NEGenWeb Project
Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Nebraska as a Territory
Produced by Ted and Carole Miller.

Part 1:

Traders and Missionaries | The Mormon Exodus | The Gold Hunters
Nebraska as Seen in 1856 | Erection of Nebraska

Part 2:

Text of the Organic Act | Organization of the Territory
Arrival and Death of Gov. Burt

Part 3:

Acting Governor Cuming | Location of the Capital
The Machinery in Motion | The First Legislature

Part 4:

Election of Delegate | Mr. Clark's Prophecy | Gov. M. W. Izard
First Formal Census | The Second Legislature | First School Report
The Third Session | Attempted Removal of the Capital
Repeal of the Criminal Code | The Fourth Session

Part 5:

The Florence Secession | The Fifth Session
The Death of Secretary Cuming | Gov. S. W. Black | The Sixth Session

Part 6:

Attempt to Create a State | Gov. Alvin Saunders
The Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Sessions
The Enabling Act

Part 7:
Constitution of 1866 | Senator Gere's Sketch
Part 8:

Vote on the Constitution | President Johnson's Veto
Formal Admission of the State | The State Legislature
Official Roster of the Territory | Judiciary

Part 3


   The vacancy in the Executive Office, caused by Gov. Burt's death, was filled by Secretary Cuming, ex officio Acting Governor. The first official act performed in the Territory, by an executive officer, was the issuance of the following proclamation:

October 18,1854.

   It has seemed good to an all-wise Providence to remove from the Territory, by the hand of death, its Chief Magistrate, Governor FRANCIS BURT. He departed this life this morning, at the Mission House, in Bellevue, after an illness protracted since his arrival, during which he received the most faithful medical aid and assiduous attention. His remains will be conveyed, on Friday next, to his home in Pendleton, South Carolina, attended by a suitable escort.

   In this afflictive dispensation, as a mark of respect and affection for the lamented and distinguished executive and a sign of the public sorrow, the National colors within the Territory will be draped in mourning, and the Territorial officers will wear crape upon the left arm for thirty days from date.

   Given under my hand at Bellevue, Nebraska Territory, this 18th day of October, A- D. 1854.

Acting Governor of Nebraska.

   A meeting of the few residents of the little town was held and resolutions of condolence and regret were adopted, a copy of which is subjoined:

   Resolved, That it is with inexpressible grief that we announce to the afflicted widow and family of our worthy Executive the melancholy fact of his death; and, while we drop the sympathetic tear over the remains of him we cherished in life--whose virtues will ever be a beacon in our pathway, illuminating and dispelling the way, until we are called to pass through the same dark valley and shadow of death--we will emulate his virtues, follow his example, and deeply sympathize with the afflicted widow and family;

   Resolved, That we, as residents of Nebraska, deeply feel in the death of His Excellency, Francis Burt, late Governor of the Territory, we suffer a loss irreparable;

   Resolved, That in the melancholy and afflictive event of the death of our worthy Governor, Francis Burt, that we tender to the President of the United States and members of Congress our sympathy for the loss of one they had selected, so eminently qualified for this responsible station.

   Resolved, That we feel under lasting obligations to Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, of the Otoe and Omaha Mission, for their kindness to His Excellency during his illness, and for their liberal treatment to his friends; also to Dr. Malcom, for his unwearied attention, which merits the approbation of the friends of our late lamented Governor;

   Resolved, That we tender to Col. P. A. Sarpy, in behalf of the friends of the deceased, our thanks for the kind attention and many favors shown His Excellency during his illness.

   Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Nebraska Palladium, Omaha Arrow and Charleston Mercury.

P. A. SARPY, President.

L. B. KINNEY, Secretary.

   A meeting of citizens was also held at Omaha, on the 18th day of October, and the following resolutions were adopted:

   WHEREAS, Divine Providence, in its wise dispensation, having seen fit, by death, to remove our well-beloved Governor, Francis Burt, we, the citizens of Omaha City and vicinity, hereby assembled, have hereby

   Resolved, That, having in his death parted with an excellent officer, an amiable gentleman and valuable citizen, we sympathize with the citizens of the Territory in the invaluable loss sustained.

   Resolved, That, in token of regard for the deceased, we attend the funeral ceremonies at 2 o'clock to-morrow, at Bellevue.

   Resolved, That our warmest sympathies be and are hereby tendered the family of the deceased, in the irreparable loss they are called upon to endure.

