Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, September 13, 1908, HALF-TONE SECTION, Image 17

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    The Omaha Sunday Bee
A Paper for Mm
Best West
Short Story of a Young Man Who Has Made His Way in Life by Hard Work, Native Ability and Pluck to Stick to His Undertakings Until Success Comes to Him.
SIXTEEN years ago, back in New Haven. Conn., a squad ot
nine muscular athletes from the University of Michigan
were testing their prowess on the diamond with nine other
trained atheletes from old Tale. There was a good deal of
presumption In their ambition to beat the athletic monitors
of the east on their own grounds, but the Badgers have never had
reputation for letting their modesty beat them ont of any laurel
wreaths that happen to be lying around unclaimed and their nerve
for trying to beat old Ell to this particular Insignia of physical skill
Is not to be wondered at
The score stood 2 to 1 with the visitors at bat Two men had
managed to find their way to bases. The tall bedlmpled young man
who bad held down first came to bat. 'This young collegian whose
height and broadness of shoulder set him ont from his companions,
had been lying dejectedly on the grass apart from the rest of the
team. For a short time before he had been befuddled by a falsa'
move of the pitcher and had dropped the ball allowing a Tale player
to score the second run which put his own team at the disadvantage.
He picked up the bat and swung unsuccessfully and left handed
at two balls and the umpire called two strikes. Stepping across the
home plate he fixed his bat for a right-handed try at It He put all
the force of his huge body Into the next swing and the ball rose
clear over the heads of the outfielder for a three-bagger. The pair
on bases scored and the game was won for Michigan.
That night when the news was flashed back to the waiting thous
ands at Ann Arbor, the students did what any well organized band
of energetic collegians would do under similar circumstances, and
by dark the campus was blazing with a big bonfire that Is still talked
about when two or three old Michigan alumni get together. The
name of "Jeff," "Big Jeff," was on every tongue and when the team
returned a few days later "Big Jeff was the first man after the cap
tain to be dragged from the tialn and carried down the hill on the
shoulders of the hurrahing students.
The tall, brawny first baseman who won the game for Michigan
was Albert Webb Jefferis, who has Just won another of his long
scries of victories by capturing the republican nomination for con
gressman from the Second Nebraska district.
The little Incident in the Tale game was just a sample of the way
he has been accustomed to do things and It is little wonder that
when the news of his nomination was received by his old class mates
In Chicago, Samuel McRoberts of the Illinois Tunnel company, an
old college chum, cried:
"Good for old Jeff. He was a sturdy fellow in college and will
make a fine congressman. If he does politics now the way he did
athletics he will be heard from."
Debate Won by Daring
But while athletics played an important part In his college car
eer, foot ball and base ball were only incidental, recreative. Another
Incident related by one of his old college chums, who Is now In
Omaha, concerns another department of college activity In which
"Jeff" was an adept. It also gives a side glimpse Into the forming
character of the young law student
Michigan at that time, was one of the leaders of the west in de
bate and it was an honor to be striven after to represent the college
In the annual contest with Wisconsin. Sixty-four were entered In
ths preliminary contests and under the system or lack of system,
then in vogue, each man was to a great extent his own coach. Toung
Jefferis was one of the sixty-four at the start and was still In the
running when chaff had been fanned ont and only eight contestants
remained. The night of the finals was an eventful one. The hall
was crowded with the friends of the competing debaters. When
"Jeff" reached the hall he found to his dismay that his seven rivals
were faultlessly attired in dress suits and formal shirts, while he had
, on his everyday clothes, mainly because he was paying his way
'' through school and had little spare money to devote to such luxuries
as dress suits and tailor bills. It had been arranged that the eight
debaters should Bit on the platform, but when this plan was an
novnerd to Jefferis he balked. He had no desire to make himself
conspicuous by lining up with the seven faultlessly-garbed opponents,
so he let them take their places, while he remained in the back
ground. When his turn came he passed by the platform steps and stood
on the lower floor with the crowd. Under the circumstances an ex
planation was due. The question under discussion was whether or
not the United States should annex Canada. "
"Ladles and gentlemen," he began. "This is a question of vital
interest to the American people, and when I discuss questions of In
terest to the American people I prefer to stand on the same level with
The crowd was with him in an Instant and, with the inspiration
to be had by the backing ot his hearers, "Jeff" won on the debate
floor a victory as sensational as the one on the Tale diamond and
was named one of the three to represent his school against Wiscon
sin. The versatility which marked his success in debate has been
one of the marks by which he has come to be known in Omaha and
tbo tribute ot Prof. Thompson when he was a coUege student has
been paid him often since.
