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Merrick County
On Line Resources

The Nonpareil - June 9, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.




 LetterHE struggle for a second railroad could not long be kept down. In 1875 another proposition was made by Dr. Converse, and the controversy opened up with far more intensity and bitterness than in the contest of 1872-3. In the Lone Tree Courier of May 20th, 1875, under the editorial management of R. F. Steele, appeared the following article, under the heading "Midland Pacific":

   At the railroad meeting held at the court house on the evening of the 12th inst., the proposition of Dr. Converse was accepted by an almost unanimous vote. We certainly regard this as a most favorable omen, and with all due respect to what opposition was made to the movement, we still think that, when the time comes that Merrick County is for the last time called upon to speak emphatically and to the point, to answer that all important question, "Railroad or no railroad?" those same voices will be heard declaring manfully for the road. Shall we suffer $300,000 of taxable property to be lost to us? Shall we permit our lands to deteriorate yearly in value instead of increasing? Shall we allow our grain to be eaten up by exorbitant freights? Shall we pay $11 per ton for coal instead of $5? Shall we allow that crushing burden and overbearing monopoly, the U. P., to forever grind Merrick County into pulverized insignificance? .... We think Merrick County will resolutely rise in its power, its energy, and its strength, and declare almost with one voice, "as honest men, as true fathers to our children, as workers for the interests of the county in which we have made our homes, for the sake of our families, our prosperity and our pockets, we are for the railroads now and forever!"

    This fiery appeal was the signal for the active campaign. Dr. Converse came personally to Central City and stated his proposition, which was, as finally set forth in a special election proclamation, that the county should bond itself for $130,000, in return for which the Midland Pacific was to extend its line from York to an intersection with the Union Pacific at Central City, and plank its bridge over the Platte in such a manner as to make it available as a wagon bridge. The election was set for the 2nd day of August, 1875. We shall not attempt to enter into the details of the contest, except as they are contained in the following letter received by us from Mr. Steele in February of the present year. To give our readers the full benefit of the letter we begin it at a period beyond which we have already described the progress of the bond fight:

    In 1875 I came up from the Gulf of Mexico and purchased Mr. Hutching's interest in the Courier and commenced writing immediately about quite a number of things of which I was totally ignorant. I never knew how it was, exactly, but one, day I wrote an editorial headed 'Why Not?" in which the suggestion was made that perseverance generally conquers, and that it might be a good thing to again try to carry the bonds. The result of this amateur attempt to mould public opinion was a surprise to me. I made acquaintances rapidly. It seemed that the Courier office became at once headquarters for the "Bong Tong" of Merrick County. Men flocked there daily--county officers, politicians, ministers of the gospel, school teachers and business men generally. Then we would discuss the bond question and I began to learn something about the matter. Ike Traver, Billy Letcher, Jim Ratcliff, N. R. Persinger, Wes and Tim Sparks, Johnny Patterson, Col. W. H. Webster, besides a lot from Hall, Howard and adjoining counties made the Courier office headquarters. A mass meeting was called and we shook the red rag at the Union Pacific bull in great shape. Then up came Dr. Converse and T. P. Kennard from Lincoln, and we held another hilarious meeting. Another proposition was submitted and this brought forth a young man who has since. achieved considerable notoriety in Nebraska---Senator John M. Thurston. He was sent up from Omaha by the U. P. to talk against the bonds, and Dr. Converse hired Mr. Sessions, of Lincoln, to speak in their favor. Thurston and I spoke in every school house in the county; that is, I spoke in one, and Thurston spoke in all the rest of them.
   But the heroic efforts of the Courier editor and his allies were unequal to the task, and the Midland Pacific scheme was defeated in the election. Charges of bribery were freely made and some of them sustained, although the guilty parties were never punished. The extent of this demoralizing practice may be seen by a reference to the Courier of July 22, 1875, in which a signed communication contains the statement that one of the county commissioners was offered $4,000 by an agent of the Union Pacific if he would vote to reconsider the action of the board by which the proposition was laid before the voters of the county. Mr. Steele himself says:

   Although, as a newspaper man, I was entitled to transportation, and did have it on all other roads, the U. P. called in my pass. Jay Gould sent an agent to we and offered me $700 for editorial control of my paper one week. I offered to sell him the paper, but my price was too high.

   Such was the height of public indignation that an agent of the Union Pacific who had been buying votes in the neighborhood of Central City was frightened out of town, and fled for fear of his life to a neighboring village, where he boarded a train and made his way as quickly as possible to Omaha.

