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more, when Jubal Early raided Maryland, and afterward joined the 11th Maryland infantry, and served until the close of the war. He was admitted to the bar at Baltimore a few days later, and started to visit his mother, who lived at Table Rock, Nebraska.
"Nebraska suited him, and he wrote back for his trunk, and opened a law office at Pawnee City, and soon afterward was taken into partnership by David Butler, afterwards the first governor of the state. He was appointed prosecuting attorney for the county by the county commissioners, and was elected to the first legislature of the state, which convened at Omaha, July 4, and elected John M. Thayer and Thomas W. Tipton to help get the state into the Union.
"Upon the admission of the state, March 1, 1867, he became the private secretary of Governor Butler. On the location of the capital at Lincoln the following summer he began the publication of the first newspaper in Lincoln, at first named the Commonwealth, but later the State Journal. In the fall of 1868 he was elected to the state senate from the five counties of Lancaster, Saline, Pawnee, Gage, and Jefferson; was chairman of the committee on education and a member of the committee on railroads. In the former capacity he had charge of the University bill, and as a minority in the later committee reported a substitute for the bill, appropriating 400,000 acres of state lands for sundry railroads, which substitute was finally accepted, after a hot fight by both houses of the legislature, and became a law. Under it, within two years, were built the first sections of the Burlington & Missouri R. R. in Nebraska, the Midland Pacific, the Atchison and Nebraska, all now a part of the Burlington system, and the Omaha & Southwestern, a part of the Union Pacific system. All these roads 'come to Lincoln,' while the roads projected in the majority of the report of the committee were 'up the river' for the benefit of the eastern tier of counties.
"He soon after was chosen chairman of the republican state central committee, and served four successive terms. In 1875 he was elected to the convention that framed the present state constitution. He served a second term in the state senate in 1881-82, and was appointed, in the spring of 1881, a member of the board of regents of the University to fill a vacancy, and was afterward elected twice to the same position, and was president of the board several years.
"In the city he was president of the board of trustees in 1869-70, and county attorney, by appointment of the com
missioners, and postmaster under President Harrison's administration. He served in the early '80s as a member of the state railroad commission, when the body was first created. For a long series of years he was a member of the board of literary trustees.
"Upon the establishment of a daily edition of the State Journal in July, 1870, Mr. Gere abandoned the practice of law, and has devoted his time and energies to the editorial columns of that paper, and has been president of the State Journal Company since its incorporation in 1872.
"He was married in 1871 to Miss Mariel E., daughter of Capt. John Clapman, of Washington, D. C. Four children have been born to them, of whom three daughters are living. "Mr. Gere was of colonial and Revolutionary stock, descended through his father, George Gere, son of 'Jonathan of Heavitree,' Devonshire, who crossed the ocean in 1634, and settled in Boston, and through his mother from Lieut. Thomas Tracy, also from the south of England, who emigrated to Connecticut in 1635, and Mathew Grant, who came over about the same time, one of the founders of Windsor, Connecticut. His maternal grandfather, Dr. Isaac Grant, served through the Revolution with the Connecticut line, and was in Washington's Jersey and Pennsylvania campaigns, and at the storming of Stony Point."
Mr. Gere was an exceptional man in all desirable respects. The state, more particularly the city of Lincoln, owes much to him for his labors in developing and making them what they both are today. As long the editor-in-chief of the Daily Journal his gifted pen was ever persistently and successfully devoted in their behalf, not only in these two factors, but in all matters pertaining to good citizenship and betterment of a progressive commonwealth. He was a writer of extraordinary force in whatever he advocated. His convictions were unswerving for what he conceived to be right and for the greatest good. His boldness in utterance' was coequal with his convictions. He was a profound thinker and safe counselor.
As more expressive and forceful than I have words to utter I quote another, speaking of a friend on an occasion like unto
"We are in the habit of culling from nature her choicest flowers and, weaving them into suggestive designs and garlands of beauty, placing them upon the coffins of our departed friends and loved ones as tokens of our respect and esteem. So, too, with pathetic pens do we enroll upon the tablets of the heart the names of those who were, but are now no more, and with eloquent tongues do we recount the many virtues, noble character, and endearing qualities of those who have been called hence."
