Sam Bayliss on Broadway

contributed by Ryan Roenfeld

            Sometimes hunches play out and if Colonel Samuel S. Bayliss would have chosen to ignore his forebodings during his voyage up the Missouri River in the spring of 1852 the history of Council Bluffs would have been very different.   Born in August 1817 in Fauquier County, Virginia, “of the old school, courteous and dignified, but not accustomed to roughing it,” Sam Bayliss had been speculating in western real estate since the 1830’s promoting speculative town sites in Illinois.  Bayliss, like so many others, found himself caught up in the hoopla of the California Gold Rush and was bound for Kanesville aboard the steamboat Saluda.  Hearing that the boat was unsafe, Bayliss got off the steamer at Lexington, Missouri and continued north to Kanesville mostly on foot.  Shortly after Bayliss left the boat the boilers on the Saluda exploded, killing somewhere between 26 and 75 passengers and pilot Charles La Barge.  A small memorial to the victims still stands in Lexington and the explosion of the Saluda remains the deadliest steamboat accident ever on the Big Muddy.

            The Colonel arrived in the bustling, four-year old community of Kanesville right in the middle of the Mormon abandonment of their major outpost on the Missouri River.  At the time Kanesville consisted of log cabins strung haphazardly up the hollow in the loess hills carved out by Indian Creek.  Most of the year Broadway varied between an eroded slide of yellow mud prone to the overnight appearance of gullies or a dust choked sandstorm.  The surrounding terrain discouraged the development of any sort of coherent city planning and portions of the log cabins undoubtedly included remnants of Billy Caldwell’s Potawatomi village which had existed on the same spot in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s.  A few folks even found themselves residing in “dug-outs“ literally dug into the loess hills.  Although the Mormon settlement first called Miller’s Hollow had grown in size and importance after Winter Quarters was deserted, one observer still found it a “scrubby town of 80 to 100 log cabins” in 1849.  What passed for “downtown” Kanesville was centered near present-day East Broadway and Benton Streets where the post office had opened in 1848.  An even less-charitable emigrant heading through in 1850 called Kanesville a “mean Mormon hole,” while another asserted that the town was “stuck among the gulches” along modern-day East Broadway.  Heavily traveled roads led north from Kanesville up Mud Hollow (now North Broadway) to the Mormon’s Winter Quarters ferry, southeast on Madison Avenue (now South 1st Street) to Cartersville and the Potawatomi Mill on Mosquito Creek, south and southwest to the Council Point steamboat landing and the Traders Point ferry to Bellevue, and another, newer route that led more or less due west across the soggy “Eight Mile Prairie” to the Lone Tree Ferry.  Named after one of the several “lone trees” found along the trails west, the ferry was operated by William D. Brown.  Brown had served as the first Sheriff of Henry County, Iowa and came west with the Gold Rush.  Brown only got as far as Kanesville though where his ferry business prospered and he became co-owner of a hotel called the Bluffs House.   

            Like Brown, Colonel Bayliss would find the situation on the Missouri ripe for profit amidst the turbulent period of anarchy that followed the departure of the Mormons, along with most any evidence of local legal propriety.  Reportedly, half the log cabins in town were up for sale and the low prices probably only grew lower as largely pious Mormon families were replaced by low-down desperados, gamblers, con-men, and sidewinders of even worse sorts.  Surely a situation such as this seemed far more profitable to the Colonel than a risky venture across the continent to the California mines.  As Kanesville’s population declined by several thousand people over that summer Colonel Bayliss bought out Mormon Henry Miller’s 400 acre claim near the mouth of Miller’s Hollow for a reputed $250.  During that fall of 1852, Kanesville was renamed Council Bluffs City by the general proclamation of the 900 or so folks still left, including a very ambitious Colonel Samuel S. Bayliss. 

