Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, June 27, 1915, EDITORIAL SOCIETY, Image 11

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    The Omaha Sunday
Popple ton
di 40 years
or a5e
((N APRIL. 1852. I entered the law offices of
C. I. and E. C. Walker of Detroit and spent
until October 22 of the same year In study
and general legal work. During this came
period, Jonas Seeley, Clinton Brlggs and
General Henry A. Morrow were students In other
offices In Detroit. On the 2 2d of October of that
year I was examined at Pontlae, Mich., before the
eupreme court of Michigan and admitted to prac
tice. The winter of 1852-58 I spent at the law
school of John W. Fowler, first located at Ballston,
Saratoga county, New York, moving thence to
Poughkeep6ie, N. T. This period was devoted al
most wholly to Improving and perfecting myself
in extemporaneous speaking, Prof. Fowler mak
ing that & specialty and being himself an orator of
extraordinafy!tmwer. In the spring of 16
turned to Detroit and became a member of the
firm known as "Carglll, Poppletoa &
Chase," and remained In that connec
tion until about the 1st of August, 1854.
"Our firm proved to be top heavy,
too many partners and too little busi
ness. It was dissolved, and I then
bega" o lool about for a new field of
operations. Uiio '11 u iiii Nebraska
bill had Just been passed, the Indian
title had been extinguished to the terri
tories of Kansas and Nebraska and at
tention was generally attracted to them.
Leavenworth and Council Bluffs seemed
tp be the two points about which most
w.-as known ana to wnicn mention was moii ssnor-
'd.r directed. I was little Inclined to either, prefer
ring Chicago or San Francisco. I left Detroit about
tho 1st of October. After remaining a day or twd In
Chicago (the Chicago & Rock Island road having
then Just been completed), I determined to go as
far west as Davenport. Upon reaching Davenport I
found everybody talkjng about Des Moines. Upon
reaching Des Moines I found the tide still setting
4irther west to Council Bluffs. While at Union
college I had read In the New York Tribune a let
te written by an army officer (located at one of
the northwestern forts) pointing out the site op
posite Council Bluffs on the west bank of the
Missouri as the Beat of a great future city. The
influence of this letter had really moved me from
joint to point westward of Chlcaso with a view of
settling there myself If my Judgment should ap
prove on seeing it. I reached Council Bluffs after
five days travel by stage from Davenport on Fri
day, October 13, 1854, about 7 o'clock in the even
ing. The next day I visited the Bite of Omaha, and,
standing upon the summit of Capitol hill, about
the hour of noon, felt that the New York Tribune's
correspondent had not exaggerated the eligibility
of the location.
"About 3 o'clock in the afternoon I found my
self on the Iowa bank of the river, returning to
Council Bluffs. I had been walking constantly
since 8 in the morning, had no dinner, and had
neither seen onr heard of any person I had pre
viously known. As I set ojit to cover the distance
between the river and Council Bluffs, I was natu
rally somewhat depressed In spirits. I reflected
upon tho situation and could see no work In
Omaha for a lawyer. At that time there were
perhaps twenty people on the site of the present
city, but there was no government, no courts, no
laws. For legal work it seemed an unpromising
field. After walking about one-third of the dis
tance, I saw coming toward me a double team
loaded with lumber and driven by a single person.
