Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

the deliverance of thousands of slaves required, first, patriotism, then nerve and energy, such as only great emergencies can cominand.

These reminiscences have been carefully collected together with my own recollections extending back to my twelfth year of age.


By I. A. Fort.

William Wallace Dennison was born at Saybrook, Conn., April 20, 1822, and received his education at Yale. He was descended from a noble English family, a branch of which, emigrating from the parent country, settled in Connecticut about the beginning of the last century. The greater part of his life was spent in government service, particularly that branch of it known as the Indian department. In 1857 he was appointed by President Pierce United States agent to the Pawnee, Otoe, and Missouri tribes of Indians, with headquarters at Nebraska City, which was then in its infancy. Enterprising and public spirited, Major Dennison, together with other kindred spirits, did all in his power to invite immigration into the territory and to further in every way the interests of the growing colony at Nebraska City. Through his instrumentality the Indians under his control and over whom he exercised a most beneficent influence were instructed in the useful arts of civilization and also taught how to live on friendly terms with other Indian tribes, as also with their white neighbors. Treaties greatly to their advantage were, through Major Dennison's influence, concluded with the government, the articles of which were rigidly enforced by him, to the great advancement of the Indians.

In 1859 his friends induced him to stand as democratic nominee for congress, but he was defeated by the republican candidate. During the fall of 1860, his health failing notably, he was advised to try a southern climate for its restoration, in pursuance of which advice he sent in to the Indian department his resignation as agent, and was preparing to proceed with his family to Virginia when the civil war broke upon the country. Certain unscrupulous persons hearing of Major Dennison's

[ocr errors]

intentions, got together a mob of low white men and a few deluded Indians, who, presenting themselves at the major's dwelling, demanded him to deliver up the government money which he then held in trust for the payment of Indian annuities, assigning as a reason for this lawless conduct that Major Dennison was about to go south, being a southern sympathizer, taking with him said public funds. A base and groundless calumny, as after events clearly proved. These lawless men further threatened to burn the dwelling of the agent, and even the whole of Nebraska City, if their demands were not complied with-which threat so intimidated some property holders in the city that they appointed a committee to wait upon him and request that he give up the government money then on deposit in Mr. Ware's bank. This request was, of course, indignantly refused. Finally these miscreants, threatening death to the intrepid defender of his trust, seized and bound him, making him a prisoner in his own house, around which they placed a guard of unprincipled men. To all these threats of violence and death Major Dennison replied, with an undaunted courage born of stern integrity and upright principles, "I prefer death before dishonor."

All the available troops at Fort Leavenworth, the nearest garrison, having been called to Washington to assist at the inauguration of President Lincoln, none could be obtained to quell these disorders, and the governor's authority proved powerless to stay the lawless proceedings. Under these circumstances, his friends urging upon the major the duty he owed to his family and himself to protect his life and honor, advised him to leave the territory, which he did early in 1861, proceeding to Richmond, Va., where he was joined by his family some months later.

The government funds remained in the bank until after the arrival of a newly appointed agent, to whom the boxes of specie were delivered with their seals unbroken and their contents intact.

This incident is given as an illustration of the moral strength and force of character possessed by Major Dennison. At no period of his life did he show more magnanimity of soul and

heroic courage than when, almost alone, he defied the threats and violence of an unprincipled mob.

He took no part in the civil war, his physical condition proving a sufficient exemption from military duties, but through the influence of friends and in recognition of his personal merits, he was given a position in the Confederate treasury department at Richmond, thus securing to himself and family a necessary maintenance until such time as they fondly hoped to return to their western home. But, alas for human hopes and expectations! death claimed his wife in 1862, and his own health rapidly declining, he died in Richmond, on the 16th of July, 1863, at the early age of forty, leaving behind him two orphan daughters to mourn their irreparable loss.

Major Dennison was a man of sterling worth, of spotless integrity, a loyal citizen, and a polished and courtly gentleman, whose untimely death was lamented by hosts of friends north and south, and whose memory is held in benediction by those who loved him.


Read before the Society at the opening of the Twentieth Session, January 12, 1897.



WASHINGTON, D. C., January 8, 1897.

Mr. Jay Amos Barrett, Librarian State Historical Society, Lincoln,


MY DEAR SIR: I very much regret my inability to be present at the coming session of the State Historical Society. But particularly do I lament the fact that I shall not be there to meet the surviving members of the first territorial legislative assembly who will at that time convene within our lecture room. It will be very appropriate, it seems to me, on that interesting occasion to see what sort of history has been made during the last fifty years in regard to class legislation.

It has been recently declared that under the gold standard the poor are invariably oppressed and made poorer and the rich favored and made richer. It has been declared with wonderful effrontery that the American people have been crushed in their enterprises and industries by the single gold standard. Even from citizens in high positions have come utterances like the following:

"The promulgation of the gold standard is an attack upon your homes and your firesides and you have as much right to resist it as to resist an army marching to take your children captive and burn the roof over your head."

In view of these wild and false statements, why not look over the economic and social improvements which have come about under this terrible gold standard during the last fifty years? In that time has not imprisonment for debt been abolished? In that time have not laws been passed exempting homesteads

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »