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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (Aug. 3, 1913)
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VOL. XLIII NO. 7.
Five Living Ex-Mayors of Omaha Talk of the Office
klVE living ex-mayors of Omaha Ben-
F jamln Ell Barnet Kennedy, William
B James Broatch, George Pickering
B T I. T l. TT J Tt
xieuiia, juaeyu ix. iuiiiura uuu nuriy
B. Zlmman the first of whom sat
in tho chair of the city's chief exec
utive before the majority of modern political bloods
were born, beliore' ,-wllth 'unanimity, surprising In
five eraeAs of such strong nndlverso- views- that
Omaha is tho Mecca of the world weary.
.Penniless and unknown, these- men tamo to
CJraalm a mere village back in the days when the
country was In tho throes of civil war -and laying
hold of the task of making a living, they grew
wealthy, famous( and happy. Two have retired from
business; one spent his million dollars and is back
at work; a fourth Is a financial power and tho'flftli
risoth by leaps and boundsbeing a young and en
Romance was tho side partner of the older of
theso living ex-mayors; the caroer of one of them
reads like an old fairy tale of. knights and fair
Ir.dies and much minted gold. Tho lives of them all
nro typical of the American qualities of pluck and
Bemis and Kennedy are growing old, but Bemis
refuses to admit it. He believes he will live to bo
150 years old and says he will "slip a cog" if ha
should succumb to mortal ailment before ho has
JpaBsed his 148th birthday.
Defies Time and His Scythe
"Look at me!" ho commanded. "See wha pres
ervation! For a boy between1 95 and 100 there
aro few to equal mo. And I feel fine and work harl
and njoy life. There Is nothing I care for espe
cially, except the children. And I love the chil
dren the sunshine' and flowers and the happy peo
ple who Burround mo."
Bemis is 75 years old, ruddy of faco, with soft
white hair, a bristling gray mustache and quick,
flashing black eyes. He is full of whims and is
even now making his own plans for forty years
hence, for he is gifted with, a vivid imagination,
which was one of tho traits of his brilliant uncle,
George Francis Train, with whom ho was closely
associated for many years, during tho height of
Citizen Train's popularity and activity. Bemis has
taken up the New Thought and attributes his op
timism largely to It
'I love children even better than Mr. Train did,
Bemis said in retrospection. "When Train lost his
money and his daughter was giving him ?13 a week,
which was all he wanted, he would wander around
in Central park, New York, playing with children.
The kids would clamber all over hlra. They were .
oil he needed this man who had played with mil
lions of dollars and had bullded cities and helped,,
Bemis, who was born In Boston March 15,
1S3S, and began the accumulation of a million and
a quarter dollars by sweeping out a little store on
Eighth avenue, New York, for $2,110 a veek, be
lieves he is the most adventured man in Omaha.
'I have certainly lived a strange, eventful life,"
he soliloquized. "And I will have gotten out of it,
when I am ready to leave, what the rest of you
get bread, butter and clothes. Money has flowed
through my fingors and I have showered it right
and left. In my later years I find I am a Uttlo
pinched, but it does not matter. I have no re
grets." Around the World With Train.
Bemis' carper began to be "oventful" the day
bn quit his storo'swoeplng job to accept a position
shipping clerk and continued to grow more
tventful through his service In the civil war, his
:rip around the world with Train when that erratic
citizen was stirring up discord and organizing cor
porations, installing street railway systems and
lecturing on immigration or any other question,
K.m. in tho chair of the city's chief exec- l SIi;.. .'WiilinV O n"'-5 III II II 11 II II TV
through his Journalistic life in Loudon down to his
fight for mayor of Omaha.
"I always looked up to Train," Bomls said, di
verging from his subject. "Ho was my ideal and
I believo be was 200 years ahead of his time. He
was bright, capable and generous to a fault. Monsy
meant nothing to him. In his later Ufo domestic
troubles almost wrecked his reason, but until he
retired he was a marvel."
Bemis entered the real estato and loan business
in Omaha. Much of his time was spent in thoso
days shortly after he had toured tho world with
Train In 1870 walking to tho postofflce, then a
building twenty-two feet wide, where he road over
tho eastern newspapers and discussed the latest
politics. In 1891 the republicans nominated him
for mayor, and he was elected by tho biggest ma
jority any candidate had received up to that time.
In 1896 ho went out of offico and since then has
lhed continuously at his home, 2303 Douglas street,
taking little part in politics.
"While I have not been very actlvo In politics,
I have kept in close touch with tho situation at all
tlmos," bo said, ns he picked up a newspaper. "I
cunt get over the habits of tho newspaper man. I
read tho newspapers avariciously. My eyes aro
clear and glvo mo no trouble and often I read until
1 o'clock in tho morning."
Something of a Veto Artist. ,
During his administration Mayor Bemis sot tho
racord for vetoes. Ho vetoed nearly 500 measures.
"About three a week," he said. "A lot of things
wero slipped through which I knew nothing about
until they camo to my offico. There thoy met
"I have been accused of being unsympathetic
toward tho poor, but no man evor fought harder
fights for tho plain pooplo than I have. I lovo thorn
and their interests are my own. I believe in fair
play and I gavo the poor and the friendless inoro
than their due whon I could.
"I do npt say this boastfully, but I have been
a philanthropist in my time. John A. Croighton
used to say that wo two wore the real philanthro
pists of this town, for we would get together and
tllscuiM how we could spend money for the benefit
ot others. And w Hnent it. too. That was whon
I had money to spend, and sunt it with a lavish
hand. I had great schemes In mind then and if
they bad gone through I probably would havo beeu
SUNDAY MOKNtNU, AUGUST 3,
a wealthy man. I conceived tho idea of Bemis park
at a time that was probably not opportune. 1 mado
tho park and tho park unraado me.
Since I havo been watching instead of marching
with the political procession I havo scon great im
provements take place In tho city government. The
machinery is much easier to handlo and tho ser
vants of the people are nearer'thelr masters. All
wo need is to havo the right kind of men in offico."
Muyor Fifty Yearn Ago.
First of all living ex-mayors comes B. E. B. Ken
nedy, who was mayor from 18C2 to 1SG4. Ho was
born April 20, 1827, at Bolton, Vt., and was tho
son of a veteran of tho war of 1812, who went back
to tho farn! after the war and was elected to tho
legislature and later held tho offico of Judge of
tho nisi prius court of lils county. Mr. Kennedy is
now tho oldest living momber ot tho Omaha bar,
of which ho was a loader until a fow months ago,
when ill health drove him from active practice, al
though he claims to bo good for a numbor ot long
"I have been a little feeble of late," said Mr.
Kennedy, "and havo lost Interest In politics. I do
not caro to hear politics discussed now."
Until ho was of ago Kennedy worked on hte
father's farm-attending district school in winter and
securing ono term of academical education. Ho
studied law in Richmond, Vt., with a law firm in
1853, and was admitted to tho bar. Ho married
in 1858 and camo to Omaha, waB elected solicitor,
sm'ed ns mayor and for throe years was a member
ot tho territorial legislature. Wbllo In tho legis
lature ho was chairman of the Judiciary commttteo
and of tho Joint coininlteo on tho revision of tho
statutes. In I860 ho was nominated by tho demo
cratic party for Judgo of tho supremo court, but
was defeated by a small majority. In 1879 Mr.
' Kennedy was choten school director of tho public
schools of Omaha and this offico he held for eight
consecutive years. During this period tho first
school buildings in tho city wore erocted.
Wuy back In 1848 Mr. Kennedy took tho frea
man's oath and cast his first ballot for Lewis Cass.
Twice ho voted for Grovor Clevoland, once In 1888,
and again in 1892.
"My chief pastime In the days ot reorganization
was hunting," said Mr. Konnedy, who bocamo
kpovn as a great lover of all outdoor sports. Ap
plying himself assiduously to his law work, ho
built up a largo practice and bocamo ono of tho
best lawyers of tho local bar au well as a prominent
figure in affairs of tho stato.
In Offico During Stormy Times.
William J. Broatch, born at Middloton, Conn.,
July 31, 1841, won honor In tho civil war and later
camo to Omaha and lost como of his laurels while
holding tho office of mayor, a position he occu
pied from 1887 to 1890.
Slnco retiring from actlvo politics Captain
Broatch has now and again been stirred by national
lfcsuea. When Roosevelt camo forth as a bull mooso
Mr. Broatch lont him aid and was prominent in
local political gatherings until the figure of tho bull
mooso fuded from tho horizon.
Mr. Broatch, too, was a farmer until seventeen
years old, when ho becamo clerk In a hardwaro
store. After coming to Omaha ho engaged in tho
heavy hardwaro business. In 1881 ho was elected
to tho legislature. Ho was a member ot tho Omaha
Board of Trade tho year tho board was organized.
"I conceived tho Idea of flghtlug in tho union
army, being nn ardent abolitionist," said Mr.
Broatch, reforrlng to his war record, "and In order
to acciiBtom myself to the rigors of campaigning I
forsook my bod and slept on tho hard oak floor."
He was In several ot tho big battles of tho war.
