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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (May 5, 1907)
THE OMAHA DEE
Best & West
PACKS 1 TO 6
VOL. XXXVI NO. 46.
OMAHA, SUNDAY MORNING, MAY
SINGLE COPY FIVE CENTS.
THOMAS SWIFT WHO HAS HELPED AAKE OAAHA A CITY
Wanderlust Brings' a Sturdy Young Irishman to Omaha Where He Meets Fata in - Form of a Maiden Who Still Lives With Him on the Lot Where They Built Their First Home
HE river steamboat, Keystone, loaded with material for .
v mt a i . 1 1 , 1 1 J l - . a l . . v . i. a
b me ursi capuui uuiiuing ui iu Biaie oi ifurun
loose from the dock at St. Louis one pleasant morning
in Mar, 18SG, headed up the Missouri river, set iU paddle
wheel turning and moved slowly out of sight. It was
bound for tbe settlement of Omaha, which had just been given its
first Impetua toward becoming more than a village by the location
of the state capitol. Among the passengers on the Keystone wai
a tail, lank youth of 20, whose dress showed he was from Kentucky
and whose blue eyes and brogue showed that he was late of tbe
Emerald Isle. The young man was Thomas Swift, destined to be
come a pioneer of Omaha.
The father and mother of this sturdy young man, with their
children, had emigrated from Ireland when Thomas was about 7
years old. In a sailing ship they bad come to New Orleans, a trip
of nearly eight weeks. Thence they had gone up the river and set
tled permanently at Louisville, Ky. The river steamboats passing
the city and going away up and down the Ohio had the same fascina
tion for young Swift that they had for Mark Twain. They seemed
to beckon him to come end see the world, and before he was 14'
years old he had made a trip to Vanceburg, Ky. Then, when he
was 16 years old, he got a position on the Natchez, bound for New
Orleans. The experiences of that trip were sufficiently rigorous
to cure him of the "wanderlust" for some time. The boat was a
slow one, that stopped at many wharfs for small cargoes, and then
the "hands" had to "step lively" to get the cargo shifted. At the
end of the gang plank stood the mate, an especially brutal fellow,
with a big ranting stick. When one of tbe men didn't move fast
enough to suit him he gave him a whack with the stick that either
put him in the hospital or Increased his agility.
When the young man returned from this voyage he remained
at home three years, until the voice of the spring called irresistibly
to him in 1866, and hq ran away on the trip that was to decide his
destiny. The Keystone steamed easily up the river with its load
of men and material for the construction of the commonwealth ot
Nebraska. On the morning of June 10, 1856. it tied up at the dock
of the settlement of Omaha and the passengers disembarked. It
was an important day for the young Kentucky Irishman in more
ways than one. With the "wanderlust" in his veins he might have
wandered through the world and, like the proverbial rolling stone
gathered little moss, had he not met on the very day of his arrival
tbe girl who anchored him to Omaha. She was Miss Bridget Doolan.
She was also Irish. They were married in the summer or 1857, and
have lived in Omaha ever since.
Worked Days and Watched Nights
The first work which young Swift did In Omaha was for Bovey
ft Armstrong, who were erecting the new capitol. He hauled brick
for them at a salary of $26 a month and at night watched the fires
In the brick yard located where the Union Pacific shops now aand.
He received $2 for each night's work.
' "It's myself was not afraid of the work, at all," says Mr. Swift.
"I was economical, too. all the time. I lived in a little dug-out on
the clay bank at where Thirteenth and Chicago streets now are. It
-was nothing at all but a hole in the ground, with a light coming
In' through a bit of window by the door. Inside were only the bare
r'elay walls. One night I remember I had to get up and go out and
c'drlve away a cow that was eating the hay off the roof. We were
."jafrald the beast would break through and fall down and disturb our
reet Between Cass and California and between Thirteenth and
- Fourteenth streets was the 'Blx Six,' a dug-out ot pretty good size.
I Borne of the richest men ilvlng In Omaha today and noma that are
dead had that as their palatial residence in the early days."
, He helped to build the first church for the St. Phllomena'a Cath
v Ollc congregation. It was located at Eighth and Howard streets, on
tbe hill, where It could be seen from the river. The members of
(the little congregation did most of the work of building the church.
