk of the United States district court for Nebraska. He served in that capacity from April, 1855, to July, 1858, discharging his duties with that precision, promptness, and fidelity which distinguished him in all positions, public and private, during all the years of his life. When the civil war between the states began, Major Paddock at once offered his services to the country. He became a captain in the first regiment of Nebraska volunteers and went to the front in the early summer of 1861. His habits of accuracy, facility of expression, and the legibility and uniformity of his handwriting caused him to be detailed to the office of the adjutant general. He was very soon made adjutant general on the staff of Major General Fred Steele. In that capacity he served during the greater portion of the war. Many a time however, promotion greater was offered to him, but his characteristic adhesiveness and his wonderful fidelity to friends compelled him to deny himself higher rank in order that he might remain faithful to the interests and fortunes of General Steele. Nothing could tempt him to leave the immediate service of that distinguished and most gallant officer. Few men made a more consistent and enviable
official record in the adjutant general's corps or showed
so much real altruism.
Reverting to ante-bellum times, it is perhaps well enough to recall the fact that Major Paddock was a representative in the territorial legislature of Douglas county and also a member of the house of representatives of the first state legislature elected in 1866, and that he likewise served as a member of the city council of Omaha during the years 1869 and 1870. In this latter service he was chairman of the finance and fire department committees. He originated the plan of a special cash fund out of which supplies and equipment for the fire department were purchased. He, in fact, laid the foundation of the splendid fire-fighting force of the city of Omaha, which has been so long noted for its efficiency. He did excellent work for the public weal, likewise, as a commissioner of Douglas county.
Major Paddock also held a very confidential and important position in the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and finally was made government director by President Cleveland, and in this latter capacity developed more strongly than ever his power to grasp and understand large and far-reaching affairs.
Major Paddock was born and reared at Massena Springs, in the state of New York. His family, during nearly a century preceding his birth, had been distinguished in the Empire state for its ability and prominence. His father, Dr. William B. Paddock, was a distinguished physician and likewise for several terms a state senator from St. Lawrence county. He was the associate and intimate friend of William L. Marcy and Silas Wright. Therefore, in his youth and at his father's house, Major Paddock was brought in contact with the best intellectual forces of the Empire state. In social life he was constantly in touch with the cultivated and highest type of the citizenship of his immediate neighborhood. Thus it is obvious that by heredity, by nature, by nurture, and by environment, and by acquirements and labors, Major Paddock was entitled to be ranked among the best citizens, not only of our own state, but of the republic. His love of locality, his devotion to a single place to be called
"home," was beautifully and faithfully illustrated by the
fact that he took up, as a pre-emptor, a piece of wild land nine
miles from Omaha. This claim had for his youthful eyes an
irresistible charm. It was wild, wooded, and well watered. There
were slopes, miniature valleys, and mimic hills covered with an
undergrowth of straggling oaks and hazlenut brush and adorned here
and there with a fairly well-grown elm or hickory tree. Early in
1855 the major determined to make this tract of land his permanent
home. It became to him a sort of fetish. There was nothing which
could tempt him to give it up, to abandon its improvement, or to
relinquish the idea that he was finally to settle down upon that
particular tract of land as a practical and contented farmer. This
was the dream of his life. His estimable wife, - formerly Miss
Susie Mack, also of St. Lawrence county, New York, - vied with him
in his love of rural life. His affectionate regard for his family
and his fidelity to them and to this dream-home by the Papillion,
are indices of his steadfastness in all things. No sum of money
could have purchased the farm. Perhaps no other character in the
early history of Nebraska better illuminates the fact that a man
who strongly and intensely loves his home is necessarily an ardent
lover of his country. The home is the unit of the republic; the
republic is the concrete of the home. Therefore, when the war
between the states began, the homes of the country furnished the
best material for the preservation and maintenance of the flag and
its honor and the constitution and its protection.
