"History and Stories of Nebraska"
by Addison Erwin Sheldon

Produced by Connie Snyder

CHAPTER VI (cont.)


Gov. Ezra P. Savage.
(From Clements collection.)

Governor Ezra P. Savage.-- Lieutenant-Governor Ezra P. Savage, of Sargent, became governor on the resignation of Governor Dietrich. He held office one year and eight months. During his term he pardoned former State Treasurer Bartley from the penitentiary. Feeling in the Republican party was so strong against him, that Governor Savage could not be renominated.

Forestry.-- Two large forest reserves in western Nebraska were set apart by the United States Government in 1901. These have since been used as experiment fields for growing trees, mostly evergreens. It is hoped through them to find the best means of covering western Nebraska with groves and forests.

Farmers' Co-operative Unions.- In 1902 a new farmers' movement started in Nebraska. This was a union of farmers to market their own crops. There was complaint that the large elevator companies made too great profits in handling what the farmers grew. As a result of this movement, there are now several hundred farmers' elevators in the state and a large part of the crop is sent to market through them.

Gov. John H. Mickey.
(From Clements collection.)

Governor John H. Mickey.-- In 1902 John H. Mickey, Republican, of Osceola, was elected governor and re-elected in 1904. His term saw a rising tide of prosperity, increased rainfall, higher prices, rise in value of land and large increase in manufactures in Nebraska.

The Return of the Rain. Good Times.-- A return of the rainfall brought fine crops and better times to the whole state and especially to the western part. At the same time there was a great revival of business in the United States. The factories and mines long closed were filled with busy workers. So many workmen were needed, that America could not supply them all and more than a million a year came from Europe to enjoy the good times and high wages here. Farmers in Nebraska found prices for their produce more than doubled and at the same time they were raising larger crops than they had ever grown before.

Alfalfa, Winter Wheat, Sugar Beets.-- Three new crops, alfalfa, winter wheat and sugar beets began to be largely grown in Nebraska about the year 1890. All three had been experimented with for many years in a small way. The state became awake to their value at this time, and their cultivation spread from farm to farm and from county to county. Since then they have brought millions of dollars to the people of the state, and have greatly changed methods of farming. Their influence has only just begun.

A Nebraska Corn Crop.
(From S. D. Butcher collection.)

The Cream Separator.-- Another great change which has come into Nebraska farming, in the past twenty years, has been brought about largely by the cream separator, by which the milk fresh from the cows is separated into cream and skimmed milk, the cream going to butter factories, while the milk is fed upon the farm. Dairy farming, which was almost unknown in the early years of Nebraska settlement, is thus becoming one of the chief industries of Nebraska farming.

Threshing Winter Wheat.
(From S. D. Butcher collection.)

Rise in Price of Land.-- During this period, land has risen very rapidly in price, in eastern Nebraska from $25 and $30 an acre to $100 and $150 an acre, and in western Nebraska from $1.25 an acre to $10, $20 and even $50 an acre. Towns everywhere have grown rapidly. New railroads have been built and for the first time in Nebraska history, there has been a large and constant development of factories.

Irrigation and Dry Farming.-- Two new methods of farming were followed which greatly helped the state. These were irrigation and dry farming, or summer tillage as the latter is sometimes called. Under the former, ditches were dug to carry the water from the streams and spread it out upon the fields. Under this system the waters of the Platte, the Republican, the Loups, the Niobrara and other streams were led out upon the land, making great fields of grass and grain where before little had been raised. By the dry farming method it was found that plowing and cultivating the land without a crop one year would insure a fair crop the next year, even though the seasons were dry.

In Line for a Homestead.
(From S. D. Butcher collection.)

The Kinkaid Homestead Act.-- On June 29,1904, a new homestead act took effect in Nebraska, called the Kinkaid act from Congressman Kinkaid of O'Neill who introduced it in Congress. This act gave settlers on certain parts of the remaining public land in Nebraska, a homestead of 640 acres by living on the same for five years and placing improvements to the extent of $1,000 upon it. About 8,000,000 acres of sandy and rough land remained to be taken under this act. At many land-offices, there was a great rush for this last United States land in Nebraska, and in 1912 there were only 832,750 acres to be taken.

Reclamation Act.-- In 1906 the Reclamation Act, championed by President Roosevelt, made an important change affecting western Nebraska. Under this act, a dam was built across the rocky canyon of the North Platte River near Casper, Wyoming, making a great lake. The surplus water from this lake is brought down across the tablelands of western Nebraska. Already over 100,000 acres have been placed under irrigation by settlers under this act.

