Fhe Omaha Sunday Bee
A Paper for the Horn
THE OMAHA DEC
PACES 1 T
VOL. XXXVI NO. 51.
OMAHA, SUNDAY MORNING, JUNE 9,' 1907.
SINGLE COl'Y FIVE CENTS.
JOHN CHARLES EMIL BURM ESTER OF THE FIRST NEBASKA
How Napoleon' Invasion of Russia Set in Motion a Train of Events that Brought to Omaha Finally a Man Who Has Had Much Prominence in Business and Social Lif6
THE vaulting ambition of Napoleon Bonaparte which In 1812
u about to o'erleap Itself In the disastrous Russian cam
paign, carried down with It Into ,the consequent wreck the
property and Uvea of tens of thousands of Germans.
Among these was a certain well-to-do farmer living near
Bannenberg, Kingdom of Hanover. He had large flocks and herds
and he had seven sons. In the summer of 1812, when all of Europe,
excepting Russia had been subdued by Napoleon, his army swept; over
Germany on Its way to this last conflict, gathering strength as It
went. It absorbed the flocks and herds of that farmer In Hanover
and the seven sons were slezed, armed and compelled to follow the
The magnificent army under that marvelous "Man of Destiny"
never before conquered marched away with flying banners and play
ing bands. When it set foot on Russian territory it numbered 500,
000 men. Napoleon swept everything before him and In the fall of
1812 the half million men sighted the fantastic spires of Moscow
and marched Into the ancient capital without a fight. It was an
"enchanted city," for the Russians had deserted It with a deep
seated, crafty design that the French did not suspect While tho
great army was In revelry that jilght flames arose. In the morr.ing
the city was hopelessly In the grip of the fire and half a million men
stood on the frozen plains outside, hungry, cold and surrounded by
enemies. The seven brothers were In that host of men, which Im
mediately began Its famous retreat toward the west. Harrassed by
flying bands of Cossacks this army, like some great wounded animal,
crept back toward France. Tortured by cold and tormented by hun.
ger, thousands fell by the wayside and other thousands were taken,
prisoners. When the phantom remnant of that magnificent host
reached the Beresina there were only 25,000 left.
Among these was cne of the seven brothers. He hastened home,
where he found his parents dead and the estate confiscated. He
went then to Hamburg, where he started life anew and in course of
time amassed a considerable fortune. lift married and saw two sons
born to him. A venture In a steamship company ruined him and he
died In 1853. One of his sons was destined to become a pioneer of
Omaha. The son was born June 29, 1844, and was christened John
Charles Emtl BurttKster. An old-fashioned house on Stelnstrasse, a
part of the city which escaped destruction In the fire of 1842, was
his birthplace, and the only fact he remembers today about the place .
Is that the date on the door jamb was "1609." the year of the erec
tion of the house. ,
America Receives the Family
In 1856 the elder of the two boys Adolph left bis brother
and mother and sailed away to America. A year later word came
that he was meeting with success and then the widow and the younger
son decided to follow to the new world of hope. They embarked
at Bremen In a sailing ship and arrived after eight weeks In New
Orleans, whence they proceeded up the river to St. Joseph, Mo.,
where the younger brother became apprentice to a printer. The
great rebellion was about to plunge the country in fratricidal con
flict. Though they were In-the midst of rebel environment the two
brothers bad 'no hesitation In deciding for the union. Most of the
Germans In St. Joseph were Union sympathizers. But St. Joseph in
In 1861 was not a "healthy place" In which to express such sympathy.
Minute men were coming Into te city from all parts of Buchanan
county and tearing down the flaws from all bulldlnrs. Mr. Bur-
The mob had torn down the flag from the postoffice, the market
house and other buildings. The only place where the stars and
stripes still floated was from the German Turners' hall. In this
building about eighty people were gathered when the mob of 3,000
men appeared and demanded that they haul down the flag. But
those gathered In the building refused.
Thrice the demand was made and thrice refused. And then
when violence was about to be need a message came from Mayor
Beatty requesting that, to avoid bloodshed, the flag be removed.