            By early 1853 Council Bluffs City had become Council Bluffs although the community’s overall reputation had seemingly only worsened with William Gilbert calling the town “the poorest meanest dirty hole I ever saw…”  Likewise, Dexter Bloomer reported that once the Mormons were gone “Every available building was ere long converted into a gambling and drinking hall,” including the Gem, the Emporium Exchange (which also featured an attached Bowling Saloon), the Buna Vista, the Bluff Saloon, and the Ocean Wave.   The resulting conditions were described by James Linforth as a “very dirty, unhealthy place…“  Several other people had similar experiences during the rush of settlers headed west in the spring of 1853, including Harriet Ward who got a taste of “such profanity I had no idea was practiced in this world“ while Velina Williams claimed she witnessed a “drunken orgy,” and John Studebaker “lost all but my shirt and 50 cents” after getting swindled at three-card monte.  In the middle of that year’s rush of settlers through town a teenager named Baltimore Muir killed a man with an axe during a robbery.  Muir was quickly hung from a tree in Hangman’s Hollow (now Glen Avenue) which prompted  J.S. Cowden to remark that “Judge Lynch is a hard-faced old fellow…” 

            In partial response to the local lawlessness, elections were held that April and merchant Cornelius Voorhis was elected the first Mayor of Council Bluffs.  Voorhis had settled in Kanesville in 1848 and was a member of the notorious anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic American Party, better known as the “Know-Nothings“.  The first elected Council Bluffs Aldermen included Colonel Sam Bayliss along with S.T. Carey, L.M. Kline, Dr. J.K. Cook, Reverend G.G. Rice, Mormon editor of the Western Bugle J.E. Johnson, the Bugle’s printer L.O. Littlefield, and merchant J.B. Stutsman who co-owned an outfitting store in Council Bluffs and a mill on the Nishnabotna that eventually evolved into Macedonia.  During the Council Bluffs Council’s first year Washington Hepner and Lone Tree ferryman William D. Brown were appointed to fill sudden vacancies.     

            Some of the council’s first actions were to appoint Alfred Jones as City Surveyor, Isaac Beebe as Street Supervisor, and G.A. Robinson as Chief of the Fire Company and to establish a city jail in May 1853.  Then, to keep some semblance of peace, the city sanctioned a Vigilance Committee to enforce law and order by any means necessary.  In fact, the first city charter called for a whole variety of improvements, including limiting local sales of gunpowder, but there was no money to pay for any of it since the city couldn’t legally tax land squatter titles.  Instead of property taxes, the entire city budget came from licensing the several flourishing saloons and gambling halls.  This was the city’s first, but not last, attempt to rely on booze and gambling to keep a steady stream of revenue flowing into city coffers.  Nonetheless, their actions only brought in a paltry $280 and apparently some public indignation as Mayor Voorhis resigned just six months after taking office. 

            Whatever the state of municipal finances, Council Bluffs Alderman Sam Bayliss kept busy and on June 15, 1853 he laid out his First Addition to the city plat.  At the same time, he donated some of the land for a courthouse and “publick square” on the aptly named Court Street (now 1st Avenue).  The Colonel’s First Addition was located from Broadway south along Pearl and Main Streets, well west and south of “old” Kanesville.  Unlike the older parts of town, the blocks in Bayliss’ First Addition were surveyed with some sense of regularity and lot lines were not hemmed in by steep bluffs on one side and flood-prone creek bottom on the other.  In the process, Bayliss left Broadway with a distinctive angle between Bancroft (now 4th) and Baldwin (now 8th) Streets. 

            Sam Bayliss and his brother Joseph also opened one of city’s first brickyards although any remaining examples of “Bayliss brick” are unknown to this writer.  The Colonel was also on hand in July 1853 to help organize the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company.  The Colonel was one of the several Council Bluffs businessmen whose keen eye for speculative profits forecast a gold mine, as were Dr. Ballard, the first Register at the town’s U.S. Land Office, Jesse Williams, who co-owned a Council Bluffs general store with influential western Iowa Congressional Representative Bernhart Henn, James Jackson who co-owned an outfitting store in Council Bluffs with Milton Tootle, and ferryman William D. Brown.  The new partners planned on replacing Brown’s Lone Tree flatboat with a larger steam-powered ferryboat while Brown began informally scouting locations along the west bank of the Missouri to establish a new town across from Council Bluffs.     

            That October, Hadley D. Johnson of Council Bluffs was elected as “Delegate from the Provisional Government of Nebraska to the National Congress.“  However, Johnson was not elected by the legal owners, the local Otoe and Omaha Indians, but by 358 men from Pottawattamie and Mills Counties who gathered at Traders Point and ferried across to Bellevue.  There the assembled Iowans elected Johnson amidst much rejoicing and proclamations of the most speculative nature and then they all went back home. The results of this precarious example of pioneer democracy were then ratified in public meetings held across southwest Iowa while Congressman Bernhart Henn championed their cause in Washington.  Of course, its possible that the Congressman’s desire for the betterment of mankind was overshadowed by the potential profits for his store in Council Bluffs and for the Council Bluffs ferry company. 

            That November a fire swept through the town of logs called Council Bluffs and left behind heaps of cinders.  With cottonwood plentiful and nails to be found in the piles of smoking ash, most buildings were quickly replaced.  By late 1853 a flurry of construction was also taking place further down Broadway where the street made its funny jag.  One of the key reasons for the sudden angle was so that traffic passing back and forth between Upper Broadway and the Lone Tree Ferry would be sure to flow past some choice lots owned by Bayliss and his new friends.  A large building was soon constructed on the lot strategically situated at the head of newly laid out Pearl Street and the Colonel’s famed Pacific House Hotel opened that Christmas Day.  At the time it was one of the largest buildings this far up the Missouri with a coat of yellow paint that made the three-story structure an even more prominent landmark amidst the helter-skelter of ramshackle log cabins.  The hotel also featured spacious verandas that provided an expansive view of the river valley and the traffic passing below on Broadway.  Easily the finest hotel in town, its only competitors at the time were the City Hotel at Broadway and Glen and the Robinson House, “an old log building covered with cottonwood boards on the outside and lined with muslin tacked to the logs on the inside,“ according to Amelia Bloomer.  When the Pacific House opened, Bayliss also had a firm claim in owning one of the premiere establishments of its type found between the Missouri River and San Francisco.   

            During the spring elections of 1854 voters elected English immigrant Dr. J. K. Cook the second mayor of Council Bluffs, Colonel Bayliss and most of the other Aldermen were re-elected, and ferryman William D. Brown became the new City Marshal.  However, city government ceased to function with any semblance of regularity outside of the aims of the ferry company until after the spring elections of 1855.  Then again, who had the time to bother with regular civil government when there was so much money to be made on the banks of the Missouri?  The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that spring finally opened the territory west of the Missouri to settlement and fueled the sectional conflict between North and South that would erupt into war less than a decade later.   

            To protect their claims at any cost a vigilante Claim Club Association was organized at Omaha City in July 1854.  That same month the town’s first newspaper, The Arrow, appeared to promote the ferry company’s new speculative venture although the newspaper was actually printed at the Bugle office over in Council Bluffs.  That summer the ferry company also built Omaha’s first hotel, the “Saint Nicholas” Claim House, at 12th and Jackson Streets and in August the Colonel’s two brother-in-laws were on hand for the town’s first Methodist church service. 

            Another Omaha City improvement appeared just south of the Lone Tree along Otoe Creek where Colonel Sam Bayliss and one of his brother-in-laws, Alexander Davis, built the town‘s first sawmill.  Bayliss and Davis soon traded the mill in exchange for a 400 acre claim further southwest.  At the same time, Andrew Jackson Hansom, a Mexican War veteran turned Council Bluffs merchant and occasional lawyer, moved across the river and built a claim shack and small frame building near 15th and Farnam.  When Alfred Jones surveyed Omaha into 320 blocks, Hanscom discovered his claim had been reserved for schools and traded the land for the 400 acre claim Colonel Bayliss had received in exchange for Omaha‘s first sawmill.  Hanscom was appointed the first Speaker of the House in the territorial legislature while the claim that Bayliss and Davis traded eventually became the prestigious Hanscom Park neighborhood which still retains some semblance of its late 19th century origins to this day. 

            In October 1854 Francis Burt arrived in Bellevue as first governor of Nebraska Territory and died just two days after taking the oath of office.  The unfortunate Burt was succeeded by the territory‘s ambitious young Secretary, Thomas Cuming, who had served under Andrew Hanscom during the Mexican War and had most recently resided in Keokuk, Iowa.  The 25 year old Acting Governor took up residence at the Pacific House on Broadway from where he “issued his orders and proclamations,” according to Judge Deemer.  He quickly fell into league with the ferry company in working to assure the success of Omaha City through all manner of duplicity and double-dealing.   To persuade influential legislators in proclaiming Omaha City the territorial capitol the ferry company also laid out a large section of open ground called “Scriptown” where choice lots would prove a tempting bribe. 