Taxes and State Expenses.-- For many years, the state of Nebraska had been running in debt to pay its expenses. This was because state expenses were constantly growing larger and the grand assessment roll was becoming smaller. (The grand assessment roll is the list of all the property in the state made by the assessors on which taxes are levied). During the hard times, after the panic of 1893, the value of property went down. Many people, in order to avoid paying taxes, did not give in to the assessor all that they had. Many taxes were unpaid. To pay its expenses, the state had issued more than a million dollars in warrants beyond its income from taxes. To provide more money, the legislature of 1903 passed a new revenue law the aim of which was to compel everyone to give in all his property for taxation and to raise more money for state expenses. In 1905 the legislature passed another act, laying a special tax to pay off the million dollars of warrants which the state owed. This has now all been paid.

Gov. George L. Sheldon.
(From Clements collection.)

Governor George L. Sheldon. Railroad Regulation. Direct Primaries.-- George L. Sheldon. Republican, of Nehawka, was elected governor in 1906, and held the office two years. During his term, the thirty years' railroad struggle in Nebraska reached some definite results. Free passes on the railroads were abolished, passenger fare reduced to two cents a mile, and a commission of three persons created to regulate the relations of the people to the railroads in the state. A direct primary law was also passed, under which candidates for office must be named by all the voters instead of being selected by delegates in conventions.

Gov. A. C. Shallenberger.
(From Clements collection.)

Governor Ashton C. Shallenberger. Bank Guaranty. Daylight Saloons.-- In 1908 Ashton C. Shallenberger, Democrat, of Alma, was elected governor. During his two-year term, the legislature passed an act providing for a bank guaranty fund to insure people depositing money in banks from losses by bank failure. An act called the "Daylight Saloon Act," requiring liquor sellers to close their places from 8 p. m. to 7 a. m., an act requiring corporations to pay an annual tax, an act to value all the railroad property in the state and an act providing for the election of the peoples' choice for United States Senator, were also passed.

County Option.-- The question of county option, or permitting all the voters of each county to determine whether they would have saloons in that county or not, became the exciting political issue at this time.

Gov. Chester H. Aldrich.
(From Clements collection.)

Governor Chester H. Aldrich.-- In 1910 Chester H. Aldrich, Republican, of David City, was elected governor. County option was the battleground of the campaign and the result was the election of a governor in favor of county option and a legislature opposed to it.

Initiative and Referendum.-- Among the important acts of the legislature of 1911 were the following: An act providing for the initiative and referendum permitting the voters to adopt or reject laws; an act providing for the commission form of government of cities; an act to forbid the selling of seed of any kind having weed seeds therein an act stopping the taxation of real estate mortgages; an act to protect the water in Nebraska rivers and lakes; and an act to secure libraries for the country districts.

Gov. John H. Morehead.

Governor John H. Morehead.-- The Campaign of 1912. At the election November 5, 1912, John H. Morehead, Democrat, of Falls City, was chosen governor. The chief feature of the campaign was the spectacular split in the Republican party between the supporters of President Taft and of Ex-president Roosevelt. A new party, named the Progressive party, was organized, which supported Mr. Roosevelt. In Nebraska the Progressive party and the Republican party united on most of their candidates, but there was much strife and contention in bringing this about and Woodrow Wilson, Democratic candidate for president, carried the state by a plurality of 37,000 over Theodore Roosevelt and a still larger plurality over President Taft. The new legislature chosen, which met January 6, 1913, had 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans in the House, 18 Republicans and 15 Democrats in the Senate. At this election five important amendments were made to the state constitution, making the greatest changes in that document since it was framed in 1875. The new amendments provide for enactment of laws by the people through the initiative and referendum, for elections once in two years instead of every year, for a board of control to manage the state prison, asylums and other institutions, for home rule by cities, for increasing the salaries of members of the legislature from $300 to $600 and limiting the time for introducing bills to the first twenty days of each session.

The Nebraska Indians To-day.-- There have been great changes in the Indian tribes which once called Nebraska their home. The Pawnees, reduced in number to 653, live on their reservation in Oklahoma. Next to the Pawnees on the west is the reserve of the Otoes and Missouris, living together as one tribe now numbering only 411. They have a beautiful rich prairie bordered with timber for their home. Joining the Otoe reserve on the north is the land of the Poncas. Here live the part of the Poncas, 583 in number, who did not return to Nebraska. Thus side by side in the heart of Oklahoma live three tribes of Nebraska Indians. They visit each other and keep alive the memory of the land in the north where they once lived. They still think of Nebraska as their old home and their children grow up hearing, from the lips of the older men and women, many wonderful stories of the old times. The former Nebraska Sioux, who number about 12,000 people, live on their great reservation in South Dakota. They are often seen in the Nebraska towns along the border. Part of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes who once roamed western Nebraska are now in Oklahoma and number about 2,000. The remainder are in Wyoming.

There are at the present time 3,784 Indians in Nebraska. Of these the Omaha and Ponca are the only native Nebraska tribes. The Omaha number 1,276 and live in Thurston County. The Nebraska band of the Poncas has about 290 members and lives at its old home near the mouth of the Niobrara River. The Indians now living in Nebraska who were moved here by the United States are as follows: The Winnebagos, 1,063 in number, live neighbors to the Omahas. Their former home was in Wisconsin and Minnesota. They came to Nebraska in 1865. The Santee Sioux were moved from Minnesota in 1864, and settled in Knox County along the Missouri River. There are 1,155 of them. The Sauk and Fox Indians of Missouri were located in 1861 on a reserve in southeast Nebraska and northeast Kansas. They number about 100.

Rights of Indians.-- All the Indians now living in Nebraska are citizens and have the same right to vote and to hold office that white people have. They own some of the very best land in the state, much of it rented to white farmers. Some of these Indians work hard and are learning the white man's way of living, while others cling to the old life and love to spend their time visiting each other and telling stories of the days before the white men came. Their children go to school and learn the English language, although the Indian languages are still spoken in their homes.

Passing of the Old Life.-- In a few years the old languages and the old Indian ways will be gone forever and nothing will remain of Indian life in Nebraska but its story.

Shipping Nebraska Grain.-- In recent years, a great change has come in the route over which Nebraska grain is shipped to market. In the early years nearly all Nebraska products were shipped east over the railroads to Chicago and the Atlantic ocean. With the building of north and south railroads, a large part is now shipped to the southern states and another large part is sent to the mountain states over the western lines of road.

Free Libraries.-- About 1899 there began in Nebraska a movement to secure free public libraries and reading rooms. In a few of our towns and cities these had been established for many years. The new effort was to make at least one strong library in each county. This movement is still going on and acts of the legislature of 1911 are expected to bring good libraries well cared for within reach of every citizen.

The Women's Clubs.-- In the period between 1890 and 1900 the woman's club movement in Nebraska took an active form. A number of clubs had been organized in earlier years. In 1894 these were brought together in a state federation, new clubs were organized and state conventions held with great interest and enthusiasm. These women's clubs aim to inspire and promote the interests of women and to bring their influence to bear for better schools, better books, better home-making, better government, and a happier and more beautiful state.

Retrospect.-- This story of Nebraska as a state closes with the year 1912. It is one hundred and one years since the Astorians and Manuel Lisa ran their famous boat race for a thousand miles up the Missouri River past our shores. It is fifty-one years since the outbreak of the great civil war between the North and the South, starting from the contest between slavery and freedom in the Nebraska country. The story of our state extends backward and reaches forward and in either direction a child of Nebraska finds it filled with interest and inspiration.

Nebraska a Century Ago.-- Wonderful is the story of the world in these last one hundred years and nowhere more wonderful than here in Nebraska. A hundred years ago, our state was an unknown wilderness called a desert. Upon it roamed 40,000 Indians and millions of buffalo, elk, and deer. Wild geese, swans, ducks and other waterfowl made their nests undisturbed. The wild grass grew every-where, the sod unbroken by the plow. The waters of its streams ran unchecked to the sea.

The mind and hand of man have transformed Nebraska in the past fifty years. A million and a quarter of white people live in a land which supported only one thirtieth as many Indians. Nearly 10,000,000 domestic animals find their food where once were herds of buffalo, elk and deer.

Nebraska To-day.-- If a boy should spend one day only of his life in visiting each Nebraska farm, he would need to live more than five hundred years before he had seen them all. Five hundred cities and villages in our own state are fed from these farms, and the surplus food which we ship to the people of other states and countries every year would fill a million farm wagons or make a railroad train of freight cars long enough to reach from Chicago to Denver.

Nebraska Herds.-- Our herds of horses, cattle, sheep and swine, if driven as fast as a man can walk across a bridge over the Platte River, would make a column 10,000 miles long and be four months in crossing the bridge without stopping to feed or water.

