Fridley page 75

[St. Louis Star Times, April 1, 1941]

McDowell Sharply Criticized in Hearing Before Committee.

            WASHINGTON, April 1.—The House Military Affairs Committee, after a lively session today in which R. Newton McDowell was sharply criticized, decided to make a full investigation of the purchase of the 16,300-acre tract of land in St. Charles County, Mo., for the government-owned TNT plant.
            The committee, following testimony by Brig. Gen. Brehon Somervell and John J. O’Brine, attorney in the land division of the war department, recessed until Thursday. Somervell, who is in charge of construction for the army quartermasters’ corps, and O’Brine were instructed to return and Col. R. D. Valliant, who negotiated the contract with McDowell for acquisition of the TNT plant site, also is likely to be summoned.
            An unsuccessful effort was made today by the committee to determine who “handed McDowell the fat plum” through which he stood to obtain a $150,000 fee, plus a $40,000 fee for the Kansas City Title Insurance Co., which he personally selected to abstract the tracts on the site.
Went to Washington.
            Somervell and O’Brine testified their inquiry had established only that McDowell came to Washington early last fall, contacted the ordnance division of the War Department and was advised of the plan to construct the TNT plant. They said McDowell was advised to see Col. Valliant. This he did and the signing of the contract followed.
            Valliant, the witnesses said, declared he didn’t know McDowell before, but had established that he was favorably known by War Department engineers before entering the contract.

[no source, April 2, 1941]

Somervell Heard on TNT Site Cost
Regrets Delay in Pay to Farmers, but Calls Price Excessive
[handwritten: April 2, 1941]

            Brig. Gen. Brehon Somervell, in charge of construction for the Army Quartermaster Corps, said yesterday he regretted that many farmers had not been paid for their land in the TNT area at Weldon Springs after being forced to vacate the premises, “but I don’t want to pay twice as much money as I know the person is entitled to.”
            The General made his statement during a hearing before the House Military Affairs Committee in Washington, during which criticism was leveled at R. Newton McDowell, Kansas City contractor, who acquired the land for the government. The committee has decided to investigate the acquisition thoroughly.
            McDowell’s office in St. Charles reported yesterday one of the five tracts which the government announced Monday it was taking over, was appraised at $27,000, or about the same amount of money the government deposited with the Federal Court here yesterday for all five tracts. The appraisal was made by three agents appointed by the Department of Justice after McDowell’s prices had been questioned by the government.
            The five tracts were optioned by McDowell in behalf of the government for $109,768, and checks amounting to $27,559 were deposited with the court by the War Department. Individual option prices were: 10 acres of Grover Cleveland Silvey, $5000; 170 acres of Dr. and Mrs. Oscar L. Snyder, $30,395; 94 acres of Merita Callaway, $10,888; 161 acres of Tarlton Woodson, $31,485, and 52 acres of Mr. and Mrs. George C. Willson, $32,000.
            Gen. Somervell, in criticising McDowell, accused the contractor of “having done everything he can to obstruct an equitable adjustment of this matter.”
            McDowell, under terms of his contract with the government, was to get a 5 per cent commission on all the land bought. Somervell said that if any of the owners whose land is being condemned decided against paying that commission, “I am disposed to urge the government furnish counsel to those owners.” The General said the department hoped to rush all the condemnation suits through the court this week.
            Somervell said he had ordered payment stopped on 149 tracts after 121 had been paid for, because he felt that the prices agreed upon in the options negotiated by McDowell were “grossly excessive.”
            John O’Brien, newly appointed head of the War Department’s real estate section, said the Justice Department had viewed the case as “unusual,” and had made the entire staff of the United States Attorney at St. Louis available to expedite the proceedings.