« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
ciety. Therefore I will refrain from commenting thereon. At the organization of the territory by the Organic Act of May 30, 1854, Bellevue cherished what Charles Dickens in one of his works has so aptly termed "great expectations.” A territorial organization meant the location of a capitol; following this the expenditure of thousands of dollars, a horde of officials, the busy hum of business activity, and many other and various et ceteras. These spread out, like a vast panorama, before the minds of the few settlers of that day, and each fancied himself, at no distant period, a governor, judge, United States senator, congressman, or millionaire—mostly preferring the latter title. But while these few settlers proposed, others disposed, and the result was that Omaha obtained the capitol,-another illustration of the inevitable result when cupidity is arrayed against stupidity. In the fall of 1853, citizens of the vast territory known then as Nebraska, but who for convenience lived in Council Bluffs and other places on the east side of the river, to-wit, Iowa and Missouri, held an election at Bellevue and old Ft. Kearney-which is now Nebraska City—and elected a prominent lawyer and citi . zen of Nebraska, to-wit, of the city of Council Bluffs, as their delegate to congress. It is said that by his importunities with the committee on territories at Washington he succeeded in procuring an amendment to the bill that had been already introduced in congress for the organization of the territory, which amendment provided for the formation of two territories—Kansas and Nebraska-instead of one, as before contemplated,-an amendment which I deem it was not very difficult to obtain, as it would provide double the number of paying positions to be filled by patriotic politicians.
During the summer of 1854, the officials appointed under the provisions of the Organic Act came to Nebraska, most of them locating for the time being at Bellevue. Many others came, some locating in Bellevue, others on lands adjoining, with a view of making thereof farms, or possibly town lots. As the lands were not yet surveyed, trouble often arose over the possession of those claims and the boundaries thereof. In order to
settle those difficulties a claim club was organized, whose province it was to “hear and determine” the rights of parties. From its decision there was no appeal. A perusal of the records of this “Bellevue Settlers' Club” will disclose the fact that about 125 persons became members thereof, or at least were members thereof in the fall of 1854. Among the names there registered we find judges, lawyers, ministers, and other officials, to-wit, Rev. Wm. Hamilton, Judge Fenner Ferguson, Gov. M. W. Izard, C. T. Holloway, Silas A. Strickland, John M. Thayer, L. B. Kinney, A. W. Trumble, Reuben Lovejoy, Stephen Decatur, and others. In their rules, they claimed the right to hold three hundred and twenty acres of land each against all comers.
The first Masonic lodge organized on the west of the Missouri river was in the "Old Trading Post" here, in March, 1854. The Hon. H. T. Clarke was the first person made a master Mason in the territory. The lodge has since been removed to Omaha, but it still bears its old name and number, "Nebraska, No. 1." For a few days in 1854 the blighting curse of slavery desecrated our fair soil, but it found no safe place upon which to plant its feet and soon fled to other parts. Judge Edward R. Hardin, appointed as one of the United States judges for the territory, arrived here with his colored body servant,”-a mild term for "slave,"--and remained here but a short time, when he went to Nebraska City. What is now Sarpy county was at that time a part of the county of Douglas. A strong rivalry existed between Omaha and Bellevue as to the location of the capitol. This antagonism entered into the election that fall for members of the legislature. In the Bellevue district the Hon. J. Sterling Morton, Stephen Decatur, and Silas A. Strickland were unanimously elected, but the Omaha interest was too powerful and these embryonic law-makers, for reasons of state, were at that time denied the opportunity of feathering out into full-fledged statesmen. Omaha was apparently afraid of Bellevue, and I believe that I may truthfully add that this fear had not entirely disappeared until after the location of the terminus of the Union Pacific railway and the
final location and completion of the bridge over the river at that point.
In 1856, the legislature granted a charter incorporating the “City of Bellevue,” and until 1874 a city government was carried on, with its paraphernalia of mayor, aldermen, etc. The last election for these officials was in 1874, when S. D. Bangs was elected mayor. As his successor was never elected, it may be that he is holding down that seat to the present day. For the past twelve years Bellevue, as an incorporation, has been acting under the state law for the government of "cities of the second class and villages," and its municipal affairs are managed and directed by a board of five trustees, elected annually. Its plat is the same as that of the former city, as it was originally surveyed and platted by Hamilton and Schimousky-the latter being an exile from Poland, an excellent surveyor, and an expert draughtsman. Both of these died some years since. In the same year-1856–a large log building was erected for hotel purposes and stands alone in the line of buildings erected for that specific purpose. It was destroyed by fire in 1858. It was named the “Benton House,” in honor of Thomas H. Benton, Jr., a nephew of Thomas H. Benton of senatorial fame. The “Register” of this hotel is in the public library at Omaha, and this connection I may add that I believe that the old desk used by D. E. Reed, the first postmaster, is at the Blackbird mission. The legitimate home for both these articles is in the archives of the State Historical Society, and I would suggest that negotiations should at once be opened to secure them for that purpose. At the organization of the county of Sarpy, in 1857, Bellevue was designated as the county seat, and so remained until New Year's day, 1876, when in obedience to the mandate of the people the county seat was removed to Papillion. In 1883 the Presbyterians located a college at Bellevue, the Hon. H. T. Clarke having made a donation of 240 acres of land for that purpose, and has since erected thereon a commodious brick edifice for college purposes. The building is known as Clarke Hall. Just outside of the village limits the United States government
has located what is known as Fort Crook, and erected there a large number of fine, substantial, and commodious buildings, expended a vast amount of money, and when fully completed and equipped will here have one of the best forts in the United States.
Many other incidents might have been added, but this paper has already been extended to too great a length. Yet I will here reiterate my former statement, that the history of Bellevue, when fully written and understood will stand out prominently in the history of Nebraska. Permit me, in closing, to briefly state a few of its prominent features.
Here the American Fur Company early established an important trading post.
Here was erected the first building on Nebraska soil.
Here the first white child born on Nebraska soil first beheld the light of day.
The first native born Nebraskan that represented any portion of Nebraska in our state senate was born here-Hon. Harry F. Clarke.
Here was held the first teachers' institute organized west of the Missouri river.
I here acknowledge valuable hints from Hon. J. Sterling Morton, Hon. B. R. Stouffer, Mr. Henry Fontanelle, Mrs. Louis Neals, and Miss M. E. Hamilton.
Read before the State Historical Society, January 14, 1896, by I. A. Fort.
Edward Morin was born in Montreal, Canada, on the 28th day of September, 1818, of French-Canadian parentage. In the year 1835 he left the city of his birth, and following the course of the setting sun moved westward. The spring of 1836 found him on his way southward to the leading metropolis of the south, New Orleans. Remaining a few months in this city, he took passage on the Mississippi river packet United States for St. Louis. Here he remained a few months, making the acquaintance of the French-American residents of that city. While here he decided to enter the employ of the American Fur Company as a voyageur. The work to be performed was that of a packer, carrier, and boatman, conveying the articles sold to the different trading points that had been established by the company and bringing back in return the articles that they had obtained from these stations to one of the central trading posts on the Missouri river. The goods obtained were principally robes and furs. These were afterwards, when sufficient quantities had been collected, packed away in Mackinaw boats that the company had constructed, and then a fleet was made up and the boats were floated down to St. Louis, or sometimes steamboat would take them down. The principal points where this company carried on their business were at Fort Pierre, Fort Union at the mouth of the Yellowstone, and one with Mandans, or old Fort Lookout, Fort Benton being one of the highest points on the Missouri river where their posts were established. The Indians that he traded with were the Poncas, Omahas, Pawnees, Sioux, Mandans, Cheyennes, Black Feet, and Crows. In that early day the different tribes carried on a war with one another. All the Indians with whom he came in contact were possessed