Professor Discovers His Talent
Prof. Thompson's remark was recalled the other evening by a
former Michigan man at a dinner given in Omaha. Mr. Jefferis. as
one of the tbree debaters to defend the honor of Michigan against
Ji"m"m"itni.. J .,'
' ' ' . " - i
V Vi
-J' " '
His early religious training was had in the old Quaker meeting house worth of produce every day. He now saw the fruition of his plans
that stood close by the school. When be was 6 years old his father for schooling and the last year he kept his stall he attended the State
bought a farm in West Bradford township, adjoining Newlin, which Normal school at West Chester, boarding at the college building, ria
ls still the family home. The family consisted of five boys and two ing at 2 or 3 o'clock In the morning, acting as merchant the early
girls, all living. His first years on the farm were much like those part of the day and student the rest ot the time. In this way he
of any farm lad except that because of his size and strength more paid his way through school and in 1887, at the age of 19, he became
than the usual amount of work fell to his lot. By the time he was a country school teacher at a monthly wage of f 30 and boarding at
13 he was able to do a man's work. home.
When he was 13 Frank Green, now a teacher in the State Normal
school at West Chester, interested him in school work and ho then. Pushing Along tO Success
lormed the ambition to gain a higher education than the country
school could afford. The following year, with his father, he visited
the memorable battlefield at Gettysburg and, returning, wrote an
essay on the battlefield and its history that won a prize at a local
teachers' Institute and he received as a reward a book of poems,
which he still has. This little incident still further flrsd his ambl-
The country lyceum has to Its credit the impetus to the career ot
many a successful statesman and public speaker. The lyceums
around his o'd home are credited with giving this - young school
teacher his first training In public speaking. Mounted on his faith
ful horse, he made the rounds of three of the lyceums, attending
faithfully every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday nights at Mar-
had time to walk across the campus until his six feet two of length
and his 200 pounds of flesh, together with his apparent good nature
and his dimples, which were said to be very pronounced then, at
tracted the attention of the pigskin enthusiasts and he was immedi
ately surrounded by a crowd of fifty fellows. "Get a suit," "Get out
for practice," they all urged, and within a day or two he was out on
the field learning the rudiments of the game, which up to that tlmo
was strange to him. After he had chased the ball down the field,
practiced tackling and falling cn the ball for an hour, Mike Murphy,
the trainer, came to him and said: "Go over to the medical build
ing and get rub-down and an examination and then come over to the
training quarters." This was the beginning of his college athletlo
career In which he afterward won a name throughout the west. He
played center at first, but later was put In at guard, where his ac
tivity, coupled with his bulk, gave him a better chance. During the
base ball season be took his place on first and held that position un
til the end of his college career.
Class Slate Smashed
Another incident connected with his college life and occurring
during his senior year in law sthool indicates the early bent ot his
mind for politics. There were two strong organizations in the senior
class and these organizations usually ran things. When it came to
electing class officials each organization put up a complete "slate."
Jefferis was not on either list, but some of his friends urged him to
get into the contest as an independent. He did so and, rallying
around htm the men his attractive personality had drawn to him, he
waged a fight which lasted through eleven sessions of the Mass and
required fifty-four ballots to decide. The last session was a notable
one, and when the "slates" were finally smashed and the majority
given to the independent candidate "Jeff" was hoisted to the shoul
ders of his classmates and carried around the room, followed by hun
dreds of howling students.
Mr. Jefferis was graduated from Ann Arbor In 1893 and came to
Omaha. September 5 of that year to try his fortunes as a lawyer. He
first rented an office in the New Tork Life building and hung out his
shingle and waited for clients. Nebraska was in the throes of the
hard times then and when Doane college sent up to Omaha and asked
the former Michigan star to come down and coach its team the im
mediate prospects of a salary outweighed the indefinite chances of a
law practice and he accepted. At the same time Frank Crawford, a
classmate at Michigan, had accepted the same position with Ne
braska university team. At the close of the season they went into
partnership and were together five years.