   Resolved, That these resolutions be tendered the Omaha Arrow and Nebraska Palladium for publication.


M. MURPHY, Secretary.

  Acting Gov. Cuming transmitted the intelligence of Gov. Burt's death to the President by telegraph and letter:

[By Telegraph.]

October 18, 1854.

To FRANKLIN PIERCE, President of the United States:
   Governor Francis Burt died this morning at half-past three o'clock. His remains will be escorted at once to South Carolina.



Secretary of Nebraska.

[By Letter.]

October 18, 1854.

        President of the United States:
   Sir--Governor Francis Burt, of this Territory, departed this life this morning, at half-past three o'clock. His remains will be immediately conveyed to his home, Pendleton, South Carolina, accompanied by a suitable escort. His disease was colonitis, together with other derangements of the bowels. I have sent this same intelligence by telegraph of this date.   Respectfully,
        Your obedient servant,

Secretary and Acting Governor.

   The escort which accompanied the remains of Gov. Burt to his former home were designated by the Acting Governor:

October 19, 1854.

   This is to certify that Messrs. Barton Green, Col. Ward B. Howard, James Doyle and W. R. Jones are hereby appointed an escort to convey the remains of the late Governor, Francis Burt, to his home in Pendleton, South Carolina, by the most expeditious conveyances and on the most suitable routes. Each of the said escort to be paid, from the Territorial Contingent Fund, two dollars per day, and the actual expenses of traveling of Armistead Burt to be paid to Pendleton.

Secretary and Acting Governor of Nebraska.

   The funeral of the dead Governor took place on the 19th of October, and was attended by all the residents of the region. The remains were inclosed in a zinc coffin, hermetically sealed, and containing eight gallons of alcohol. The escort proceeded to Pendleton, S. C., on its sad errand by way of St. Louis. Thus ended the first brief career of the first Governor of Nebraska, who filled the eminent station for only two days, but whose character was so admirable that even in the short term of his acquaintance with his constituents, he had won their love and respect.

   Much as we may deplore the death of great or good men, the stern realities of this world permit no pause in those duties upon which depend the practical operations of life. Man dies and we mourn; but, while mourning, we must assume our share of the burden death has cast from the shoulders of the departed, and move on bravely to the end. So it was with the little band that gazed, with solemn emotions, on the retreating forms of those who bore away the remains of him who, for two brief days--and days of mortal agony they were--had worn the executive functions, and whose name must ever remain indissolubly associated with the history of this State as the first Governor of Nebraska.


   The rivalry of aspiring men created intense excitement throughout the Territory and adjoining State of Iowa. The fever of speculation lay burningly on those who saw millions in the air, and needed but the magic touch of the Governor's pen to transmute their hopes to golden realities. As has been stated by Rev. Father Hamilton, the sacredness of death was not sufficient to deter these avaricious man from demanding instant settlement of the question in their favor; but, owing to the multitude of claims, it followed that many must suffer disappointment. Had Gov. Burt lived a few weeks longer, it is quite probable that Bellevue would have been designated. The work of nature had been done more satisfactorily there than at almost any other site, but the influence of men was less potent in its behalf than in some of the other sections.

   The Board of Missions had a "reserve" of four quarter-sections of land at Bellevue. It is reported on reliable authority that the proper manipulation of this landed interest would have secured the location of the capital there; but when one of the men who afterward acted as an escort to the remains of Gov. Burt asked Mr. Hamilton what the board would be likely to demand for the property, the reverend gentleman replied: "$50,000; the board has been offered that sum for the land as a farm." The interlocutor replied that $25,000 would be paid, but Mr. Hamilton said: "The price is $50,000, but you can go and consult with the board in New York." This man, it is asserted, did go to the metropolis, and for some reason failed to secure the money necessary to a perfecting of the transfer. Had this plan been carried out, and the purchase been made, three men (one of whom was a high public functionary at the time) would have controlled the square mile of land which formed the choicest part of the plateau.

   Florence, Omaha, Plattsmouth and Nebraska City were the competitors of Bellevue in the contest for the seat of government. Acting Gov. Cuming used to visit these places frequently. Mr. Hamilton says, "Acting Gov. Cuming asked me about getting the use of the mission building for the first Legislature, after he had decided upon Omaha as the capital, but before he was sure of having the building completed at the latter place in time. I gave my consent and agreed to remove the school to the Iowa Mission."

