IN the course of human events-- I think it was in '79 -- our then one-and-only railroad became the property of a corporation dominated by a man living in New York City by the name of Gould -- Jay Gould. Mr. Gould was coming to look at his new acquisition. He was said to be a millionaire many times over.
On the Kansas frontier, a multi-millionaire was a rare bird. So it was certain his train would be met by a large part of the folks of the town and county.
The city officials were embarrassed and perplexed. What should they do? How should they act? What should they say? Our mayor was a selfmade man and fairly fitted to his environment under normal conditions. He spoke the Kansas language fluently, often sulphurously; his popularity largely rested upon his well-known antipathy to Wall Street, the Money Power and Millionaires (most of all, Multimillionaires). How could he be consistent and not denounce this man to his face? But -- he was mayor; Concordia wanted railroad shops and special freight rates and a lot of "passes" and other things this man might give if he chose to be gracious. It was a condition, not a theory, that confronted him -- Well, he'd do what he could for the town but he didn't know how to go about it and admitted that he felt like a cat in a strange garret.
Finally, it was arranged that the city attorney, a young man born in Connecticut and who for a short time had lived in New York City, should stick close to the mayor and do most of the talking and see that there were no painful pauses or bad breaks of any kind.
The best two-seated rig in town was spoken for; the mayor was to drive; the city attorney would sit with the guest on the back seat and direct attention to all objects of interest visible to the naked eye and discernible by the eye of faith. It was generally understood that Mr. Gould had an eye for actualities and it was argued that he must too have an eye for potentialities or he never would have bought the "Calamity Branch."
The day came; the special arrived; Mr. Gould alighted; the city government stepped forward to a man; introductions; the mayor's invitation to see "our beautiful city" was accepted: (The city then was not the least bit beautiful, and everybody knew it!) The equipage, the mayor holding the lines, passed slowly through Main street, closely followed by the Committee of the Whole on foot, and into the residence section as far as houses were visible.
At the attorney's suggestion they drove to the hills just out of town to the west. By this time the talking member of the city government felt that he was on a safe social footing and could talk with all freedom to the excellent listener at his side. The vehicle was brought to a full stop. Tradition has it that then and there Jay Gould failed to grasp a golden opportunity. The Spokesman of the Administration put his arm affectionately around the shoulder of the City's Guest and spoke in substance as follows:
"Jay, my dear fellow, look! -- To the east, the north, the northwest, lies the marvelously fertile Republican Valley; to the southwest and south the gently rolling hills, every line a line of beauty, every acre of surpassing fertility. Away yonder, through a break in the timber you catch a glimpse of water -- unfailing water direct from the Rockies -- the glorious, life-giving Republican river. At our feet lies the metropolis of this region of unparalleled richness, and beauty. From this spot you can see your own railway all the way from Clyde to Yuma and beyond -- the only highway of its kind that enters this modern Eden. All in all, your eyes now rest upon a scene unsurpassed in all the world; the like may not be found in even in our own incomparable Kansas. Jay, I own several acres right here where we are now; I have fallen in love with you, and am going to make a proposal; if you will come and build yourself a good respectable home I'll give you any two acres you may select. And more; if I can borrow the money, I'll build myself a home near by so that we can sit on one another's door-step and watch the sunsets."
It is said that Mr. Gould smiled, faintly. Otherwise it is not recorded that the silent little man gave expression to what was on his mind except to ask: "Those bonds the city and county voted for the railroad -- are they legal and will they be paid?"
IN the never-to-be-forgotten years of the middle '90s, when our people were holding body and soul together with soldiers' pensions and hen fruit, Jay Gould's daughter, Helen, visited us. Her father had been dead a number of years; she was heir to a substantial share of his vast fortune. Whether she made the trip of her own volition or whether it was made to appear to be a duty of course we do not know. The interesting thing -- she came.
She arrived in the evening accompanied by a considerable number of Missouri Pacific officials. In her drive around town she was chaperoned by the same attorney -- then our district judge -- who performed the like service to her father some 15 years before. The community was in the deepest doldrums; we were just hanging on. Our streets were unpaved, dusty and forlorn; the business houses were closed (not trade enough to justify lighting up). As her carriage passed slowly along, Miss Helen noticed an empty store building lighted and a number of women standing around.
"What is going on there?" she asked.
The judge replied: "The ladies of one of the churches are serving ice cream and cake to help pay their pastor."
"But," said Helen, "they are getting no patronage."
"No," sighed the judge. "I guess they will get mighty little trade tonight."
"Oh stop! We must go in."
In they went -- the judge introducing her to all the church women. They were given seats and served. Of course the whole bunch of officials followed their leader and the street crowd followed after. In place of what promised to be a keen disappointment to the good women, the evening was a marked business success as well as a notable social pleasure. Before going Miss Gould beckoned to the president of the society and invited her to come to her private car in the morning at a specified hour. Of course, the call was made. When the caller departed she was the happy possessor of a check bearing the signature of Helen Gould.