Mr. and Mrs. Swift were married in this pioneer Catholic structure.
With the money earned by hard work day and night for Bovey
ft Armstrong, Mr. Swift purchased a team ot horses and a wagon,
and in the winter of 1856 began hauling goods between Omaha and
Thurston county for Salisbury ft Davis, who were cutting timber
and rafting it to Omaha
"I received $20 a month for this work to start with," he says.
"But before the end of the winter I was getting $80. Provisions
were ve-y high, excepting such as we could shoot on the plains.
Deer. elk. entelope and buffalo were to be had for the shooting. I
used to buy all the deer I wanted up there In Thurston county for
11, head and 1 generally hauled half a dozen carcasses down and
old them in Omaha, getting about $2 a head for them.
We bad deeper snows In the winters of '56 and '57 than were
seen In Nebraska either before or since that time. The Indians
used to say the white man brought the deep saow and they were
angry and protested against him tor doing it. I used to drive down
the river on the Ice for some forty miles, which shows you that it
was cold. too. There were about 200 head of cattle near the Salis
bury ft Davis camp wh'ch frote to death that winter. The snow
. ... ik. i.vi Tha deer and elk and antelope used
o foddered la 'the drift and w. would go out from our little bout 4.500 poundi," he bays
to get founaerea m me .,hnil,. ,.t th.m or mules. I'd go up the Rawl
sod and log nouses an suuw -"v
bleed to death and then carry their carcasses to the hut and throw
them down to freeze. I've seen piles X deer there as high as the
root of the hut."
Experience With Indians
One time while he was making his trip down the river three
Indians approached him and begged to borrow his revolver to shoot
some deer which they said were at the river bank Just behind a
eurre In the stream. He refused to let them have the revolver and
they became angry and would have done him harm, but he suc
ceeded In driving them off and continued his Journey.
After their marriage the young couple moved to a very modest
home at the present corner ot Thirteenth and Webster streets, where
they lived until 1860. when Mr. Swift bought the lot on which their
present home Is located at 409 North Fifteenth street. There he
built a cottonwood board home, and on that same spot they have
lived for forty-eeven years "which," says Mr. Swift, "U the longest
time any man has lived on the same spot in the city of Omaha.
In 1867 he increased the length ot bis freighting joute and made
the trip from St. Jo&ph to Thurston county. Snow was so plentiful
that he used a sleigh nearly all that winter. He remembers buying
. 300 bushels of corn In Sidney. Ia,. and selling it In Omaha at $3 a
V baebel. so scat le was the grain when the farmers needed It for seed.
' lie never ventured to begin a long trip on a Friday that winter, tor,
? fie declares, it Invariably snowed on that day aqd on Saturday It
'J would drift in a stinging, blinding, cold, white billiard.
He met tbe famous trader, Peter A. 8arpy, that winter while
topping over night at a hotel kept by another Frenchman in St.
Mary. Mr. Swift had a load of live chickens and pigs standing on
his wagon out at the barn. Sarpy, he says, did not like the French
man who kept the hotel and delighted In making trouble for him.
On this particular evening Sarpy had remained too long in consulta
tion with John Barleycorn and he wj, to say the least, "not quite
himself." He was playing on a squeaky eld fiddle when he entered
the hotel barroom. He went around to each of tbe guests, rasped
oui a few notes on his fiddle and asked the auditor how he liked
(It And woe to the man who dared say his playing was not good.
Sarpy had a lengthy altercation with the laudlord, but abided until
he was ready to go and departed without Interfering with the pigs
and cMckena ot the Swift outfit
That spring Mr. Swift met a slelghload of lawmakers returning
home from their legislative labors In the interests of the state. They,
he says, had all kinds of bank slock and lota on newly created towa
altea which they had accumulated, apparently, during Ifcelr term
circulator of the literature which told of tho golden opportunities
out west, and when they were disappointed they blamed It on Brown
and erected that tombstone to make themselves believe he was dead.
I remember when a bunch of these grumblers returned to Omaha
and threatened to burn the town. We arrested the whole outfit
and put them In Jail till they promised to leave town Intact and go
on to the east where they belonged. Tbe likes of them had no busi
ness In the west. They could have learned lessons from the bravo
women, many of whom I saw leaving Omnha pulling their two
wheeled carts out for the Mormon country in Utah."