            In November 1854 another devastating fire swept through Council Bluffs and consumed 17 downtown buildings.  Once again, most buildings were quickly rebuilt although cottonwood was replaced more and more by brick as the favored construction material, undoubtedly much to the delight of Sam Bayliss and his brickyard.  The first census of Nebraska Territory was completed the same month and recorded 2,732 people, including 13 slaves, with most of the population residing south of the Platte River.  However, the 1882 History of Nebraska makes clear that “strictest adherence to truth was not a conspicuous characteristic of those whose wishes to become an organized body exceeded their abilities to attain the end by purely lawful methods.” Among the reported irregularities were one census taker who “actually crossed the river and secured most of his material for the returns upon the other side” while the census of Dodge County was later reputed to consist of people found in “the grog shops of Council Bluffs.“   

            Meanwhile, by the end of the year Colonel Bayliss had become treasurer of the Omaha City Company, the speculative offshoot of the increasingly profitable Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company.  The success of the ferry company and its new town on the west bank of the Missouri outweighed legal obstacles and, according to Morton & Watkins, the census was “gerrymandered by Governor Cuming in the interest of Omaha” and the “interests of a coterie of enterprising Iowa speculators who had gathered in Council Bluffs…”.   

            Nebraska Territory’s first election was held that December 1854 and was rife with the most obvious frauds since, according to Judge Horace Deemer, “nearly all the settlers of Mills, Fremont and Pottawattamie counties voted at these elections.“  Case in point was the election of Council Bluffs resident H.C. Purple to represent the newly created Burt County.  Judge Deemer reported that “in fact he was elected by nine residents of Council Bluffs who went across the river on a hunt for that county in order that they might cast their votes on proper territory.  They never in fact got into Burt County, but this had no effect upon the election returns.”             

            Controversy swirled up and down the western bank of the Missouri over which incipient Nebraska metropolis would be named the territorial capitol.  Acting Governor Cuming’s decision to open the legislature in Omaha City provoked widespread anger and disgust everywhere but Council Bluffs.  At a public meeting in Nebraska City Acting Governor Cuming was unanimously declared an “unprincipled knave” who was guilty of “neglecting to reside within the limits of the territory but keeping the actual seat of government in a foreign city,” namely the Colonel’s Pacific House on Broadway.  The Council Bluffs Chronotype correctly forecast that “Omaha will be the scene of some comico-ludicro-tragico devil-opments…”  Of course, the “Know-Nothing” Chronotype, which appeared in 1854 under the direction of W.W. Maynard and Jeremiah Folsom, also once gleefully predicted that doctors belonging to the American Party would soon begin poisoning the children of Catholic Irish and German immigrants.    

            Needless to say, the first session of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature was truly a donnybrook.  Morton and Watkins’ History of Nebraska called the first government of Nebraska Territory a “commonwealth composed mostly of speculators and largely of carpet-baggers,” many of them permanent residents of Council Bluffs who cheerfully engaged in all manner of skullduggery to ensure the financial success of themselves and their friends.  The proceedings convened in January 1855 in a two-story building on 9th Street right next to a saloon.  Nebraska’s first capitol building was Omaha’s first brick structure and had been graciously donated by the appreciative ferry company and constructed  with materials hauled across the river from Council Bluffs, likely out of Bayliss’ brickyard.      

            In 1855 Bayliss won his last election to the Council Bluffs Council as city government slowly coalesced following the establishment of a City Assessor, Treasurer, Attorney and Engineer.  However, questions over the legality of the city’s charter, election returns, and certain land titles lingered for several decades longer.   Nonetheless, in 1856 the city finally began to improve Broadway after the public approved a $100,000 loan to grade and widen the heavily used thoroughfare.  At the same time, the city of Council Bluffs began one of the first of its many attempts to deal with flooding and erosion along Indian Creek as it flowed through downtown onto the bottoms.  By that time center of commerce in Council Bluffs had already shifted southwest from Upper Broadway to the angle west of Bancroft (now 4th Street ) that became known as Lower Broadway.  According to the 1907 History of Pottawattamie County, a “nucleus of business was formed near the Pacific House and a great rivalry was the result between up town and down town.“  Some of the “downtown” businesses included two drug stores with the banking house and outfitting store owned by Congressman Bernhart Henn and Jesse Williams situated just west of the Pacific House.  On the south side of Broadway at Main stood a frame building housing Officer & Pusey’s bank with the three-story Empire Block between Main and Pearl that was home to Tootle & Jackson‘s Elephant Store.  West across Pearl Street was Horace Everett’s real estate office and a two-story brick building with the offices of Dr. Enos Lowe upstairs and Thomas Benton’s banking house on the first floor.  Like most other local financial institutions, Benton’s bank specialized in “wild-cat” Nebraska currency printed by each banks with more regard to continued inflation than actual deposits held in their safes.   

