Walter Raleigh Vaughan
June 20, 1890
Line being researched by Diane Bader
Omaha Daily Democrat of Sunday, June 20, 1890.
Since the appearance of the article given to the public last Sunday morning, proposing a pension to freedmen restored to liberty
from a former condition of involuntary servitude, a large number of letters have been received from all quarters of the union,
asking concerning the antecedents of ex-Mayor Vaughan and requesting a statement of the manner of man he is. In answer to
these interrogatories a brief biographical sketch is given and a portrait of the man.
Walter Raleigh Vaughan was born in Petersburgh, Va, May 12,1848. His parents moved to Montgomery,
Ala, when the subject of this sketch was about one year old. His mother died in his second year, and at her
request the babe was sent to reside with an uncle in North Carolina, the Rev. R. C. Maynard, who was a
minister of the Methodist Episcopal persuasion. At the age of thirteen years young Vaughan returned to
his father's home in Alabama. From his early boyhood Mr. Vaughan became interested in labor and eco-
nomic questions growing o ut of the condition of the laboring classes, upon whom his young eyes were
naturally turned, white and black alike. Perhaps his first effort in the direct interest of the negro slave was
made when, as a half-grown lad, he appealed to his father to give the negroes in bondage the half or the
whole of Saturday of each week, to be used as his own time for private work or personal recreation.
In all the later avocations of life Mr. Vaughan has contributed time and money whenever any important
movement has been on the [?] in promoting the movements and wishes of the working classes. As an
official and as a news payer publisher, as well as in the private walks of life, he has advocated and
aided the cause of labor and the aims of the men who have earned their own subsistence.
At the close of the war of the rebellion young Vaughan entered the Crittenden commercial college of
Philadelphia, where he received a business education. He then took up his residence at St. Joseph, Mo.,
from whence he came to Omaha early in 1868 and booked himself as a guest of the old Herndon house
at the foot of Farnam street, now the headquarters of the Union Pacific railway company. After a brief
sojourn he located at Council Bluffs Iowa, whore he opened a business college. In that city, May 12,
1869, being the twenty-first anniversary of his birth, he was united in marriage with Miss Delia De Vol,
daughter of one of the oldest residents. In March 1881, Mr. Vaughan was elected mayor of Council
Bluffs, running as the regular democratic candidate, by a majority of thirty-six votes. In the meantime
he had been actively engaged in business a portion of it devoted to journalism, for which profession he
has always had a penchant. In 1884 he was again elected mayor over a strong competitor by a majority
of 538 votes.
While serving as mayor, Gov. Larrabee, of Iowa duly appointed and commissioned him as one of the
state curators, which position he resigned to remove to Omaha. During Mayor Vaughan's first term
in the mayoralty an unprecedented flood occurred in the Missouri River and all the lowlands were
flooded and many families ruined by the devastation. Mayor Vaughan came to their rescue, had them
gathered in boats from their flooded quarters and had them provided with food and other necessaries.
As his term was about expiring, the well-remembered strikes were taking place in Omaha, wherein
an old man named Armstrong was bayoneted by a soldier without cause or provocation Mayor Vaughan
at once sent a letter of condolence to the widow, together with a warranty deed to a residence lot in
Council Bluffs, where the lady could make her home after her cruel bereavement. During the second
term of his mayoralty, in company with Mr. Thomas Officer, steps were taken to establish the
Thompson- Houston electric light system in Council Bluffs, the twain being sole owners. Later on, with
Mr. J. C. Regan for a partner, Mr. Vaughan secured a charter and established the electric light system
of Omaha. His whole life has been checkered with business enterprises, having their ups and downs,
but through all Mayor Vaughan has been steadfast in his adherence to the rights of the working classes.
After retiring from the mayoralty of Council Bluffs, Mr. Vaughan resumed his residence in Omaha, in
which city he has had the general control and management of the Omaha Daily Democrat. In his
capacity as a journalist he has now revived a project conceived by him years ago to have congress
grant proper pensions to ex-slaves, whose early lives were made the subject of barter by citizens and
taxation by the government. On this subject he carried on an extensive correspondence with public men
seven years ago. Among them with President Harrison, who was then a senator from Indiana. None
of the parties addressed appeared to view the project with favor. But, steadfast in his faith and in his
belief in what he has conceived to be right, Mr. Vaughan proposes to go on in the line marked out until
justice shall be done to a downtrodden people.
It is only a question of time when his efforts shall succeed. An era, different from being made the hewers
of wood and the drawers of water for designing politicians is about to dawn upon the oppressed negro
race. It will be an era of substantial prosperity.
As to the personality of W. R. Vaughan, it may be added that he was not a soldier during the late war,
being then too young to bear arms. His father and three brothers were, however, gallant soldier in the
southern army. After the war of the rebellion had closed, his elder brother, Vernon H. Vaughan was
made secretary of Utah territory, at the request of Robert M. Douglass (son of the great Stephen A
Douglas), then private secretary of President Grant, and later United States marshal in North Carolina.
The appointment was made by President Grant. When Gov. Shafer, of Utah, died the President tel
graphed the appointment of V. H. Vaughan to fill the vacancy without waiting to be officially informed
that an appointment was required. Governor Vaughan died in later years in California. Mr. W. R.
Vaughan is now in his 42 year, is the father of five sons and three daughters, all healthy, handsome
children, and they are heart and soul with their father in his work for justice. It is proper to say that
since arriving at man's estate W. R. Vaughan has devoted much time and money in the upbuilding of
benevolent and fraternal institutions. He was Noble Grand Arch of the United Ancient Order of Druids
for the State of Iowa, and Grand Prelate of the Knights of Pythias organization for the same state, and
he gave years of his best work to increase the powers and benefits of Odd Fellowship in the west, having
been a patriarch since the age of 21 years. Mr. Vaughan has a surviving brother, Alonzo Vaughan, now
residing near Selma, Alabama. He has large landed interests in that vicinity and also conducts a
If you have any questions, suggestions, corrections, and/or additional information
contact me, Linda CONAWAY Welden at:
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