« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
delphia, he has lived to find that great city grown all about the farm house of his early days. November 15, 1853, he crossed into this country before it was Nebraska, after long service as a civil engineer in Iowa. He had, indeed, laid out a number of cities, including Burlington and Council Bluffs, and to his hands fell the work of laying off the future metropolis of Nebraska. When a member of the council in the first assembly, Mr. Jones was in his 42d year, so that now you would find him as you would expect to find him, with snow-white locks of his fifth score. It shall be left for some comrade of his to write his biography ere long, in a manner befitting his long and active career.
Another member of the council, J. C. Mitchell, seems to be known principally as the one who was made sole commissioner to locate the capitol buildings. This was a very complex deal in the location of the site of the territorial edifice, and Mr. Mitchell was perhaps made the one commissioner because he could be used better than a committee of more than one. The town of Florence is said to have been named by him in honor of his niece, Florence Kilbourn, and there he is buried, together with his wife and adopted daughter. I have been unable to find anything further.
Origen D. Richardson, member of the council from Douglas, was very efficient in the work of legislation, having been lieutenant governor of Michigan previous to coming west. He was a native of that state, and shares with J. B. Robertson the distinction of having been born in the eighteenth century. In the Michigan Pioneer Collections occur very many references to him, in connection with early Michigan history. He figured in Oakland county affairs, and in connection with the town of Pontiac, he was recorded as one of the contributors toward the building of one of the first churches in that town. He was lieutenant governor during the presidency of the elder Harrison, and was member of the convention of 1836, during the excitement of the Toledo War, as it was called. It is a curious circumstance that one of the defeated candidates in that campaign was the father of Andrew J. Poppleton.
Concerning Joseph L. Sharp, I know as yet very little. sons and a daughter now live in Idaho, and from them I have reason to believe a biography is being prepared. Mr. Hanscom, of Omaha, who was speaker of the house, is able to narrate much more graphically than I how Colonel Sharp came to be elected president of the council. He was in western Iowa early enough to take part in sending Hadley D. Johnson to congress in 1853.
In addition to what Mr. Bennet has written concerning Frank Welch, I may add that he was a member of the council at its ninth session, and was not only member, but also president of our first state senate.
Mr. John Evans, of Omaha, and Henry Sprick, of Fontenelle, have given some information about J. W. Richardson, member of the house. He lived but three years after the close of the session, and was buried at Fontenelle. His wife lived until 1893.
William B. Hail, member of the house, was re-elected four times in succession. He was killed in a railway accident a few years ago.
Of W. N. Byers, one of the most respected and well-to-do citizens of Denver, I need say little. He was listed as a surveyor in 1855; but there is a story of how he moved a printing press to Denver in a very early day, by ox-team, and how under his care there developed a great newspaper, now called the Rocky Mountain News. I am told that it is only recently that he has ceased to edit it.
Permit me to quote from a letter or two recently received from him. Under date of November 17, 1896, he writes: "I fear that I will not be able to attend your annual meeting in January next, much as I would like to. Nor can I think of anything reminiscent of the first legislative assembly of Nebraska that would
likely be interesting. It was a large assembly for the first in a new territory, and it seems to me now that it was a very wasteful and extravagant one. This extravagance ran especially in the line of printing, and before it adjourned the country surrounding the capitol building was literally “snowed under with waste paper in the form of printed bills, journals, roll calls, reports, and such like documents, for which there never had been any use in the world. Some of the members, was alleged, had not well established residence in Nebraska, but were actually residents of Iowa and Missouri. They crossed the river, held elections, and went back to the above named states to sleep. However, that assembly laid a good, broad foundation for what has become the great state of Nebraska.”
Further, under date of December 31, he writes: “The copy of the program for your annual convention is very interesting, and the roll call of the first legislative assembly is like an echo from the long ago. I value it especially. It would afford me great pleasure to attend your annual, but I am still of the opinion that I will be unable to do so.
Perhaps another year I may be able to enjoy a reunion with the Nebraska pioneers—than whom there are none more patriotic, manly, and noble on earth. Wishing one and all a most interesting, harmonious, and profitable gathering, I beg to remain, yours most truly,
“WILLIAM N. BYERS."
William Clancy, mentioned in Judge Bennet's letter, was a young man of 25 from Council Bluffs, a merchant, it is said. Mr. Jones' summary characterization of him is, that "he didn't amount to much.” He kept a saloon, eating house, and general combination known as "The Big Six." During the gold excitement he went to "Cherry Creek,” near by which Denver very shortly sprang into being. One of the streets of that city is named for him. Thence he went to Montana. Whether he died there, as Judge Bennet heard, or whether he may still be living somewhere, as Mr. Grennell thinks, seems impossible to determine. An incident is told of him, jolly Irishman that he was,
that with an eye to the fancy prices of oddities in the East, he trained six elk to the harness and drove them from Denver to New York, only to find that the market was already overstocked with them. He seems to have had more or less of a political bent, for he was the only member of the lower house who was afterwards elected to the upper. In both the third and fourth sessions he was member of the council.
The last one of the members of that pioneer assembly of whom I wish to speak was the first to die. He had not, however, outlived his usefulness here, and now, after the lapse of forty-two years, he still has an unusual claim upon our interest. The legislature adjourned March 16, 1855. In the Council Bluffs Chronotype of April 17 following, I chanced upon the following paragraph:
"Dr. M. H. Clark departed this life yesterday morning at about T o'clock, at St. Mary's. The disease which has terminated thus fatally was pneumonia.
The deceased has long been a resident of this western frontier, and was a member of the upper house of the Nebraska legislature last winter from Dodge county. We understand that the funeral services will take place in this city to-day.”
The intervening years have made it impossible to discover, thus far, where there are relatives of Mr. Clark who can furnish the facts of his life. My knowledge of him is confined to a few hints gathered from sketches of early life on the banks of the Missouri, and from the journals of the first assembly. The history of this man is closely connected with the first election held in the country that was afterward called Nebraska. Mr. Hadley D. Johnson mentions this election especially, in his article entitled “How the Kansas-Nebraska Line Was Established.” The election OCcurred October 11, 1853, at Bellevue. Mr. Johnson calls the voters "impromptu emigrants” from the east bank of the river. The sole object of the election was the praiseworthy one of selecting a delegate to congress who should try to secure the organization of the country west of the Missouri. Besides the election of a delegate, who proved to be, in fact, Mr. Johnson himself, the
offices of territorial governor, secretary, and treasurer were filled. To the office of secretary, Dr. Munson H. Clark was elected.*
Thus it appears that Mr. Clark was active in securing the or. ganization of the country west of the Missouri, and he was entitled as much as anyone to a place in the first assembly of the new territory when congress had created it. Mr. Johnson tells us that this election in the autumn of 1853 was followed by public meetings in Iowa and Missouri, and mentions Judge Bennet and Dr. Clark in connection with “eloquent speeches” and “leading citizens.” To some of the oldest residents of western Iowa, when the right ones have been found, we may look for an account of the previous life of Dr. Clark, in the Missouri country. His record in the council shows him to have been an able member. I cite but one or two things to show the ability of the man and his faith in the western country.
Only six days after the opening of the session, Mr. Clark gave notice of a bill to incorporate the Platte Valley and Pacific Railroad,f and three weeks later this prime mover in the matter, as chairman of the committee on corporations, submitted a report that covers four pages of the printed journal.The report is an exceedingly interesting document indeed, and were there time, it would command great attention as a paper read to the society. Its great argument is the practicability of the Platte valley as a route for a line of railroad between the East and the West. He states that Colonel Leavenworth called attention to the “importance, practicability, and expediency of constructing a railroad by way of the Platte valley to the Pacific.” Rev. J. Parker, J. Plumber, Colonel Fremont, Mr. Whitney, Captain Stansbury, and a thousand others, he says, have urged the same thing. The report gives statistics to show how important this railroad would be. I am sure you will be interested in the last two short paragraphs of the report, because they go far to show the mind of the man.
*A" extra volume is soon to be issued by the State Historical Society which will deal with the years 1852 and 1853, and incidently with this e.ection. The election at Bellevue comprised only one precinct of a general election in an unauthorized Nebraska Territory centering in Wyandotte. † P. 16, C. Journal.
| Pp. 65–69.