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Chapter 119: Nick’s Handiwork

March 12, 1906
Morrison, Illinois

I am in Morrison, Illinois for circuit court.

Source: Sterling Daily Standard, Sterling Illinois, March 6, 1906, via Newspapers. com and screenshot taken from microfilm by author.

Nick and Ella are in LeClaire, Iowa; Nick’s mother passed on March 6, and he and Ella have been staying at the family home, taking care of estate business. His brothers are present; the Van Sant family interests are expansive, so he expects to be away for at least another week or so.

Nick wired me from LeClaire a few days later that several of his well-connected friends with the Illinois bar asked to host a dinner for me while I am in Morrison as a way of welcoming me officially, of making me feel more accepted. I think despite all the family troubles for Nick, he has been looking out for my interests, especially mentioning in the wire that his friends want to fete me properly.

I see Nick’s handiwork here — he is no fool. He is pulling the strings like a master puppeteer in the community — he is that powerful; what Nick wants, he generally gets. He has rarely made a misstep in his expansive career.

I have come to understand that I am his ‘special project,’ and he is determined that I will succeed.

I’m not comfortable with the knowledge that people are being manipulated into accepting me, but I am tired of being on the outside. The cold and loneliness of this place — well, finally, I will be accepted. I’ll take it — and perhaps this will ease the emptiness that I feel around me. 

Nick says all of this takes time. Just do a good job with the basics, go out and meet the community, attend the local events, be seen. The people of Whiteside County know him, they know about the firm; just being out and about will help the practice will grow. Nick’s always encouraging me to go to the YMCA events, to make new friends at the community events, to simply do cold calls and go out into the county on my own.

I borrowed Nick’s buggy a few times and went to Morrison once, then to Como, and to Dixon. But Nick has no idea how uncomfortable I am attending some of these local events, and going up to complete strangers to talk with them. The few times I went on cold calls in the county, I wasn’t all that convincing.

The worst cold call visit experience was in Dixon a few weeks ago — one of the men I had an appointment with (a recommendation from one of Nick’s friends in Sterling) asked if my father had fought in the Civil War.

I said he did.

The man asked if I had perhaps had a chance to visit Rock Island since I’d moved to Illinois.

I said I hadn’t.

Perhaps you should, he said, with a bit of a smirk. Then perhaps you’d understand why a lot of folks around here still hold Southerners in contempt. Never could understand why Van Sant didn’t offer the partnership to a local fellow. Plenty of well deserving men already here, good Illinois men, in need of work. Nothing personal, you understand, he’d said.

Yes, I understand, I said. And I turned and walked away.

Part of me is dying to turn and walk away from this event in Morrison tonight. But I can’t. I owe Nick, and all of this is his handiwork.

Categories: Book Congressman Family In Emmett's Words

jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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