The Farmer Invasion

As autumn and the 1990 elections approach, political parties and special interest groups are

vigorously campaigning for their candidates and causes. One hundred years ago it was much

the same story in Nebraska. 1890 was an election year, one in which farmers vowed to defeat

the interests of banks and railroads. Rallies were held across Nebraska. One of the biggest was

reported by the Kearney Weekly Hub under the headline, “Just Scads of Them. The Farmers

Alliance Takes Possession of Kearney.”

“Whew! but there was a lot of them. It’s the farmers we mean. They flooded Kearney Friday

and the woods were full of ’em, figuratively speaking. The streets were anyhow. They did not

show up very early in the morning, but there was a general impression that something was

coming, and the wily merchant who wanted to catch the country trade hung out his flags, piled

hay in his window and otherwise showed his love and sympathy for the dear people.

“About 11 o’clock the first of the long line appeared in view….At the head of the line came the

Kearney police, followed by the Midway Military band. A carriage full of children followed

and then came the prominent speakers of the day. After this there was no use trying to keep

track of the different alliances in the long string of vehicles. Most of them had banners. “It

was a curious procession, not gotten up entirely on the ornamental order, for most of the

vehicles were lumbering farm wagons or buggies. Several of the marshals wore hay around

their hats and bodies, and had the article protruding from every pocket. A six mule hayrack was

decorated on the sides with mottoes of this nature, “In Republicans We Trusted, and Now We

Are Busted.”

“The procession occupied about an hour in its progress down Central Avenue but several times

it was obliged to stop on account of trains blocking the crossing, and then you could hear the

grangers cuss the railroad all along the line. By three different counts the number of vehicles of

all kinds was 370 and horsemen 64.”

“After dinner a long programme of music and song and speeches had been arranged.” Many

candidates reminded the potential voters, “Our farmers have been industrious, saving, but in

spite of it all their farms are mortgaged.”

“As the afternoon was gone, the greatest gathering of farmers ever seen in Kearney largely

melted away, greatly encouraged by seeing the rest of their crowd and swapping prophesies as

to the size of the majority by which the independent ticket was going to scoop things.”


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