Among other sacrifices which the settlers of a new country have been called upon to experience was the absence of mail facilities. The little colony that set its stakes at Columbus was no exception to this almost invariable rule. The nearest and most available trading point was Fort Calhoun (Omaha), almost one hundred miles away, and for some time, when letters or papers were received, they were obtained by sending one or more of the most hardy of the colonists to Fort Calhoun for the purpose.
The postoffice was established in Columbus, January 6, 1857, at which time John Rickly was appointed to preside over it. The mail was first carried from Columbus to Omaha by Postmaster Rickly, the journey being made to and fro with an ox team. It was not until July 4, 1857, that the first consignment of mail to the postoffice arrived in the county seat. "The day and the circumstance was made a matter of rejoicing, George W. Hewitt being the principal orator on that occasion. There was quite a crowd but the male element predominated most decidedly. Mrs. John C. Wolfel, Mrs. Peter Myer, and Miss Caroline Rickly, who afterwards married William B. Dale, were there, and the prodigies in the line of cooking turned out was something tremendous in the eyes of the hungry." When the postmaster was unable to accomplish the journey himself he deputized his son, John J. Thus it seems that when the postoffice was first established here the official in charge was compelled to travel all the way to Omaha for mail from eastern states destined for Columbus, bring it back to his office and distribute it to the patrons thereof.
On the 2d day of June, 1858, F. G. Becher, who was then keeping a little general store with his father, in a crude and diminutive log cabin, received his commission from Washington and became the successor in office of John Rickly. During his incumbency the Great
POST OFFICE, COLUMBUS
UNION PACIFIC DEPOT, COLUMBUS
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Western Stage Company had commenced carrying the mail by way of Fontenelle, the frequency of the journeys being increased to a semi-weekly service to Fort Kearney, and daily to Omaha. The former change was made in 1859 and the latter in 1860. This company was a branch of the famous pony express and when established the people of Columbus felt that they were at last in regular communication with the outside world.
Postmaster Becher's successors in this office were as follows, namely: John Reck, whose commission was of date December 5, 1862; J. P. Becker, May 11, 1863; H. J. Hudson, November 25, 1864; O. T. B. Williams, April 13, 1866; Bishop B. Kelley, October 27, 1867; Hugh Compton, March 19, 1869; J. G. Compton, October 26, 1875; L. M. Saley, July 18, 1877; E. A. Gerrard, March 18, 1878; H. J. Hudson, February 7, 1883; William N. Hensley, October 5, 1885; Carl Kramer, August 29, 1889; D. F. Davis, November 1, 1893; Carl Kramer, June 15, 1897; W. A. McAllister, January 13, 1911.
On the 2d day of December, 1911, the present magnificent federal building was occupied and opened to the public by the present postmaster, W. A. McAllister. He had moved the effects of the office from a building on Thirteenth Street, now occupied by the hardware firm of Perkins & Anderson, where the office had been established something like ten years. The construction of the new home of the postoffice was begun in 1909. The material used is a light sandstone and the design is architecturally tasteful and pleasing to the eye. With a deep basement the structure is practically two stories, the main entrance being reached by a flight of wide stone steps. Wide corridors, beautified by marble paneling, richly finished wood trimmings, and painted walls, are inviting and convenient for the patrons of this much used public utility. The building faces to the east and stands on the corner of North and Fourteenth streets; there is also an entrance on the latter thoroughfare. Beautiful offices have been provided each for the postmaster and his assistant and the mailing room is commodious and equipped with every modern device now in use for that department of the service. Considerable space in the basement is devoted to the comfort and pleasure of the city and rural carriers. Here are to be found reading rooms, baths, and toilet rooms. There are also apartments for the accumulation of articles pertinent to the business. Here also are the heating apparatus and large vaults for the storage of fuel. The site consists of two lots, which were purchased of Hugh Hughes, the consideration being $5,000. The cost
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of the building was $65,000. The postmaster has under his jurisdiction a large office force, also five city carriers and six rural mail carriers.
The first hotel erected in Columbus was built and owned by the town company. It cost $5,000 and J. L. Baker as host threw open its doors to the public in August, 1857. The building stood a few blocks south of the courthouse and was a two-story frame and considered to be a very pretentious affair at that time and for some years afterward. Portions of the old hostelry were used in constructing the framework of the Grand Pacific Hotel.
The Hammond House
The old Hammond House had an interesting history. It was erected at Cleveland, the rival town laid out in 1857 by George W. Stevens, William H. Stevens, Michael Sweeny and others, who as the Cleveland Company laid out the town about two and a half miles northwest of Columbus. In 1866 George Francis Train put the hotel upon rollers, brought it to Columbus and set it down on the corner of Olive and Twelfth streets, where the Meridian Hotel now stands. When finished it is said that hotel cost $30,000. All the lumber was hauled from Florence, at a cost of over one hundred dollars per thousand. The price of the painting alone was $1,800 and the plastering $1,000. By contract, Train reserved one room for the president of the United States and one subject to the order of the Union Pacific Railroad. The building has long since passed away as have many of those intimately connected with its fortunes. Among its hosts may be mentioned I. N. Taylor, C. D. Clother, Abel Coffee, Mrs. Flowers, James Hudson, and E. V. Clark. John Hammond came from Albion, in April, 1873, took possession of the house, and became widely known as a hospitable and accommodating boniface. He had a splendid Civil war record and after retiring from the hotel became commander of the Soldiers' Home at Grand Island.
The Clother House
The Clother House, when built in 1869, was considered one of the best stopping places for travelers in this section of Nebraska. The
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building was erected by C. D. Clother, who for many years, with the assistance of his son, G. W. Clother, was the efficient and painstaking landlord. Among others who have been in charge of this hotel is George W. Scott, now part owner and manager of The Evans. The building is of wood, two stories high, and has accommodations for about seventy-five guests. It stands on the corner of Platte and Twelfth streets, and is under the operation of T. W. Adams.
Grand Pacific Hotel
This house was built in the fall of 1879 by George Lehman. It was opened by Charles Pruyn, who continued until the following October, when its doors were closed and remained so until March, 1880, when the owner opened it and retained the management until January 1, 1881; at that time Capt. Joshua Norton, Jr., took possession. The building is of brick, cost about five thousand dollars and is two and a half stories high. It is located on Ninth and Olive streets.
The Thurston, a large, three-story brick structure, which stands on the northeast corner of Thirteenth and North streets, was built by a coterie of business men, known as the Columbus Improvement Company, in 1888, at a cost of $21,000. The Thurston was opened on March 4, 1889, by John Pollock, who was the landlord for some years, and then through stress of circumstances gave over to others. Up to quite recently the Thurston was the leading hotel of Columbus. but was compelled to take a back seat by a new rival in the field -- the Evans. Notwithstanding this, however, this is a popular hostelry and commands a large and remunerative patronage. Gansko & Kochenderfer are the present managers.
When George A. Scott sold the Clother Hotel he decided that he had earned a much desired rest from the arduous duties of hotel management, but after traveling around two or three years, and finding his occupation gone, he became interested with Dr. Carroll D. Evans, Jackson C. Echols, Theodore Friedhof and G. W. Phillips in the erection of a model hotel for his home town. The result is the Evans Hotel. On the 29th day of May, 1912, the Evans Hotel
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Company was incorporated, with a capital stock of $75,000, and before the year 1913 had expired, the present magnificent four-story brick structure was built, finished and ready for occupancy. At 2 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, on the 2d day of December, 1913, this modern fireproof hostelry was formally opened, with most fitting ceremonies. The event long had been looked forward to by the citizens of Columbus and the opening was participated in by a large gathering of friends and acquaintances of the owner-manager and his associate builders. A committee of ladies was on hand to receive them and young ladies acted as guides to those who inspected the house from cellar to roof. A continual stream of visitors flowed through the building all afternoon and was entertained by music from Walter Brothers Orchestra. Light refreshments were served in the way of punch and wafers. Among others present may be mentioned a committee of the United Commercial Travelers, headed by John E. Erskine, and followed by Frank Schram, Mark Rathburn, M. D. Carr, M. E. Helms, Henry A. Fritz, Harry Elliott, Herman Kersenbrock, Lloyd Swain, C. A. Randall, W. J. Walters, and others. The wives of the U. C. T. members and of the building company constituted the ladies' committee. There were others here on this auspicious occasion. A party of twenty-four, led by Secretary Whitten of the Lincoln Commercial Club, came in time to attend the evening ceremonies. George Wolz, of the Fremont Commercial Club, was there, as were Fred C. Ratcliff, of the Ratcliff Hotel, Central City, and a delegation from Omaha, consisting of P. H. Philbin, of the Schlitz, T. J. O'Brien, of the Henshaw, I. A. Medlar and R. D. McFaddan, of the Mid-West Hotel Reporter.
The hotel was named for Doctor Evans, who is the Nestor of his profession in Columbus and a heavy stockholder in the building. The president of the Evans Hotel Company is George A. Scott; vice president, Dr. C. D. Evans; secretary-treasurer, J. C. Echols.
The Evans Hotel is good enough, nice enough and expensive enough for anybody or any community. It is so modern, massive and attractive as to call forth the admiration of all beholders. The interior arrangements, finish, decorations, furnishings and conveniences follow the lines of the best constructed, thoroughly equipped and scientifically managed hotels of the great cities of this country. Everything to be found in the Evans is made of the very best materials, not excepting the provender set before the guests in a most cheery and inviting dining room. The location is par excellence. Standing on the northwest corner of Platte and Thirteenth streets, it
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faces the park, is in close proximity of the whole business district and just a few steps from the Union Pacific depot.
The first building erected in Columbus for distinctive amusement purposes was a music hall, built in 1878, in the southeast part of the city. On the 15th day of January, 1876, the Columbus Music Hall Association was incorporated by W. H. Heinemann, C. A. Speice, J. E. North, A. Gluck, Vincent Kummer, Michael Schram, F. Brodfuehrer, D. D. Wadsworth, John Stauffer, Charles Schroeder, E. W. Toncray, A. N. Briggs, Dr. Alfonso Heintz, Francis G. Becher and M. K. Turner. The capitalization was $5,000, in shares of $100 each, and "the object of the incorporators was to build and sustain a hall in the City of Columbus, to be used for entertainments, or for any legitimate purpose as the board of directors might determine." In September, 1878, a large wooden building, with seating capacity of 500, stage, scenery, etc., was completed at a cost of $4,000. J. E. North was president of the company and C. A. Speice, secretary.