Happiness of Pioneer Times
Considerable of his time, even while freighting, was spent In
Omaha. He declares the people of Omaha were never happier than
they were then.
"We were all happy In the early days," says Mr. Swift. "We all
belonged to the 'four hundred.' We all went to the same dance
whether we had patches on our breeches and wore callouses on our
hands or whether we were dressed In broadcloth and did nothing
harder than count money. Yes, sir, we were all happy, though we
had nothing. Amusements and sports? Of course, we had them.
I remember the horse races they used to run on Harney street on
'moonlight summer nights.- The course ran from the old Douglas
house at Thirteenth and Harney to the City hotel at Eleventh and
Harney. The chief favorite beast was Itanter, which was owned
by Bill Knight. They used to have matches between this horso
and a speedy foot racer, W D Brown. This race was for a short
distance and return. They had to pass around a pole and back. Ot
course the animal would beat the man on the straight stretch, but
when they rounded the pole that was where the man made up
time. I've seen bets put up on that of $500 and $1,000. We never
thought of locking a door In those days, and if a friend asked for
a loan of $10 or $100, a man Just put his band down in his pocket
and handed It over. I loaned $400 to a certain man myself without
anyone witnessing me giving it to him, without a note and without
security. The man didn't have any too good a reputation for paying
debts, either, but he paid me every dollar."
Mr. Swift remembers an amusing Incident connected with rather
a serious affair, namely, the hanging of Bove, one of two men who
committed a robbery and assault at the home of Mr. Turner, who
kept a stage station west of the city. The two men were arrested,
and one night the vigilantes entered the county Jail, which then stood
at Sixteenth and Farnam streets. A large crowd gathered outside
the Jail, but no one knew who were carrying out the orders of
Judge Lynch. The noose had been placed around Bove's neck. He
was standing on a box and a man was fastening the rope around a
beam. The box was about to be kicked out from under when the
man who was tying the rope called: "Hold ong, I alng got it fast
yet." His voice "gave him away" to those outBlde, for he talked
through his nose and there was only one man who talked like he.
A laugh from the crowd was the last thing Bove heard. It is said
he even laughed himself. A public whipping In Omaha was wit
nessed by Mr. Swift. Two men had stolen some horses from Pat
Gernett and T. Kimball, taken them to Oenoa and sold them to the
Indians. . The horses got loose and returned to Omaha, with tne
Indians In pursuit. The Indians were able to identify the men who
had sold them the horses. The men were seized, tied to the 'liberty
pole' at Thirteenth and Harney streets and twenty-five lashes were
administered on their bare backs. Then they were tarred and
feathered, placed on two rafts and sent floating down the river. Had
they committed the same crime a few years earlier the penalty would
have been death at the end of a rope.
Still Lives on Old Lot
at the capitol. They would trade them for horses, old watches or
anything else of value.
From the front window of the little cottonwood board home
which he built In 1860 on the same lot where he now lives Mr. Swift
has seen thousands of emigrants camped on Jefferson Square. On
the sides of their wagons was painted "Pike's Peak or Bust." They
seemed bewitched to go to Pike's Peak, he says, for if a man who
had been there tried to tell them they would be no better off there
than where they were, they would generally become very angry.
From Omaha the trail led out to the present Junction of Twenty
fourth and Cumjng streets, where there was a bridge over a creek.
Thence it went out Military avenue and away to the west, striking
the Platte at Bhlnn's Ford. Thence the trail went up the south
side of the -river until nearly at Fort Kearny, where the river was
crossed once more.
Freighting to Pike's Peak
. Mr. Swift began freighting to the west in 1860 and in the next
few years made some twenty trips to Pike's Peak and the farther
"Part of the time I had three yoke of oxen and a wagon heldlig
And part of the time I had horses
go up the Rawhide bottom to Fremont and then west
The poor boy and poor girl who met that June day in the settle
ment are still residents of Omaha. A large family has grown up
around them, and the boy and girl still live on the lot where they
built their house soon after they were married. They are still a.
a stock of all kinds of stuff a little of everything and not much of Doy and girl In affections and are living upon the fruits of their1
anything. Sometimes I made money and sometimes I didn't, accord- industry. Their children are the following: John T. Swift St.
ing to the way Denver was stocked. I remember once selling nails Louis- p. h. Swift Omaha: Thomas F sir nmK". t' '
-'. w wuiua. tJ & Ui CH l.