            By this time Council Bluffs had grown to a couple thousand residents (although that number fluctuated wildly at times of the year) and homes and businesses had filled Indian Creek Hollow and spread out on the bottoms west to Chestnut (now 9th Street ) and south all the way to Buckingham Street (now 5th Avenue).  The speculative furor seemed without end and in 1857 the city’s corporate limits were expanded west across the bottoms to the banks of the Big Muddy although dense clouds of mosquitoes greatly outnumbered people for many more years.  

            A variety of notable visitors found their way to the Pacific House on Broadway, including Erastus Beadle who left New York to seek his fortune in the west.  In 1857 the stagecoach that Beadle was traveling in got stuck at night in the sloughs north of Saint Marys in Mills County.  The soggy passengers were forced to follow “a light across the prairie, glimmering faintly through the darkness of the night and the falling rain“ that eventually turned out to be Council Bluffs.  After a six mile walk at night across the bottoms Beadle arrived exhausted at the Pacific House where he and two of his companions “ordered a room with a fire and two buckets of water.”   

            Beadle came to speculate in a new town north of Omaha City called Saratoga that had also attracted the interests of Council Bluffs businessmen Thomas Hart Benton Jr., Addison Cochran, and Jim Mitchell.  But the Panic of 1857 brought an end to the Beadle’s dreams and the financial schemes of so many others as the booming speculation along the Missouri River crashed to an end and all the “wild-cat” Nebraska money became so much worthless scraps of paper all but overnight.  Beadle returned to New York where he established a publishing house that specialized in several series of dime novels filled with wooly tales of the Wild West, including a few set in Omaha and Council Bluffs.       

            The Panic brought a lingering economic depression to the struggling towns along the Missouri that persisted until the Pikes Peak Gold Rush to the Rocky Mountains swept through.  After the collapse of Nebraska currency, Officer & Pusey owned the only bank that was still solvent in Council Bluffs and the successful partners lived a few blocks away on Willow Street in Bayliss’ First Addition.  The Colonel himself lived nearby in a house with seven gables on the southwest corner of Court and Center Streets (present-day 108 South 6th Street), right across from the city block where he hoped a courthouse would be constructed.  The neighborhood was dominated with residents of the city’s upper class while the donated land remained an overgrown vacant lot that was used more and more often for various public gatherings, apparently with little or no complaint from the Colonel. 

            Colonel Bayliss remained out of city politics during the growing political turmoil of the late 1850’s although his brother Major Joseph Bayliss was once induced to run for Mayor.  Major Bayliss lived on the south side of Broadway west of the Pacific House where he was a regular feature for many years.  According to the 1907 History of Pottawattamie County it was a “very unappreciative stranger that failed to invite him to the bar. He was a picturesque figure, perhaps sixty-five, a little lame, wore a somewhat damaged plug hat slightly cocked to one side, and when he assured a stranger that he was a high toned Virginia gentleman by G-- sir, few would question its truthfulness.”  Major Bayliss was induced to run for Mayor of Council Bluffs on an independent ticket with many promises of support from local well-wishers who egged on his late blooming political ambitions.  Much to the Major’s shocked amazement, he received just eight votes in the election.  No doubt his mood at the Pacific House saloon became a bit more somber and wary.  

            In spite of his brother’s political faux pas, Colonel Sam Bayliss remained in the forefront of local progress with the organization of the Council Bluffs & Saint Joe Railroad in 1858.  His signature on the Articles of Incorporation was joined by other prominent local businessmen, including the Colonel’s partners in the ferry company, Dr. Enos Lowe and Colonel Sam Curtis, along with banker Thomas Hart Benton Junior, Hadley D. Johnson, George Parks, and a host of others.  Before long, Colonel Bayliss and Parks also got together to buy out the old Potawatomi Mill on Mosquito Creek.  The mill had become known as Wicks Mill after Stutely Wicks, the last government appointed miller who lived nearby with his Potawatomi wife and their many children.  Wicks had rebuilt the mill in 1849 and kept it running until Bayliss and Parks bought him out and continued the business as the Empire Flour Mills.  Of course, Bayliss’ interest in the mill may have been more than a little patriarchal since Parks was married one of the Colonel’s four daughters. 

            Amidst the hubbub in the summer of 1859 a lanky “Sucker” from Illinois got off the steamboat at the Council Point Landing and rode the omnibus northeast into Council Bluffs.  This, of course, was lawyer, railroad lobbyist, and failed political candidate Abraham Lincoln who registered at the Colonel’s Pacific House on August 12.  The primary reason for Lincoln’s visit was to examine 160 acres of land on the West End of Council Bluffs that he had received as collateral on a defaulted loan from Norman Judd, attorney of the bankrupt Mississippi & Missouri River Railroad.  On one of the expansive porches of the Pacific House the very shrewd and ambitious Lincoln questioned railroad surveyor Grenville Dodge about the most feasible route for a transcontinental railroad.  Lincoln also visited his old friends Officer and Pusey who encouraged him to give a speech at the Concert Hall that Saturday evening.  The next morning he attended services at the First Presbyterian Church and had lunch at Officer’s home at 533 Willow Street before leaving town.  The monumental visit lasted just two days but three years later Lincoln selected Council Bluffs as the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad.  Of course, history, legend, and hear-say oftentimes collide and in spite of the 1911 dedication of the Lincoln Monument there is no hard evidence that the future President ever hiked up the steep bluff that later became known as “Mount Lincoln”. 

            The sectional troubles that had simmered since the Kansas-Nebraska Act finally boiled over into war following Lincoln’s election to the Presidency.  In spite of future Republican dominance in local politics, Council Bluffs was a largely Copperhead town filled with Southern-born businessmen like Colonel Bayliss who generally showed far more interest in making money than politics.  The growth of Omaha and continued stream of westward bound emigrants (including a growing number of draft dodgers) assured that the money continued to flow and the ferry company introduced its new steamboat ferry, the 117 foot long Lizzie Bayliss which was named after the Colonel’s youngest daughter.  Colonel Bayliss was also one of the Directors of a new bank that had merchant James Jackson as president and eventually became part of First National Bank.                    

            The tumultuous Civil War and construction of the Union Pacific Railroad resulted in a variety of changes in Council Bluffs.  Local progress after 1865 proved quite different than the prosperous years Colonel Bayliss had enjoyed throughout the 1850’s.  For one, the town’s population skyrocketed with thousands of new residents from Europe, Ohio, and other eastern states.  Many were Civil War veterans and proud Republicans who showed little sympathy for the pretensions of Virginia Colonels.  Oftentimes, Southerners and Democrats were synonymous with traitors that should be held personally responsible for the bloody war and murder of Abe Lincoln.  The Nonpareil was quite apt in its warning to “ambitious” young men that the title “Col now stands for colored…”      

            While the city he had helped establish changed around him, Colonel Bayliss suffered a further indignity in 1866 when the county purchased three lots at Buckingham and Pearl Streets for a new courthouse while the lot Bayliss had donated remained a weed patch.  Since the vacant lot had been given for a specific purpose, Colonel Bayliss believed that it should revert back to him and he spent the remainder of his years waging legal battles to regain his rightful title to the land.  And while his lawsuit was against the county, the City of Council Bluffs intervened by claiming that Bayliss had given the land a “publick square,” regardless if a courthouse or any other building were ever built there and despite the reality that public use was still largely limited to a neighborhood garden and occasional place to graze milk cows. 

            In spite of his local difficulties, Bayliss added a three-story addition to his Pacific House in 1869.  The addition burned during the winter of 1871 but was rebuilt two years later.  Colonel Bayliss also attempted to establish himself in the mercantile business although his financial situation continued to plummet.  One source lamented how “his friends with sadness saw him steadily go down fortune’s ladder.” The Colonel’s health apparently began to fail at the same rate as his riches and he “complained of frequent sickness to his stomach” and was unable to keep much food down.        