These were trying times for young lawyers and "Big Jeff" was not
exempt from the effects of the general hard times that threatened the
west. After a year ot practice he found Father Time was gradually
slipping up on his board bill and along toward fall had entirely out
distanced it. In fact his board bill was several laps behind Time.
In this emergency the beforementloned ability to take care of himself
manifested itself. If law practice would not pay, something else
might, and he and his law partner decided to promote a foot ball
game between Iowa and Nebraska in Omaha. The expense of the
game was about $1,000 and it was a serious undertaking to say the
least However, the crowds came and when the game was halt over
the exchequer of the two young lawyers was bursting with silver and
gold. The profits of the venture were over $800, sufficient to puU
them through the next hard winter.
Wins at the Bar
During this time he was gradually working up a law business and
was reasonably successful in what he undertook. One instance is
related. Judge Scott had appointed him to defend three negroes
charged with a minor felony, and either by appeals to the court or to
the jury he had liberated all three of them. E. W. Kerr was in the
court room and at the close of the session he remarked: "Jeff, it
you keep on setting negroes free as you have today you will be known
as a second Abe Lincoln."
In 1896 he was appointed to the only political office he has ever
held, that of deputy county attorney. His appointment was by
Howard H. Baldrige, who was then county attorney. After he dls
eolver partnership with Mr. Crawford he went into an office with
John F. Stout and later with Judge Troup and Tom Creigh. Eight
years ago, while conducting a case at Blair, he met Frank S. Howell,
who wan looking for an opening in Omaha. The two formed a part
nership and have been together since.
Politics has always been a field for activity to Mr. Jefferis. He
has been an active campaigner and his strong and attractive person
ality has been an influence in many campaigns in Omaha. Two years
ago he managed the campaign on E. A. Benson for mayor. In com
mercial circles he has come to be widely known because ot his activ
ity on the two last trade excursions by the Omaha jobbers. Hi was
the principal speaker on the trip to the Paclfllc coast a year ago last
tion and he began deliberately to plan his schooling. To help he naltonf Romansvllle and Harmony Hill and taking an active part in June and to Colorado and Wyoming In May. On the first of these
had bought a pair of steers and by careful training soon had a valua
ble yoke of oxen, which he sold for $150, the nucleus of his educa
tional fund.
the debates, covering all sorts and degrees of public questions.
The following year he became principal of the Marshalton schools
anil a. vpnr Inter wHa mnriA nrivntn neerntnrv tn Prlnrlnal G. M. Phil-
Then the business acumen of the ambitious youth asserted itself ,IpB who Jg tm at the nead of the 8ute Normal cnool at West
Chester. He also gained some knowledge, of the law In the offices of
Bingham & McAelrle and recalls with amusement his first attempts
at pleading in the Justice courts of West Chester.
All this time he had not allowed his athletic skill to lie dormant.
and, mounting his pony one day, he made the rounds of the neighbor
ing farm houses and announced he was going to open a stall in the
market house at West Chester and he solicited the sale ot the produce
of his neighbors. The first day he rose at 2 o'clock, got his wares
one oi me loree aeoater. to ou w -8alUo. & f th(j ear, mornI trade b the h, pr0Bpectlve CU8tc " ' "- .v,,! v " r"::," v 7 m "7 v.,, J,th
Wisconsin, went deeply into the preparation of his subject, the mer- atlrrlng That day he sold just enouah to nav hla .tall '"nimers while he was teaching he played ball with the
chant marine problenf. which U .till with us. He read everything .IH uy Brandywlne team and by the fall of 1891. when he entered Michigan
th eoiw. lihr.rr contained on the sublect. He analysed what he m ' !!. . W" B.t.enUsl1 ,eft t0 university, he was a seasoned player. The arrival of the big 200-
the college library contained on the subject ' He analyzed what he
read and formulated In his mind a definite idea ot how the subject
should be treated. The other two contestants had carefully prepared
speeches and, witfy the hired assistance ot a professional coach, were
ready to makv impression on the Judges. Before the debate the
three contestan Vwere called before members of the faculty to de
liver their address. The other two, with' perfect inflection and
studied gesture, spoke their pieces. Then "Jeff" was called on. He
said he had no speech prepared, but he had an idea how the subject
should be treated and it was somewhat different from the method
which his colleagues had outlined in their speeches; In fact it was
radically different Some of the professors were inclined to veto his
plan, but Prof. Thompson interrupted them.