I've gone along that road when the mud was up to the hubs. I made
more than one trip to Denver walking barefoot all the way. I had
for 35 cents in Denver which the same I bought in Omaha at 3
cents, and, again, I've been in Denver when you could scarcely sell
flour because the town was full ofit.
"A nice, free sort of life it WasTto be sure, in pleasant weather.
There we were on the free, broad plains with nothing but nature and
the animals around us, with plenty of stuff to eat and plenty of
forage and the whole Platte river full of water running by our side.
When we needed meat we would shoot a buffalo calf, rip open the
hide and take out as much as we needed, covering over the rest until
the next train, perhaps a few miles behind, would come up and they
would take what they needed, and so on till the meat was all gone
and the last man would cover the carcaBS over. Then there were
plenty of buffalo chips, which was what we used to burn.
"A curious thing to be observed along the trail was little wooden
labs shaped like tombstones stuck in the ground, on which were
printed the words, 'To the Memory ot Sam Brown.' Sam Brown
Was a banker and promotor who lived in Omaha and later estab
lished a bank In Denver. The emigrants believed that he was tbe
Swift, Omaha; Mrs. T. J. Fltzmorrls, Omaha; Mrs. Charles B. Dug
dale, Omaha, and Miss Margaret Swift, Omaha.
Mr. Swift has acquired considerable real estate, which has grown
in value many hundred per cent. He bought 400 acres west of
Seymour park in the early days for $9 an acre. This he now values
at $160 an acre. A. J. Poppleton once wanted to sell him a tract
of 400 acres in the south part of the city for $1,600, but he refused
it. "Which shows," says Mr. Swift, "that there is a time comes in
every man's life when two fools meet The land sold later for $900
an acre. He was foolish for wanting to sell it and I was foolish
for not buying it."
Mr. Swift Is a member of the Knights of Columbus and both he
and Mrs. Swift have' been members of St. Phllomena'a church ever
since Its organisation. They take their ease now and generally go
somewhere to spend the winter. "We've both of us had a good many
bfcrd knocks and both of us have done our share ot the hard work.
I'm thinking, and we've earned a good rest for the remainder of
oui days," declares Mr. Swift
Tainted News Agencies and Their Operations
THE FRANCHISE corporations of the coun
try have been quick to realize the Impor
tance of publicity, not as a cure-all for
their abuses, but as a means of perpetu
ating them. When the rising tide ot public senti
ment in favor ot railroad regulation manifested
Itself two years ago systematic efforts to check the
threatening flood were begun. Publicity bureaus
for the dissemination of tainted news were organ
ized. How they carried on the work ot befouling
the sources of public Information respecting rail
road regulation and municipal ownership is de
tailed In Collier's Weekly. ' The following extracts
Illuminate the methods and outline the results:
When the railroads. Just about two years ago,
foresaw the beginning of that tide of public clamor
against them which is Just now at its flood, they
forehandedly determined to poison public opinion
at its very fountain head. They proposed to
spread throughout lhe United States a newspaper
propaganda against rate legislation. The rail
roads took this enterprise very, seriously. They
went about it with the thoroughness, the order
and system characteristic of railroad administra
tion.. Individual railroads were assessed for large
contributions, aggregating over a million dollars.
The late President Spencer of the Southern rail
way took personal charge, making his headquar
ters at Washington, and glvthg to the work tnoBt
of his time tor many months. As illustrating the
pains taken to keep from the papers and the public
the Identity of the railroads with tbis work, a code
was invented in which President Spencer and oth
ers in the management were known as "A," "La
tex" and "Latemak."
For the publicity organization which they pro
posed to build up the railroads found a ready
made nucleus in a small concern doing business In
Boston under the name "The Publicity Bureau."
The firm had for some years done a comparatively
Innocuous business, getting into the newspapers
laudatory articles about commercial and educa
tional institutions. Their work had been that of
high-class press agents. Up to the time the rail
roads took hold-of them they had never engaged
In the propagation of any doctrine on subjects of
political or economic controversy.
This organization tbe railroads expanded to
Impressive proportions. They founded branch
offices in New York, in Washington, In Chicago
and la many of the smaller western cities, where
the anti-railroad sentiment was strongest In the
Chicago office alone forty men were employed.
With characteristic railroad thoroughness and or
der, it was determined to found the campaign
upon a complete and detailed knowledge of the
field to be covered. For the acquiring of this
agents of the Publicity bureau were sent from
town to town, omitting not even the remotest vil
lage that contained a country weekly, to ascertain
from personal Inquiry, not only the position as to
the rate bill of every editor, but also by what
weakness or opening that position. If against the
railroads, could be changed. From the reports
of these agents there was compiled a most re
markable card index of the newspapers of the
country, which is still kept In the Chicago office
of the Publicly bureau. It was no mere record
of obvious facts, such as any newspaper directory
might contain; rather, it gave, as one of the man
agers of the bureau expressed It. "a practical
knowledge of the working of the brain of any
editor with whom we want to 'land' a story."
In addition to the usual details, the first column
on tho card tells what railroad the paper is de
pendent on. the third gives the Information that
the paper's Influence Is small and its editorials
weak. In the last column Is a cartful analysis of
the editor's position on public questions, including
the paradoxical discovery that he is agalnBi most
of the trusts, but "pro-railroad," and also, oddly,
although a democrat, "pro-Roosevelt" These
pointers were obviously useful In suggesting open
ings to a railroad writer anxious to prepare an
article which should contain the railroad "doc
trine" and at the same time be palatable to the
editor. At the bottom of each card In the index
there ia, as here, some Intimate memoranda sug
gestive of how the editor is best approached.
Many of these memoranda are sage, cynical and
withal amusing. Even If not very Important, the
gaiety of nations deserves the reproduction of a
few concerning western papers:
"Has had many favors from the Chicago, Mil
waukee ft St Paul."
"Policy directed by Senator Gamble, and latter
not likely to approve editorial opposition of popu
"A former Chicago printer. Home-loving and
has children. Senator Klttredge secured appoint
ment toAnnapolis for son."
"Will sell his soul for money. Natural born
Ishmaellte. Envious. Quarrelsome."
"College bred Rich. Knows how to take
care of himself. Wants to go to congress."
"Hobbles: Qod, the Bible and Sunday school."
"Smith's hobbles are the Smith family."
"Hobby: Grand lodges and secret societies."
"A wants money and he gets it Roasts the
other editor and occasionally knocks him down in
"280 circulation: A puny sheet with two
pages of 'home print A religious turn."
"Considerable ability, fair and impartial."
"Controlled by O. D.. local banker, who wants
to be governor and then some."
"Editor of paper because he married It Mar
ried founder's widow. Holds on because it gives
him prestige socially. Over 100,000."
The field being thus systematized, many news
paper men, always those of high talent were hired
away from the business of unbiased chronicling of
public events, and set to writing railroad propa
ganda. From Washington a regular service ot
two and three letters a week was sent to the minor
newspapers of the country, newspapers too poor
or too unenterprising to maintain Washington cor
respondents of their own, but eager enough to
print an interesting Washington letter. And the
Publicity bureau's letters were and are Inter
esting. Infinite pains were taken to make them
appetizing to individual editors.' For Kentucky
and Tennessee papers, for example, as the Lexing
ton Leader tells, the letter would begin with a
story about one of the local congressmen, Ollle
James, or John Wesley Gaines. Always, of course,
somewhere along in the middle of the letter, would
appear the carefully sweetened and artificially
colored pro-railroad, anti-Hepbuin bill "doctrine."
Here Is one of these Washington letters!" It
was printed in the Record of Russell, Kansas.
There Is a harmless paragraph about the presi
dent's family on a holiday, another about a pro
posed monument to confederate soldiers, one
about the Weather bureau and one about rural
free delivery. Then comes a very nasty slur at
President Roosevelt, including a parody of a pop
ular song, which reads:
"Everybody lies but Roosevelt,
And hi lies around all day.
They think he's made of iron,
But he's only common clay."
Flrslly, there is the "doctrine" paragraph,
containing a vigorous protest against some clauses
X Continued on Page Four.).
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