On May 12, 1882, the Columbus Opera House Company was incorporated by John Stauffer, Charles Schroeder, Carl Reinke, Dr. Alfonso Heintz, William A. Schroeder and R. H. Henry. Capital stock, $6,000. This company erected a large frame building on the corner of Tenth and Lewis streets, and this was the popular and leading theater, dance hall and place for general entertainments a great many years. When abandoned for the purpose, it became the home of the Orpheus Society.
The North Opera House, a three-story modern brick structure, was built in 1901, by James E. North. On the ground floor are business rooms, to the east and west of a wide entresol and lobby leading to the auditorium of the opera house. The upper floors are given over to office and business purposes. The North is the pride of the amusement loving people of Columbus and meets with the approval of theatrical people appearing upon the stage. The capacity is ample for a town the size of Columbus, the parquet, dress circle and gallery seating about one thousand people.
INDUSTRIES PAST AND PRESENT
The Rickly saw-and-grist mill, built in 1857, was the beginning of industrial Columbus, although it was not first located within the
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corporate limits of the town. It was finally removed from its old stand on the banks of the Loup, however, to a spot on Seventh Street.
Columbus cannot be said to be an industrial center, for the reason that it is practically devoid of manufactories of any great importance. The chief dependence of its people is on the rich and richly productive community surrounding it. As a trading and shipping point it stands well up in the list of Nebraska's progressive cities. Years back in its history the smoke from the chimneys of several manufactories mingled with the pure prairie atmosphere of this place, but that condition has faded away and the industries are no more.
A very important concern was established here when John Wiggins, David Anderson, S. D. Corry, R. H. Henry and Leander Gerrard organized the Columbus Packing Company and incorporated the same with a capital of $50,000, on October 19, 1881. Before the month had expired work of construction of the building was well along and by the 1st of December it was completed. The building was two stories. It was a frame, with inside walls of brick. In dimensions the main part was 40x70 feet, with an L 24x24 feet. It was located at the crossing of the Union Pacific and Burlington & Missouri railroads, and had a capacity of 250 hogs per day. Early in December the institution was in full blast, with equipment complete for slaughtering, curing and shipping its product. An average of fifteen men were constantly employed under the superintendency of S. D. Corry. The plant was later enlarged to a capacity of 500 hogs per day, owing to the large supply of stock in the county and vicinity, waiting for the home market. The establishment was run three seasons by the proprietors, and one by a lessee. As many as ten thousand hogs were slaughtered in a season, involving a disbursement of $100,000, not including wages paid to employee, of which there were some thirty to forty men and boys during the packing season. The building was destroyed by fire, August 22, 1891, and was a total loss, there being no insurance. This closed the pork packing business in Columbus.
In 1868, the first steam flouring mill was built in Columbus by F. A. Hoffman. Up to this time but very little wheat was raised in the county, but the mill inspired the farmers to increase their acreage of this cereal and soon the raising of wheat became one of the principal industries in this section of the country. Unfortunately, the foundations of the boiler and engine of the Hoffman mill were located in a very deep basement and sunk by their weight in the quicksand. This disaster caused the mill to be abandoned in 1869.
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The building was then converted into a grain elevator and in 1874 it was sold to a company consisting of Abner Turner, George W. Hulst, J. A. Baker and J. P. Becker. Baker bought it from his partners two years later, and conducted it a number of years. The elevator had a capacity of 15,000 bushels, and stood between the Burlington & Missouri and Union Pacific tracks.
In the early '80s the firm of Jaeggi & Schupbach built a mill on North Street, near the Union Pacific tracks, which is still in operation. In front of the building a one-story brick structure was erected for office purposes. In 1885, the old elevator, which stood south of the Union Pacific tracks, was moved to the mill and was made a part of it. The mill is still in operation.
In the spring of 1885, the Columbus Milling Company was incorporated by J. H. Hogan, president; G. E. Schroeder, secretary and treasurer; J. E. Wilson and Charles Schroeder, directors. The company completed the mill building in November of that year, erecting it just south of the main Union Pacific tracks, in the east part of the city. This was considered one of the most complete mills in the state, having a capacity of 150 barrels per day, and the property, it is said, originally cost $40,000. A Brush arc and incandescent light system was installed, the arc light having a capacity of 1,200 candle power. Having more than sufficient light and power for its own use, the milling company furnished light for the city. This was the beginning of electric lighting in Columbus.
The Columbus Foundry was established early in the year 1874, by Charles Schroeder. The buildings, which were frame, extended over an area of 132x66 feet. The shop contained a full set of machinist's tools, drills, lathes and planers; also necessary machinery for the foundry, in which were manufactured iron fences, bedsteads, stoves, wheels for chain pumps, and, in short, many other things, including well-boring machinery, and windmills on contract. In addition to his foundry business, Charles Schroeder also made wagons and buggies, turning out as high as from seventy-five to one hundred vehicles a year.
The Columbus Creamery Association was incorporated November 4, 1881, by M. Whitmoyer, H. P. Smith, E. A. Gerrard, J. W. Early, J. P. Becker, V. T. Price, Leander Gerrard, William T. Ransdell, David Anderson, Carl Kramer, Jacob Z. Shotwell. Capital stock, $12,000. A creamery was erected, upon which several thousand dollars was expended, and for some years the company continued operations.
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The only industrial concerns now in operation in Columbus of any great local importance are two flouring and grist mills, an immense grain elevator, controlled by T. B. Horde & Co.; the electric light plant and the gas works. Of course the city has a brewery, which came into existence in 1866, when Charles Bremer, its founder, arrived here. The Bremers conducted this industry a number of years. In 1880 Joseph Henggler and Martin Jetter, proprietors, erected new buildings, and increased the capacity of the plant to 3,000 barrels of beer per annum. The malt house had a capacity of 6,000 bushels. On December 19, 1904, the Columbus Brewing Company was incorporated by George Rambour, Frank Valasek and Ben V. Walter. The president of the company is W. J. Walter, and the plant stands on the old location in the southeast part of the city.
The national bank system furnishes the best currency the country has ever had, though there are now generations of young business men who know practically nothing of paper currency except a greenback and bank notes, secured by Government bonds. Their elders can recall the inconvenience of the wildcat banking system of another age. A man starting upon a journey with his pockets full of the notes of banks was not so certain that his money would be good when he got a hundred miles from home and when he went to bed at night he was not sure that it would be good in the morning. Such was the system prevailing at the time of the organization of Nebraska Territory. It is not probable that the first Legislature was disposed to charter any such institutions. A bill was introduced and passed granting a charter to the Wetern Exchange and Fire and Marine Insurance Company, authorizing them to issue policies on fire and marine risks and one section authorizing the company to receive deposits and issue certificates therefor. The place of business was Omaha City and among the incorporators was Thomas H. Benton, Jr., then superintendent of public instruction of Iowa. The company never issued a policy of insurance, but erected a good building and had certificates of deposit printed on bank note paper reading:
"The Western Exchange and Fire and Marine Insurance Company will pay to the bearer ....... dollars deposited by ....... (the name of some stockholder filling the blank) on presentation of this certificate. Signed, Thomas H. Benton, Jr., president; L. R. Tuttle, secretary."
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The stockholders of the company had the confidence of Nebraska and Western Iowa and they had no trouble in floating their notes. They transacted a regular banking business, receiving deposits and selling exchange. Leroy Tuttle was manager and there were employed two young men as tellers, one of whom afterwards became treasurer of the United States.
The second Legislature chartered five banks -- the Bank of Florence, the Platte Valley Bank of Bellevue, the National Bank of Nebraska at Omaha, the Nemaha Valley Bank of Brownsville, and one at Nebraska City.
These bills bore on the margin "Stockholders individually reliable," which was facetiously translated "bill holders individually reliable." A Nebraska bank note would not pass east of the Mississippi River. In one eastern city a few bills were inadvertently taken in by firms and through a mutual friend were sent to Columbus to be exchanged for eastern money. The Bank of Florence, the National of Nebraska and Western Exchange were considered to have the most wealthy stockholders and were preferred. The man who had been sheriff of Douglas County wished to make a visit to his old home in Illinois, and desiring to borrow money from one of the Omaha banks, they loaned it with the agreement that it should be in their notes, which he should get in circulation in that state. On reflection, the man was afraid that he might not be able to use their money when he got there, so he took the crisp new notes they had given him and crumpled and soiled them until they looked like old ones and got a friend to present them to the bank for redemption. In those days a part of the money in circulation were the notes of the Agricultural Bank of Tennessee, which had on them the stamp of Andrew J. Stevens & Co., brokers of Des Moines, promising to redeem them at his bank in that place which gave them credit. The Andrew J. Stevens mentioned was one of Columbus' enterprising but unfortunate townsmen.
When the Bank of Nebraska was opened a young man was employed as teller, whose name was D. H. Moffatt, Jr.
At the third session of the Legislature a batch of new bank charters was passed and all vetoed by the governor. The charter for the Bank of Tekamah was passed over this charter. This was in the session of 1856-57. The following summer the panic came and the banks disappeared. The Bank of Tekamah got out a few notes, which in a month or two were valuable chiefly for bookmarks. For a while all the money was Omaha scrip, then Iowa organized a system
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of state banks, secured by state bonds, which furnished a good currency. Then came the war with the greenback.
THE COLUMBUS STATE BANK
The first attempt at the banking business in Columbus was made by Leander Gerrard and Julius A. Reed, who in July, 1871, opened a private bank on the north side of the town. Early in 1873, Abner Turner and George W. Hulst entered into partnership for the conduct of a private bank and began business on the south side. On the 31st day of July, 1875, the two banks consolidated and organized the Columbus State Bank, the original stockholders of which were Leander Gerrard, Edward A. Gerrard, Julius Reed, Abner Turner, and George W. Hulst. It had been incorporated under the laws of the State of Nebraska, July 28, 1875, with a capital stock of $50,000, divided into shares of $500 each.
The first board of directors consisted of the five original stockholders, who elected as officers of the bank: Leander Gerrard, president; George W. Hulst, vice president; Abner Turner, cashier. August 20, 1883, Turner transferred his stock in the bank to James E. Tasker, who became cashier at the time and retained the office until his death, which occurred in December, 1889. From that time until August 1, 1894, John Stauffer was the cashier, and then came Melchoir Brugger, who performed the duties of cashier from 1894 until August, 1903, when the present cashier, Howard A. Clarke, took office.
Leander Gerrard retired from the presidency in August, 1903, but retained his membership on the board. Since that time to the present M. Brugger has been the chief executive of this financial institution, and William Bucher, vice president.
The consolidated banks, under the title of the Columbus State Bank, commenced operations in the Gerrard Bank Building and remained there until a two-story brick was completed for the institution, on the corner of Twelfth and Platte streets. This was the home of the Columbus State until October, 1905, when it removed to its present modern new home, a two-story brick, which stands on the southwest corner of Thirteenth and Olive streets.
The Columbus State Bank takes some little pride in the claim that it is now the oldest state bank in business in Nebraska, and its assistant cashier, V. H. Weaver, who has been connected with the
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concern since 1887, and filling the duties of his position since 1904, also feels that some little credit is due him for his sticktoitiveness at least.
From time to time the capital stock of the bank has been increased, until now it is $75,000; surplus, $18,000; undivided profits, $3,000; deposits, $550,000.
COMMERCIAL NATIONAL BANK
The Commercial National is an outgrowth of the Commercial Bank, and that institution in turn had its predecessor in a private bank, established by Andrew Anderson and others. It was known as the Columbus Savings Bank, Loan and Trust Company, a private concern, having for its officers: Andrew Anderson, president; C. H. Sheldon, vice president; Robert Uhlig, secretary; and O. T. Roen, treasurer. This company developed into the Commercial Bank in 1888, with a capital stock of $10,000. Its officers were: C. H. Sheldon, president; W. A. McAllister, vice president; and Robert Uhlig, cashier. It began business in its new home, on the corner of North and Thirteenth streets, a brick building, with terra cotta trimmings, two stories in height and a basement, in 1888, the year of its incorporation.
The Commercial National Bank was formed of the Commercial Bank and was organized April 5, 1899, with a capital stock of $50,000. The officials were: C. H. Sheldon, president; Herman P. A. Oehlrich, vice president; and Daniel Schram, cashier. The present officials are: John J. Galley, president; A. F. H. Oehlrich, vice president; C. H. Becher, cashier; and A. D. Becker, assistant cashier. The capital stock is $50,000; surplus, $30,000; undivided profits, $6,000; deposits, $410,000.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK
The First National started as a private bank in 1881, under the direction of Andrew Anderson and Ole T. Roen. The bank began doing business on the corner of Eleventh and North streets, and remained there until the fall of 1883, when it removed into a two-story brick building, erected for the purpose, on the corner of Twelfth and Olive streets. Previous to this, on October 27, 1882, the First National was organized and incorporated by Gilbert and Andrew Anderson, Peter Anderson, Samuel C. Smith, John W. Early, Herman P. H. Oehlrich, Robert Uhlig, William A. McAllister and Ole T. Roen. It was capitalized at $50,000. The first officials were
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Andrew Anderson, president; Samuel C. Smith, vice president; Ole T. Roen, cashier. In 1888, James H. Galley succeeded Samuel C. Smith in the vice presidency. Since 1908 the officials of the bank have been as follows: Edward Johnson, president; J. H. Galley, vice president; A. R. Miller, cashier. In 1910 the old brick building was removed and the present home of the bank was constructed on its site and occupied in the month of September of that year.
The capital stock of the First National is $50,000; surplus and undivided profits, $35,000; deposits, $550,000.
THE GERMAN NATIONAL BANK
The German National is the youngest among the quartette of strong financial institutions doing a banking business in Columbus. It opened for business in its handsome new home, September 4, 1906. The first board of directors was George W. Phillips, Hanson S. Elliott, Theodore Friedhof, J. F. Siens and P. E. McKillip. This board elected as officers of the bank: G. W. Phillips, president; Theodore Friedhof, vice president; and B. H. Schroeder, cashier.
On the 24th day of November, 1909, the capital stock of the German National was increased from $50,000 to $100,000, and at the same time the board of directors was increased from five members to seven. On February, 1909, Mr. Schroeder resigned as cashier, and was succeeded by A. F. Plagemann. About the same time a second vice presidency was created, to which position C. H. Sheldon was elected, so that at the present time the official list is made up as follows: President, G. W. Phillips; first vice president, Theodore Friedhof; second vice president, C. H. Sheldon; cashier, A. F. Plagemann. Capital paid in, $100,000; surplus and undivided profits, $30,000; deposits, $323,000.
YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
The history of the Young Men's Christian Association of Columbus begins with an organization perfected January 23, 1888, for the purpose of providing a place "for the social, spiritual, intellectual and physical development of young men." The organization was perfected by the election of Rev. R. L. Knox, president; J. E. Tasker vice president; C. J. Garlow, recording secretary; V. H. Weaver, financial secretary; Henry Hockenberger, treasurer. During the next five or six years this association, which drew to its fold many
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recruits, accomplished a great deal of effective work. Rooms were occupied in the North block, at the corner of Thirteenth and Olive streets, where reading rooms, a small gymnasium and baths were attractions arranged for the youth and young men of Columbus.
The first secretary was Frank Knapp, a young man devoid of experience in the duties of that office. His successors were Harry L. Markel and S. D. Adkins, both of whom later became prominent in association work. Then came Arthur Weir, a secretary of large experience, who installed George H. Whaley as physical trainer, who served without remuneration, as the society had great difficulty in obtaining necessary funds, owing to the general business stress of that period.
Among others who took a prominent and ardently interested part in keeping alive the Y. M. C. A. sentiment in Columbus during its infant days were G. C. Hickok, H. F. Hockenberger, C. C. Sheldon, Emil Von Bergen and others whose names cannot now be recalled. Mr. Von Bergen was especially helpful and served as corresponding secretary at Columbus for the state association:
Largely through the influence of the men whose names have been mentioned, a meeting was called to be held at the Congregational Church, May 27, 1906, for the purpose of considering the advisability of starting a movement for the organization of a Young Men's Christian Association, and the erection of a Y. M. C. A. building in Columbus. At this meeting a committee was appointed to obtain the assistance of State Secretary Bailey, in presenting the project to the people. The committee was made up of H. Hockenberger, chairman; M. Brugger, secretary; H. Ragatz, Jr., D. Thomas, William Zinnecker, Otto Hagel, S. Mahood, H. Wilkins, J. D. Stires, G. W. Phillips, W. S. Evans, J. T. Boyd, E. B. Sherman and Clarence Sheldon.
A public meeting was called to be held at North Opera House in November, 1906, to further consider details relating to the project relegated to the above committee. The principal speaker was W. J. Hill, chairman of the state committee, who offered valuable suggestions; and two weeks later the state association was formally extended an invitation to hold the next annual convention in Columbus. This courtesy was accepted and the state convention was held in Columbus in the early days of February, 1907. Among some of the prominent people present were Judge Harry S. Dungan, of Hastings; Dr. Robert F. Coyle, D. D., of Denver; Dean Fordyce, of Wesleyan University, Lincoln; Fred S. Goodman, working secretary for
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the State of New York; State Secretary Bailey, of Omaha; President E. E. Bennett, of Lincoln; Dr. W. O. Henry, of Omaha.
It was fully understood that without a suitable home, a Young Men's Christian Association in Columbus would not enjoy complete recognition by the state association, nor be influential in the community. Therefore, the men who attended that meeting were there with minds made up as to what they wanted to do, and it was on that day, February 10, 1907, that the movement was inaugurated for the building of a home here for the association. Upon invitation to subscribe to a building fund, C. H. Sheldon started the list with the sum of $5,000, to be paid on condition that the citizens of Columbus donate an additional $25,000. R. S. Dickinson freely subscribed $1,000, and during the first week of solicitation the sums promised amounted in the aggregate to $20,000, on February 20th, when the next meeting was held. And before the subscription papers were turned in by the various teams selected for the purpose, $30,000 was assured for the building.
On the 1st day of May, 1907, sealed bids for a building site were opened by the executive committee, and the bid of Augusta C. Millet, for lots 5 and 6, block 51, was accepted, the price being $5,000.
On the 7th day of September, 1907, H. F. Hockenberger laid the first brick in the new building. On Friday, November 22, 1907, the cornerstone was laid, under Masonic rites, and the day was declared a holiday by Mayor G. W. Phillips.
The association building stands facing the northwest corner of the city park, and its contour follows architectural lines of accepted merit. The material is a dark brick, with stone trimmings, and the structure has three stories, a high basement being considered as one of them. Wide stone steps reach from the ground to the top of the basement story, from which one enters a lobby, or main lounging room of the institution. Then appears, from inspection, apartments set apart for the various amusements of members. In the third story are sleeping and toilet rooms. The basement is given over to a large swimming pool, near which is a room containing individual steel lockers for clothes. On this floor are other conveniences of the institution, together with the heating apparatus and receptacles for fuel. It should also be mentioned that on the second, or main floor, is a cheerful dining room, where meals are served at the regular hours three times a day.
The dedication of this noble building, or rather the formal opening, occurred Monday evening, December 2, 1908, with State Secre-
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 295
tary J. P. Bailey as master of the informal ceremony. Music was furnished by the Maennerchor Orchestra, and the main address of the evening by Robert Weidensall, secretary of the international committee of the Y. M. C. A. On behalf of the trustees, G. A. Scott, in an appropriate manner, accepted the building, and was followed by the president of the local association, G. C. Sheldon. The gymnasium was filled with guests. Over five hundred people attended the Tuesday evening reception given by the board of directors and their wives, Mayor G. W. Phillips presiding. The exercises continued throughout the week, ending with a banquet on Friday night. From that time on the building has been open continuously and furnishes to a large membership many of the good things in life in the way of religions services and instructions, lectures by men and women of note and ability, literature of a high order, a well equipped gymnasium and a plunge bath that is very enticing. Coupled with all these advantages and blessings, are nicely served meals, well appointed sleeping apartments, and above all, a Christian atmosphere, which acts as a protecting cloak for every one who accepts of the standing invitation to come and enjoy these baneficences.
AMOUNT SUBSCRIBED BY MARCH 20, 1907
C. H. Sheldon, $5,000.
$1,000 Donations -- R. S. Dickinson, H. F. J. Hockenberger, Theodore Friedhof, Fred Stenger, Henry Ragatz & Sons, H. S. Elliott, M. Brugger, H. A. Clarke, Gray Mercantile Company.
$500 -- Dr. W. S. Evans, C. H. Dack, David Thomas.
$300 -- J. E. Paul, J. E. Erskine, C. A. Whaley, L. G. Zinnecker, G. W. Phillips, A. Anderson, Dr. C. A. Allenberger.
$250 -- I. Gluck, George A. Scott, James H. Galley, anonymous, O. T. Rouen, E. H. Chambers, Gus G. Becher, Hugh Hughes, A. Dussell & Son.
$200 -- A. Abts & Co., Lewis Lightner, F. T. Walker, August Diedrich, L. C. Voss, D. T. Martyn, Jr., Thomas Branigan.
$100 -- Frank Rorer, C. H. Buschman, L. W. Weaver, M. C. Cassin, B. H. Weaver, M. Matzen, E. H. Naumann, F. K. Strother, F. N. Stevenson, Keating & Schram, A. G. Luschen E. M. Sparhawk, J. E. North, C. E. Pollock, P. J. Hart, W. A. McAllister, Henry Wilkins, J. T. Boyd, L. W. Snow, J. C. Echols, O. L. Baker, Paul Hagel, C. L. Lund, H. Lubker, H. Gass, G. A. Schroeder, Carl Kramer, H. C. Carrig, anonymous, H. B. Robinson, J. G. Reeder, J. J. Sullivan, high school boys, Karr & Nichols.
296PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
$50 -- Jacob Glur, Richard Ramey, C. C. Hardy, A. E. Vallier, I. H. Britell, Seth Braun, Gus G. Becher, Jr., C. L. McElfresh A. L. Koon, C. C;. Hickok, R. C. Boyd, C. J. Scott, H. G. Fricke, J. B. Stires, Findley Howard, M. Whitmoyer, G. E. Willard, Rothleitner & Co., E. B. Sherman, Rosina Spoerry, L. F. Phillips, C. J. Garlow, F. W. Herrick, Arnold Oehlrich, F. W. Farrand, W. I. Speice, L. A. Jenkins.
$25 -- Fred G. Plath, T. A. Rodman, W. M. Cornelius, W. H. King, Mark Rathburn, Dr. W. H. Slater, John Janning, C H Platz, A. Lodenhoft, L. F. Rector, Homer Tiffany, J. E. Tiffany, E. H. Tiffany, A. L. Rollin, R. H. Wurdeman, Dan J. Echols, Phil Echols, D. D. Boyd, R. S. Palmer, B. H. Schroeder, Frank Schram, E. von Bergen, C. S. Raney, G. W. Viergutz, Ernst & Brock, Bert J. Galley, S. Bordy, H. E. Newman, Mary Howard, John Eatterman, P. D. Derrington, M. Savage, Louis Held, F. S. Davis, E. J. Niewohner, Eilert Mohlman, P. F. Miller, C. E. Devlin, Jacob Griesen, G. J. Carrig, William McEver, R. W. Saley, anonymous, T. J. Cottingham, M. S. Mace, R. Jenkinson.
$20 -- Fred Schofield, C. E. Early.
$15 -- L. A. Carnahan.
$10 -- S. E. Baker, Ethel Elliott, William O'Brien, O. W. Holliday, E. C. Worden, J. A. Douglass, O. D. Butler, W. L. Rowley, P. G. Cunningham, Myron Wilson, J. J. Burke, Albert Reider, Lloyd Swain, John Schmocker, anonymous, J. F. Carrig, Ed Branigan, Robert Neumeister, L. A. Raney, Mrs. J. C. Freidig, Charles L. Dickey.
$5 -- Elmer Winey, Charles Koenig, Lee Swartsley, Horatio Adams, J. L. Brunken, Grace Woods, Henry Reider, C. Boettcher, Mrs. Henry D. O'Bryan, Robert Drawbaugh, Otto Staab, Will Fyfe, Albert Kurth, George H. Grubb, anonymous, W. Murray, Fred Geiser, Charles Johnson.
The Y. M. C. A. Building is practically paid for, and cost in round numbers $32,000. It stands upon a site, the purchase price of which was $5,000. This is a very comfortable sum of money to be donated and spent upon an institution of this kind, worthy as it is. But the money was given freely, generously and quickly, and the people of Columbus are proud of its Y. M. C. A. and feel able and willing to maintain it in a proper manner. The present membership totals 254, made up of 76 sustaining members, 92 full members, 27 intermediate members, and 59 elementary members. The officials are: H. F. J. Hochenberger, president; A. E. Vallier, vice presi-
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 297
dent; G. C. Sheldon, treasurer; C. J. Fennell, secretary of the board of directors; I. R. Devine, secretary of the institution.
BUSINESS MEN'S CLUB
On the 14th day of December, 1908, a Business Men's Club was organized, with a membership of thirty-two, all of whom were connected with the Y. M. C. A., as one of the tenets of the organization provides that no one shall be eligible unless a member of the Y. M. C. A. There are now sixty names on the Business Men's Club rolls, and since it came into existence it has been the aim and object of the club to put forth strenuous efforts toward inducing manufacturers to locate in Columbus and to create a spirit of progress and improvement among the citizens. The club is composed of many of the leading business men of this city and has several regular meetings at the Y. M. C. A. each year.
THE HISTORY OF THE COLUMBUS PUBLIC LIBRARY
The first effort to establish a public library in Columbus was made in 1878. In an old file of the Columbus Journal of February 13th of that year we find the following record: "Under an act of the Legislature of the State of Nebraska entitled, 'An act to authorize incorporated towns and cities to establish and maintain free public libraries and reading rooms,' approved on the 17th of February, 1877, there shall be established in the City of Columbus a free public library and reading room for the use of the inhabitants of the City of Columbus and shall be levied annually the sum of not more than one mill on the dollar valuation upon the assessment roll of the city for its support." It was not, however, until December 3d that a public meeting was held "pursuant to call at the Presbyterian Church to organize a library association." We again quote from the Columbus Journal: "Wm. Burgess was called to the chair and Stephen H. Lang was chosen secretary. After the object of the meeting had been stated, a form of constitution and by-laws, previously prepared by Wm. Burgess, E. L. Sherman, D. D. Wadsworth, Celeste Fifield, John Hammond and George Clother, was submitted and adopted."
In the Journal's issue of December 25, 1878, we read: "The Columbus Library Association has been perfected. A committee has been appointed to solicit donations of money, books, periodicals and other useful articles. Over $200 has been subscribed and as soon as
298PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
a sufficient amount is paid a suitable room will be obtained and opened to the public." Where the suitable room for the distribution was located and who was custodian I have been unable to trace, nor yet any record that any levy was ever made. But I do know that at one time the books were kept in the First Ward schoolhouse, and that Mr. L. J. Cramer, superintendent of schools in the early '80s, made an effort to bring them again into circulation.
About ten years later the Y. M. C. A., which had its home above the present location of La Book's store, made the second attempt. The bookstore of Lamb & Stires had closed its business some time previous and generously donated all the books and Bibles that they had on hand. This, with the books collected from private parties interested in the movement, formed a nucleus. But the Y. M. C. A. was of short duration, and, when its doors were closed, the library was no longer available to the public.
There were some people, however, who still talked public library "in season and out of season." One of these was Mrs. J. G. Reeder. Consequently, when the president of the Woman's Club, Mrs. Sarah Brindley, returned from the meeting of the State Federation of Woman's Clubs in the late '90s, inoculated with the thought of establishing a public library in her home town, the idea found favor with the members of the club.
They had all sorts of experiences in canvassing the town for assistance. One prominent professional man told them that he had assisted two or three times in the past for a like endeavor, and he did not propose to help again until he was satisfied that it would be a permanent institution. The ladies knew that they had undertaken a serious and difficult proposition, but they absolutely refused to be discouraged. When they had secured sufficient pledges and collected enough books to warrant it, they went before the city council to ask permission to place them in the council room. Mr. Henry Ragatz was presiding as mayor when they, having come through a pouring rain, filed in dripping wet. He suspended all other business, saying, "Ladies, ask what you will; I think your enthusiasm warrants its being granted you." And so their petition for a room for a few cases of books and the assistance of the city clerk as librarian was readily granted. The council also voted to pay the clerk $4 per month for this added duty. The library was then open to the public one afternoon in the week. Here the library was cradled and mothered by the club for more than a year until the ladies felt that it was on a
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 299
sufficiently firm foundation to warrant its being turned over to the city.
In September, 1900, the city council passed an ordinance to establish a public library, and at its next meeting in October the board was appointed. Prof. W. J. Williams, Mrs. Sarah Brindley, I. H. Britell, Mrs. A. J. Baker, Mrs. M. Brugger, Mrs. F. H. Geer, Mrs. G. B. Geitzen, Mrs. W. A. McAllister and S. C. Gray constituted this first board. Mrs. Baker moved away that fall and Professor Kern was appointed to fill her place.
But our troubles were by no means ended. To find a suitable home and the right person for librarian was our next problem. The first we found in the rooms that we have occupied until the present time. At first we had only one room, but soon rented the adjoining one; then, later, the third one for a children's room. Miss Fannie Geer, now Mrs. R. Stuart, was chosen librarian and it is to her efforts that much of the success of the library is due. She filled the position until four years ago, when she resigned, and we found a very competent and efficient successor in Miss Clara Howard, who has been untiring in her efforts in the upbuilding of the library.
The library was opened on November 13th. In the beginning it was open two afternoons and evenings in the week, and the librarian's salary $8 per month. In June, 1902, we found it necessary to again address the city council not to reduce our levy, as it was rumored that they intended to do. In those first years we were so short of funds at one time that Mr. J. G. Reeder went out among the business men to solicit money and collected $200 to tide us over until our next levy would be available.
And so we struggled along, adding more books as our finances allowed, opening the library three afternoons and evenings a week, and then every day excepting Sunday. Periodically the question of a permanent home would come up, and we would ask ourselves where we could find a person public spirited enough to give us a start by deeding us a lot. We were almost in despair for, although when we first moved into our old quarters, Mr. Roen asked us to sign a six-month lease, that time had long since expired. The building had changed hands, and we felt that the time must come when we should be asked to move. Besides, the long stairs and hall made it hard for many. Miss Howard had refused several flattering offers from other libraries because she wanted to see a building here, and this was the task she had set for herself.
At last we thought of asking permission to build in the park, and
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