What was my astonishment upon approaching him
ctoeely to recognize A. J. Hanscom. We had been
follow students at Romeo during the first months
cf my residence there, but from that time he had
disappeared from my view, in the meantime he
had served in the Mexican war, been employed
ipon the Lakes, ahd married, drifted to Council
Muffs, engaged first in farming and then In mer
chandise, and now as he told me had made a
claim adjoining Omaha and was building a dwell
ing house thereon. I expressed to him my view
Ing house
Af the disc
v ho must
say that tl
ct Bellevut
iue uiscuurasuig ouuook ror me as a tawyer
earn his living. He then went on to
the territorial officers had Just arrived
e; that a territorial organization would
be immediately made; that an election for niem-
I Lers of the legislative assembly would soon be
Chapter op the autobip
A.cJ. Poppleton
called; that there was already more or leRS con
tention about claims and boundaries, and he
thought if I remained and established myself im
nediately in Omaha that I could secure a good
claim and earn something in claim disputes; that
both of us could get elected to the legislature and
that I would be sure to earn enough to carry me
through until spring; these suggestions seemed to
me to be sound, and before I reached Council
Bluffs I had decided to act upon them and remain
at least until the following springy
"On the following Monday I selected a lot on
Toward the close of his life, and after his sight had.totally
failed, Andrew J. Poppleton dictated his memoirs, which
have only now reached the public. Mr. Poppleton was
born on a farm in Oakland comity, Michigan, July 25,
1830, and died at his home in Omaha September 24, 1896,
after a brief illness. ITa had been the first general attor
ney of the Union Pacific and prominent in the public life
of Nebraska during his entire residence in the state.
iwhioh to locate my habitation and immediately
commenced the erection of what I called an offloe
thereon. Within a few days afterward Governor
O. D. Richardson of Michigan arrived at the Bluffs
end proposed to Join me in building my cabin and
spending the winter in Omaha. This reduced ex
pense and bis proposal was accepted. After secur
ing the lot from the Council Bluffs and Nebraska
Ferry company, I paid "White Cow," the Omaha
chief, $10 for peace and the privilege of occupying
by lot. We finished the structure and occupied it
within ten days. This so-called office was situ
ated on lot 4 in block 133 of the original survey
of the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry com
pany, fronting sixty-six feet on Tenth street and
about one hundred and fifty feet south of the
southeast corner of Farnam and Tenth streets,
standing on the rear of the lot. It was about ten
by fourteen feet, and consisted of a light frame
work of Cottonwood scantling, covered at the sides
and ends with cottonwood slabs standing upright
and nailed to the framework. The roof was of
cottonwood boards, one door in front and a small
window at the side of the door, and a small win
clow in the rear of the structure were the only
openings. During the fall we covered the whole
exterior with sod, with our own hands, making If
not an attractive, a very habitable structure." We
remained in it during the winter and found it as
comfortable probably as any house in town.
"The election was called In due time by Sec
retary T. B. Cuming (who had become acting gov
ernor by the death of Governor Burt), and Han
scom and myself were both elected to the lower
house. The first session of the legislature was
an eventful and critical period for Omaha. The
capltol was to be located and this was universally
regarded as deciding the fate of several projected
cities. Nebraska City, Plattsraouth, Bellevue and
Omaha were the principal contestants. When I
was elected to the legislature, of course all real
ized the Importance of the session upon our pecu
liar Interests, for, in the meantime, I, with others,
had taken claims and become as much interested
In the town as my means would permit. The strug
gle which resulted In the location of the capltol
at Omaha was long and close. Of the territorial
officials, Acting Governor T. B. Cuming was un
questionably entitled to the greatest credit for this
result. Of the members of the two bouses of the
legislature, while the entire delegation in such
body did their best, it cannot be denied that A. J.
Hanscom, A. J. Poppleton and Governor O. D.
Richardson, who was a member of the council,
vere especially conspicuous In that contest.
"At the close of the session of the legislature,
my occupation seemed to be at an end. It was
no part cf my purpose or ambition to engage in
or subsist by politics or political preferment. I
t ad never lost sight of the law, ud in its prac-
just now
tlce lay the path of my ambition. For a few days
I felt somewhat depressed, and then came employ
ment In the shape of the first lawsuit ever tried
In Nebraska, after which I was never Idle in my
profession. This was the suit of John Pentecost
against F. M. Woods. It involved a claim situated
on a tributary of Saddle creek, as 1 remember, and
not far from the present site of Elm-
wood park; in fact, I think a portion of
it is now comprised in the park. My
client was Pentecost; Governor Rich
ardson represented Woods. A full day
was spent In the trial and my client was
successful. It took place in the room
occupied by the house of representa
tives In what was then called the state
house, in which the legislature had con
vened. "In March, 1857,' when the govern
ment surveys were completed and the
United States land office opened
at Omaha, contests in the land office and
litigation in the courts following these contests
became the staple litigation in which I was en
gaged until 1863, when my work for the Union
Paclflo first began. I ought to say, however, that
during this period I was engaged In many criminal
trials. During the time that I was engaged In con
troversies over land titles, I laid the foundation
of that knowledge of the law of public lands
which enabled me to deal intelligently and suc
cessfully with Innumerable small and some great
litigations which sprang up when the Union Pa
clflo company proceeded to perfect the title to Its
land grant from the United States.