After some more consultation It was decided to. haul It down for the
present. Then arose the question who would perform the un
pleasant task. Finally a man named Bradshaw volunteered. He
crept out through the scuttle in the peaked roof and stood on tire
platform by the flagstaff. He placed one hand on the rope and
raised the other for silence. The moment was a dramatic one and
It was so quiet that his words could be heard by all as he shouted
from the housetop: "I am going to take down this flag," he said,
his voice quivering with emotion. "I do It at the request of the
mayor. No cursed rebel mob could compel us to haul down the stars
and stripes." He drew his revolver, fired six shots In salute and
then drew down the flag and tenderly folded It up.
... "-J '
' . .. .
JOffiV CHARLES EMIli BURMESTER.
brought him home this morning.' Then she went to a door and
opened It so we could see in. There lay the boy on a bed, an ugly
wound In the side of his head showing what had caused his death.
This took our appetites and we left the bouse at once. The Incident
shows how hardened to the horrors of war the people were. That
woman was able to get us a good breakfast though her son had Just
been brought home dead and lay In the next room even at the time."
Mr. Burmester had a curious problem to grapple with while he
was chief quartermaster's clerk at Lexington, and it came to a happy
solution. The government had decided to discontinue the offlce and
an order came to forward all supplies to Warrensburg, thirty-six
miles away. Among the supplies were 800 horses which had been
captured from confederates or surrendered by them. Few men were
available in Lexington and certainly not enough to take 800 horses
a distance of thirty-six miles through a wild and unfriendly country.
Then one evening a regiment of union soldiers arrived in Lexington.
Tired and dusty and hungry with a long forced march were the men.
And the next day they would have to make another march of thirty
six miles to Warrensburg, The prospect was not encouraging. That
evening the chief clerk of the quartermaster's department and the
colonel of the regiment had a consultation and the former agreed to
furnish mounts for every man In the regiment If the latter would
agree to deliver said mounts at Warrensburg. Probably no bargain
.was ever concluded more agreeably than this one and about 800 men
With the First Nebraska
Finding It Impossible to enlist la the union-army- In St. Joseph
the two brothers with about sixty other men came to Omaha in May,
1861, and enlisted in the First Nebraska regiment under General
Thayer. Young Burmester was less' than 17 years old at the time
of his enlistment, and being, in addition, slight in stature he was
made a musician. The regiment camped on the plain back of the
present high school building. There the arduous drill was gone
through day after day and occasionally the men marched proudly
down Far nam street to Ninth and had dress parade. The old capitol
building was used for sleeping quarters. - ,
In the fall of that year the First regiment went down the river
to St. Louis, and thence Into southern Missouri, where for a short
time they were with" Fremont. When he was relieved they returned
to Sedalla, Mo., and took Up winter quarters In Georgetown. In Janu
ary, 1862, they went again to St Louis, and there took a boat for
Fort Henry, where they arrived just after the union gunboats had
captured It They proceeded then to Fort Donaldson, where they were
engaged In the battle on February 15, 1862, Next they took part In
the battle of Pittsburg Landing, and then participated In the siege
of Corinth. A few weeks later At Helena, Ark., the service of young
Burmester In the active army ended and be went home to care for his
Upon arriving In St Joseph he went Into the quartermaster's
department as a clerk. He advanced In a short time to the position
of chief clerk of the quartermaster's department for the district of
North Missouri. In this position It was his duty among other things
to pay for fodder and provisions taken from the country around- by
union soldiers. The officers used to take what they needed and glte
the farmers receipts, which were paid by the quartermaster. Mr.
Burmester went out periodically with large sums of cash In his
pockets and a brace of pistols around bis waist At the several towns
be would meet the farmers and pay what their receipts called for.
In the spring of 1865 he was transferred to the same position in the
central district of Missouri, with headquarters at Lexington.
There he had to oversee personally the securing of forage.
