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Stout, W. H. B.

W. H. B. "Boss" Stout (1837-1902), Nebraska building contractor, politician, and lobbyist, remained well known here even after he suffered financial reverses and left the state about 1890. The Omaha World-Herald of April 12, 1892, reported his residence in Washington D.C. at that time and summarized his past career:

"The name of W. H. B. Stout is a familiar name in Nebraska. It is closely linked with the political history of the state. In 1868 [1858] Stout went to Nebraska. He was a member of the first state legislature. He became a contractor, and moving to Lincoln [in 1871] from a northern county [Washington] he began to amass a fortune. He was by nature a money maker and entered politics 'for revenue only.' With wealth came political power, and with the latter came state contracts. He obtained the contract for keeping the prisoners of the penitentiary. With this convict labor he built the present state house [the second Nebraska State Capitol], which is a standing monument to the inferiority of prison labor. He built the Lancaster county court house and many other creditable structures.

"For a time money seemed to grow on trees for Stout. Then he branched out into mining. . . . An Idaho mine was to have made 'Boss' Stout a twice millionaire, but one day when the skies looked clearer than ever Stout woke up to find that the Idaho mine had petered out and he had lost $225,000 in cash in the investment. This was the starter. All over Lincoln Stout owned many valuable pieces of property, among these being the old Capitol hotel. Mortgages followed, and further and further the big contractor went down hill. Everybody was ready to give him a shove downward. In 1887 Stout transferred his penitentiary contract to Charlie Mosher, . . . The money Mosher paid went to pay off other debts of Stout and it was not long until the once man of wealth was penniless.

"It never rains but it pours and within eighteen months Stout's wife died. . . He moved to Washington. During his better days in Nebraska he had obtained the contract for building the foundation for the new congressional library at the nation's capital. When fate began to smite him this contract was taken from him and rewarded [re-awarded] after he had derricks and material already upon the ground. He has a claim against the government for expenses and damages sustained in this matter in the sum of $150,000."

Stout later secured a minor government post in Washington through the auspices of a Nebraska friend but never managed to retrieve his lost fortune.

(January 2005)



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