"I was elected a member of the legislature of
1S67-58, and served throughout that session the
most fruitless, perhaps, ever held in
Nebraska. It was during that ses
sion that a conflict arose which re
sulted in a portion of the members
withdrawing from the lawful body
in session in Omaha and seeking to
establish themselves at Florence as
the lawful legislative body. I was
elected speaker of that portion of
the body remaining in Omaha.
"In July, 1868, I was stricken
with a sudden and painful illness,
from fVhlch I did not recover suffi
ciently) resume the practice of my
profession until March, 1860. I had
been elected mayor of the city in the
spring jot 1858, which office I was compelled to
resign In the October following on account of my
"In July, 1862, the act authorizing hte con
struction of the Union Pacific railway became a
law. Nothing, however, was done under it except
to organise a company on paper until December,
1863. At that date, chiefly for its effect on con
gress, then about to assemble, from which the
company was about to ask Important legislation,
the ceremony of breaking ground took place at
Omaha. Peter A. Dey, for many years railroad
commissioner of the state of Iowa, had been ap
pointed chief engineer of the road and sent to
Omaha and placed In charge of the interests of the
company at this point. At his request, at the
ceremony of breaking ground, after officials and
G. F. Train and others had been heard, I was
called upon to speak. My speech gave great satis
faction to Mr. Day and other railway officials and
to the people of Omaha and attracted general at
tention; portions of It were soon after published In
the London Dally News. A few days afterwards
I was engaged by Mr. Dey on behalf of the road
to attend to such legal business as might arise at
Omaha for the company and specially requested
to prepare a general railroad law to be brought
before the general legislative asbembly at Its next
session. This law I drafted.. It was passed at the
fcession of has remained practically
unchanged from that day to this upon our statute
books; with some additional provisions mainly pre
pared by myself In subsequent years relating to
sales,- leases, consolidations and the mortgaging
of railroads and railroad property. From this time
until the spring of 1869 very much of my time
was occupied in advising and assisting railway offi
cers, in acquiring right-of-way, depot and shop
grounds in the city of Omaha, and In considering
the vast variety of questions that constantly spring
v. In the inauguration and prosecution of great
rullway enterprises.
"In the meantime, also, my general practice,
especially in the trial of heavy law and equity,
t&ses, was constantly Increasing, and I think that
at no period of my whole life have I ever been,
more completely absorbed in business; nor was
I ever faster educated.
"Until July, 1869, I had never received from
the railway company any fixed salary. I had been
laid upon itemized bills rendered for specific
services. The amount of my compensation, how-
Mr. Poppleton 'k draft of First Resolution adopted
Nebraska Territorial Legislature at its opening
ever, had been steadily increasing ss the business
Increased, and my railway worV togother with the
general practice, which waa also cobetntly grow
lag, had given me the largest lkj v Iron my
profession I had yet received. In the month of
July, 1869, upon one of the hottest days I recol
lect to have experienced, a messenger came to my
office stating that John Duff and C. 8. Bushnell,
both directors of the railway company, wished to
see me at the Cozzcns house In Omaha. I lost little
time in presenting myself before them, for I knew
they had been appointed a committee by what wai
known as the Construction company to visit
Cmaha and straighten out If possible the tangles
which had arisen with that organization, and espe
cially in relation to a firm of tie and timber con
tractors known as "Davis and Associates."