   The sentiment which this defeat aroused among the bond advocates of the county is more or less accurately expressed by the following extract from the Courier of August 5th, 1875:

   A word has gone forth throughout this state of Nebraska, to the effect that the bonds in Merrick County were defeated. The impression spreads throughout this land that a majority of the residents of this county answered for themselves at the polls last Monday, and defeated the measure. Outside of this county, in Omaha, in Grand Island, anywhere on the face of God's green earth, we care not what the impression is, or may be. But within, the limits of Merrick County, within the reach of the circulation of this humble western newspaper, the facts--the stern, damning, dishonorable facts--shall be known and felt, until the same relentless hand which has crushed the citizens of this unfortunate locality down to the dust, has also suppressed our voice and placed beyond our reach the means whereby this people can know and feel the truth. Merrick County has not voted down the bonds to aid in the extension of the Midland Pacific through the county. Merrick County has not voted against the only means by which she can ever escape the ruinious freight tariff in the west. But her enemies, by fraud, by chicanery, by lies, by bribes, by downright dishonesty and dishonorable practices, have subjected her to a defeat which means ruin, to a result which, if not alterd, will eventually place, her far beyond the help of capital, enterprise or any inducements to emigration [probably intended for immigration].

   That this feeling of anger against the Union Pacific was not altogether unjustified was evidenced by the exposure of the attempt at bribery, as spoken of in the fore part of the chapter, and by the withdrawal of passes from all those who had worked in favor of the bond measure.

   In December of the same year still another movement was made toward securing the desired competitive railroad. The "Midland Pacific" was given a new name--that of the "Nebraska Railroad"--and a third special election held. The Union Pacific did not take so radical a part in this contest as in the previous ones, and the bonds carried by a majority of fifteen votes.

   All the efforts thus far put forth, however, were to come to naught, for the bonds were never claimed by either the "Midland Pacific" or the "Nebraska Railroad," and it was not until five years later, when the Burlington & Missouri Railroad took up and put through, without great opposition, the bond proposition, that Central City at last secured its second railroad. The details of this last railroad bond fight will be reserved for a later chapter.

NOTE.--From Mr. J. B. Sagerty we have obtained a "list of registered voters for Lone Tree Precinct (3), Merrick County, Nebraska, for election of November 5th, 1872." It was compiled about two months later than the list from which the names appearing in Chapter XV were taken, and includes nearly one hundred names which do not appear in the September list. Mr. Sagerty's paper bears the certificate of the register and appears to be in every way authentic. The new names appearing thereon are as follows:

Ashley, S. F.

Eddy, G. P.

Miller, Washington

Smeltzly, Christ.

Applegate, James H.

Fouts, Elzy

McCathron, Peter

Skinner, Q. B.

Bruno, Henry C.

Farrell, John

Moore, George G

Sherlock, Henry

Baird, Francis A.

Fales, Z. H.

Myers, Francis M.

Sagerty, J. B.

Baker, R. C.

Gordon, Henry

Miller, J. W.

Sellars, James

Berry, John S.

Hoff, F. S.

McGavern, Wallace

Sellars, Alexander

Berry, H.

Hayes, John

McConley, Daniel

Stuart, Thomas

Blood, J. M.

Hulce, G. C.

McMahon, John

Sellars, J. L.

Bowerman, Levi

Ireland, Thos. F.

Newman, L.

Scudder, Albert

Bowerman, J. C.

Jones, L. H.

Newcomer, Clark

Stein, Orlando

Burke, Henry

Jones, C.

Nelson, James C.

Templin, Jacob B.

Burk, John F.

Kerr, H. H.

O'Donell, Adam

Tucker, P. C.

Burk, Henry F.

King, Charles W.

Parkhurst, R. T.

Tucker, Homer

Baldwin, R. C.

Lafolletto, Robt. A.

Parkhurst, R. S.

Todd, George

Crites, Wm. H.

Lehmer, Isaac

Persing, C. E.

Travis, R. W.

Combs, Charles

Lehr, D. J.

Persons, H. W.

Tarbell, J. P.

Combs, John

Leininger, Samuel

Parr, W. H.

Vieregg, James

Comstock, Win.

Lyman, C. B.

Powell, Geo. I,

Vansickle, Oliver

Demoss, Wesley

Lebert, Wm. R.

Powell, James E.

White, J. B.

Donor, David C.

Lambert, B. D.

Renshaw, Win.

Wilder, E. H.

Dunn, Wilson

McNulty, James

Roberts, A. C.

Waite, Stephen

DeRock, John

McDermott, Owen

Reynolds, H. D.

Warner, Cornelious

DeRock, C. R.

Mears, Wesley

Rockwell, H. C.

Waters, Henry C.


© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller