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ASTOR, LEHOX AND
THE WESTERN PUBLISHING AND ENGRAVING COMPANY
THE TORCH PRESS
TO THE MEMORY OF THE STRONG MEN AND NOBLE WOMEN WHO DARED THE
The Illustrated History Of Nebraska was projected in 1897, with J. Sterling Morton as editor-in-chief and Dr. George L. Miller associate editor. The plan of the work was arranged and projected — emphasizing special features, such as portraits, biographical sketches and histories of churches and other societies — under Mr. Morton's supervision, and with the effective and enthusiastic aid of Dr. Miller; and a great number of portraits and biographies had been procured, when, a few months before Mr. Morton's lamented death, at his urgent solicitation, I consented to carry on his work as editor and in particular to prepare the history proper. His plan at that time was to confine this part of the work to a brief outline of the formal history of the territory and state, regarding the other parts as its principal feature. He intended that this work should be accomplished in a few months and that the history should be ready for publication early in the year 1902. From the first I held firmly the opinion that a comprehensive and systematic history was more desirable and would be more useful and of more permanent value than the proposed special features. Mr. C. S. Paine, managing editor, also shared my views. Everything, therefore, that Mr. Morton had planned for the history as editor-in-chief, and with a much larger scope, has been executed just as if he had lived, but in the regular or systematic history of the territory, which has constantly grown on oar hands and is presented in this and the following volume, early subscribers to the work get as a reward for their possibly tedious waiting vastly more than Mr. Morton instructed me to give.
In a prospectus of the History, written when it was projected, Mr. Morton, in enthusiastically setting forth important features of a worthy work of that kind and its great importance, expressed a vivid appreciation of the great labor and expense involved in the undertaking, by reason of its magnitude and the fact that its field was as yet unexplored, and also of the illustrative value of a comprehensive system of biographical sketches:
"But as yet the story of those stirring times and the narrative of the first struggles between barbarism and civilization on these plains is unwritten. More than thirty years have elapsed since Nebraska ascended from territorial to state government and was transformed from a federal dependency to a sovereign member of the American Union. In all those years no faithful history of the commonwealth from its inception has been essayed and only a few meager sketches of its morning time and its pioneers have ever been published. The time and the opportunity for a history of -Nebraska has arrived. It is our duty to gather together in good and enduring form all the stories and heroisms of the frontier territory and to truthfully portray the moral and mental strength of the courageous men and women who made it so strong and vigorous that it evolved the state.
"And then, uniting the forerunners of the frontier with the pioneers of the new state, this history shall demonstrate the self-reliance, the self-denial, and the self-respect which characterized and glorified those men and women who relinquished friends, relatives, and all the charms and associations of their dear homes in the East to become the forerunners of a new civilization on these plains. There is a universal demand for a credible history which shall give the youth of Nebraska a correct understanding of its founders, and the outcoming volumes will be alive with the individualities which have given power and force to the mental and material growth of the state. In almost every county there are men and women whose influence and labors have made them italicized forces in industrial and social progress. Many of these are of relatively recent citizenship, but by their superior abilities and tireless energies they have impressed themselves ineffaceably upon the welfare and growth of their respective localities, and in fact upon the entire state. The biographies of such men and women not only make the history of a state—they construct and fashion the state itself.
"But besides truthfully portraying past achievements and present developments, we shall honestly endeavor to set forth the economic advantages of each county and town in the state of Nebraska. Soil, climate, water supply, clays for pottery and tiles and stone quarries wherever found will be accurately described, while the agricultural and horticultural advantages and possibilities of all will be equitably and plainly depicted. The present output of manufactured articles will be accredited to each community. The advantages of giving to the world in this substantial and permanent form a standard thesaurus of reference for Nebraska are too obvious to require elaboration.
"The editors and publishers realize that this historical work requires vast labor and research and the outlay of a very large sum of money. But they have faith in the pride of ancestry, pride of home, and pride of state which permeates Nebraska citizenship, and therefore enter upon the work with an exultant assurance of making it a marked and triumphant success."
I shall perhaps be charged with too frequent use of newspaper statement and comment. But I have followed that course deliberately, because the contemporary press furnishes a large part of our source material and because the press comment, discriminatingly judged by the reader, is the best illustrator and interpreter of the related facts and incidents. Mr. McMasters, it seems to me, has been at fault in so commonly basing his facts upon newspaper statements with mere foot-note reference to his authority. In avoiding this fault I have perhaps committed another in frequently giving the newspaper statement itself in the text. It is a great misfortune that, in addition to the loss of public records and other historical material, the territorial government neglected to preserve files of the newspapers, so that they are not completely connected, and only a few numbers of many of them are in existence at all. Mr. Alonzo D. Luce, territorial librarian, 1859-60, showed keen foresight and solicitude in relation to the preservation of newspapers, and prophesied the loss, which we now deplore, in the following lamentation:
"Many of the files of newspapers heretofore published in this Territory, which I have received from my predecessor, John H. Kellom, Esq., are in a mutilated condition, and I deem it prudent to recommend an appropriation to defray the expenses of binding them, and those which may accumulate during the coming year."1
This appeal of 1859 was> seems, in vain, and so it was repeated in the next report with additional emphasis:
"I have experienced considerable difficulty in procuring the few broken files of newspapers which are now in my office, owing to the great irregularity and uncertainty of the mails in the Territory. I deem it advisable, therefore, to urge the passage of a law requiring each newspaper publisher in the Territory to furnish at the end of each volume of their publication, one complete copy or file of whatever journal they may publish, to the Librarian, who shall audit and approve any bill agreeing with their advertised rates, and draw upon the Auditor of the Territory for the issue of warrants to the full extent of said bill. When said copy of any journal is received, it can only be preserved by binding in a good and substantial manner. Hence, I again request you to urge upon the Legislative Assembly an appropriation to defray the expenses of binding all the files of newspapers now in my possession. By carefully preserving these diaries of the ever-fleeting present, can we alone hand down to our posterity the progressive history of our fair young Territory. Without these files of newspapers, biographers and historians may look in vain for data of past events, and the world will, however willing, be unable to look
'House Journal, 6th Ter. Sess., p. 28.