(an article in the April 23, 1909 Pullman Herald, from his address to the Commercial Club telling about how the town grew and a college became located here)
At the banquet of the Commercial Club, given last week, Thomas Neill, the well known attorney, responded to the toast “Retrospect.” Mr. Neill was the founder of the Pullman Herald and his address will be of interest to its many readers. The address in full is here given:
It will be twenty-one years next August, since I first saw Pullman, then a village of 250 inhabitants. I was attracted here by a write-up of the Palouse country in the Northwest Magazine and among the things needed by Pullman it was stated that a newspaper would find here a profitable field. After a visit of about a week I agreed to have a newspaper in Pullman on or before the first of November, with the understanding that it would continue, as long as it was patronized to the paying point, and when it did not pay to run it, then it would be moved to another field.
The Herald was established and the first issue was November 2, 1888, and from that day to the present it received a liberal patronage, and is now the largest and best equipped printing plant south of Spokane.
When looking over the field, during my first visit, I was shown the foundation for a new school house which was to be of frame, with eight rooms, and it was explained to me that they did not intend to finish the second story, but they had built it large enough to meet all the future requirements of the town.
In the winter of 1888-89 the first commercial club was organized with two sets of officers so that the two factions of the town would be equally honored and represented, but it was not long until they were working in harmony and within two years Pullman was noted for its “pull together qualities” and a town that accomplished results. In the spring of 1889 the first boom edition of the Herald was issued, and this matter was also put into pamphlet form.
It was stated therein that Pullman had a population of 500 and would have at least 1,500. A conscientious subscriber who had been sending the Herald to a friend in the east came in and stopped the eastern subscription, stating that he would not be a party to such falsehood, for said he, “you know there are not 500 people here and you know if you know anything, that there never will be 1,500 inhabitants in Pullman.” I tried to explain to him that the eastern readers would perhaps cut these estimates in two and then they would have the truth, but this explanation did not satisfy him.
The first improvement of a public nature was the straightening of the channel of the South Palouse, along the O.R. & N. track where it now runs. Prior to this the channel meandered through the flat east of Alder street. The next improvement was the construction of the sidewalk on the south side of Main street east from Alder street, which opened up the possibilities of east Main street, and during the same year the Herald block, (now the farmers hotel) was built for the Herald, and a furniture store.
M.C. True who owned the Palace hotel, which stood on the corner of Alder and Paradise, where Drinkwater’s blacksmith shop now stands, was induced by the commercial club, to move his hotel on Main street, the club paying the cost of moving, and when moved it was enlarged.
Prior to moving, Mr. True commenced boring for water, and struck the artesian basin, and when the water came up and spurted in the air about ten feet, every citizen realized that the town was bound to reach the 1,500 mark in a few years. For the next two years Pullman’s artesian water was advertised in every available manner, and was the one great asset depended upon to build the town.
The Town was fairly started on the road to prosperity, when in 1890 the Northern Pacific Railway Company commenced to build a line from Whelan to Lewiston, leaving Pullman on the Genesee branch, and it looked as if there was no hope for us, and to add to our adversity the entire business portion of the town burned on July 3, 1890.
Business men intended to move to Whelan, and the prediction was freely made that Pullman was doomed and would never be as good as it had been. At this critical juncture, Dr. Webb, E.H. Letterman and myself prepared and sent out to the President of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, and also to the General Freight Agent, a telegram, which in substance was that the local officials of the road were building a branch from Whelan, for their own personal gain and sacrificing the best interest of the company, and that the matter should be investigated, and the work on the Whelan brach stopped until the investigation was made, and that if the road was built from Pullman, that we would guarantee between Pullman and Moscow, more freight than any ten miles of their entire system. These telegrams appeared to the agent so ridiculous that he refused to send them, but were sent by a young man who was not in the employ of the company, and to our delight, we received answers the following day, stating that the matter would be looked into, and as evidence of their good intentions work was ordered stopped at Whelan.
In about a week from that time we were told to secure a right of way from Pullman to Moscow, which was done, and then we were told that we would have to secure about five acres of ground in Moscow for depot grounds. In view of the fact that Moscow was doing all in her power to promote the road from Whelan and had made concessions of free depot grounds and right of way from Whelan to Moscow this requirement seemed to be made to put the blame on Pullman, if the road did not go from here.
A committee visited Moscow, and by good diplomacy, in one day had secured five acres of ground free of charge, and upon getting a contract therefor(e), orders were given to change the road, Pullman agreeing to pay the cost of grading already done from Whelan.
This achievement gave to Pullman new life, and impressed the citizens that nothing was beyond them if they would all pull together
New brick blocks commenced to rise from the ashes, a water-works system was installed, the streets were graded, and for a year Pullman was the most active town in eastern Washington.
The state was about to locate the Agricultural College and School of Science, and we conceived the idea that it would be a good advertisement for Pullman to enter as a candidate, and an offer was sent to the legislature, offering 160 acres of land, if the college was located here. This was the first public mention that was made about the college, and it gave Pullman some notoriety. As time advanced we became more imbued with the idea that we might be able to have the institution located here, for as we argued, we had plenty of pure artesian water and was in the center of the best agricultural lands in the state, and as we had succeeded in moving the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, why not make a determined effort to move the powers that be in the state?
We felt confident that the institution would have at least 300 students some of whom would come from other counties, and as a means of creating enthusiasm, we had drawn a picture of a building, to be used for the college, which was 200 feet long and three stories high, the third story to be used as a dormitory and displayed it in a store window, but in moments of sober thought we considered our claims extravagant and that the building pictured was larger than would be required.
Three years of work resulted in the location of the college here and of the subsequent years of lawsuits and political manipulations in the effort to remove it, need not be dwelt upon here as the history is too long and it is not necessary to my present purpose.
I have briefly reviewed the early history of the town to show how the dreams of determined men can be made a reality and the reality made to exceed the fondest hopes of the people, and that to a town united and pulling together any reasonable project is attainable.
That Pullman will have, within the next ten years, 10,000 inhabitants, and that the college will count the students by the thousands is much easier to be a reasonable probability, than it was fifteen years ago to see that Pullman would be what it is to-day, a progressive, live town of at least 3,500, the center of culture, education and civic virtue, with an institution of learning that has no equal on the coast and is yet in its infancy.
If we will set our minds on having 10,000 inhabitants in the next ten years, and all pull together to make Pullman the best place in the state to live and raise a family, and a model in all things that go to make up the sum of a desirable life, we will succeed as surely as it is true that the Pullman of to-day is the result of the determined, united effort of the men who gave their best work to the town, in the years past.