With thirty six-mule wagons and a company of cavalry as an escort
. he used to sally forth Into the surrounding country and get provi
sions for the army; peaceably If he could, forcibly If he must If a
man refused to sell his bins and granaries were emptied and his cat
tle taken. This was not done by young Burmester as ruthlessly as It
, had been done by the agents of Napoleon to his grandfather half a
century before. The farmer was given a receipt In full for all the
property taken and though he might rage and declare In language
not elegant but forcible that he didn't want their receipt. It was no
tlresble that he was always on hand when the paymaster came to the
' Sad Experience of War
"The country was still full of bushwhackers." says Mr. Bur
mester. "One night we were attacked by a band of them and fought
for more than an hour. In the morning we broke camp and proceeded
until we came to a house, where we stopped and demanded breakfast
The woman cooked- it and we sat down. At the table our talk nat
urally turned upou the sklrniUh of the previous night The woman
listened and presently I noticed she w as crying quietly. I asked what
wis wroii. 'You killed my boy she said between her sobs. They
of a certain union regiment mere made very happy the next morning
as they rode out of Lexington on prancing steeds. The horses were
all safe in Warrensburg that evening.
Life Since the War
After the discontlnuing'of the department at Lexington young
Burmester went to St. Louis, where he assisted in mustering out a
number of regiments at the close of the war. In the fall of 1865 he
came with, his mother to Omaha, where he has resided since that
time. He arrived here on Saturday, October 29, and on tho following
Monday morning went to work for Milton Rogers as bookkeeper. He
Blept In a room over the store and usually spent his evenings at the -fascinating
work of setting type on a German newspaper then located
at Twelfth and Harney streets. He remembers a fierce blizzard in
March, 1866. It took him half an hour to walk against that wind
from Twelfth and Harney streets to Fourteenth and Farnam streets.
And when ho opened the door of the store such a fierce gust blew In
that it brought down an avalanche of pots and kettles from their
places on hooks and shelves.
He entered the employ of Her & Co. In 1872 as bookkeeper and
cashier, where be remained until 1882. He then became assistant
secretary of the Western Horse and Cattlo Insurance company, and
when that firm discontinued business he wtnt Into the Omaha Barbed
Wire company, of which he was made secretary and treasurer. When
the Wire trust obsoibed this enterprise in 1892 Mr. Burmester be
came superintendent of the money order division of the Omaha post
office, a position which he has filled with credit and still holds.
During the seventeen years of his incumbency the business has
grown from 12,000,000 to f S, 000, 000 a year.
He married Mrs. Elfriede Meyer on May 20, 1871. She was the
widow of J. C. Meyer, sutler of the First Nebraska regiment. She,
too, had "smelled powder," having been with her husband at Cape
Girardeau when the rebel general Marmaduke tried to take the town.
She heard the screaming shells and the whizzing bullets and she
was In the midst of the wounded in the capacity of nurse and physi
cian. Mr. and Mrs. Burmester have two children living. Charles E.
Burmester, cashier of the National Distilling and Refining company,
and a daughter, Mrs. Mabelle B. Neal, also of Omaha.
Mr. Burmester was an active and aggressive member of the
Toung Men's Republican club In the early days Immediately after
coming to Omaha. He was secretary of the organization at one timei
He has always taken the greatest pride and Interest In the Grand
Army of the Republic and has been honored with a score of offices
In that organization. He Joined the Grand Army soon after Its Incep
tion and was first's member of George H. Thomas post No. 1. He
was elected adjutant of this post In 1868 and commander In 1869.
Activity in Grand Army Work
When the Grand Army was reorganized he became a charter
member of Omaha post, now U. S. Grant post, No. 110. He was adju
tant of that post In 1886 and commander In 1887. He was chief of
, staff to Department Commanders T. S. Clarkson, A. H. Church and
John Reese. - He was aid-de-camp on the staffs of Commanders-in-Chief
Robert Be ath, WillJam Warner, Russell A. Alger, A. O. Welssert
and J. P. Rea. He was special aid-de-camp In charge of military
Instruction in public schools on the staffs of Commanders-In-Chief
Thomas G. Lawler and Innls Walker. On the staff of Commander-in-Chief
W. G. Veazey he was assistant Inspector general.
He was a member of the national council of administration In
1894-5. He was a delegate to the twenty-first, twenty-fifth and thir
tieth national encampments. And in. 1896-7 he was adjutant general
of the Grand Army of the Republic, In which position he was the
executive officer in charge of forty-five departments, with more than
860,000 members. Something of his standing in national Grand
Army circles Is shown by the following editorial In The National
Tribune upon his selection as adjutant general:
"Commander-in-Chief Clarkson chose his adjutant general with
excellent Judgment, which has been more than Justified by a year's
occupancy of that Important position by Comrade Charles E. Bur
mester of Omaha, Neb. His fine abilities for headquarters work were
discovered during the war and given a thorough training then. He
has made a faultless adjutant general prompt, foreseeing, methodi
cal, courteous and obliging. Everybody who has had dealings with
national headquarters has been highly pleased with him."
