On Line Resources
The Nonpareil - June 23, 1898
• THE NONPAREIL'S •
History of Merrick County
• From "the beginning" until the year 1895. •
THE BURLINGTON COMES.
HE final chapter of Merrick County's railroad history until the present time is found in the successful attempt on the part of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad to avail itself of the opening afforded by the Midland Pacific agitation. From 1875 to 1879 there was little public attention paid to the railroad project, although many of the prominent men of the county had not relinquished the hope that a competitor to the Union Pacific might yet be secured. To this condition of the public mind the announcement made in July, 1879, that a new proposition was in process of submission by the Burlington, was as fire touched to dry fuel. Of the occasion The Courier of July 17th, 1879, says:
Hardly had the news reached us of the large majority with which the bonds had carried in Hamilton County when our citizens were thrown into considerable excitement upon learning that County Clerk Holden had just received from Manager Touzalin, of the B. & M. R. R., a proposition to the people of Merrick County to extend the line of their road from Aurora to Central City for the sum of $75,000 in bonds. Promptly upon receiving the letter a meeting of the residents of the county--as many as were able to be present--was called to meet at the court house Monday evening Several matters are to be discussed between the road and the county, with a view to presenting the question to the people in as clear a light as possible, so that there need be no mistake as to what they are to vote for. The proposition as it stands at present offers for the aforesaid sum to begin the construction of a road as early as Nov. 1, 1879, and have it completed by June 1, 1880, no bonds to be delivered until cars are running. Bonds are to bear six per cent interest, payable annually, principal due in twenty years from date (July 1, 1880), a sinking fund to be created at the end of ten years from date for the payment thereof. Mr. Touzalin further binds the company, as its agent, in case of a failure of the bonds to carry, to defray the expenses of the election, provided they should not exceed $300. Prompt action is urged, as the company has other arrangements in view should the proposition be rejected. This is the proposition, and a fairer one was surely never offered to any county. The bonds are low, the rate of interest is low, and the terms generally are unexceptionable.
The meeting called to discuss this latest railroad project, after preparing a request that the bond be made a little lighter, petitioned the commissioners of the county to the end that the Burlington's proposition be submitted to the popular vote. Profiting by past experience, the leaders of the new movement endeavored to have the larger share of the bond laid upon Lone Tree Precinct, which would naturally derive the greatest benefit from the railroad when completed.
A meeting of the county commissioners was called for July 25th, and the petition of the mass meeting was presented. Public sentiment being much in favor of putting the matter to a popular vote, the board was not slow to reach such a decision. The record of the board meeting, as reported in the Courier of July 31st, is of sufficient interest to justify publication in full and is as follows:
According to announcement, a special meeting of the commissioners was called last Friday afternoon for the purpose of taking action upon the proposition of the B. & M. Railroad to Merrick County. Mr. Touzalin was present, as well as a large number of county residents. As soon as the meeting was opened, a request was made that Mr. Touzalin say a few words to the people in regard to the new railroad. Mr. Touzalin then briefly stated the intention of the company, explaining that he desired to make the proposition as fair as possible. For that purpose the bond had been cut down to the lowest figure--$60,000. The company had offered to pay all the expenses of the election in any event, whether the bonds were carried or not. The amount of bonds had been divided up--$40,000 county and $20,000 Lone Tree Precinct, giving an equable taxation to all. The bonds were not to be delivered until the road was completed and cars running. The privilege of paying the bonds in fifteen years from date, if desired, was also given, and altogether the proposition was presented in the fairest possible shape. Mr. Touzalin then stated that, situated as we are, with roads building all around us, cut off from the south by the Platte River, it was worth ten times the amount asked to secure the road--in which we readily concur. 'An opportunity then being given to ask questions, Col. Webster. inquired if the company intended to put up a forfeit as a guarantee that the road would come if the bonds were voted. For himself he stated that he was perfectly satisfied of the company's good intentions and good faith in the matter, but thought that to some it would be much more satisfactory, and more promising of success, if the forfeit were filed. Mr. Touzalin stated that he was at present powerless to file such a bond until he had conferred with the owners of the road. Quite an animated discussion then followed, in which the majority present apparently favored the filing of such a bond, while a few opposed it. A vote was finally taken as to the question of submitting the proposition, which resulted almost unanimously in the affirmative. A second vote was then taken to obtain the expression of the meeting in regard to the bond, which resulted likewise in an almost unanimous vote in favor of the forfeit.
The proposition as finally submitted to the voters of the county and of Lone Tree Township was a bond of $40,000 from the former and of $20,000 from the latter, due twenty years from July 1, 1880, or at option of county after fifteen years, the bonds bearing interest at the rate of six per cent per annum.
The fight for the bonds was carried on nearly as aggressively as during the former Midland Pacific turmoils, but owing to the lack of internal opposition no such degree of personal bitterness was engendered as in the previous ones. The Courier, now under the editorial control of A. Fitch and Bro., advocated the bonds with as much earnestness, if not with as radical vigor, as it did those of the Midland Pacific. The union of forces in favor of the proposition was altogether too much for the opposition, and the special election in September, 1879, resulted in a majority of four to one in favor of the bonds, the votes of the various precincts being as follows: Silver Creek--62 for, 19 against; Clarks--67 for, 76 against; Lone Tree--302 for, 6 against; Chapman--50 for, 47 against; Prairie Island--13 for; Mead--88 for, 1 against; Prairie Creek--83 for, 4 against; Loup--74 for; Central--35 for, 2 against; Vieregg--3 for, 89 against; Midland--75 for. Total--862 for, 244 against--a majority of 374 in favor of the bonding of the county for the new railroad.
Unlike the Midland Pacific, the Burlington availed itself of the opportunity offered, and before June 1st, 1880, Merrick County was in possession of the competive road for which it had been laboring for eight years. The coming of this branch of the B. & M. marks the last railroad development of the county up to the present time, so far as new lines are concerned. Various hopes have been raised from time to time by rumors that some new company intended to include some portion of the county in its proposed route, but at the date of this writing (1898) all such have failed to materialize.
The history of the Midland Pacific struggle, culminating in the coming of the Burlington branch, is one of the most interesting, and yet one of the most unfamiliar, portions of the history of this county, having exhibited throughout its entire course an almost complete array of all those contradictory influences which are met with in the growth of the average western community. At least it is certain that the remembrance of the exciting times which accompanied the long contest for a second railroad will not soon fade from the memory of those who participated therein.
© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller