John E. Osborne was among other things, governor, congressman and assistant secretary of state during the Wilson administration. A little known fact is that he was a good friend of William Jennings Bryan, Populist politician and silver-tongued orator best known for his “cross of gold” speech and anti-evolution activism.
Within the State Archives there are a handful of letters from Bryan to Osborne dating from 1908 to 1913. The earliest letters deal with the presidential election of 1908. In October, a campaign manager informed Osborne about the political outlook. The detailed communication suggests that Osborne was considered a close confidant within the Bryan circle. Although Bryan lost the election, he wrote a short letter to Osborne, expressing how appreciative he was of Osborne’s work.
The remaining letters are more social in tone, reflecting a long-standing friendship between the two men. It is apparent that they corresponded frequently and visited each other when the opportunity presented itself.
In 1909, after purchasing a winter home near Mission, Texas, Bryan suggested that Osborne settle near him. “Why don’t you buy a little piece near us and do the same thing so that we can have the pleasure of visiting together each winter?” In another letter, after noting all the property improvement he had made and plan to make, he commented “you will see that there are local advantages in this particular place.” To Bryan, Mission, Texas would make an ideal winter home for the Osbornes and, more importantly, they would be close to the Bryans. “It would delight us to have you near, for as we get old we will have more time for companionship than we have had during the last twelve years.”
By 1923 the Bryans had moved to Miami, Florida. Here he bought a sizeable amount of property with the objective of selling parcels to his friends. Once again, Bryan encouraged Osborne to move and build a summer house next to the Bryans.
Unfortunately, we do not know how Osborne responded or what action he took, if any, to Bryan’s kind proposals.
Bryan’s last letter is dated August 22, 1924 in which he outlined the terms for selling a parcel of his property to Osborne. He died less than a year later on July 26, 1925 in Dayton, Ohio. No doubt Osborne mourned the loss of a close friend.
— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist