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tions at law, was passed in November, 1858, and took effect April 1, 1859.
The distinction between actions at law and suits in equity, however, was not abolished until 1867. The credit of this change, which is so important in the administration of justice, is due to the efforts of Hon. W. F. Chapin, then of Cass county, speaker of the house in the second session of the state legislature. The 1858 session of the legislature also passed a Criminal Code, which, in deference apparently to Governor W. A. Richardson, of Illinois, was copied from the laws of that state and continued in force until 1873.
The legislature of 1855 also created a number of counties and described their boundaries as accurately as possible, as but a small part of the territory had been surveyed at that time. It also granted charters to educational institutions like "Simpson University” and other like schools.
It granted special charters to railways, cities, ferries, bridges, etc. These laws indicate the spirit of progress which pervaded the early settlers and their determination to make Nebraska one of the leading states in the nation.
But few persons who have not had actual experience know the hardships and obstacles encountered by the pioneers of a new country, but these difficulties were met bravely and with a determination to overcome them. The new settler on the prairie, it is true, has a claim upon the land he has settled upon, but, as a rule, every pound of fuel must be purchased, as well as all lumber, brick, and lime for his house, etc., and in most cases he must hire it erected. He must provide suitable out-buildings for his stock. If he has sufficient means to pay for all these things and crops are reasonably good, ordinarily he will soon be on the high road to prosperity. But if crops fail, or severe illness affects him or his family, the probabilities are that it will require a great deal of courage and self-denial of both himself and wife to succeed. Such people, however, possess the necessary brain and brawn to found a new state upon the foundations of justice and equal rights, and to protect and uphold the rights and duties of the state and nation.
Forty-three years ago western Iowa from Marshalltown to the Missouri river was very sparsely settled. A large part of the public lands of the western part of that state had been entered by speculators with land warrants. These warrants were worth about one dollar per acre in cash. In May, 1856, a land grant of alternate sections of public lands across Iowa was made by congress to form lines of railway in that state. This caused a withdrawal for a time of the public lands of Iowa from pre-emption or private entry, hence in the fall of 1856 and spring of 1857 there was quite an influx of settlers into this then territory. Most of these were worthy people and good citizens with but little means. They settled at various points, usually near streams and timber. They were not required to prove up until just before a public sale. In the latter part of 1857, the owners of land warrants induced the president to order a public sale of lands in the territory. This caused the settlers to complete their pre-emptions. Many had to borrow 160 acre land warrants to enter their land, and secured the same by a mortgage thereon. The usual price of warrants on credit was $280, due in one year.
The result in every case, so far as I know, was that the mortgagee obtained the land.
With the passage of the homestead law a new policy was inaugurated in favor of actual settlers, which has done so much to add to the population and wealth of the state.
There have been but few cases of mob violence in the territory or state—the sentiment of the great mass of people being that the law furnishes an adequate remedy and that mob violence should be deprecated.
The character of our people from the first is exemplified in our schools and churches. These are found side by side in every city and village. The large amounts voluntarily paid each year for the support of the churches and religious institutions is more than equalled by the taxes levied to make our schools free, and bring them to the highest degree of efficiency.
In some of the western states there has been a tendency to squander the public lands granted by the general government
for educational purposes, but not so in this state. The framers of the constitution of 1866 desired to prevent these lands from passing into the hands of speculators, therefore the first constitution fixed the maximum price at $5 per acre, although there were not 1,000 acres in the state that could then be sold at that price. The constitutional convention of 1875 increased the minimum to $7, and in all cases the lands were not to be sold below the appraised value. The effect has been to lay the foundation for a magnificent school fund that will soon provide free schools for every school district in the state.
I do not think the first session of the legislature had any particular influence in shaping public sentiment, but public sentiment,—the general desire of the people,—-controlled the legislature, and we have to-day the same desire of the people of the state for fair, equal, and just laws.
NEBRASKA WOMEN IN 1855.
By Harriet S. Mac Murphy. Read before the Society January 12, 1897.
“The women of 1855," said Mr. John Evans, “why, the women in Nebraska in 1855 were Pawnee squaws.”
Though joking, Mr. Evans was right, if majority in numbers be considered, and we of the Caucasian race are so prone to ignore the prior rights of our dusky sisters on this western continent that he was the only one found even to hint of their existence when asked about the women of Nebraska.
Let me, therefore, inspired by his example, speak of those who, by right of occupancy, as well as of numbers, should justly be given first place among the women of 1855.
Who that lived among them in those early days does not carry a vivid mind picture of the silent, noiseless beings whose moccasined feet trod the narrow trails or the grassy prairies, bearing upon their backs always a burden; for they were the burden-carriers, the workers, the slaves. And such various burdens! A broad band of tanned skin around their foreheads, and extending down their backs, held sometimes a large bundle of wood, sometimes a sack of meal or flour, traded for with fruits or skins or moccasins at the nearest trading post; sometimes a blanket full of “squaw” corn, and sometimes a board to which was tightly strapped a papoose, wrapped in calico and blanket until it looked like a mummy, but for its ever-moving, bright black eyes.
Ah, the skins they tanned, the meats they dried or jerked, the moccasins they made, the corn they planted and gathered, the journeys they took following their chase-loving lords, of which no record remains! They are almost gone, but let us stop and recall for a moment their share, so great and yet so unacknowledged, in the era of aboriginal Nebraska life.
Sometimes one among them attracts passing notice, and of such in Nebraska was Nekoma, daughter of an Ayeoway (Iowa) chief, who became first the wife of Dr. Gayle, and later of Peter A. Sarpy, and whose only child, Mary, was the mother of the La Flesches, women of more than ordinary ability in the Omaha tribe. A stately woman she, as the early settlers tell of her, quiet and dignified, able to command respect of even such a fierytongued despot as Sarpy, the then ruler of Indian and white man alike, through the mysterious power of the Great American Fur Company. And well she might, for it was reported of her that she once carried him, when sick with the mountain fever, many miles on her back to a place of aid and safety.
There are two other classes of women who have silently labored and endured on these great western plains, and passing away have left scarcely a trace; the women of that strange French-Canadian or Creole race that came down the lakes from Canada, or up the rivers from the Gulf, following their waterloving lords, who built rude cabins beside the streams and constructed flat boats on which they crossed from shore to shore, westward bound; and the wives of that still stranger people, the Mormons, who wearily trod the westward trail which they had been taught to believe led to the land of promise. If we could but embody them how strangely they would appear at this day, following behind the two-wheeled cart, often, which bore all their worldly wealth, and at eventide stopping beside the sunflower-lined roadside to cook the meal of bacon and bread over the tiny fire made from rosin weed and buffalo chips.
While they were silently doing their part in this beginning of the settlement of a new country, the pioneers who should take final possession of the land and build lasting records of their presence, were advancing from the east, and in this westward march women again were taking a place.
First in the procession were the missionaries; and the names of Merrill, Dunbar, Allis, Gaston, Platt, Hamilton, and others are conspicuous in the records of those early days. It is noteworthy, too, that the missionary women are oftener mentioned