Next after his love of family and home, Major Paddock's strongest, most active, intense, and dominant characteristic was patriotism. There is no prominent member of the Grand Army of the Republic or of the military Order of the Loyal Legion who has been at its gatherings in various states in company with Major Paddock who will ever forget the fire of his eye, the fluency of his voice, the strength of his utterances upon those occasions of reunions between veterans of the war. Without ostentation, Major Paddock was an accomplished, an honest, and an attractive gentleman. Without effusion or protestation he was a firm and unyielding friend.
The surviving members of his family are
Mrs. William E. Annin, of Washington, D. C. - wife of the famous
correspondent of the Daily Ledger of Philadelphia, Daily Tribune
of Salt Lake, and the Daily Journal of Lincoln, Neb. - his widow,
and his son, Ben Paddock, of Chicago. He left to his true and
loving wife, the competent mother of his children, and to his son
and daughter a name and a memory fragrant of good deeds and
His record for ability, fidelity, and integrity in civil, and his career of self-sacrifice and courageous patriotism in military life, are a legacy which in all time to come will be valued beyond price by his descendants and his countrymen.
By Hon. Samuel E. Rogers.
OMAHA, January 12, 1897.
Mr. Jay Amos Barrett,
DEAR SIR: I had fully made up my mind to attend the meeting of the Nebraska State Historical Society this evening, but owing to the snowstorm now prevailing have changed my mind. I herewith present recollections, briefly stated, of each member of the legislative council of 1855, hoping that this may in some measure make up for my absence. I also enclose, in compliance with your request, a statement in regard to F. Davidson, of the house of 1855. Yours truly, SAM'L. E. ROGERS.
SAMUEL E. ROGERS was born February 11, 1822, in Fleming County, Ky. Married October 14, 1841. Graduated July, 1848, at Wabash College. Was licensed to practice law in supreme court of Illinois in 1853. Was a member of the city council of Havanna, Ill., in 1853 and 1854. Also postmaster under President Pierce at Havanna, Ill. Visited the townsite of Omaha August 27, 1854, went back to Illinois for his family, and crossed Iowa with wagons and teams and arrived in Omaha October 28, 1854. Was twice elected to territorial council, in which he
served in 1855, 1856, 1857, and 1858. Was one of the
original proprietors of Brownville, in which he had a one-fourth
interest. He went to Cincinnati in the spring of 1855 and had a
sawmill built for Brownville by Hallabird & Col., which he
shipped by steamer on May 3, 1855:
George Ferguson and wife and two children, in company with Rogers and his wife, took passage on the same steamer. Ferguson was a competent engineer and mechanic, who was employed to set up and run the mill at Brownville, where the mill and two families landed in June, 1855. Rogers opened up a private bank on Douglas street in 1856, which was well patronized, deposits running up to $125,000, and otherwise prosperous. The panic of 1857 set in in the autumn of that year and the then village of Omaha was at once almost deserted; the population of about 2,000 was rapidly reduced to about 500 by the spring of 1858, by which time nearly all business was suspended.
From this time on until the State Bank of Nebraska was organized, he was engaged in handling real estate and in mercantile business. Becoming one, of the principal stockholders of the State Bank, he succeeded Enos Lowe as its vice president, which position he filled until the State Bank corporation was succeeded by the Merchants' National Bank in the year 1882, of which he is now and has been its vice president since the date of its organization.
J. C. MITCHELL, a blonde, small in stature, all fire and tow, was erratic, impulsive, fiery in speech, hot-headed, and aggressive. His dear Florence was his only hobby. He was ready to trade, buy, sell, or swap, if he could thereby get advantageous legislation for his Florence townsite. He was eloquent in the description of his townsite, its happy location as a future railroad town. He declared with emphasis that when railroads from the east should seek connection with a future Pacific road up the Platte valley, Pigeon creek was the most feasible route through which railroads from the east could approach the Missouri river.
A. D. JONES was
a fearless speaker on all questions. He was not given to
diplomacy, but spoke right out whatever was on his mind boldly,
without fear or favor. In argument he was forceful and often
eloquent. He was not a schemer, a wire puller, but always
open-handed and candid; you could always know just where to find
him on all questions. There was not a bit of intrigue in him.
Partisan feeling ran high as between north of the Platte and south
of the Platte interests, but he manifested no sectional feeling;
at the same time he was a strong supporter of Omaha on the
question of the location of the capital.
M. H. CLARK was a man of no mean ability, quiet in his deportment, a plain but effective speaker; he seldom took the floor in debate, but was, nevertheless, a busy worker for the interests of his constituents. In appearance he would have been taken for a good, plain farmer. When the question of capital location was before the legislature many members were wrought up to an intense degree of excitement. Not so with M. H. Clark; he was as cool and deliberate as if a very ordinary question was before that body.
RICHARD BROWN was a hard worker in his quiet way, a good conversationalist, but a debater of only ordinary ability. He was a true and candid man, a perfect gentleman, but had not the cheek to push himself to the front. As the proprietor of Brownville, Nemaha county, in order to get such legislation as he desired he several times cast votes with his north of the Platte friends, notably on the capital question, as did others from the extreme southern part of the territory. Bellevue, Omaha, Florence, Plattsmouth, and Nebraska City were each candidates for the location of the capital, hence members from the extreme north and south of the territory were often found voting with members from the north Platte.
H. P. BENNET, active, impulsive, a ready off-hand speaker, commanded the respect of his colleagues and the good will of
all members of the council. He was of medium stature, light hair, his complexion varying from pale to florid to fit the state of his varying intensity of feeling in debate. He was pleasant, sociable, and affable with his associates. He was a strong worker for south of the Platte and for the best interests of his constituents.
H. BRADFORD, rotund in habit, with a wholesome farmer look, was an active member of the council, a man of good sound common sense; his squeaky voice was peculiar, sharp, and without compass; at the same time he was a good debater, intensely sectional, so much so that he seemed to have but little care for any other part of the territory than Otoe county, Nebraska City, and the south of the Platte. This feeling, I must say, however, was by no means confined to any one member of the body.
T. G. GOODWILL: Never a better man set foot on Nebraska soil; honorable, refined, and genial in his deportment; no man in the legislative council had more influence than he. He was tolerant, broadminded, and generous. He was not a gifted public speaker, but he had the power to make impressive arguments, and statements so clear that he at once had a following; open and candid, he despised small intrigue; he was cool and dispassionate in times of greatest excitement over the capital location and other questions.
BENJAMIN R. FOLSOM was a plain, honest man, brusque in his manners, full of energy and tact, strong in his likes and dislikes, one of the very best workers in the council, a strong north Platte partisan. His strength was not in speech-making, but rather in laying plans and wire pulling. In order that Burt county might be represented in the first legislature, with wagons and teams he took with him voters to his favorite county of Burt, which was then destitute of voters, and at the first territorial election had himself elected by a unanimous vote to the first legislative council.
C. H. COWLES was a very active member, a strong partisan, a hard worker in behalf of the local interests of his constituents and of the south of the Platte. He possessed much force of character; a fairly good debater. He was a practical man and a good judge of human nature. Unobtrusive, but kind and social, he commanded the respect of everyone.
LAFAYETTE NUCKOLLS, a young man of nineteen years, tall, lank, smooth faced; the expression of his countenance was unimpassioned. He seldom attempted to make a speech. To look upon him, you would make up your mind that he was a clerk in some dry goods store. He was of the very kindest disposition, was a true friend, a perfect gentleman. He claimed citizenship in Nebraska, but lived in Glenwood, Ia. He was not at all pugnacious, at the same time, when hot discussion was going on as to location of the capital he kept in the drawer of his desk a good-sized brick-bat ready for either attack or defense.
J. L. SHARP impressed me as being a keen, foxy man, ambitions to carry out his designs, one of which was to locate the capital at Plattsmouth. In this he was defeated for the lack of one vote. For a man of his age he was lithe and active physically; in disposition he was cheerful and sociable; a little inclined to be slovenly in dress. To one who was not acquainted with him his pock-marked visage gave him a sinister look. He was a busy, active worker. He presided over the legislative council with dignity and impartiality.
O. D. RICHARDSON, the noblest Roman of them all; for a man sixty years of age be was well preserved and youthful in appearance. He was noble in stature, with a fine, dignified bearing, classical and exact in speech; he was an attorney of large experience and good ability; was an ex-lieutenant governor of Michigan; he was a diligent worker, and no other man had greater influence in the legislative council than he.