   There seems to be little doubt but that Bellevue might have obtained the capital if inducements of a substantial character had been held out to certain influential men by the Board of Missions. These were not proffered, however, and the vital question was determined in favor of the city of Omaha.

   The settlement of this controversy, and the local details of the establishment of the seat of Territorial authority, will be found in the history of Omaha. The official headquarters remained at Bellevue until the assembling of the legislature, in January, 1855.

   The authority under which Acting Gov. Cuming designated the seat of government was derived from the Organic Act. We here insert, although out of the chronological order of events, the official promulgation of the selection of Omaha:


December 20, 1854.

   WHEREAS. By the act organizing the Territory of Nebraska, it is made the duty of the Governor of said Territory, to determine and fix the time and place where the first session of the Legislative Assembly shall be held; now, therefore I, Thomas B. Cuming, Acting Governor of Nebraska Territory, have issued this proclamation convening the said Legislative Assembly at Omaha City, Nebraska Territory, on Tuesday, the 16th day of January next. The members, duly elect, of the Council and House of Representatives of the Legislative Assembly of this Territory will meet in accordance with this proclamation at said Omaha City, in the building designated for that purpose, on Tuesday morning. January 16, 1855, at 10 o'clock; and all legislative proceedings in the Territory of Nebraska will be had at said Omaha City, during the first session of said Territorial Assembly; it being hereby made public that the time of convening said Legislature is changed from January 8, as indicated in a previous notice, to January 16, as aforesaid.



   The first census of the Territory was taken by, authority of a proclamation, issued in pursuance of the requirements of the organic law:


October 21, 1854.

   An enumeration of the inhabitants of the Territory will commence on Tuesday next, October 24, 1854, under officers instructed to complete the same, if possible, within four weeks. Immediately after said census, notices will be distributed for the election of a Delegate to Congress, and a Territorial Legislature, to convene this winter. Said enumeration in the districts bordering on the Missouri River will commence one week after the above date, viz., on Tuesday, October 31, and simultaneously on that day in each of said districts. The purpose of this notice is to enable persons who have removed temporarily from the Territory to return in time for said census, but in no case will names be enrolled except of actual and permanent residents of the Territory.

   Given under my hand in Omaha City, Nebraska Territory, on this 21st day of October, 1854.

Acting Governor of Nebraska.

   The census was taken by Deputy Marshals Joseph L. Sharp, Charles B. Smith, Michael Murphy, E. R. Doyle, F. W. Symmes, Munson H. Clark and Charles W. Pierce. These officers were enjoined to be strict in the enrollment of names, and to require an oath of residence whenever they deemed it best; especially in the region bordering on the Missouri. They were instructed to designate suitable points for the establishment of voting precincts, and also to name proper persons to act as Judges and Clerks of Election. The census was to be completed by November 20, and returns sent to Acting Gov. Cuming, at the Mission House, Bellevue, or to the care of Mr. Lindley, Postmaster at Omaha.

   The first census of the Territory was announced as completed November 20, 1854. In the regular tables of census returns, the first report is dated 1855; owing to the fact that this report of 1854 was, and is, called in question. The population was, unquestionably, largely a "floating" one:

               | White| White| Males|Females|Females|Slaves.|Total.
               | Males| Males| under|  16   | under |       | 
DISTRICTS      |21 and|  16  |  16. |  and  |  16.  |       | 
               |older.|to 21.|      |upward.|       |       |      
District No. 1.|  236 |   26 |  181 |   190 |   214 |     4 | 851
District No. 2.|  185 |   24 |  138 |   127 |   131 |     9 | 614
District No. 3.|   95 |   16 |  101 |    44 |    97 | . . . | 353
District No. 4.|  250 |   29 |  120 |   131 |   115 | . . . | 645
District No. 5.|   74 |    1 |    8 |    13 |    10 | . . . | 106
District No. 6.|   89 |    7 |   12 |    28 |    27 | . . . | 163 
     Total     |  929 |  103 |  560 |   533 |   594 |    13 | 2732 

   The foregoing returns represent the whole number of inhabitants in the district assigned me from the Missouri River west about one hundred miles, and between the two rivers Nemaha, embracing also the half-breed tract. I should say that excluding said tract, and running about fifty miles west of it, between the Little Nemaha and a line due west from its head-waters, to the fortieth parallel of latitude, the whole number of voters would not exceed one hundred.

November 20, 1854.


   It appears that subsequent to the issuance of the foregoing certificate, it was ascertained that a considerable number of the inhabitants embraced in this enumeration were citizens of Kansas, as the dividing line between the Territories was not yet run when the census was taken. Surveyor Gen. Calhoun established the location of the 40th Parallel, and the precinct of Bellevue, first returned by Mr. Sharp, was stricken off the later election returns. The crude condition of affairs was, not strangely, productive of considerable confusion in these matters, even when the desire and intent of the Territorial officials was honest; but it is not altogether improbable, in the light of more recent events, that the strictest adherence to truth was not a conspicuous chararteristic of those whose wishes to become an organized body exceeded their abilities to attain the end by purely lawful methods.

   Richardson County, at the election held December 12, cast forty-seven votes, which was regarded as indicative of the real condition of that region as regards settlement. But the fact that official orders were issued Deputy Marshal Jesse Lowe to prevent, as far as possible, the "importation of voters," shows that the familiarity with questionable practices at the polls had not failed to travel westward fully as rapidly as the tide of emigration moved.

   Jones County was to be created under the first division of the Territory; but the revelations of irregularities, and the throwing of Bellevue Precinct into Kansas by the survey, decided Marshal Izard to report adversely to the measure. This county would have included the southernmost section of the Territory, from sixty miles west of the Missouri River westward, from the north corner of Richardson County, as defined in the foregoing pages, along the Platte, to the 103d degree West Longitude, thence along the southwest boundary of Richardson County.

   The Territory was originally divided into eight counties, called Burt, Washington, Dodge, Douglas, Cass, Pierce, Forney and Richardson. The boundaries were defined as follows;

   Burt County--Commencing at a point on the Missouri River, two miles above Fort Calhoun; thence westwardly, crossing the Elkhorn River 120 miles to the west boundary of lands ceded to the United States; thence northerly to Mauvaise River, and along the east bank of the same, to the Eau Qui Court, or Running Water; thence easterly to the Aaoway River, and along the south bank of it to its mouth, and thence southerly along the Missouri River to the place of beginning. The county was subdivided into two voting precincts--one called the Tekamah Precinct, at the house of Gen. John B. Robinson, who, with W. N. Byers and B. R. Folson, formed the Board of Election; W. W. Maynard and N. C. Purple, Clerks; and the second precinct, called Blackbird, located at the Blackbird House, with Frederick Buck, Dr. Shelley and John A. Lafferty, Judges; Lorenzo Driggs and William Sherman, Clerks.

   Washington County--Commencing at a point on the Missouri River, one mile north of Omaha City, thence due West to the dividing ridge between the Elkhorn and Missouri Rivers; thence northwesterly twenty miles, to the Elkhorn River; thence eastwardly to a point on the Missouri River, two miles above Fort Calhoun, and thence southerly along said river to the place of beginning. There was but one voting precinct in this county, located at the post office in "Winter Quarters," or Florence. Anselam Arnold, Charles How and William Bryant were Judges; Henry Springer and William More, Clerks.

   Dodge County--Commencing at a point on the Platte River, twenty miles west of Bellevue, thence westwardly along the said Platte River, to the mouth of Shell Creek; thence north twenty-five miles; thence east to the dividing ridge between the Elkhorn and Missouri Rivers, and thence southerly to the place of beginning. The voting-place was at the house of Dr. M. H. Clark, in Fontenelle Precinct. The Judges of Election were William Kline, Christopher S. Leiber and William S. Estley; the Clerks, William Taylor and E. G. McNeely.

   Douglas County--Commencing at the mouth of the Platte River, thence north along the west bank of the Missouri River to a point one mile north of Omaha City; thence west along the south boundary of Washington County twenty miles; thence south ten miles, more or less, to the Platte River, and thence east to the place of beginning. Two voting precincts were established--one at the brick building at Omaha City, and one at the Mission House at Bellevue. David Lindley, T. G. Goodwill and Charles B. Smith were appointed Judges; M. C. Gaylord and Dr. Pattee, Clerks, of the Omaha Precinct; Isaiah Bennet, D. E. Reed and Thomas Morton, Judges, and G. Hollister and Silas A. Strickland, Clerks of the Bellevue Precinct.

   Cass County--Was bounded north by the Platte, east by the Missouri, south by the Weeping Water River, to its head-waters, thence westerly to the west boundary of lands ceded to the United States, and thence by said boundary northward to the Platte. Two precincts were named--one at the house of Col. Thompson, the Kenosha Precinct, with J. S. Griffith, Thomas B. Ashley and L. Young, Judges; Benjamin B. Thompson and William H. Davis, Clerks; the other at the house of Samuel Martin, with James O'Neil, Thomas P. Palmer and Stephen Willes, Judges, and T. S. Gaskill and Levi G. Todd, Clerks.

   Pierce County (now Otoe)--Began at the mouth of Weeping Water River, where it strikes the Missouri; thence westwardly along the south bank of the former stream, to its head-waters, west 100 miles; thence south twenty miles to the north line of Forney County, as named hereafter; thence due east along the north line of Forney County to Camp Creek; along the north bank of said creek to the Missouri, and thence northwardly along said river to the place of beginning. The single precinct was located at the house of Maj. H. P. Downs. The Judges were William C. Fowlkes, Simeon Hargous and Henry Bradford; the Clerks were James H. Cowles and James H. Decker.

   Forney County (now Nemaha)--Was bounded by lines beginning at the mouth of Camp Creek; thence to the head-waters of the same; thence due west to a point sixty miles from the Missouri; thence due south twenty miles; thence east to the head-waters of the Little Nemaha; thence along the north bank of said river to the Missouri, and thence along the Missouri northward to the place of beginning. There was one precinct in Brownville, at the house of Richard Brown, who, with Allen L. Coate and Israel Cuming, served as Judges; A. J. Benedict and Stephen Sloan acted as Clerks.

   Richardson County--Began at the northwest corner of the Half-Breed Tract; thence westwardly along the south bank of the Little Nemaha River; thence westwardly to a point sixty miles west of the Missouri; thence south to the 40th Parallel, the boundary of the Territory; thence east along said boundary to the Missouri River; thence north along the Missouri and west ten miles to the southwest corner of the Half- Breed Tract; thence northerly along the boundary of said tract to the place of beginning. Two precincts were designated--one at the house of William Level, with John Purket, Robert T. Archer and James M. Roberts, Judges; William V. Soper and John A. Singleton, Clerks. The second precinct was at the house of Christian Bobst, with Henry Shellhorn, Henry Abrams and William J. Burns, Judges; Christian Bobst and W. L. Soper, Clerks.

   Another county, composed of what is now Sarpy (then commonly spoken of as the "burnt district") was designated, under the name of Omaha, but for some reason best known to those who then controlled public affairs, no official promulgation of its creation was made, and the section became a part of Douglas County.

   In the midst of the labor of forming the machinery of government, the executive did not forget to render homage to the Supreme Architect. The first Thanksgiving proclamation is quoted below:


   A time honored and Republican custom, sanctified by Christian observance, has set apart one day in each year for the expression of thanks to the Almighty Disposer of events, by whose kind providence our beloved country has been so bountifully blessed and singularly protected. The inhabitants of the vast Territory so lately added to the Republic may well unite with their fellow-countrymen in Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the continued existence and progress of the Federal Union; for the blessings of peace, in a period of devastating wars; for the preservation from pestilence and famine; for the spread of Christianity and education; for the accession of an immense and priceless domain; for the steady advance of free principles and the success and supremacy of our constitutional self-government. Deeply convinced that our humble acknowledgments as individuals and as a people are due at all times to our beneficent Creator, upon whose favor all are dependent, and in conformity with the wishes of many good citizens, I, Thomas B. Cuming, Acting Governor of Nebraska, do hereby designate Thursday, the 30th of November, as a day of Thanksgiving, and recommend that on that day the people of this Territory unite in homage to Almighty God for His past mercies and blessings, and beseech Him for a continuance of His protecting favor.

   Given under my hand, at Bellevue, Nebraska Territory. this 18th day of November, 1854, and of the Territory the first.

Acting Governor of Nebraska.

   The question having been raised as to the legality of excluding the white settlers and traders outside of the Otoe and Omaha tracts, wherein alone settlement was authorized, Acting Gov. Cuming addressed a communication to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Hon. George Moneypenny, on the 1st of November, 1854, and received a response approving of the opinion entertained by him, under date of November 15.

   In reply, the inquiry, "whether there is any neutral, or United States land, south of the Platte River, west of the Otoe cession, where an election precinct could be made," the Commissioner stated that "the country west of the half-breeds and south of the Otoe and Missouri cessions, bounded on the north by the Nebraska, or Platte, River, as far back as the 101° West Longitude, and from that point in a southwesterly direction to the line dividing Nebraska and Kansas, near the 103°, as traced on the original map," was of that description.