             In 1873 Major Joseph D. Bayliss headed to the Utah silver mines but was in Saint Louis by early the next year when his brother took a turn for the worse back in Council Bluffs.  The Colonel’s stomach trouble had gotten worse and he was subject to debilitating bouts of unconsciousness.  Finally, after an “illness of several weeks,“ 57 year old Samuel S. Bayliss died at four in the morning on April 25, 1874.  A detailed post-mortem examination published in the newspaper revealed that the “extremely emaciated” Colonel had two “very large” kidney stones while a “large scirrhous mass” had filled most of his stomach and was growing up his throat.   

            The Colonel’s funeral was held on April 26 at 3 PM at his Pacific House Hotel officiated by Reverend T.H. Cleland Jr.  Shortly before his death Bayliss requested that his pallbearers should be Frank Street, R.L. Douglass, J.P. Casady, S.N. Porterfield, J.B. Rue, and Dr. Woodbury.  His family also asked that Sam Clinton, W.I. Cooper, W.C. James, and Samuel Haas serve as additional pallbearers and he was buried in Fairview Cemetery.  In addition to his brothers Elias, Marshall, and Joseph, the Colonel was also survived by his wife Martha, his son Sam Bayliss Junior, and daughters Mrs. S. Evans, Mrs. George Parks, Mrs. C.G. Eddy, and Mrs. L.E. Mosher.  

             After his passing the otherwise staunchly Republican Nonpareil commented that Sam Bayliss’ “character was above reproach, and for kindness of heart, and charity for the failing and foibles of others, he was unsurpassed.”  After the Colonel’s death his widow moved to Nebraska City where she continued the lawsuit over the vacant lot in the heart of Council Bluffs.  Finally in 1876 a Council Bluffs judge finally ruled against her claim concerning the land where a courthouse was never built.  Although used for more and more public celebrations, the lot oftentimes remained a patch of weeds until 1880 when the city began improving public property.  In addition to planting trees, a bandstand gazebo was constructed although it was eventually replaced by the fountain that now dominates the block of Pearl and Main Streets on the south side of Broadway.         

            By the 1880’s the Colonel’s old Pacific House had undergone changes in ownership, fires, and countless guests headed West and just as many others going back.  In addition to the original three-story structure at 510 West Broadway the large three and four story additions stretched west down most of the block along with the expansive attached dining room on the back that surely attracted just as many characters over the years rivaling old Major Bayliss in eccentricity.

             Finally, in 1889, the original section of the Pacific House was finally demolished, porches and all, to make way for the Eisman Building.  The four story building was built by two German Jewish immigrant brothers named Simon and Henry who had opened their first wholesale and retail clothing store in Council Bluffs in 1861.  The newer additions to the “Old Reliable” Pacific House continued to operate under that name until the late 1890’s when it was renamed the Hotel Inman during its final years.  Eventually the buildings were razed with the Wickham Building taking their place on West Broadway.

             Meanwhile, in 1900 the Eisman Building on the Broadway curve at the head of Pearl Street became the new home of Alsatian immigrant John Beno’s department store which remained one of downtown’s landmark businesses for most of the 20th century.  A memorial plaque was placed by the Historical Society on the Wickham Building to commemorate the 1859 meeting Lincoln and Dodge at the Pacific House has languished in the Society’s archives since the 1990’s when the building was demolished.   The Eisman Building was also razed in the 1990’s and the location of Bayliss’ original Pacific House is currently a parking lot owned by the city.  The site of the Colonel’s home on the corner of 1st Avenue and South 6th Street is also a parking lot and almost all remnants of the surrounding neighborhood’s origins as one of the city’s most prestigious addresses have disappeared. The 1907 History lamented that “sad that there is not even a statue placed to perpetuate the memory of the giver“ of Bayliss Park and while “There are numerous similar cases…not all are so pathetic as this.”  Nonetheless, the continuing legacy of Colonel Samuel S. Bayliss can be readily seen in the continued growth of the ferry company’s speculative venture of Omaha while people stroll through Bayliss Park and automobiles still regularly make a curious jog on West Broadway between 4th and 8th Streets although few people today probably ever question why.


The Historical Society of Pottawattamie County, Iowa was founded in 1934 and is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to kindling and keeping alive an active interest in state and local history.  Contributions and inquiries should be directed to the Society  at P.O. Box 2, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51502-0002.  For additional information, phone 712-323-2509 or e-mail us here.

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