FLEMING DAVIDSQN, member of the first house, was a Virginian by birth; he stood six feet high in his stocking feet, was portly, with a fine, well-developed physique; he was remarkably social in his disposition and made friends wherever he went. He was married an the 1st day of June, 1854, to Mary A. Brown, and on the 5th day of October following, by wagon and team, he, with his family, left for the town site of Omaha, where he landed October 28th. He was elected to the house of representatives of 1855, in which he served with ability and credit to himself. He wan the first man to engage in the ice business in Omaha, and was a silent partner in the wholesale and retail mercantile house of Hileman, Blairs Co. He was born July 27,1827, near Wheeling, Va. Three years thereafter his parents moved to Vermillion county, Indiana, where he was brought up an a farmer. In the sixties he removed to California, where he engaged in farming. He remained in California until the autumn of 1876, at which date he, with his family, removed to Wichita, Kan., where they remained until his death, July 6, 1891. His widow and five children who survive him still reside in Wichita.
BIOGRAPHY OF B. B. THOMPSON
Written by John C. Thompson, Omaha, Nebr.
camp and a surgeon was summoned. Through some oversight
that gentleman had not taken his instruments to the front. He,
however, volunteered to extract the bullet with an ordinary
butcher's knife, an offer which Mr. Thompson refused to accept,
and which necessitated his carrying an ounce of lead in his
shoulder the rest of his days. In the meantime, Mr. Thompson's
parents had removed from Kanosha and had located in Brownville, a
town everybody believed was destined to be the metropolis of
Nebraska, and it was to that town he was removed after being
wounded. Upon his recovery, he was appointed to the office of
deputy sheriff, and it was while filling that position that his
courage was often put to the test, and as often vindicated. In
February of 1858 he married Elizabeth Thompson. One thing worth
mentioning in connection with their marriage was the fact that the
groom was a member of the Know-nothing party, which was opposed to
the introduction of foreigners into this country, while the bride
was a late arrival from England. Nevertheless, their union was a
happy one. Before the outbreak of the civil war, a baby girl and
boy had come to bless their union. Then Lincoln's call for
volunteers was beard throughout the land, and Ben Thompson went
home and told his wife his country needed him to help maintain
this Union one and indivisible. She could not let him go. Their
boy was yet a babe in arms. If she consented to his going, who
would provide for her and for their children? He plead with her,
and she, as thousands of other wives had done, besought him to
remain at home. Finally the company was organized, citizens bade
its every member a fervent good-bye; and he turned homeward, the
saddest of the number left behind. Within a month, news of the
battle reached that little town. Sometimes they told of victories
for the North, at others for the South. Then came another call for
troops. Again he sought his wife and told her the president was
needing men. She hesitated at first, then told him yes, to go, and
that if she were a man she would accompany him.
On the 20th day of November, 1861, his name was on an enlistment blank and he was mustered to the service of the United
States in company G, Second Kansas cavalry, as a private. He served in that capacity but a short time. On the 7th of January, 1862, he was promoted to the office of sergeant, and on the 9th of March, 1862, was promoted by the president to the office of first lieutenant of company G, Eleventh U. S. colored troops. He served in that capacity until the 111th, 112th, and 113th U. S. infantry were consolidated, whereupon he became a supernumerary, and as such was honorably discharged April 1st, 1865. He was in action at Newtonia, Mo., October 4, 1862; at Cross Hollow, Ark., October 18, 1862; in the battle of Old Fort Wayne, October 22, 1862, and other battles. After the close of the war, he lived two years in Argenta, Ark., and then returned to Brownville, Nebr., where he lived until the time of his death. He held several official positions in Brownville. He was elected treasurer twice, and was deputy postmaster for about eight years under T. C. Hacker and D. O. Cross. Mr. Thompson died at his home in Brownville, December 1, 1887, and was survived by his wife and three children. He was universally loved and respected by his neighbors, as was plainly attested by the members of the G. A. R., who named their post "Ben Thompson Post, No. 309," in his honor.
