Fridley pages 66-69

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Missouri Senator Accepted Invitation to Appear Before Farmers At Weldon Spring
Ask Why Discrimination Against Missouri Farmers When Illinois Payment is Ordered

            Senator Bennett Champ Clark will address owners of land in the TNT area on which options have not been exercised by the Government, at a meeting at 3 o’clock Monday afternoon in the Evangelical Church Hall at Weldon Spring. An invitation has been extended to Senator Harry S. Truman but no reply was received from him at press time.
            The meeting was called today by the Land Owners Committee for holders of the 146 unexercised options. However the session will be open to the general public.
            Clark in his talk is expected to tell of the investigation of the land deal in Washington and will be asked why payment is being held up by the Government.
            The Land Owners Committee today sent a telegram to Congressman Cannon and a letter to Brig. Gen. Brehon Somervell in protest to the holding up of the payments.
            The telegram read: “Reliable information from Chicago source that Government is resuming payment today on options on Wilmington, Ill., project. J. J. O’Brien of War Department testified before the Military Affairs committee that said options were grossly excessive. However then does he justify payment on excessive options at Wilmington, Ill., while threatening condemnation at Weldon Spring. Will you confront War Department with demand why this discrimination against Missouri Farmers.
Land Owners Committee.
            The letter to Somervell follows:
            “To our amazement we have just learned that General Somervell, an officer of the Corps of Engineers, is, among other things, actually the head of the Real Estate Section Quartermaster Corps, and has full say over our farms and homes. The reason for our amazement is this. We in St. Charles County, due to our location, have known the Corps of Engineers for a great many years and have had daily contacts with them. They have been a part of our existence, we have seen many officers of the Corps progress to general officers—we can think of General Spaulding, General Moore, General Sturdevant, all of whom know St. Charles County intimately and we know them. We have taken great pride in the Corps of Engineers because of their fair dealings, and we could rely on their word. We do not know them as chiselers and browbeaters—they are not known the repudiate their word or written contracts. We are familiar with the ‘offers’ of the Engineers when they require some of our land and when these offers were accepted by the Corps of Engineers we considered them binding.
            “We only know of one exception to this rule and this information we gained from our attorneys. This particular instance happened when you were District Engineer at Memphis when you offered a Mr. Danforth $31,000 for his land and accepted an offer or an option for that amount and later ‘higher authorities’ ordered that your agreement be repudiated and condemnation proceedings instigated. However the United States Supreme Court threw it out and ordered that the Government pay Mr. Danforth the amount that you, as Major Somervell, agreed to pay him in the first place. Now it so happens that you are in ‘higher authority’ and that decision rests entirely with you. We feel certain that you do not wish us to have to pay the price and take time to carry this through to the Supreme Court.
            “We know the flimsy objections about values being too high and the criticism that was heaped on the War Department. We know exactly where this criticism originated and further we know all about the joke appraisals which were handed to you. Incidently, the War Department is certainly being denounced in this area for repudiating its agreements. We could write pages on the subject of values, of how we tried to move heaven and earth to get this plant out of here as none of us wanted to give up our homes, our farms, our churches and schools.
            “We have signed binding agreements with the Government executed under the directions of the Secretary of War and approved by the National Defense Commission. Our titles have been approved by the Attorney General, 95% of the unpaid landowners have executed deeds to the Government. The checks were issued on $300,000 of these farms and the property represented by these checks has actually been deeded to the Government but the farmers have not their money. We are in distress and suffering untold hardships—We were dispossessed months ago, our homes have been demolished, and each day of this season of the year is vital to us for if something is not done immediately we will lose a whole farming year.
            “We are relying on you, General Somervell, a Corps of Engineers officer, to see that the Government promptly lives up to its binding agreements with its citizens. We cannot reconcile ourselves to the idea that you are fully informed on this matter for if you were you would not condone repudiation.”