"I found these gentlemen minus coats and
vests, each diligently plying a large palm leaf fan,
rnd as it seemed to me in distress not wholly
caused by the heat. Mr. Duff, who seemed to be
the spokesman, proceeded to say that he had found
rpon inquiry at the auditor's office that the
cmount of money drawn by me from the company
vas constantly Increasing, and that the business
was also increasing, and perhaps fully warranted
lay charges. That he thought during the last year
( had drawn perhaps $5,000, which would be a
fair salary to pay for the exclusive time of counsel.
vihen he
That they had sent for me to agree, If possible,
upon a fixed salary which would give the company
preference In my attention to its business, and If
recessary cover my exclusive services. Thereupon
he put the question what salary I would require.
1 knew the position of the legal business of this
rompany better than these gentlemen knew it
themselves, and 1 answered promptly, $12,000 per
year. Mr. Duff appeared to be somewhat aston
ished, but in a few moments we had agreed upon
f 10,000 as the proper sum. This being completed,
)m took his vest from the bed and pulled out of an
instdo pocket about .a" dozen summons and sub
loenas served upon them that day Involving liti
gation to the amount of nearly $1,000,000 and
covering the whole line from Omnha to TTtan. My
engagement commenced from the 1st of July, 1869.
From that time until my resignation on February
1, 1888, I had few legal engagement outside the
business of the railway company. Such as I bad
usually Involved comparatively light labor, but
gave me large compensation. My salary was after
wards raised to $12,000 and continued at that sum
until my resignation.
This ended, by connection with the Union Pa
cific Railway company and its affairs. I had been
twenty-four years in its service and had partici
pated in almost all of its trials, conflicts, failures
and successes. I need not say that I had grown to
feel a strong personal attachment to the corpora
tion and an ardent desire to witness long deferred
success. Its affairs, however, do not seem to me
to have improved, and I fear that the Inherent in
firmities entailed upon It by early mismanagement
can never be healed or removed, and that liquida
tion alone will clear It of the wreckage and make
It useful to the people of the states and territories
through which It runs and to the government of
the United States. It Is Impossible to predict the
future of the company. It can only be said with
certainty that In the absence of a long extension
upon very low interest by the United States the
company and its affairs must Inevitably come to
bankruptcy. Immediately after my
resignation I made a short journey
to Mexico, and upon my return to
Omaha I took up the general prac
tice, confining myself, however, to
coses of importance. My best legal
work between 1888 and 1892 con
sisted in the preparation of the law
authorizing the consolidation of the
street railways of Omaha, and draft
ing, perfecting, defending and vindi
cating that consolidation in the
cum Is, together with the prepara
tion and argument, in conjunction
with Mr. Wool worth, of the two
by First
cases of the Chicago, Rosk Island
& Pacific Railway company and the Chicago, Mil
waukee & St. Paul Railway company against the
Union Pacific, to compel the specific performance
of a contrsct for Joint trackage over the Missouri
river bridge and a portion of the line of the Union
Pacific. The arguments of these railway cases
before Associate Justice Brewer of the supreme
court of the United States was my last In the fed
eral courts.
"As early as 1880 the sight of my left eye had
become impaired. Oculists bad advised me that
this had no necessary connection with, and would
probably have no effect upon, the right. Never
theless, about the first of January, 1892, the sight
of my right eye began rapidly to fail. This con
tinued until about the first of July of that year,
when I became totally blind. My life of light was
ended and my life of darkness began.
"I recognize to the fullest extent the numerous
obligations I have all my life been under to my
father and mother. They taught me industry,
economy and sobriety; to love knowledge; to shirk
from no obstacles, but to bo patient and persistent
in overcoming them; to scorn gratuities; to detest
cards, tobacco and liquor; and that the only true
order of nobility was that of labor, industry and
virtue. They were plain and simple In their lives,
but such success as I have attained Z attribute
mainly to their teachings and exampler ,