It is a trite but true saying that peace hath her victories no less
than war. Here In a part of that vast territory which Napoleon sold
for a song to the United States In order to get money to carry on
his designs in Europe here the son of that soldier of Napoleon has
lived to see a far greater victory of peace than the "Man of Destiny's
martial genius produced by the sacrifice of a million men.
Divorce Question in America and Its Solution
DURING the past few months we have
heard much of trial marriages, but lit
tle has been said of the trial divorces
which have been granted for genera
tions. Experiments in both trial mar
riage and trial divorce are not uncommon. In
the past fciur years It has been my duty to sepa
rate a niaTand his wife, to grant them permission
to remarry upon the earnest solicitation of their
pastor, to divorce them a second time, and to con
fine the husband In- Jail for not supporting his
child after the second, divorce. That case stands
in my mind as an example of what Dr. Johnson
would call the triumph of hope over experi
ence. Under the Influence of ecclesiastical law and
tradition all but ten of the southern and western
states permit the granting of trial divorces, which
are known as divorces from bed and board. In'
these actions the court may separate the parties
for a limited time,' giving them a chance to try
divorce 'during that period, or It may separate
them for life; but in either case neither party jnay
remarry. All of the states except South Carolina
also grant the absolute divorce, or divorce from
bonds of matrimony, which leaves either party
free to remarry.
The wisdom of granting divorce from bed snd
board has often been questioned. On the one
hand, It affords those who do not believe in abso
lute divorce a means of separation. On the other
band. Lord Stowell has pointed out that it leaves
the husband and wlf "in the undefined and dan
gerous characters of a wife without a husband
and a husband without a wife."
Down to the passage of the English divorce'
act of 1857 divorce from bed and board was the
only separation that could be secured by those not
able, to pay the cost of a Parliamentary divorce.
This act was passed for the avowed purpose of so
reducing the cost of sbsolute divorce that It might
be within the reach of all, thereby decreasing the
number of clandestine and ilk gal second mar
riages. Recognizing that the desire td live with some
other person than the lawfully wedded spouse Is
often the reason for divorce lurking behind the
ground presented to the court the legislatures of
Wisconsin, Illinois and California have sought to
lemovs this temptation by prohibiting ren-rlage
wlthlu a year from the date of the decree. But
such laws will never be fully effective so long as
neighboring states have no such restrictions.
The uniform divorce law, recently drafted,
provides that the bonds of matrimony shall not
be dissolved until one year after the case Is hearcj,
and a provisional Judgment entered. This year
will give time for tempers to cool and for the par
ties to realize fully the meaning of the step which
they propose to take. This year will give oppor
tunity to discover fraud, If any was practiced. . It
will greatly decrease the number of absolute di
vorces, for that year of payment of alimony and
of separation from home and children will lead to
reconciliation and to the re-establishment of old
homes on a newer and better basis.
But some will say, let the husband and wife
live apart without legal separation If they cannot
dwell together In peace and harmeny. Until the
court steps In and separates them they are still
husband and wife. The brutal, drunken husband
may go to the home at any time of day or night
and Institute a reign of terror; . the wife may
flaunt her Infidelity In the very faces of her chil
dren, or reel to their abiding place In a drunken"
stdpor. And the only redress Is to appeal to the
police officer after the harm is done. It Is only
when tho court steps in and takes control of the
husband, the wife and the children that anything
like peace or decency can be brought out of these
hard domestic conditions.
When we turn to the legislature for a solution
of the problem we must not forget that legislative
enactments themselves do not strengthen frail
human nature. By refusing to grant a legal sep
a ration we can wipe out divorce entirely, but this
will not change human nature nor make homes
Ideal. In some extreme cases. If the law does not
give relief, the dagger will perform the function
of the divorce decree. When Justinian sought to
stem the rising tide of divorce by somewhat rad
ical reforms, poisonings and other attempts on life
among married people became so common that his
successor abolished these reforms. The countries
that prohibit divorce are not exceptional for social
But within the proper limits much can be done
by the law-makers to establish legal environments
that shall do away with existing abuses in the ad
ministration of our divorce laws. Much progress
has been made from the days when the legisla
tures of neighboring states lumped twenty di
vorces In a single bill, like remnants at a bargain
counter, without even suggesting the causes for
which the separation was granted. With these
old legislators the case depended more upon the
graces, charms or beauty of the wife, or upon the
social or political standing of the husband, than
on the merits of the, application.
The divorce scandals that made Utah and later
Dakota notorious are chargeable wholly to the
law-makers. Both states made It the duty of the
court-to grant a divorce when It appeared that,
for any cause or reason, the parties cannot live
together in peace and happiness, and that their
welfare requires a separation. ' Worse than that,
the requirements as to residence were such that
anyone who- could afford a trip to Utah or a so
journ of ninety days In Dakota could return to his
former abode with a divorce decree. As a result
of this law In three years the number of divorces
granted in Utah was six times the number granted
before the law was passed. Utah promptly re
pealed the obnoxious law and every state in the
union except Washington has repealed the "omni
bus clause" and substituted in Its place certain
definite causes for divorce.. All have lengthened
the required period of residence, South Dakota
alone lagging somewhat In the rear In this march
The United States presents two Interesting ex
periments In legislation restricting the granting
of divorce. It has been the settled policy of New
York to grant an absolute divorce for adultery
only, while South Carolina, with the exception of
a few years following the civil war, has never
granted an absolute divorce.
During the twenty years covered by the federal
divorce report 14,247 divorces were granted for
adultery alone by the New York courts. In the
state having the second largest population (Penn
sylvania) eleven causes for absolute divorce were
recognized, and during the same twenty years
16,020 absolute divorces were granted only '
1,773 more than New York granted for adultery
alone. Chancellor Kent, after a long career on
the beech of New York, stated that he believed
that sometimes sdultery was committed for the
verypurpose of obtaining a divorce because it
could be secured on no other ground.
In South Carolina, outside of the days of re
construction, the legislature has Yefused to grant
an absolute divorce itself or to empower the courts
to grant such decree. Aside from the presump
tion that this policy would have been changed If
not satisfactory to the people, one can find little
that commends It.
Turning to the laws and decisions of the courts
of that state, we find evidences of an unusual so
cial condition. This Is the only state, so far as I
have been able to ascertain, that has found it
necessary to regulate by law the proportion of bis
property which a married man may give the
woman with whom he has been living In violation
of law. As late as 1899 the courts were called on
to apply this law in order to protect the rights of
the wedded wife and her children, in a case la
which it appeared that both the husband and the
wife had been living in adultery since the separa
tion. Evidently this is not an uncommon condition
in that state, for Justice Nott, speaking for the
supreme court of South Carolina, said: "In this
country, where divorces are not allowed for any
cause whatever, we sometimes see men of excel
lent character unfortunate In their marriages, and
virtuous women abandoned or driven away home
less by their husbands, who would be doomed to
celibacy and solitude if they did not form connec
tions which the law does not allow, and who make
excellent husbands and virtuous wives still."
President Woolsey some years ago, speaking
of South Carolina, said: "The white wife has
often to endure the infidelity of her husband as
something inevitable which no law could remedy
and which public opinion did not severely rebuke."
In another opinion of the South Carolina su
preme court it Is said: "The most distressing
cabes, Justifying divorce even, upon scriptural
grounds, have been again and agaia preueuled to
the legislature, and they have uniformly refused
to annul the marriage tie." Justice O'Neal!, who
writes the opinion, asserts that the working out
of thii, blern policy has been to the good of the
people tnd of the state In every respect.
The results of this restricted legislation, so
far as the same are available, do not lead to the
conclusion that the solution of the divorce prob
lem lies either In abolishing or in unduly restrict
ing the causes for whkb divorce may be granted.
Each state In the union has enacted its own
divorce laws. As a consequence Mr. Dooley ln-
( Continued on Page Fou;
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