"Let Mr. Jefferis alone," he said. "I have watched him for some
time and I think he is able to take care ot himself in almost any sit
uation "
This remark has been made of him recently by some of the men
who were on the trade excursion in which Mr. Jefferis was principal
speaker for the Omahana. Out in the territory where the Omaha
jobbers were looked on with a Jealous slant situations sometimes
arose which called for diplomacy and judgment in the man who was
to voice the sentiments ot the Omaha crowd. In this "Big Jeff"
never fell down. He still had the happy faculty of taking care of
himself in any emergency and the cordial feeling the Omaha boosters
left with business men of the towns they visited was frequently
ascribed to the ability of "Big Talk" Jefferis to say the right thing at
the right time and In the right way.
Life in Pennsylvania
The Jefferis family, with its lnhabltat in the hills ot Pennsyl-
vanla, traces its origin back to early colonial times. Mingled in
the veins of the later generations is the blood of the Houyes, the
Webbs and other pioneers ot the Keystone state. The family has
long lived in the community where most of the members now reside.
A bridge which figured in the battle ot Brandywlne during the revo
lution was named after an ancestor of the present congressional nom
inee. The sturdy characteristics ot the early Pennsylvania Quaker
are prominent in the family makeup.
A. W. Jefferis was born December 7, 1868, in Newlin township,
Cheater county, Pennsylvania. His father was of English extraction
and his mother waa German, her family name being Rodeback. Dur
ing his first years he attended a little country school house, to which
be walked two miles and back every day betoie he was 6 years old.
buy a meal and the young 15-year-old merchant went hungry,
pound Pennsylvanlan was something of an event at Michigan, which
Business prospered, however, and before long he was selling $150 was Just then trying to recoup its foot ball team. He had hardly
commercial journeys he made twenty-three speeches in behalf of
Omaha as the market town, one day speaking tbree times to the peo
ple of Portland. His versatility and his ability to make an effective
speech on short notice made him a most valuable asset to the trade
During his senior year at Ann Arbor he met Miss Helen J. Malar
key of Oregon, 111., who was a student of the class of 1895. After
her graduation she became the head of the department of physics and
mathematics in the Central High school at Minneapolis. They were
married October 22, 1897, and their family consists of two children,
Albert, a boy of 6, and Janet, 15 months' old. Mrs. Jefferis has been
prominent in cultural societies in Omaha and was one ot the organ
izers and the first president of the Fine Arts society.
When the Woods Burn Horror Holds High Sway
A SCOURGE of . forest fires surpassing In
destructiveness of property and life
the recent disaster near Duluth, swept
over another section ot Minnesota In
September, 1894, destroying the towns
of Hinckley, Sandstone, Miller and Pokegama.
Three hundred and fifty lives were lost and prop
erty of unknown aggregate value destroyed.
The destruction of Hinckley was attended by
many thrilling Incidents and teats ot heroism, the
memory of which is cherished by the people of the
ravaged locality. Most remarkable for daring,
endurance and suffering was the exploit ot Engi
neer James Root and his train in retreating from
Hickley with a tralnload ot refugees as the sea ot
flames "burst upon the town, and the saving ot their
lives. The story of that exploit as related by En
gineer Root follows:
"When we left Duluth Saturday afternoon the
air waa heavy with smoke. At Carleton the smoke
was so thick that it became necessary to light the
headlight, which was done by Fireman Jack Mc
Gowan. I spoke to Jack about it and said I
guevaod wo were golug to tava rain. Wo never
thought the fire was so near us. Oa and on
through the night of smoke the engine rushed on
its way to Hinckley. We were due there at 4
o'clock, and arrived tbree minutes late. As I
pulled into the station I saw an excited mob ot
people who took my train by storm. That was
the first intimation I had that we were so near the
fire. The people were terror-stricken. I could
not have started the engine without running per
sons down oa the track In front of me. I received
no orders, and as my train was completely filled
with passengers who had boarded it while we were
standing there, I was about to pull the throttle to
cross the Hinckley bridge, when a wall of flame
fully ten foet high burst through the rolling smoke
right in front of my engine, cutting off all hope of
making the bridge. I noticed that the wind was
from the south, and knew then that the fire must
have already crossed the bridge and destroyed it,
so I reversed the engine and we began a race with
the flames back from Hinckley.