His labors are ended. He has entered into what we call death, but which, unless all teachings are in vain, is but the beginning of another and better life. Those who walked with him far down into the valley of the shadow of death, while the final scene was closed to vision, have no doubt but that when he entered into that "dreamless sleep which kisses down the eyelids" he gently drew aside the curtains which separate the seen from the unseen, the known from the unknown, and stepping behind its mysterious folds, fell asleep in the arms of his Creator.
ROBERT WILKINSON FURNAS.
PRESENTED BY HENRY H. WILSON AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF
The best heritage of the race is the memory of the lives of its great men and women. The rich and the poor are alike the heirs of him who has lived a useful and honorable life. In all ages it has been the kindly office of friendship to record and perpetuate the memory of the good deeds of our fellows.
It is therefore in a peculiar sense fitting that we should, in the records of this Society, perpetuate the memory of its founder, one of the most noteworthy pioneers of the territory and the state.
Robert Wilkinson Furnas, the farmer's boy, apprenticed printer, editor, publisher, railroad man, merchant, soldier,
legislator, Indian agent, postmaster, governor, University regent, pomologist, floriculturist, horticulturist, and promoter of agriculture, was born on an Ohio farm May 5, 1824. His great grandfather was born on English soil, and both his father and mother were natives of South Carolina, but in the veins of both there was so much Quaker blood that they early chafed under the peculiar institutions of their native state and sought the freer atmosphere of Ohio. They settled on a farm near Troy, in Miami county, where Robert was born. At Troy, at the tender age of eight, he was orphaned, by the death of both father and mother from cholera. Young Robert was cared for by his grandfather Furnas, and continued on a farm until near seventeen years old. From that time on he seems to have made his own way in the world. For four years he served as an apprenticed printer in the office of the Licking Valley Register of Covington, Kentucky. The educational advantages of that day, for the poor boy, were very limited indeed. His irregular attendance at school would not amount, all told, to more than twelve months. Yet by dint of hard work and indomitable pluck, with a liberal use of midnight oil, or more strictly speaking of tallow candles, he obtained a good, practical education, and like many others he learned to appreciate in after life educational advantages largely because he had never enjoyed them himself. The newspaper office became to him what it has been to so many of our noteworthy men-his real university. While the curriculum of this poor boy's university is doubtless narrow and its instruction often crude, yet the education it does give rings true, and often in its practical efficiency compensates in a large measure for its defects.
After serving a regular apprenticeship of four years as a practical printer he removed to Cincinnati, where, in partnership with A. G. Sparhawk, he opened and conducted a book and job printing office, which enterprise also included the publication of several periodicals. In the year 1847 he returned to his native county of Miami and became the editor and publisher of the Troy Times, a local whig newspaper,
which he conducted for about five years. From 1852 to 1856 he was successively engaged as merchant in the book, paper, notion, and jewelry trade in Troy, as railroad ticket agent, and railroad conductor.
It seems probable while engaged in these latter avocations he still controlled his printing outfit, for in the spring of 1856 he brought a printing outfit from Ohio with him and established at Brownville, this state, the Nebraska Advertiser, which has been published continuously from that time to this, but of recent years at Nemaha City in the same county.
On April 6, 1856, he landed from a Missouri river steamboat at Brownville. An inventory of his belongings at this time would show his printing outfit and one and a half shillings, or eighteen and three-fourths cents in cash-not a very large contribution to the grand assessment roll of the then territory. But he brought with him an inexhaustible enthusiasm and an unalterable faith in the future of the great West. Well might he have sung with Whittier—
"We cross the prairies as of old
The Pilgrims crossed the sea..
To make the West, as they the East,
"We go to rear a wall of men
On Freedom's southern line,
And plant beside the cotton tree
On June 7, 1856, he published the first number of the Advertiser and began that marvelous campaign of nearly fifty years for the creation and development of what is fast be coming the greatest agricultural state in the Union. From 1856 to 1860 he edited and published the Nebraska Farmer, the first agricultural paper published in Nebraska. In 1857 he was a delegate to the convention held at Topeka to form a state constitution for a new state which it was proposed to organize out of northern Kansas and southern Nebraska. On March 22, 1862, he was, by President Lincoln, commissioned as colonel in the regular army. Under this commission he organized the first Indian regiment, which was composed of Indians who had been driven by the Confederates from Indian