   The death of Gov. Burt necessarily complicated and delayed the financial matters of the Territory for a brief space; but before the end of the first session of the Legislature, these matters were adjusted and deposits with the United States Sub-Treasurer made.

   In order that Legislative representation might be equitably apportioned, an enumeration of the inhabitants was ordered by Acting Gov. Cuming, dated October 21, 1854, and completed November 20, as shown in preceding pages of this work, upon the basis of 2,732 inhabitants, the following apportionment was promulgated:

   Douglas County--Four Councilmen, eight Representatives.
   Pierce County--Three Councilmen, five Representatives.
   Burt County--One Councilmen, two Representatives.
   Washington County--One Councilman, two Representatives.
   Dodge County--One Councilman, two Representatives.
   Cass County--One Councilman, two Representatives.
   Forney County--One Councilman, two Representatives.
   Richardson County--One Councilman, two Representatives


   When the first Territorial Legislature convened at Omaha, January 16, 1855, the embryo city was the scene of intense excitement. Men disappointed in their cherished hopes, at the failure to secure the location of the capital in their respective "towns," filled the streets and vowed that the session should not be held. The dissipation of speculation was augmented by the license of a new country, in which it was the custom to use liquor as freely as inclination suggested. Fortunately, the turbulence of the hour resulted in nothing more serious than petty encounters. The stain of bloodshed was not indelibly fixed upon the early records of the Territory.

   The procurement of seats in the Legislature was not, perhaps, as dignified as it might have been, nor was there manifested as scrupulous a sense of honor in some of the transactions of that representative body as now is esteemed essential; but there is no doubt that this session was as dignified as the opening terms of most of the Western Legislatures have been. The official roster stood:


   Richardson County--J, L. Sharp, President.
   Burt County--B. R. Folsom.
   Washington County--J. C. Mitchell.
       County--M. H. Clark.
   Douglas County--T. G. Goodwill, A. D. Jones, O. D. Richardson, S. E. Rogers.
   Cass County--Luke Nuckolls.
   Pierce County--A. H. Bradford, H. P. Bennet, C. H. Cowles.
   Forney County--Richard Brown.
   Officers--Dr. G. F. Miller, Omaha, Chief Clerk; O. F. Lake, Brownville, Assistant Clerk; S. A. Lewis, Omaha, Sergeant at Arms; N. R. Folsom, Tekamah, Doorkeeper.


   Douglas County--A. J. Hanscom, Speaker; W. N. Byers, William Clancy, F. Davidson, Thomas Davis, A. D. Goyer, A. J. Poppleton, Robert Whitted.
   Burt County--J. B. Robertson, A. C. Purple.
   Washington County--A. Archer, A. J. Smith.
   Dodger County--E. R. Doyle, J. W. Richardson.
   Cass County--J. M. Latham; William Kempton, J. D. H. Thompson.
   Pierce County--G. Bennet, J. H. Cowles, J. H. Decker, W. H. Hail, William Maddox
   Forney County--W. A. Finney, J. M. Wood.
   Richardson County--D. M. Johnson, J. A. Singleton.
   Officers--J. W. Paddock, Chief Clerk; G. L. Eayre, Assistant Clerk; J. L. Gibbs, Sergeant at Arms, B. B. Thompson, Doorkeeper.

   Councilmen, 13; Representatives, 36; total, 39. This number was designated by the original bill as the proper representation. The duty devolving upon Acting Gov. Cuming was by no means a light one. The enumeration demanded necessitated speedy work, and, as the population was mainly a "floating" one, if not supposititious altogether, the apportionment was almost an arbitrary act.

   At 10 o'clock A. M., January 16, the Legislature assembled. Hiram P. Bennet, of Pierce County, was appointed President pro tem.; Isaac R. Alden, of Washington County, Chief Clerk pro tem.; Samuel Marks, of Cass County Assistant Clerk pro tem.; Jonathan Shinn, Sergeant at Arms pro tem., and Jonathan Tyson, Doorkeeper pro tem.