"There was not much time for thinking, but I
remembered a shallow marsh, known as Skunk
lake, about six miles back and north of Hinckley,
and I made up my mind to reach that lake, come
what might. There was no other salvation. The
wind was blowing the fire in the same direction
we were going and the flames raced along In the
tall grass on both sides of us, almost keeping pace
with the speed of the train. I put on my heavy
coat and pulled it over my head, and Jack got back
in the manhole of the tank. He would stand up
and throw water over me as long as he could
stand the. heat and then he would retrsat to the
manhola again, and in that way we got to Skunk
lake, not more than two minutes before the flames.
We piled out of the cab, Jack and I, cutting off the
air and kicking the cars down about two car
lengths, and made for the lake, getting there just
as the fire struck us. It was awful."
Engineer Root continued, after resting a mo
ment, "And I hope I may never live to go through
such an experience again. The fire swept right
over us and we had to He flat in the water for a
time. After the first sheet of flame passed over
us it was not so bad, but stiU the heat waa terrific.
The woods were burning all around us and, to
add to the horror of the time, the train caught on
fire and the cars burned fiercely, radiating an aw
ful heat, which affected us almost as much as the
first fire, we were so near the track. For four
hours we remained in the water, and then the
ground began to cool sufficiently at the edge ot
the lake so that we were enabled to stand on the
bank by wrapping our heads in coats. Later I
went to the engine and sank down on the hot seat
of the cab, the engine having passed through the
fiery ordeal almost unscathed. I did net fall
asleep, but fell into a kind of stupor, from which
I was not fully aroused until the rescuing party
came for ys with handcars. So far as I know
there were only two persons on our train who lost
their lives. They were a couple of Chinamen who
could not be gotten off the train, and they were
burned to death on the cars."
James E. Lobdell of St. Paul, Mr. Holt of Du
luth and Mr. Anderson of Minneapolis were pas
sengers on this train. These three men, after
passing four hours of agony In the lake, started
out while the woods were still on fire and the
ground was so hot that it blistered their feet, and
walked, fell and staggered through six miles of
fire and smoke to Hinckley, swam the river at that
point and struggled on to Mission Creek, from
which point they rode Into Pine City on handcars
and gave the first Intelligence of the burned train,
the desperate straits of Its passengers ana the sad
news of the destruction of Hinckley and many
human lives. It was an awful Journey through
the night of smoke and flames and Mr. Lobdell's
description of it picture a tearful experience.
"I hope to never see such sights again," Mr.
Lobdell said. "The moment the cars were stopped
at Skunk lake a small marsh about two acres in
extent and lying close alongside the track, the
passengers crowded off pellmell, unmindful of each
other in their mad desire to reach the water. The
air was full of flying sparks and the beat was
"In my coach there were two Chinamen who
became crazed with fright and refused to leave
their seats. They clung to the seats and could not
be pulled away, although I saw two or three men
tugging at them even In the awful hurry of the
moment. That was the last I saw of the China
men and later I heard that they remained in the
coach and were burned to death along with the
train. We reached the water none too soon. The
roar of the flames could be heard south of us to
ward Hinckley even before we reached the water's
edge and a number of women fainted before get
ting to the lake. They were picked up by the
male passengers and everybody reached the water
In time to save their lives. What we suffered for
four mortal hours in that marsh baftlea doserlptlon.
Men, women and children piled into the water In
one heterogeneous mass. Everybody abandoned
his baggage, nor thought of aught else but saving
his own life. I had a small traveling grip along
with me and carried it into the water. We bad
been In the lake scarcely halt a minute when
through the wall of smoke there burst a sea of
flame. The heat was awful. Somebody shouted,
'Get under the water for your lives!'
"I obeyed the command and I guess vary
(Continued on Page Thw.)