By Jay Amos Barrett. Read before the Society January 12,1897.
read shortly, throws some light on the scene. The
secretaries left out of their descriptions the touches that would
have given the reader a picture of the scene. Here is an account
of the first day's proceedings that is nothing if not lively. It
is from the Washington National Era of February 8, 1855. You
observe, from the interval of time between January 16 and February
8, that the news had to go overland in those days, without
electricity or steam.
"The first territorial legislature of Nebraska assembled at Omaha on the 16th ultimo, and after a good deal of excitement both houses were organized. Some seven members of the council assembled early in the day and elected Judge Bennet speaker. Governor Cuming appeared in the hall to make some communication to the council, and was called to order. His proclamation declaring who were members was laid on the table. At two o'clock another speaker was elected, Mr. Folsom, but the first would not vacate. After some contention, the last named gentleman gave up the place to the judge. In the house, Mr. Latham was elected speaker. At three o'clock both houses assembled in joint convention and the members were sworn into office by the governor, after which he delivered his message."
Add to this the following paragraph from a letter of N. R. Folsom, son of B. R. Folsom. The former was a young man of 20, serving as doorkeeper of the council for the session. He writes:
At the first session my father "was elected temporary president of the council. The South Platte members wanted a South Platte man, and when father took the chair there was rather an exciting time. Mr. Lafe Nuckolls, a young member from South Platte, pulled the butt of his revolver into sight. but did not fully draw the weapon."
Mr. Nuckolls, I may say here, was only 19. Mr. Richardson was 60, the average age of the members of the council being about 40. In the house the average age was 32.
At this point I may read you the communication from Judge Bennet, who hoped very much to be here. For fear that he might
not, he wrote a few things that came to his mind about
that session. In a letter of July 17, he says: "Now there may have
been much that occurred at that session which I have forgotten all
about, and perhaps some things that I would not like to tell, even
if I could remember. Forty-one years is a long time to keep things
in memory. However, I will try to overhaul the old things in my
garret and write your society what I can rake up. I would like
ever so much to meet with as many of the old boys of that long ago
session as are yet spared, and will endeavor to be with you, if
possible, in January next." And at the end of a letter written in
September, he says: "If I can conveniently do so, I will be with
your society at its next meeting in January, in person as well as
in spirit, - in spirit surely." [Here the paper of Judge
Bennet was read. It is found in this volume on p. 88.]
Far be it from me to raise the question of the circumstances which surrounded the election of members to that pioneer session In that connection, however, it will be in point to cite the following from a letter written last May (1896) by W. W. Watson, of Fairbury. "I note with interest the subject of the next annual meeting of the society. The Douglas county members of the legislative session of 1855 * * * were all of what were known as the Omaha interest, opposed to the Bellevue claims for the location of the state capital, the ticket put forth by the South part of the county, now Sarpy county, having been 'snowed under' at the polls. The south end candidates always attributed their defeat to the Mills county, Iowa, vote being divided between Plattsmouth and Bellevue, while Council Bluffs and Pottawatamie county voted solidly for Omaha, except one wagon load of electors who were detailed to hold an election in Washington county, Nebraska. If the crossing of the Platte river had been more feasible, the Mills county electors might have been able to vote at Bellevue as well as Plattsmouth, and the result have been different."
Judge James, of Council Bluffs, now as well as then, was one of that wagon load of people who went from Council Bluffs toward the north star, until they had reached, as they supposed, the
confines of Burt county. H. C. Purple, who was elected
member of the house from Burt, was also of the same number. It
appeared, after they had held the election, that they had not
reached Burt county at all.
Concerning Henry Bradford, or A. H. Bradford, member of the upper house from Pierce county, along with H. P. Bennet and C. H. Cowles, I learned little. A. D. Jones, known to you all as "Alf" Jones, whose infirmity alone keeps him from being with us on this occasion, tells how Bradford got after him on the bank question. Mr. Jones did not believe in the banks and claims to have been the only one who consistently opposed them throughout that session. "In that exciting session," says Mr. Jones, "all members kept in fighting trim, and Bradford kept a brickbat in his desk." he adds that Mr. Bradford was the only one who did so. However, there is other evidence on that subject. Mr. S. E. Rogers, now vice president of the Merchants' National Bank of Omaha, said when I asked him about Mr. Nuckolls: "Oh, yes, I remember him well. His desk was next to mine. He kept a brickbat in his desk all the time." My own impression is that there were more brickbats in hiding than any one member knew about.
Richard Brown, or "Dick" Brown, as he was familiarly called, is said to have been the first settler in the present Nemaha county, after the extinguishment of the Indian title. A native of Tennessee, he came to the territory directly from Holt county, Missouri, August 29, 1854, and settled where now a village bears his name, as a witness to his enterprise. Further, except for his age, occupation, and politics, my record breaks off abruptly.
The following is the obituary notice of
Benjamin R. Folsom, that was printed in the Buffalo Courier
of November 21, 1882:
"Many readers of the Courier in Wyoming county will be pained to learn of the death of the Hon. B. R. Folsom, which occurred at Tekamah, Nebr., at an early hour yesterday morning. Mr. Folsom was born at Tunbridge, Vt., February 23, 1809, and was for many years one of the best known citizens of Attica,
N. Y. He was several times elected as president of the village, once without opposition, during his absence. He represented the town of Bennington in the board of supervisors of Wyoming county for a number of successive terms. In the year 1854, he removed to Nebraska, and assisted in organizing the territorial government. He was elected to the state senate twice and to the assembly once, and was chosen to preside over the former body at its second session. He was, at the time of his death, the oldest settler in the state of Nebraska north of Omaha. Although identified with the west since 1854, he had until recently maintained a homestead in the village of Attica. In politics Mr. Folsom was a staunch, unswerving democrat, never an office seeker, but always ready to do all in his power for the good of the party to which he belonged. He leaves a family consisting of a wife and daughter, Mrs. C. E. Ferris, of Omaha, and two sons, N. R. Folsom, of Omaha, and Benjamin R. Folsom, of this city. Silas Folsom, of Attica, N. Y., and Col. John B. Folsom are brothers of the deceased."
T. G. Goodwill was a Bay State man by birth,
but he also came to Nebraska from Attica, N. Y. In an obituary of
him written by Dr. Miller, of Omaha, occurs the following
"He was one of the leading members of the first territorial council, and by his experience and sound sense, as well as his unflagging energy, contributed largely to the successful organization of the territorial government. He was also treasurer of Douglas county, adjutant general of the militia, and an alderman of the city of Omaha. In the decease of Colonel Goodwill our community has sustained * * * the loss of a high-minded gentleman, an accomplished and able man of business, foremost in all public enterprises, an energetic, manly, kind, and benevolent citizen."
What fitting tribute can be paid to the genial Alf D. Jones? It was my privilege last autumn to hear from his own lips the story of his varied career. Born in 1813, three miles from Phila-
delphia, he has lived to find that great city grown all about the farmhouse of his early days. November 15, 1853, he crossed into this country before it was Nebraska, after long service as a civil engineer in Iowa. He had, indeed, laid out a number of cities, including Burlington and Council Bluffs, and to his hands fell the work of laying off the future metropolis of Nebraska. When a member of the council in the first assembly, Mr. Jones was in his 42d year, so that now you would find him as you would expect to find him, with snow-white locks of big fifth score. It shall be left for some comrade of his to write his biography ere long, in a manner befitting his long and active career.
Another member of the council, J. C. Mitchell, seems to be known principally as the one who was made sole commissioner to locate the capitol buildings. This was a very complex deal in the location of the site of the territorial edifice, and Mr. Mitchell was perhaps made the one commissioner because he could be used better than a committee of more than one. The town of Florence is said to have been named by him in honor of his niece, Florence Kilbourn, and there he is buried, together with his wife and adopted daughter. I have been unable to find anything further.
