NEGenWeb Project - Adams County
Who's Who in Nebraska, 1940
of human life--the major movements springing from fundamental causes. These march on through the decades and the centuries with the momentum of a giant escalator climbing the heights of human destiny, while politicians, priests and promoters try to jump on for a free ride.
The plan of this sketch of Nebraska history is to place in chronological order the outstanding events arising under each state administration, with a few adherent facts explaining how and what came to be. The major issues of Nebraska life are then outlined in separate topical paragraphs.
State Administrations 1875-1801
Silas Garber of Red Cloud, Republican, was elected governor in 1874, re-elected in 1876, in both cases by overwhelming majorities. He was a Union soldier, a man of simple, economical tastes, fit representative of the frontier where he was a homesteader. His period of office covered the "hard times" years of early statehood; the grasshopper invasions; Indian wars on the frontier; appearance of Greenback and Prohibition parties; adoption of the constitution of 1875.
Albinus Nance of Polk County, Republican, followed Governor Garber for two terms, being elected in 1878 and 1880 by a two-to-one vote in each case--characteristic of Nebraska politics in those years. Nance was called "the boy governor." as he was thirty years old when first chosen. His four years were marked by the rise of woman suffrage, economic and liquor issues; by controversy over the religious beliefs of the University of Nebraska faculty; by business revival; by tearing down the old state capitol and erecting a new one at cost of $691,428. In his administration occurred the first important labor riots in Nebraska. Common laborers on a big Burlington railroad grading job in Omaha were paid $1.25 per ten-hour day. They struck for $1.75 and rejected a compromise offer of $1.40. Governor Nance called out the state militia who, with United States regulars, quelled the disorders. One man was killed. The strike was broken. This constituted a first skirmish in the organization of common labor in the state.
James W. Dawes of Crete was elected governor in 1882 and 1884. The vote for governor in his first election was significant:
James W. Dawes, Republican
J. Sterling Morton, Democrat
E. P. Ingersoll, Anti-monopolist
This vote marked the rise of independent political action in the state. New issues were demanding settlement. A woman suffrage amendment submitted to the voters was defeated by a vote of 25,756 for and 50,693 against.
By the year 1884 the anti-monopoly, temperance and other reforms had grown stronger. Another issue of first-class importance also appeared---the administration of state school lands.
A fusion of Democrats, Greenbackers and Antimonopolists was secured, with J. Sterling Morton as candidate for governor. Mr. Morton made a violent campaign against Governor Dawes, charging him with complicity in school land frauds.
Governor Dawes and the Lincoln State Journal made a careful statement from the records to show that the governor was clear of any corrupt or wrongful act. Mr. Morton paid no attention to this statement. He repeated and redoubled his charges. Thereupon the Lincoln State Journal dug up an old attempt of J. Sterling Morton to grab the Salt Basin lands at Lincoln. After this, the campaign grew hot, Mr. Morton was compelled to give attention to these charges of his own land conspiracy.
The election returns on governor were:
J. W. Dawes, Republican
J. Sterling Morton, Democrat
J. G. Miller, Prohibition
In Governor Dawes' second term the legislature passed an act creating a railway commission, in a vain effort to quiet anti-railroad agitation.
John M. Thayer of Grand Island, Republican was elected governor in 1886 and 1888. General Thayer had had a long military and political career--colonel of the First Nebraska regiment in the Civil War, brigadier general, a close friend of General U. S. Grant; U. S. Senator from Nebraska, 1867-73. His nomination and election marked the high point of power for the Grand Army of the Republic in state politics.
General Thayer was past the period of real progressive leadership when he became governor. He belonged to the Civil War era. Under his four-year administration new causes were marshaling and marching on. The Republican party was faction-torn between the friends and opponents of new reforms--railroad control, farm legislation, prohibition, woman suffrage. An amendment to the constitution raising the pay of legislators from $3 to $5 per day was defeated by the voters at the polls but "counted in" by a committee of the legislature. This last session of the legislature under Governor Thayer (1889) was the most extravagant in expenditure and most under corporation control of any session. It helped start the political revolution which followed.
Political and Social Revolution
The year 1890 is the first great dividing line in the story of Nebraska statehood. It marked the passing of the most desirable free land. It marked the rise of a new school of economic thought. It marked the advent of a new poltical (sic) party, strong enough to defeat both the old political parties and eventually to permeate both of them with its doctrines. For the nation it marked the end of the Civil War controversies and the coming of the conflict between corporate wealth and the common man. For the world it marked the extension of government into business affairs; the development
of land, factory and trade policies which have changed international relations.
Nebraska had a leading part in this new world era. The first national convention of the People's Party was held in Omaha July 4, 1892. The "Omaha Platform," adopted there, stated the issues of Land, Finance, Transportation, as the basis of a new political program for the first time. The main items in this first People's party platform, made in Nebraska, were these:
Land-The land, including all the natural sources of wealth, is the heritage of the people and should not be monopolized for speculative purposes. Alien ownership of land should be prohibited.
Finance--A national currency, safe, sound and flexible, issued by the general government only; a full legal tender for all debts, public and private. Distribution direct to the people at a tax not to exceed two per cent per annum. Postal savings banks, established by the government.
Transportatton--Railroads, telegraph and telephone lines, being a means of exchange and a public necessity, be owned and operated by the government in the interest of the people.
Taxation--A graduated income tax.
Elections--The Australian ballot; the initiative and referendum; election of United States senators by the people; one-term president.
Foreign Immigration--Further restriction.
Labor--Adoption of eight-hour labor law.
Civil Service--Applicable to all government employes.
Powers of Government--"We believe that the powers of government--in other words, of the people--should be expanded (as in the case of the postal service) as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an intelligent people and the. teachings of experience shall justify, to the end that oppression, injustice and poverty shall eventually cease in the land."
Most of these principles, then so fiercely denounced, have today been incorporated into law and practice with approval of all political parties. The final proposition--"Extension of Powers of Government"--is marching onward, even though its applications are in controversy.
Besides providing the birthplace of the Populist party and its famous declaration of new issues, Nebraska contributed William Jennings Bryan, who in 1896 became the national leader of the united Populist and Democratic parties--a world-renowned leader in the great causes of peace and people's rights, and one of the conspicuous figures in world history.
The place of Nebraska in the era of world revolution which dates from 1890 is achieved for all time. There can be added here only a summary of state events up to the entrance of America into the World War.
The vote for governor at the election of 1890, as shown by the returns, was:
John H. Powers, People's Independent
J. E. Boyd, Democrat
L. D. Richards, Republican
In the minds of competent judges there has never been any question that John H. Powers was honestly elected governor--that the fraudulent vote in Douglas County overcame the honest votes cast in the rural precincts.
Three forces produced this astonishing result: (a) The Farmers' Alliance movement, which organized farm discontent and taught the new economics in the schoolhouses; (b) the prohibition constitutional amendment submitted to the voters, which frightened the liquor interests and threw all their votes and financial aid to the Democratic party; (c) failure of the corn crop over much of the state, which added to popular discontent and gave more time for political discussion.
The People's Independent party contested the election before the legislature, where it had a majority. The contest was badly managed and failed. An attempt was made by Gov. John M. Thayer to hold over on the ground that James E. Boyd had not been naturalized. Two of the three Republican judges of the Nebraska supreme court decided against Boyd. Judge Maxwell, third Republican, wrote a minority opinion in favor of Boyd. The case went to the U. S. supreme court, which sustained Judge Maxwell and placed Boyd in office.
The legislature passed the "Newberry Railroad Bill," reducing railroad rates. Governor Boyd vetoed the bill, thereby driving many Democrats into the new People's Independent party.
Lorenzo Crounse of Fort Calhoun, Republican, was elected governor in 1892. The vote was:
Lorenzo Crounse, Republican
C. H. Van Wyck, People's Independent
J. Sterling Morton, Democrat
C. F. Bentley, Prohibition
No party had a majority in the legislature. It required a fusion of the People's Independents with the few Democrats to organize the two houses. Later in the session a similar fusion chose William V. Allen, Populist, U. S. senator.
A new railroad bill was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Crounse. The railroads took the bill to the federal courts, where it was thrown out.
Legislative investigation of state institutions showed great frauds (amounting to many thousands of dollars) under the Republican administration. Three state officers were impeached by the legislature and tried before the Nebraska supreme court, comprised of three Republican judges. Two judges, Post and Norval, held the impeached officers were careless but not guilty of malfeasance. Judge Maxwell wrote another minority opinion sustaining the impeachment.
Silas A. Holcomb of Broken Bow was the first Populist governor of Nebraska. He was elected in 1894 with endorsement of the Bryan Democrats and with the help of Edward Rosewater. Both Democratic and Republican parties were torn into discordant factions. Yet so strong was the hold of
the old political machine that Holcomb's election was by a slender plurality, and made possible only by the bolt of Edward Rosewater and his Omaha Bee.
Silas A. Holcomb, Populist-Democrat
Thomas J. Majors, Republican
P. D. Sturdevant, Gold Democrat
E. A. Gerrard, Prohibition
The legislature, elected along with the governor, was three-fourths Republican. The Union Pacific railroad was chiefly responsible for this. It needed a U. S. senator at Washington to help it reorganize and avoid the large debt owed to the national government. Its money and influence secured such a legislature-which promptly elected John M. Thurston, general attorney of the Union Pacific, to the United States senate. The genius of E. H. Harriman reorganized the Union Pacific and made it what it is today--one of the greatest railroads in the world.
Governor Holcomb was re-elected in 1896 and with him the entire Populist Democrat state ticket, with a large majority of both houses of the legislature. Investigation by the legislature revealed bad management and defalcation of public funds by former Republican administrations. Joseph F. Bartley, Republican, former state treasurer, was tried and sent to the penitentiary for twenty years for embezzling $555,796.66. Important reform measures passed by the legislature included the Sheldon School Land bill, originated and championed by Representative A. E. Sheldon, which stopped further sale of school lands and saved the state more than ten million dollars.
W. A. Poynter of Albion, Populist, was elected governor on the fusion ticket in 1898, and with him the rest of the fusion state ticket. The Republicans secured a majority in the state legislature--which, in turn, elected M. L. Hayward of Nebraska City as U. S. senator.
Charles H. Dietrich of Hastings, Republican, was elected governor in 1900 over W. A. Poynter by the narrow plurality of 861. The entire Republican state ticket was elected by slightly larger pluralities. The legislature was also Republican in both houses. Fusion quarrels of Democrats and Populists, and large Republican campaign funds, were chief causes of the change.
There were two U. S. senators to elect by the legislature when it met in 1901. M. L. Hayward had died and the six years of John M. Thurston had expired. The fight in the Republican party over election of these two senators was the bitterest in the history of the state. It furnished one of the strongest arguments for election of U. S. senators by the people. It lasted until March 28, when D. E. Thompson and Edward Rosewater, the two leading candidates, withdrew and D. E. Thompson named both the next Nebraska senators--Gov. C. H. Dietrich and J. H. Millard, president of the Omaha National bank. D. E. Thompson was superintendent of the Burlington railroad in Nebraska, and the result of this election illustrated railroad control in Nebraska politics.
Lieut. Gov. E. P. Savage became governor May 3, 1901, when Governor Dietrich resigned to become U. S. senator. Governor Savage pardoned Joseph F. Bartley, convicted embezzler of public funds who had been sentenced to twenty years in the state penitentiary. This caused strong protest in the state and an uprising of Republicans at. their state convention. A reform movement started in the Republican party.
John H. Mickey of Osceola, Republican, was elected governor in 1902 and re-elected in 1904. The Populist party had fused with the Democrats until it had lost its early enthusiasm. The Democratic party had broken away from Bryan and nominated for president a representative of the gold standard and the corporation interests, Alton B. Parker. Col. Theodore Roosevelt became leader of the Republican party on a reform program.
George L. Sheldon of Nehawka, Republican, was elected governor over A. C. Shallenberger, fusion, in 1906. Sheldon represented the Roosevelt Progressive section of his party. During his two-year term free passes on the railroads were abolished, passenger fares reduced to two cents per mile; a state railway commission created; a direct primary law enacted, providing that candidates for office should be named by the voters instead of by conventions. The Sheldon administration carried forward the Populist promised program. It marked triumph of the people over railroad corporations.
Ashton C. Shallenberger, fusion candidate, defeated George L. Sheldon for re-election in 1908. A leading force in this election was the Democrats' third nomination of W. J. Bryan for the presidency, and the revived enthusiasm of Nebraskans in the campaign. Besides this, the railroad and liquor interests were opposed to Sheldon, and a new issue the guaranty of bank deposits--had arisen. It was strongly championed by Mr. Shallenberger, thereby winning thousands of votes.
Bank Guaranty Act
The legislature passed a bank guaranty act which was signed by Governor Shallenberger. The legislature also passed a daylight saloon act, requiring saloons to close from 8 p. m. to 7 a. m. Governor Shallenberger signed this bill also. It cost him his re-election. The liquor interests organized the state, rushed the wet vote into the Democratic primaries, defeated Shallenberger and nominated, James C. Dahlman, mayor of Omaha, by the close. vote of 27,591 to 27,287.
Chester H. Aldrich, Republican, defeated James C. Dahlman, wet Democrat, by a vote of 123,070 to 107,760 at the election of 1910. W. J. Bryan, defeated for the presidency a third time in 1908 by aid of the liquor interests, became an avowed champion of prohibition and cast his influences.
against liquor control of the Democratic party, thereby aiding Aldrich.
Acts of the legislature of 1911 include some of the most important in the state's history. Among them were a co-operative association law; the beginning of a road system, and matching state tax money with federal funds for road construction; a sanitary health act; a state board of control for state institutions, and the submission of initiative and referendum to the voters.
John H. Morehead of Falls City, Democrat, defeated Chester H. Aldrich for re-election in 1912 by a slender plurality of 3,428. In this famous campaign year the national Republican party split into two groups. The regular Republicans nominated W. H. Taft for re-election as president. The Progressive party named Theodore Roosevelt. This split overwhelmingly elected Woodrow Wilson as president and elected John H. Morehead as governor of Nebraska.
In 1914 Governor Morehead was re-elected over R. B. Howell, Republican. The legislative reform committee made its report--a landmark in Nebraska state government. The legislatures of 1913-15 carried forward the program of social legislation by enactment of workmen's compensation; the "Blue Sky act" to prevent fraud in sales of stock, and the first state budget law making the governor responsible for an estimate of state income and expenditure.
Keith Neville of North Platte, Democrat, was elected governor over Judge A. L. Sutton of Omaha, Republican, in 1916. Leading issues in the campaign were the World War, a prohibition amendment to the Nebraska constitution, and the fight in the Democrat party against W. J. Bryan. Mr. Bryan was beaten for delegate to the Democratic national convention by W. B. Price:
W. B. Price
W. J. Bryan
The liquor element in the Democratic party was the chief cause of Mr. Bryan's defeat as national delegate. He had the satisfaction of seeing the liquor men "get theirs" in the victory of the state prohibition amendment by the following vote:
Keith Neville, when candidate for governor, announced that he preferred liquor license, but pledged his support to whichever policy should be adopted by the voters. This pledge he kept by signing a stringent prohibitory liquor law.
WORLD WAR EXPANSION
The World War came to Nebraska against her will. A majority of her people were opposed to America's entrance. That majority included most of the German and Irish elements; many Scandinavians, and a large section of the original American stock, who wanted Britain and France to win the war, but wished to keep America in the peace column and avoid the debt and despotism which are products of war. The most potent campaign slogan for Woodrow Wilson in the election of 1916 was--"He kept us out of war." In this election Nebraska gave him more than 40,000 plurality.
Suddenly, after long and bitter diplomatic controversies and promises over freedom of the seas and submarines, we found ourselves at war with Germany and Austria on April 6, 1917. Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska voted against the American war program.
In Nebraska the great war presented a crisis in public opinion and political action. The peace element and the pro-German element found themselves swamped by a great rising wave of national patriotism and war spirit. Keith Neville, Nebraska's war governor, moved promptly to the support of President Wilson. The Nebraska State Council of Defense, created by special act of the legislature, became the strong arm of the state upholding the nation's war policy.
The state war program included the sale of U. S. Liberty Bonds; aid in federal conscription of soldiers; rationing of food to all persons; increased farm production to feed overseas armies; punishment of persons criticising or opposing the war or failing to subscribe their quota of war bonds and Red Cross funds; promotion of military companies of Home Guards--over 15,000 strong in two hundred towns; a strong propaganda of literature and public speeches in support of the war; suppression of the German language and literature; punishment of "profiteering" and hoarding of food.
The enforcement of this war program involved the suppression of free speech, free press and the limitation of other freedoms enjoyed by Nebraska citizens. That is the price of war--suppression of minorities. The shortest and quickest way to end the war was the end sought, and the longer the war lasted the more intense grew the war feeling.
Nebraska's service in the World War may be summarized thus:
Nebraska contributed 47,801 men for the army and navy, of whom 1,000 died in service.
Two hundred forty million dollars of Liberty Bonds were purchased--more than her quota.
War Savings Stamps--more purchased, according to population, than in any other state in the Union.
Nebraska Base Hospital No. 49 (overseas), with the best life saving record of any hospital corps.
Vast increase of food supplies from Nebraska farms and factories.
Nebraska also furnished Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, and Senator George W. Norris, her most distinguished opponent of war.
Samuel R. McKelvie of Lincoln, Republican, defeated Keith Neville for re-election in 1918. The vote stood:
S. R. McKelvie, Republican
Keith Neville, Democrat
J. D. Graves, Prohibition
United States senator:
George W. Norris, Republican
John H. Morehead, Democrat
This election was Nebraska's political aftermath of the World War. German and Irish voters (former Democrats) largely lined up for the Republican ticket. They claimed they had been swindled by the Woodrow Wilson slogan--"He kept us out of war." They were joined by many other who resented the actions of the State Council of Defense: Invasion of the rights of free speech, free press and free action during the war. Senator Norris was strongly supported because he had opposed the war.
The overwhelmingly Republican legislature elected with Governor McKelvie enacted the largest body of new law ever created in one session--more than 1,200 pages. It passed the "Civil Administrative Code," reorganizing state government; it levied a one and one-half mill tax to erect a new state capitol; it ratified national prohibition and woman suffrage; it provided for a state constitutional convention to revise the constitution; it declared the English language the official language of the state, and forbade teaching any subject in any other language, or teaching any child any language but English until the child had passed eighth grade examinations.
S. R. McKelvie, after a hard fight in the Republican primary, was re-elected governor in 1920 by the following vote:
S. R. McKelvie, Republican
J. H. Morehead, Democrat
Arthur G. Wray, Progressive
J. D. Graves, Prohibition
It was a Republican landslide year in the nation for Warren G. Harding as president. In the Nebraska legislature there were only four Democrats in the house and none in the senate.
War and Post-War Conditions
Armistice day, Nov. 11, 1918, is still celebrated as the end of the World War. It might be observed as the beginning of world trouble. In Nebraska the armistice brought greater disaster than the World War. The war was a stimulus to every aspect of Nebraska life. Prices of our products were trebled. Farm land prices rose even faster. Building boomed. Labor was employed. Wages rose. Money was loaned freely. New enterprises started. Stocks and bonds were issued. Salesmen sold everything to everybody on installments, and everybody grew richer overnight with advance in market price of what he had bought. New corporations and offices called for more office workers, and young people eagerly went to schools to train for the new office positions.
Inventive genius felt the stimulus of greater demand. Machine farming replaced the old style horse farming, and multiplied many times the productive power of man. More acres were broken out. More farm tonnage was created. Motor trucks came in to expedite market hauling. The tempo of life was speeded up to its uttermost unit. Paved highways replaced mud roads. It was an era of expansion.
When the war ended, wise ones who had studied history predicted an early fall of prices and hard times. It did not come when predicted. Europe was destitute and needed everything. Uncle Sam loaned Europe all the money she needed to buy our goods, and we went on producing them.
Millions of Nebraska dollars from the sale of two dollar wheat, one and a half dollar corn, twenty dollar beef and pork, poured into bank deposits. We created several hundred new banks to receive these deposits and lend them out with generous hand.
In the midst of this fools paradise in which we lived there came warnings. Far sighted financiers foresaw the breakers. In 1921 word went out to the banks of the west to call loans and reduce debts. The livestock industry felt the first blow. Nebraska stock ranges and feed yards were full of livestock bought at top prices--paid for with money borrowed at the local banks.
The banks ordered the stockmen to reduce their loans. The stockmen rushed their stock to the livestock markets. Prices crashed. The livestock sold for less than the bank debt. The borrower himself was sometimes "sold out" and lost everything he had, Even the banks were not able to avoid loss in this sudden fall of prices. A number of them failed. The Bank Guaranty Fund created by the law of 1909 was large enough for a time to pay off the depositors of the failed banks.
Breathing Space Before Panic
The sharp credit deflation and depression of 1921 lasted only a little more than a year. Financial leaders and general world conditions came to the rescue. By the end of 1922 there was a distinct improvement and by 1923 the process of business restoration was under way. The price of the World War in destruction of property and dislocation of distribution was deferred for a number of years, and the people of Nebraska drew easier breath during those years.
Reform and Reconstruction
Attempts to reconstruct and improve Nebraska state government took organized form in 1913 with the appointment of a joint committee of the senate
© 1999, 2000, 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Ted & Carole Miller