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Bennet, H. P.

The first territorial legislature of Nebraska convened in Omaha on January 16, 1855. Among the first lawmakers was H. P. Bennet of Nebraska City, described by a colleague as of "medium stature, light hair, his complexion varying from pale to florid to fit the state of his varying intensity of feeling in debate." In 1896 Bennet sent his reminiscence of that notable first day to the Nebraska State Historical Society. His writing indicates that Legislator Bennet possessed something of a dry wit.

"I was elected as a South Platte man, which meant that I was in favor of the location of the capital at Nebraska City. In other words to remove the capital from Omaha, where Thomas B. Cuming, the secretary, had established it, to a point south of the Platte, where I and my South Platte colleagues and constituents had more corner lots than in Omaha. The corner lot question was the great political question at stake between the two Nebraska parties. Party spirit, of course, ran high, as it naturally does when, as in this case, a great principle is involved in the issue. In such trials the issue cannot be found by proofs of the right beyond a reasonable doubt, as in criminal cases, but only by a preponderance of corner lots. And it was so found in this case, in favor of Omaha. . . .

"Frank Welch was an enrolling clerk of that session, and a good man. He could sketch with his pen almost as well as Thos. Nast, and during the session he made many caricatures of the ridiculous things that occurred. I remember one on the final departure of the gentleman from Cass, as Lafe [Lafayette] Nuckolls was called. The latter represented the council in session and Lafe at the door, his right hand extended in farewell to the members, while in his left, rather back of him, he carried his carpet bag, gorged to overflowing with stationery and other accumulated perquisites of office."

(December 1996)



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