Origen D. Richardson, member of the council from Douglas, was very efficient in the work of legislation, having been lieutenant governor of Michigan previous to coming west. He was a native of that state, and shares with J. B. Robertson the distinction of having been born in the eighteenth century. In the Michigan Pioneer Collections occur very many references to him, in connection with early Michigan history. He figured in Oakland county affairs, and in connection with the town of Pontiac, he was recorded as one of the contributors toward the building of one of the first churches in that town. He was lieutenant governor during the presidency of the elder Harrison, and was member of the convention of 1836, during the excitement of the Toledo War, as it was called. It is a curious circumstance that one of
the defeated candidates in that campaign was the father of Andrew J. Poppleton.
Concerning Joseph L. Sharp, I know as yet very little. Two sons and a daughter now live in Idaho, and from them I have reason to believe a biography is being prepared. Mr. Hanscom, of Omaha, who was speaker of the house, is able to narrate much more graphically than I how Colonel Sharp came to be elected president of the council. He was in western Iowa early enough to take part in sending Hadley D. Johnson to congress in 1853.
In addition to what Mr. Bennet has written concerning Frank Welch, I may add that he was a member of the council at its ninth session, and was not only member, but also president of our first state senate.
Mr. John Evans, of Omaha, and Henry Sprick, of Fontenelle, have given some information about J. W. Richardson, member of the house. He lived but three years after the close of the session, and was buried at Fontenelle. His wife lived until 1893.
William B. Hail, member of the house, was re-elected four times in succession. He was killed in a railway accident a few years ago.
Of W. N. Byers, one of the most respected and
well-to-do citizens of Denver, I need say little. He was listed as
a surveyor in 1855; but there is a story of how be moved a
printing press to Denver in a very early day, by ox-team, and how
under his care there developed a great newspaper, now called the
Rocky Mountain News. I am told that it is only recently that he
has ceased to edit it.
Permit me to quote from a letter or two recently received from him. Under date of November 17, 1896, he writes: "I fear that I will not be able to attend your annual meeting in January next, much as I would like to. Nor can I think of anything reminiscent of the first legislative assembly of Nebraska that would
likely be interesting. It was a large assembly for the
first in a new territory, and it seems to me now that it was a
very wasteful and extravagant one. This extravagance ran
especially in the line of printing, and before it adjourned the
country surrounding the capitol building was literally 'snowed
under' with waste paper in the form of printed bills, journals,
roll calls, reports, and such like documents, for which there
never had been any use in the world. Some of the members, it was
alleged, had not well established residence in Nebraska, but were
actually residents of Iowa and Missouri. They crossed the river,
held elections, and went back to the above named states to sleep.
However, that assembly laid a good, broad foundation for what has
become the great state of Nebraska."
Further, under date of December 31, he writes: "The copy of the program for your annual convention is very interesting, and the roll call of the first legislative assembly is like an echo from the long ago. I value it especially. It would afford me great pleasure to attend your annual, but I am still of the opinion that I will be unable to do so. * * * Perhaps another year I may be able to enjoy a reunion with the Nebraska pioneers - than whom there are none more patriotic, manly, and noble on earth. Wishing one and all a most interesting, harmonious, and profitable gathering, I beg to remain, yours most truly,
William Clancy, mentioned in Judge Bennet's letter, was a young man of 25 from Council Bluffs, a merchant, it is said. Mr. Jones' summary characterization of him is, that "he didn't amount to much." He kept a saloon, eating house, and general combination known as "The Big Six." During the gold excitement he went to "Cherry Creek," near by which Denver very shortly sprang into being. One of the streets of that city is named for him. Thence he went to Montana. Whether he died there, as Judge Bennet heard, or whether he may still be living somewhere, as Mr. Grennell thinks, seems impossible to determine. An incident is told of him, jolly Irishman that he was,
that with an eye to the fancy prices of oddities in the East,
he trained six elk to the harness and drove them from Denver to
New York, only to find that the market was already overstocked
with them. He seems to have had more or less of a political bent,
for he was the only member of the lower house who was afterwards
elected to the upper. In both the third and fourth sessions he was
member of the council.
The last one of the members of that pioneer assembly of whom I wish to speak was the first to die. He had not, however, outlived his usefulness here, and now, after the lapse of forty-two years, he still has an unusual claim upon our interest. The legislature adjourned March 16, 1855. In the Council Bluffs Chronotype of April 17 following, I chanced upon the following paragraph:
"Dr. M. H. Clark departed this life yesterday morning at about 7 o'clock, at St. Mary's. The disease which has terminated thus fatally was pneumonia. * * * The deceased has long been a resident of this western frontier, and was a member of the upper house of the Nebraska legislature last winter from Dodge county. We understand that the funeral services will take place in this city to-day."
The intervening years have made it impossible to discover, thus far, where there are relatives of Mr. Clark who can furnish the facts of his life. My knowledge of him is confined to a few hints gathered from sketches of early life on the banks of the Missouri, and from the journals of the first assembly. The history of this man is closely connected with the first election held in the country that was afterward called Nebraska. Mr. Hadley D. Johnson mentions this election especially, in his article entitled "How the Kansas-Nebraska Line Was Established." The election occurred October 11, 1853, at Bellevue. Mr. Johnson calls the voters "impromptu emigrants" from the east bank of the river. The sole object of the election was the praiseworthy one of selecting a delegate to congress who should try to secure the organization of the country west of the Missouri. Besides the election of a delegate, who proved to be, in fact, Mr. Johnson himself, the
offices of territorial governor, secretary, and treasurer
were filled. To the office of secretary, Dr. Munson H. Clark was
Thus it appears that Mr. Clark was active in securing the organization of the country west of the Missouri, and he was entitled as much as anyone to a place in the first assembly of the new territory when congress had created it. Mr. Johnson tells us that this election in the autumn of 1853 was followed by public meetings in Iowa and Missouri, and mentions Judge Bennet and Dr. Clark in connection with "eloquent speeches" and "leading citizens." To some of the oldest residents of western Iowa, when the right ones have been found, we may look for an account of the life of Dr. Clark, in the Missouri country. His record previous in the council shows him to have been an able member. I cite but one or two things to show the ability of the man and his faith in the western country.
Only six days after the opening of the session, Mr. Clark gave notice of a bill to incorporate the Platte Valley and Pacific Railroad,Ý and three weeks later this prime mover in the matter, as chairman of the committee on corporations, submitted a report that covers four pages of the printed journal.§ The report is an exceedingly interesting document indeed, and were there time, it would command great attention as a paper read to the society. Its great argument is the practicability of the Platte valley as a route for a line of railroad between the East and the West. He states that Colonel Leavenworth called attention to the "importance, practicability, and expediency of constructing a railroad by way of the Platte valley to the Pacific." Rev. J. Parker, J. Plumber, Colonel Fremont, Mr. Whitney, Captain Stansbury, and a thousand others, he says, have urged the same thing. The report gives statistics to show how important this railroad would be. I am sure you will be interested in the last two short paragraphs of the report, because they go far to show the mind of the man.
"This gross income could only be secured
after several years of business; but it is easy to see that the
vast amount of trade and travel, which does not follow the
tedious route by the ocean, would immediately pass through this
new, safe, and speedy channel of commerce. The millions of Europe
would he brought into contact with the hundreds of millions of
Asia, and their line for quick transit would be, to a great
extent, across our continent. Their mails, their ministers, their
in most costly and interesting travel and trade would take this
route, and augment our business and multiply our resources.
"In view of the comparative cost, to the wonderful changes that will result, your committee cannot believe the period remote when this work will be accomplished; and with liberal encouragement to capital which your committee are disposed to grant, it is their belief that before fifteen years have transpired, the route to India will be opened, and the way across this continent will be the common way of the world." (68-69.)
Two months from the morning on which this prophecy was made, the man who made it ceased his labors here. In fourteen and one-quarter years, on May 10, 1869, the last spike was driven in the great transcontinental railway, and the East and West were united by the bands of steel for which that primitive railroad company had sought.
The indistinct and fragmentary picture that comes to me from that remote scene in our history, presents him to me as a sort of embodiment of the restless, energetic, progressive spirit of the early makers of the middle West, the actual development of which has far exceeded their brightest fancy.
© 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller