« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
he sought to establish on these plains an educated and prosperous commonwealth. No man ever labored more faithfully in the cause of democracy and good government; and Omaha and Douglas county often honored themselves by honoring him, calling him frequently to the highest positions of trust and responsibility, and always with beneficent results to the community. And in 1866, when the first state legislature selected United States senators—without a caucus, and without solicitation on his part—the democrats, twenty-seven in number and only seven in minority, with hearty spontaneity gave every vote to Andrew Jackson Poppleton. Again, in 1868, Mr. Poppleton was called by the democracy of the state of Nebraska to make a campaign for congress against Hon. John Taffe; and no one who heard Mr. Poppleton in that series of speeches will ever forget his eloquence. His well-trained mind, his vast natural ability, his tremendous acquirements, his glowing earnestness which warmed every word, and a presence which inspired confidence, made him a master; and the majesty of his oratory at that time has never been surpassed in the state. Truthfully, ably, conscientiously, for more than thirty years Mr. Poppleton advocated the principles and policies of a genuine democracy. As a propagandist of the true economic and civic faith which can alone save popu. lar government from overthrow and destruction, for nearly forty years Mr. Poppleton has stood pre-eminent in the northwest, and, intellectually, the peer of any lawyer or publicist in the American Union.
But, alas, in the early afternoon of a most useful and successful life, Mr. Poppleton is irrevocably bereft of the sense of sight -stricken with absolute and incurable blindness.
“Those eyes, though clear
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
SKETCH OF MAJOR J. W. PADDOCK, CHIEF CLERK OF THE FIRST
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. By Hon. J. Sterling Morton, for the January Meeting, 1897, of the 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 Juxury. 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 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 firefighting 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 S. 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