   Acting Gov. Cuming, upon the assembling of both Houses, delivered the first gubernatorial message, from which is quoted: " *   *  The first official act within our Territory has been, indeed, a mournful one--the transmission to a bereaved wife and orphaned children, in South Carolina, of all that was mortal of your late lamented Governor, Francis Burt. In his death, you have suffered a severe loss--the loss of a man peculiarly qualified by his public experience and capacity, his private virtues and his energy and firmness, for the satisfactory and courageous discharge of his official duties. *   *  One of the principal subjects of general interest to which, next to the enactment of your laws, your attention will be directed this winter, is that of a Pacific railroad. You have acquired, in respect to this, an acknowledged precedence; and the expression, in your representative capacity, of the wishes of your constituents, throughout the vast extent of your Territory, may have a potent influence, together with the efforts of your friends, in promoting the construction of such a road up the valley of the Platte. Many reasons lead to the conclusion that such a memorial from you will be of practical efficacy in contributing to the speedy consummation of such an enterprise--an enterprise of such absolute necessity as a means of intercommunication between the Atlantic and Pacific States, and as a purveyor of a lucrative commerce with India, China and the Pacific Islands. Among these are the facts that the valley of the Platte is on the nearest and most direct continuous line from the commercial metropolis of the East, by railroad and the great lakes, through the most practical mountain passes, to the metropolis of the West; that it is fitted by nature for an easy grade; and that it is central and convenient to a great majority of grain growing States, and of the northern portion of the Union, being situated in Latitude 41° North, while the majority of the people of the whole country are between the 38th and 46th degrees of North Latitude. It seems to me that it will be the desire of the friends of this great enterprise--one of the most prominent and important of all the measures of national development upon this continent now under the consideration of the people of the United States--to act immediately in the selection of routes, and to establish a permanent policy, the details of which may be practically prosecuted in the coming spring; and I sincerely hope and believe that your legislative memorial in Congress may have its legitimate weight in the decision of a question of such momentous interest. In view, however, of the uncertainty arising from the sectional conflict with which the subject is surrounded, I would respectfully suggest that such a memorial should urgently, if not principally, ask for a preliminary provision, from granting which the General Government can scarcely be deterred by considerations of policy or economy. I refer to a proposition presented to Congress eight years ago, for 'telegraphic and letter-mail communication with the Pacific,' including the protection of emigrants and formation of settlements along the route through Nebraska, Utah, California and Oregon; the promotion of amicable relations with the Indians and facilitating intercourse across the American continent, between Europe and Asia, and the islands and American coasts of the Pacific."

   The allusion in the foregoing was to the measure proposing military stations at intervals of twenty or thirty miles, over which dragoons in squads were to ride daily, transmitting mails. The telegraph lines to be erected by private parties. This was the beginning of that famous forerunner of the mighty railway system--the "Overland Pony Express."

   The message contained an unintentional argument in favor of the building of the proposed line; for, although shipped in August preceding, the documents and library provided by Congress, had not then--January--reached Omaha from Washington.

   From the foregoing extracts it will be seen that the absorbing topic was the construction of a permanent line of communication with the older regions of the Union; and not only that, but the ambitious Territorial infant, yet scarce relieved of swaddling clothes, raised its voice with phenomenal vigorousness in claim of the vast trade of the opulent East, where with richest hand she showers on her kings barbaric pearls and gold. This empire of an hour, with keen prophetic vision, saw the grand procession of unceasing trains, laden with India's, with China's and with the islands' wealth, roll by, where then the vision of uninspired mortals behold but the toiling caravans of weary emigrants.

   Nebraska's first cry, when born into the world of political entities, was not the feeble wail of a startled infant; it was the demand of an imperial power for recognition by the nations of the globe. The man who reads the history of this mighty commonwealth a century hence will point, in the presence of prophesy fulfilled, to the striking fact that the first gubernatorial message pledged the support of Nebraska to the work of commanding the world's traffic over her broad prairies. Not a city, not a county, not even a State as great as this, was large enough to satisfy the ambition of this youthful giant. The world and all therein must be brought into subjection to the will of this young but mighty Territory. The extract given will show the real spirit which animated the little band of legislators, gathered in a rude shelter, on the borders of what was deemed the civilized section of the country.

   Chief among the questions which consumed the time and exhausted the patience of the first Legislature was that of the location of the capital. Acting Gov. Cuming's choice did not please the rivals of Omaha, and fierce was the struggle to effect a change. But fiercer still was the contest on the part of Omaha's friends, who aimed to establish the seat of government there by obtaining a Congressional appropriation for a public edifice, and beginning the erection of the capitol. With such an expenditure once made, they felt that they might rest in armed peace.

Top of Page    First Page    Back    Next

Contents    County Index