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the Readings

Inquiry Question

Historical Context


Reading 1
Reading 3



Table of

Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Newspaper Article, from the Early Years of Statehood

The following is an opinion article published by the Nebraska Statesman newspaper in 1869. In it, the author responds to an earlier article published by the Nebraska City News.

The Nebraska Statesman


July 10, 1869
Lincoln, Nebraska

The [Nebraska City] News (we think) asks "who of the state officers has made the most money out of Lincoln?"
We do not keep the private books of [our?] State officers, but believe we are safe in saying that Governor Butler has. He is probably $25,000 better off than when Lincoln was located. Mr. Kennard has made several thousand dollars, Mr. Gillespie has some; so has Mr. Sweet. We (not a State officer, however), have made eighty-one cents clear.
Whose business is it?
Yet, although it is nobody's business, we propose to state a fact or two.
On the day of the first sale, September 17, 1867, Lincoln was but a hair's breadth from a fizzle. The weather was cold and drizzly, not a tenth part of the buyers who had promised to be here had, in consequence of the weather, been able to arrive. Bidders, speculators, State officers, and small boys, felt dispirited and disheartened, and when the first lot was put up the auctioneer's hammer fell with a dull thud like a clod on a coffin. The thing looked busted. The Commissioners looked busted--for they were in for $1,000, which they had borrowed on their personal credit to pay the preliminary expenses. Everybody looked busted, and the forlorn appearance of affairs was not dispelled until Butler, Kennard, Gillespie, and Sweet, by bidding freely for lots at considerable advances over appraisements, and showing strangers that they were willing to take the risk, induced others to bid and buy, and thus established the first success. The Commissioners and Mr. Sweet bought, in all, at the first sales, about $20,000 worth of lots. The Governor and Mr. Sweet being tolerably well off planked down the cash. The other two not being blessed with large fortunes, sold part of their possessions, borrowed some money from their friends, and scratched gravel for the balance, and paid for their lots. They have also purchased freely at subsequent sales. They bid against determined opposition and had to pay as good prices as anybody.

Lots which were appraised like others on the same street, at $50, and the Governor bought at $80, have been sold as high as $1,200. Others bought by other State officers have brought one, two, and as high as six hundred per cent. Real estate business has been profitable in Lincoln.
Whose business is it, if the State officers have each made ten cents or ten thousand dollars? They deserve all they have made. They took big risks—risked all they had, and fortune—by their faithfulness in carrying out the "Lincoln scheme" has favored them. It was their own money they bought with, and it was their own property they have sold for more money than it cost. These men have had a burden to carry, and they have carried it well. They have never, at any moment, shrunk from any of their responsibilities; and at all times stood ready to perform any extraordinary service that the exigencies of the case required. When the work on the State House exceeded the amount of money received at the first sale, the Commission were waiting for the second sale to provide the necessary funds—and in the face of the most dismal cloakings and predictions that after all Lincoln would still fail—these men did not hesitate to advance the money from $5,000 to $10,000 to shut the clamorings of unpaid workmen. Out of their own pockets and credit, the risked the necessary funds. They knew that if Lincoln succeeded they would recover their loans; and if it failed, that Lincoln Sale wouldn't them, financially, politically or otherwise.
But the experiment – which the founding of this town was – is a success, and for the success thereof the credit is due to David Butler, Thomas P. Kennard, John Gillespie, and James Sweet. They saved it when fizzling and their cash account has been increased thereby—in an honest, legitimate way, by buying and selling lots.
Now, whose business is it?

Questions for Reading 2

1) Why did the Nebraska Statesman, printed in Lincoln, call the founding of Lincoln an "experiment?"

2) According to the editorial, how did the Commissioners and James Sweet show and establish confidence in Lincoln?

3) What did Thomas Kennard and John Gillespie risk in this "experiment?" What would they lose if it failed?

4) Why do you think this article was written? Did the Nebraska Statesman defend or attack the commissioners? What criticisms do you think the Nebraska City News had made of the Commissioners' action? Do you think it was fair that they profited from the sale of the lots?


Reading 2 is from July 10, 1869 issue of the Nebraska Statesman.


Comments or Questions

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