Nebraska Crops.-- Men and women are still living in Nebraska who have seen all these changes. They have seen all the counties, cities, villages and farms of Nebraska created. They have seen the number of bushels of wheat grown in this state increase from 147,000 in 1859, when we shipped our first surplus, to 55,000,000 in 1910, and the number of bushels of corn from about 1,000,000 in 1859 to over 200,000,000 in 1910. Nebraska to-day could give every man, woman and child in the United States two bushels of corn and one half bushel of wheat and still have enough for bread and seed for the people within our state.

The Old Way of Travel and the New.-- Instead of the Indian squaw leading a pony over a dim trail across the sunbaked plains one hundred years ago, with the poles of her tepee dragging at the pony's side; instead of the slowly crawling freight wagon with its twelve yoke of oxen of fifty years ago; we now travel daily in Nebraska by means of a thousand passenger trains, thirty thousand automobiles and, still unsatisfied, are just learning to spread our wings and fly through the air faster than even automobile or express train can travel.

The Telephone.-- When our fathers, the pioneers, settled these prairies, to talk five minutes with the nearest neighbor meant sometimes a day's drive with the fastest team. Now their children and grandchildren sit in their homes and talk with their friends in every county of the state, and if they wish, with friends far away by the lakes or the shore of either great ocean, knowing their voices and even feeling their presence.

Nebraska Schools.-- The schools of Nebraska are famed around the world, for our state has had for many years the largest percentage of any state in the Union of its people able to read and write, and is thus the most intelligent state of the most intelligent nation in the world.

Most of the progress in the Nebraska schools has been made in the past forty years. In that time the number of schoolhouses in the state has grown from about 300 to 7,000 and the number of children in school from 12,000 to 300,000. The rough logs and sod walls of the schoolhouses forty years ago have nearly all been replaced by neat wooden and brick buildings. Instead of the split log seats of the earliest schoolhouses with their home-made desks there are convenient desks of polished wood and metal. In place of the few school books of many different kinds bought by the parents in many different states and brought to Nebraska, each child in the Nebraska schools to-day has free books furnished by the district in which he lives, with maps and charts and apparatus for making experiments never dreamed of by those other children who attended the Nebraska schools in the early days.

Besides these great improvements in the common schools, our state has resolved that her people shall, in the future, excel even more than in the past. For their training in all the arts and trades of life she has added free normal schools for training the teachers, and a free university and agricultural college where a boy or girl may study and practice the best that may be learned for the life of a farmer or engineer or mechanic or any of the callings by which men and women may hope to earn their living and make themselves useful to the state in which they dwell.

Monument to Abraham Lincoln on State House Grounds, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1912.
(Courtesy of Roy Hindmarsh, Lincoln, Nebraska.)

How Nebraska Shall be Prosperous and Free.-- Nebraska is a rich, great and beautiful state. She cannot stop where she now is. It is the law of life that states must grow stronger and wiser and better, or they must decay. It is the people who make a state, and the children to-day make the people of to-morrow. Our fathers first of all made this state free. Then they made it prosperous. They made it thus with labor of muscle and of brain. They did the rough work, they built the bridges, dug the wells and broke the sod. They did not ask an easy time. If they had, Nebraska would never have been built. For us is left to do the finer work, to use the improved ways, to develop the better knowledge. This requires greater skill and finer training and persistent labor.

Hard work and neighborly kindness made life happy for our fathers even in the sod houses and dugouts of the early days. As they grew strong, the state grew strong with them because every man earned his living. No one lived in idleness upon the work of his neighbor. Their children will make a richer and better and greater Nebraska by practice of the two chief virtues which have made the Nebraska of to-day -- honest labor and neighborly kindness.

Map of Nebraska, 1911.


  1. Why was the new capital located where it now is and how did it get its name?
  2. Which would you prefer for a home, a dobie or a dugout, and why?
  3. Why were railroads built so rapidly in Nebraska?
  4. What were the results of the grange movement in Nebraska?
  5. Why was a new constitution made?
  6. What caused hard times and good times in Nebraska between 1873 and 1888?
  7. Was it better for each settler to have 160 or 480 acres under the land laws? Why?
  8. What difference in the action of farmers and of railroad men when they wished more pay for their work? Why?
  9. Why are fewer horses stolen now than in 1880-90?
  10. Did the Farmers' Alliance do wisely in starting a new political party?
  11. Is it better for the state to rent or sell the school lands? Why?
  12. What made Nebraska prominent in national affairs in 1854? In 1869? In 1896? To-day?
  13. Ought the state to pay its expenses or go in debt? Why?
  14. What is needed to enable the state to pay its expenses?
  15. What do you think is the most important thing to be done in order to make Nebraska a better state?