Fridley page 55

[no source, handwritten date: March 13, 1941]

Petition Signed by 95 at Weldon Springs Meeting Protesting Cancellation Order.

            Ninety-five owners of land optioned to the War Department in the government TNT plant site near Weldon Springs, Mo., in St. Charles County, last night signed a petition to President Roosevelt asking that he command the War Department to exercise the options, cancelled last Saturday, and pay for the land.
            The petition, circulated at a public meeting of property owners at the Evangelical Church Hall in Weldon Springs, declares that the owners, “having full and complete faith in the intention of the government to abide by its contracts . . . sacrificed their livestock, farming equipment, stock of merchandise, as the case of the individual might be, and surrendered possession of their property to the government.”
            The War Department, after paying $1,073,802 for 6,729 acres of the 16,000-acre plant site, cancelled options totaling approximately $1,500,000 on 147 remaining parcels of land and ordered condemnation proceedings started.
            The cancellation followed complaints that the prices fixed by R. Newton McDowell, Kansas City contractor acting as agent for the government on a 5 per cent commission basis, were too high.
Hardships Pointed Out.
            Many of the land owners already have vacated their property and the government has started clearing the land. Delays in payment as a result of the cancellation of the options, the petition points out, has resulted in numerous hardships.
            “Your petitioners have contracted obligations,” the plea to Mr. Roosevelt asserts. “They have purchased other homes and paid earnest money, which will be lost unless they receive the compensation provided for in their contracts expeditiously.
            “Many of your petitioners are farmers and derive their sustenance from tilling the soil. Seeding time is rapidly approaching and they will lose a full year’s time in their life vocation unless payment of these obligations is made immediately.”
            Although the land is not paid for, the petition charges, much of it already is in the name of the government and its former owners can no longer legally occupy it nor can they borrow money on it to tide them over until paid.
            Last night’s meeting was called by Morris Muschany, an undertaker and operator of the general store at Howell, one of the towns evacuated for the plant site. Muschany told reporters he owns sixty-three acres that have been optioned but not paid for and that he already has moved his undertaking establishment and home to New Melle and his store to Weldon Springs.
            Muschany estimated about 350 persons were in the packed hall.
            Fred Hollenbeck, superintendent of the Francis Howe [sic] High School, located in the plant site area, was chairman of the meeting.
            “I don’t think anyone can rightfully say that you are being paid too much for your land,” Hollenbeck told the crowd. “We cannot accuse the government of being unfair. We have a good government. It is possible that we must blame some agent of the government. In effect you have been dispossessed, and it is a serious problem. I have seen some men, whom I have always thought of as strong men, cry at the thought of leaving their homesteads.”
Dyer Addresses Meeting.
            Former Circuit Judge B. H. Dyer of St. Charles reported to the crowd on a meeting held Tuesday in St. Louis between St. Charles County business and farm leaders and Chester C. Davis, chairman of the agricultural division of the National Defense Advisory Commission. Davis is president-elect of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.
            Davis, Dyer said, was making a thorough study of the problem and said he would recommend to the War and Justice Departments immediate payment on all the options. Davis declined to speak at the meeting, Dyer said, because of a previous engagement.
            In a statement issued today, Davis pointed out that Tuesday his office in Washington urged the War Department to make an immediate statement advising the Weldon Springs farmers of what the government proposed to do.
            “The announcement of what the government intends to do in these cases must come from Washington,” Davis said. “I have received no formal advice on the matter.”
            When a suggestion was made from the floor that a standing committee be appointed to represent the land owners in presenting their case to government officials, Hollenbeck surrendered the rostrum to Dr. O. L. Snyder, a retired physician and one of the land owners.
Committee Chosen.
            Snyder called for nominations and the owners nominated and elected Snyder, Muschany, Eltin Pitman, a well driller; George Hackmann, a farmer, and Earl Sutton, former circuit clerk of St. Charles County,
            A motion was adopted to send copies of the petition to Senators Harry S. Truman and Bennett Champ Clark and to Representatives Clarence Cannon.
            In a telegram to Muschany, which was read at the meeting, Cannon said: “Referring to action of War Department in holding up payment for land in Weldon Springs area. This is an outrage and a violation of contract. Am doing everything from here (Washington) to force prompt government compliance with agreement.”