Served in Eurly Seventies,
Joseph II. Millard, now president of the Omaha
National bank, wan mayor in 1872 and 1873. He
was born in Hamilton, Canada, in 1880, and camo
to Omaha lu 185C, whoro ho becamo a roal estato
doaler. Senator Millard's life in Omaha has been
a series of financial successes, dating from tho day
ho becamo u member of tho banking firm of Bar
rows, Millard & Co. Ho was also an organizer ot
noto and assisted in organization of tho Omaha
& Council Bluffs Street Railway and Bridge com
pany in 1887; was one of tho incorporators of tho
Omaha & Southwestern and also tho Omaha &
Northwostorn Railroad companies. Later ho ho
came one of a sndlcnto which purchased the stock
of tho Omaha Motor Railway company. Ho was a
member of tho first board of directors of tho Omaha
Loan and Trust company Havings hank. Senator
Millard wus sent tp tho United States sennte by
tho legislature ot 1901 and served ono torm thero
being succeeded by Senator Norrls Brown. Ho Is
enjoying flno health, works as lustily as his most
SINGLE COPY FIVE CENTS.
ouorgotlo clerk and sponds his vacations in Europe.
Last of the lino of living ex-mayors is Hurry B.
Zlmman, who filled out tho unoxplrod torm of Hon.
Frank E. Moores, who died In office. Mr. Zlmman
was a militant president of tho council at tho timo
of Mayor Moores death. Ho assumed tho offico ot
mayor whon gravo questions had thrown tho city
Sato a turmoil and tho Council waft squirming under
"a lUuth'bra of hard work and a VeguhtrriatrOT ills
sessions. "Tho?Q woro stormy times," Mr. Zlmman said,
"and I havo u hobby which did not tend to pour
oil on tho troublod wators. My hobby was and I
havo it yot that publio sorvico corporations ought
to bo run by private individuals and controlled ab
solutely by tho city officials. In those good old.
days patienco was a virtue, but virtue was not Its
own roward. This hobby was a protty dangerous
thing for mo to carry around."
As president of tho council Mr. Zlmman was mi
nority loader in sovoral hair-raising disputes. Ho
tells w.lth bated broath of ono particular scrap in
which ho fought with tho minority undor a. consid
erable handicap. Tho fight was over tho letting
of a certain contract.
"Horo'ji whore my hobby hurt again," Mr. Zlm
man recallod. "Tho city councils in th days ot
Mayor Jam 03 C. DaJilman hare indulged In bitter
verbal argumonts and havo passed hoi oplthots
acroim tho table, but tho council chamber has never
slnco echoed with such sounds of griovous struggle,
as on the memorablo day whon this contract camo
up for action.
Story of a Hot Fight '
"With tho minority of tho council I had gone to
my offico that day and Intended to stay there, so
that a quorum would not be present when tho con
tract camo up. When tho council convened and
found us absent there was a wild protest and
threats to bring us In by pollco forco. Hearing
this, wo marched Into tho council chamber, and tho
minute wa were In there the doors were barricaded
by pollcemou and plainclothes men took their Keats
besldo each minority momber.
"Naturally, I relinquished tho chair to the vico
chairman so I could handle tho minority's fight
from tho floor. Well, without going into tedious
detail, let mo tell you thero was a regular rough
house thero beforo tho session was ended. Ono
member of tho council, I remember, spent a consid
erable portion of his time struggling in a corner of
tho room with a big policeman, who sat on him to
keep him quiet."
The fact that ho lost this fight Mr. Zlmman at
trtbutos to no lock of managerial ability nor to cow
ard I do of his supportors, for he savB they fought
llko Trojans under the oye of tho pollco and fre
quently with the bluecoats.
Whon Mr. Zlmman became mayor tho San Fran
clsco earthquake tended to relieve tho local tension
of discord, and ho led the campaign to help the suf-c
ferers. Many tenta wero pitched and 5,000 rogu
gees were harbored hore, hundreds being Bent on
to other cities where thoy had relatives or friends.
Omaha sent tho first tralnload of provisions to the.
stricken city, smoking in ruins at tho Golden Gate.
Mr. Zlmman wouud up his career as mayor and
settlod down to his private business, but tho lure of
the city hall and tho Interest ho maintained in tho
issues fought out and settled thero has brought him
back to tho council chamber many times slnco, and
hlH "hobby" has compelled him to do batto beforo
tho olty commission frequently.
"I boliovu tho city ought to be In partnership
with tho public sorvlce corporations," Mr. Zlramau
snld. "And the council ought to havo ubsolute con
trol ovor theso corporations. I havo fought for
this nearly all my Ufo and Intend to keep right on
fighting. I do not believo in municipal ownership,
but I do believo in more thorough municipal con
trol, and if I can get it, wo'ro going to have it,"