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THE TERRITORIAL GOVERNORS.
GOVERNOR FRANCIS BURT.
Aug. 2 to Oct. 18, 1854.
The sad history of Governor Burt1 of South Carolina, the first governor of Nebraska, is soon written. He was appointed by President Pierce and reached the Territory at the Mission House at Bellevue, now of Sarpy county, on the 7th day of October, 1854, just four months and seven days subsequent to the passage of the act organizing the Territory. Coming there much indisposed, he died on the 18th of the same month of his arrival, having taken the oath of office on the 16th of October, 1854, and closing a two days' term of official life. He has been spoken of as "a man of stern integrity and unblemished character, greatly beloved by those who knew him," and in the peculiar terms of that day, as "an accomplished southern gentleman."
1 Governor Francis Burt: Nebr. State Hist. Soc. Pub., sec. series, I., 25-38; first series, I., 93 (biog. from N. Y. Times, Nov. 9, 1854); II., 19. Savage and Bell, Hist. of Omaha, 50. The following genealogy of the Burt family is furnished by Miss Katharine Burt, daughter of Gov. Francis Burt:
Harwood; after Rev
MATTHEW BURT [b. before 1732, Mecklinburg, Va.: m., olution, moved to Edgefield, S. C.; d., ———] had 14 children: Harwood, Matthew, Philip, Edward, John, Francis, William, Robert, Garland, Moody, Susan, Martha, Mary, Ann. FRANCIS BURT [b. about 1774; m. Katharine Miles (dau. of Aquila Miles, and Harriet Giroud who was dau. of Jourdan, dau. of French Huguenot, and who had 8 children: Susan, Rebecca, Katharine. Pamilia, Amelia, Jack, Lois, Aquila); d., -] had 10 children: Louis, Matthew, Oswald, Armistead, Francis, Erasmus, Harriet, Eliza, Katharine, Pamilia. FRANCIS BURT [b. Jan. 13, 1807; m., 1831, Georgiana Hall, dau. George Abbott Hall of Charleston (son of Geo. A. Hall and Lois Matthews, sister of Mrs. Thomas Hayward whose husband was signer of Declaration of Independence) and Anne Dawson (b. Oct. 9, 1774; dau. John Dawson and Joanna Mouck; descendant Dr. Henry Woodward; m., 1806)] had six children: Frank (d. 1850), Georgiana (m. William H. Dawson, 1854; d. 1882), Harriet (m. D. M. Young, 1868), Armistead (m. Laura Rippeton, 1887), Joanna (m. George Robert, now deceased, 1879), Katharine (b. 1842, lives Macon, Ga.), Mary (m. William A. Johnston, 1871; d. 1879), George Abbott ("Frank"; m. Minnie Nutting, 1881).
The Secretary of the Territory, T. B. Cuming, of Iowa, immediately assumed the duties of acting-governor, and his procla mation, announcing the sorrowful death, draping the national flags, and appointing an escort, was the first executive utter
ACTING-GOVERNOR THOMAS B. CUMING.
Oct. 18, 1854 to Feb. 20, 1855, and Oct. 25, 1857 to Jan. 12, 1858.
The first Territorial Legislature of Nebraska convened January 16, 1855, Acting-Governor Thomas B. Cuming delivering the message. In that document he said:
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. He spent but a few weeks of suffering among us, and his grave in a far off State is only another tie of union between communities widely severed, who will revert to his memory with fraternal pride, and to his untimely decease with sympathetic sorrow.
There were no unpleasant discriminations to subtract from the universal esteem in which his manly and amiable traits were held by an enlightened people; and the fact that South Carolina has given us one of her distinguished sons, is accompanied upon your record by the expression of your undivided respect and affection.1
The Territory being without a system of civil or criminal law, or corporations, financial institutions, or public works, as railroads, bridges or highways, the foundations were to be laid, and superstructures erected. In the absence of financial resources, appeals were made for congressional aid. in behalf of the Pacific railroad, telegraph and mail facilities, a chain of military posts for emigrant protection, and land donations for all conceivable purposes.
Having hoped for the arrival of Governor Burt's successor up to the meeting of the legislature, and not wishing to pledge Council Journal, 1st session, pp. 8-9.
him to any specific policy, the acting-governor dealt in brief and general allusions and closed as follows:
I could not forbear, gentlemen, in transferring to another the trust reposed in me, from expressing a pride that, our Territory being thus speedily built up as another arch in the national fabric, your public acts and counsels will contribute to defend and perpetuate the Union and the Constitution of the United States as the only sure foundation of our civil liberties. I trust that your deliberations, by the blessing of Divine Providence, may be conducted with efficiency and prudence, and that the most ardent hopes of each one of you who have confronted the hardships and trials of pioneer life, may be realized in the promotion of the lasting good of our vast and promising young Territory.1
When the 4th Legislative Assembly convened December 8tb, 1857, Secretary Cuming, being again acting-governor, delivered a message congratulatory and instructive:
We are assembled today under the most favorable auspices. The Territory of Nebraska has, thus far, achieved all that her friends could ask. Her early organization and rapid progress have signally illustrated the safety and expansive force of the principles of the Federal compact, from which naturally sprang her organic act.
On account of Nebraska's close proximity to the Anti-Slavery strife in Kansas, where the slave power was determined to enthrone the "peculiar institution," and the resident citizens were equally devoted to the free soil and free men, the governor made the following allusions:
Although lamentable dissensions have given to our sister territory a wider notoriety, we may well congratulate each other upon the verification of the political truth, "Happy is that people whose annals are tranquil." Safe, thus far, from the interference of reckless agitators and the mad efforts of intolerant fanatics, we can furnish to the world an enviable proof of the legitimate effect of the genius and spirit of our republican institutions.
Among his recommendations he mentioned the fact that the Council Journal, 1st session, 12.
citizens of Omaha had contributed $50,000 to aid in completing the Capitol building for which Congress should reimburse them; and that the government should give the territory a surveyor general; distribute troops along the emigrant line of travel; make appropriations for railroad construction and for bridging the rivers and streams on the United States mail routes. He drew a very true picture of the evils of unrestricted and negligent banking and demanded all the safeguards that prudence could dictate.
The few days allowed for a session of the legislature had demonstrated the fact that legal enactments were limited, confused and contradictory, and needed constant amendments and comparisons with the legislation of older communities.
The thoughtful reader will understand that the laws, regulations and customs of a new and formative society will be constantly superseded by the progress of intellectual and physical development.
This final message of Governor Cuming closed as follows:
have thus presented to you, gentlemen, plainly and hurriedly, such considerations as have occurred to me, uncertain, until the eve of your assembling, whether in my incidental position, such a communication would be required. Once before we have met under similar circumstances. Since that initial period, the bitterness of sectional strife has been measurably allayed. Strange faces and new interests have taken their places upon the stage and many of the actors in our early history have passed away, or been lost in the throng of events. Men, out of repair politically and morally, will continue to be prostrated, one by one, and their names expire with the forgotten influences of the past; but our powerful young Territory will move on with augmented and prevailing force and realize, in its future fortunes, all that human hope or ambition can anticipate or wish. Acting for that Territory in a coordinate capacity, and in view of the mutations of public affairs, and in the vicissitudes of life, permit me to assure you, each and all, that I cherish a sincere desire for your success, individually, as well as in your endeavors to promote the public good. May no personal resentment or local alienations hereafter mar the harmony which should inspire the intercourse of the representatives of the government and of our people. May no