Jesse Lowe was the first mayor of Omaha and a very colorful character in his own right; a jack-of-all-trades, he speculated in real estate, erected the first bank in Omaha, ran the local Claim Club (a group of "men" who ran claim jumpers and legitimate land owners alike out of town, if they wanted their property), and was also a lawyer.  As is usual with most of the prairie towns, people came from the east, trying to forget what had happened in their past lives or trying to disappear.  The past of a lot of the men and women that shaped the west remain complete mysteries.  

Thanks to the incomparable diaries of Joseph Barker (which are to be published this year by a local university), a gentleman who lived in Omaha at the same time as Jesse and into the 1860's (who is also buried at Forest Lawn), we have some tantalizing information on Jesse Lowe's private life that may or may not be true. Jesse arrived in Omaha in its very first days, perhaps brought here by his brother, Dr. Enos Lowe, and was considered shady by some people.  But he won the election for mayor, and he served for several  years, evidently doing an adequate job.  He was supposed to have scars from bullet wounds and knife fights all over his body, and was pretty well known to have participated in claim jumping and lots of other illegal schemes when the city was first founded. Those facts aren't in dispute.

But after his death, it was discovered that he already had a wife in the east, and when he had married a local woman here in Omaha and even had two children with her, he neglected to tell her or anybody else about his still-living first wife.  According to those invaluable diaries, she was the legal heir to all his property, and his common-law wife was left practically destitute. Jesse was buried in Prospect Hill when he died, which he had enacted into business as the first official Omaha cemetery when he was mayor, but he was moved to Forest Lawn many years later by his family.

If you see the enormous Lowe plot at Forest Lawn, it will make it seem like all his less-than-stellar activities in Omaha in those early days never happened, and that he was nothing more than an illustrious and refined city founder; his family must have wanted to hide his past. But all those men and women who built Omaha had many sides to their personality, and I feel that Jesse was both a good and a bad person, like everyone else.


 


The Lowe plot extends over nearly the entire end of Section 10 at Forest Lawn. The huge obelisk to the right in the picture above is for Jesse Lowe Jr., born in 1861.