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braska legislature more to Stephen F. Nuckolls than to the fact of any long or well-known residence in Nebraska prior to the election.
I was elected as a South Platte man, which meant that I was in favor of the location of the capital at Nebraska City. In other words to remove the capital from Omaha, where Thomas B. Cuming, the secretary, had established it, to a point south of the Platte, where I and my South Platte colleagues and constituents had more corner lots than in Omaha. The corner lot question was the great politieal question at stake between the two Nebraska parties—"North Platte” and “South Platte"-of that early period. Party spirit, of course, ran high, as it naturally does when, as in this case, a great principle is involved in the issue. Just consider how many
“City lots were staked for sale
Above old Indian graves” north of the Platte, at Omaha, and south of the Platte, at Nebraska City. In such trials the issue cannot be found by proofs of the right beyond a reasonable doubt, as in criminal cases, but only by a preponderance of corner lots. And it was so found in this case, in favor of Omaha.
However, I must ask you to pardon these reflections, as I am not writing an essay on the righteousness of mankind, but only a few reminiscences of the early and half-forgotten days of the great state of Nebraska.
The legislature met at Omaha a few weeks after the election. It assembled in the old capitol building situate on the bluff near the Hemden house. All the parliamentary law I knew I had gained from study of Jefferson's Manual, which I had borrowed after my election. Notwithstanding my meagre knowledge of the subject, I was considered by my South Platte colleagues to be the most capable and best equipped member to put into the chair as pro tempo president of the council.
On the day the legislature met feeling between the parties was very hot in regard to the organization of the two bodies. I know that most of the members of the council were very much worked
up, and the greater portion of the crowded lobby was near the fighting pitch. So far as the council was concerned, the South Platte men had the advantage in nerve and tighting quality, and could have bullied the other side successfully. But the lobby was made up of the friends of Omaha. Some of them were armed, and quite as ready and willing as were our side to have the council organized their way peacefully, even if they had to fight for it.
The North Platte members had a further advantage in having several men of brains and experience. 0. D. Richardson, of Omaha, knew more of what the matter in hand was about and how to accomplish it than the entire delegation from South Platte. Besides him on the Omaha side there were B. R. Folsom, and Goodell and other cool, able, and experienced men.
Secretary Cuming, after “swearing in” the members of the house, came up to swear us in. We all stood up and he proceeded to swear us to support the constitution of the United States and the organic act of Nebraska, and was proceeding to swear us that we were all citizens of Nebraska and over twenty: years of age, when I dropped into my seat, pulling Lafe Nuckolls, the "member from Cass," down with me, thereby declining the oath. This I did because of doubts as to my own or Lafe Nuckolls' residence in the territory, and for the further reason that I knew Lafe was not yet twenty. So I kept him company, and afterwards Judge Ferguson came in and administered to us the proper oath, omitting the matter of age and residence. Lafe was a bright and ready fellow. Some one, pending the arrival of Judge F. to swear us in, asked him his age. Lafe an: swered at once: “Ask my constituents, as Henry Clay once said."
This by-play on my part in regard to the oath I suppose furthered my being selected to occupy the chair during the organization of the council. This position I filled as best I could for about an hour, in the midst of great excitement on the part of the members, the lobby, and everybody else in the chamber. What occurred during the short time I presided, or pretended to preside, I cannot remember, except that I most assuredly did
not know “where I was at.” I was put into the chair by a majority of one; but on the vote for permanent president, the Omaha side, having won over one of our South Platte members by offering him the presidency, elected J. L. Sharp, of Richardson county, and I stepped down and out.
Frank Welch was an enrolling clerk of that session, and a good man. He could sketch with his pen almost as well as Thos. Nast, and during the session he made many caricatures of the ridiculous things that occurred. I remember one on the committee of the whole; and another on “the final departure of the gentleman from Cass," as Lafe Nuckolls was called. The latter represented the council in session and Lafe at the door, his right hand extended in farewell to the members, while in his left, rather back of him, he carried his carpet bag, gorged to overflowing with stationery and other accumulated perquisites of office.
J. Waldo Thompson (son of the Widow Thompson who afterwards married Steven Decatur) was our only page that session.
I cannot now recall to mind that I had any pet measure at that session, other than the location of the capitol, nor that I introduced a bill for any purpose whatever, unless it was for a tollroad bridge or ferry charter. There were hundreds of such bills introduced, and all passed, covering every buffalo and Indian trail to and from watering places and fords on the Platte and every other known river or stream in the territory too wide to step across. In respect to private charters this first legislature did all that was necessary so far as they knew at the time. Future legislatures, I am pleased to hear, followed the precedent set by the first upon the discovery of fresh trails and dry creeks in the then unexplored regions of that part of "the great American desert."
But I must cease this gossip about the great state of Nebraska. It is all right now, however crude and uncouth in its beginnings. It has grown many men of ability, quite a number of whom will compare favorably with the average statesmen of our land. And
now she can proudly point to one masterful son, who, in some respects at least, may well be compared to the immortal Lincoln.
ROBERT BATES WHITTED. Written by his brother, J. M. Whitted, of Florence, Nebr. Robert Bates Whitted, who was a member of the first legislature, territory of Nebraska, was born April 26, 1822, in Maury county, Tennessee. His foreparents were of Welsh descent, who came over as disciples of William Penn and settled in Orange county, North Carolina, about 1685. He is of revolutionary stock; both his grandfathers were at the battle of Guilford, North Carolina, and fought under General Green. His father was under Jackson in the war of 1812. Robert's early life was spent on a farm. When he was fifteen years of age his parents moved
a to Park county, Indiana, where they purchased and settled on a farm. Not making a success of farming, his father tried the occupation of a boatman. He lost his life at Vicksburg, Miss., about 1837, and left Robert's mother with but very little means to support the large family. They struggled on in poverty, Robert going to school in winter and working in summer, until he was twenty years of age, when he apprenticed himself to a tanner and currier until he learned the trade. He then started in business for himself and moved to Keokuk county, Iowa, in 1846. He married Lucindy Hurley in 1847. They had four children. In 1852 he came to Council Bluffs, Ia., and when Nebraska was organized, he located his claim in the present site of Omaha. His wife died in 1856. In 1857 he moved to Grayson county, Texas. His two sons, Simeon and Pinckney Whitted, now live in Sherman, Grayson county, Texas. He was thoroughly democratic in his political views. He died in 1864.
JOSEPH D. N. THOMPSON.
Written by John C. Thompson, Omaha, Nebr. Joseph D. N. Thompson, the member of the first legislature of Nebraska from Kanosha, was born in White county, Tennessee, December 22, 1809. While a young man he learned the harness
maker's trade. That, however, did not suit his tastes, so he read law and became an attorney. He was married early in the thirties to Miss Martha Baker, a woman of strong character and maidenly virtues, with whom he lived happily for more than a third of a century—until the day of his death. The early years of their married life were spent in Missouri, and it was while they lived in that state that most of their children were born. The early history of Missouri, if properly and correctly written, would probably show J. D. N. Thompson in his most natural role that of a soldier-for he was captain of the Fifth Missouri militia, and, after that company disbanded, became a member of one of the twelve
month regiments of militià. His daughter, Mrs. Mary Marsh, says her father served in the Black Hawk, the Seminole, the Mexican, and the civil wars; that he was in Colonel Gentry's regiment and was present and participated in the great battle fought Christmas day, 1837, when Old Rough and Ready so severely chastised the Indians, and when Colonel Gentry was killed. Mr. Thompson's record in the Mexican war was that of a daring, courageous, and loyal soldier. It cannot be stated in language any more appropriate than that employed in the obituary notice published in the Nebraska Advertiser at the time of his death. It said: "He was with Colonel Doniphan’s regiment, and participated in a series of marches and hard-fought battles which terminated in the capture of the principal cities of the north of Mexico.” After his return from the Mexican battlefields he was not contented in Missouri. He removed from there to Iowa, then to Nebraska, locating in Kanosha, from which point he was elected as a member of the first house of representatives of Nebraska. This was the only official position, aside from justice of the peace, which he ever filled. After the expiration of his term of office as a representative, in 1855, he removed with his family to Glenwood, Ia. The following year found him on the move again and that time he located in Brownville, Neb. At the breaking out of the civil war he was postmaster of that town, but resigned in order to accept a commission as captain of the First Nebraska under Colonel Thos. J.