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The History of Platte County Nebraska


Evans Hotel

bus," for modern merchandising methods and the scientific wonders of the age have made deep freeze units, radio, television, ventilation systems and other home-consumed improvements available to every resident of the county. Columbus today occupies a position equal to, if not superior to, that of any other American community its size.

One of the first impressions to be received by any visitor to a strange city is gleaned through the hotel facilities it offers. Columbus has five hostelries: the Evans Hotel, Earle Hotel, Meridian Hotel, Oxford Hotel and the White Hotel. These are very different institutions from the "hotels" of early years which used to advertise "Meals twenty-four cents -- Lodging twenty-five cents," adding to their list of attractions, the boast, "New Furniture Throughout!" Names like the Deutsches Gasthaus, the Nebraska House and Central Hotel have disappeared entirely from the Columbus scene, leaving only the more modern institutions to take their place.

Even the current buildings have their roots in history, however. The Evans Hotel was first established in 1912 by a group of Columbus business and professional men, including George A. Scott, Doctor C. D. Evans, Theodore Friedhof, J. C. Echols and G. W. Phillips. The four-story brick hotel structure at the corner of Thirteenth Street and Twenty-seventh Avenue was formally dedicated on December 2, 1913, after more than one hundred thousand dollars had been spent in its construction. Sold to the Nebraska Hotel Company, it was later purchased by Eppley Hotels, Incorporated.

Hotel activity in Columbus has always been a barometer by which to gauge the business health of the town. Thus we find an item in a paper of May, 1874, reporting one hundred fifty people who registered at the Clother House during the week, thirty-two of whom were from out of state. The other hotel in Columbus at that time, the Hammond House, had received sixty-two visitors, of which nineteen were from other states.

The Hammond House had one of the more colorful backgrounds of any business establishment in the city. Erected in Cleveland, rival town to Columbus, it was put on rollers in 1866 and ordered moved to Columbus by George



Francis Train. By contract, Train reserved one room for the President of the United States and one for the president of the Union Pacific Railroad, as well as one for himself. The Meridian Hotel stands on the site of the former Hammond House and those who remember Columbus in the last century, recall also the many conferences and meetings held beneath its roof at which was transacted the vital living history of the community.

There has always been an air of hospitality in Columbus' greeting to its visitors. The day of the glorified rooming house, able to "put up out-of-towners" and stable their horses, gave way to the plush period of the eighties and nineties, when for example, hotels like Grand Pacific and later the Thurston were managed by George Lehman. Comfort and elegance were the keynotes of the Thurston, which publicized its steam heat, billiard parlors and fire alarms. At one time, the only brick building in town, it compared favorably with other hotels of similar size all over Nebraska. The formality and self-conscious splendor have passed away, with the years until today, Columbus regards its hotel business like any other business in the town.

In Platte County, as in many other regions of America, the key roles of the community have fallen to the physicians and surgeons, who raised the standards of the local medical profession to their present high level. From the time when Doctor Charles B. Stillman entered Columbus on foot, as its first doctor, known only by his friend and companion, George W. Hewitt, Columbus has been fortunate in attracting men of marked ability as well as great humanitarianism. Serving as a justice of the peace, and later as county clerk and finally mayor, Doctor Stillman came to know and love the community in which he practiced.

Like Doctor D. T. Martyn, Sr., who arrived in Platte County in the late 1870's, and helped in the establishment of St. Mary's Hospital, he plodded through snow and drove his team to the far outskirts of the county in order to attend ailing settlers and their families, whose only shelter was a lean-to or "Soddy."

Like the Blue Cross today, the Platte Valley saw the incorporation in earlier years of the Stenger Benevolent Association for the relief of indigent farmers and the Universal Protective Association established as an early health and accident insurance organization.

The State Medical Society, founded in 1882, also aided in the creation of high standards for the medical profession. Platte County Medical Society widely supported the move of the Columbus Parent-Teacher Association in the early 1940's, to furnish needy children of the area with medical and dental care. Thus the County Medical Society, which was organized at a meeting in the parlors of the Meridian Hotel, on February 12, 1902, had as its nucleus the leading medical men in the county. It was the logical aftermath of an age when a doctor was called upon to be physician, surgeon, oculist, psychiatrist, dentist and even pharmacist.

Today, Columbus has specialists in internal medicine, surgeons, and general practitioners, who serve the community and maintain membership in the leading medical associations of the county, state and nation. No longer isolated from their fellow doctors, these physicians bring to the community the latest in treatments and diagnostic skills and act as the trustees of the greatest natural resources of any town the health of its people.

Practicing in the county in 1949 were: Doctor C. A. Allenburger, Doctor Arthur Abts, Doctor Ronald C. Anderson, Doctor Everett G. Brillhart, Doctor Arno A. Bald (Platte Center) ; Doctor Charles H. Campbell, Doctor F. B. Cyphers (Duncan) ; Doctor J. North Evans, Doctor Maurice C. James, Doctor Frank G. Johnson, Doctor Herbert D. Kuper, Doctor David T. Martyn, Doctor Ezra E. Koebbe, Doctor Patrick H. McGowan, Doctor Julian E. Meyer, Doctor Frank H. Morrow and Doctor William R. Neumarker.

Amplifying the medical facilities of the town are two fine modern hospitals, St. Mary's and the Lutheran Hospital.


St. Mary's Hospital was organized in 1879 by the Sisters of St. Francis, was the second establishment of this type to be set up by the Franciscan Sisterhood. Located on the half block east of the St. Bonaventure's Church property, it was sixty feet long, thirty feet wide, and constructed at an initial cost of six thousand dollars. A wing was added in 1886, and in 1901, a new structure was erected to house the steadily increasing number of patients. Now capable of caring for over one hundred fifty people, the institution receives patients with all types of diseases and holds a Class A rating given it by Doctor Paul S. Ferguson, field representative* who made an inspection of the institution in 1939. Singled out for special commendation

* For the American College of Surgeons.


The History of Platte County Nebraska


there were the maternity, surgical, X-ray and laboratory departments.

St. Mary's Hospital was affiliated with the Catholic Hospital Association in 1919, and with the American Hospital Association, when it was organized a few years afterward. It repeatedly has received a Class A grading from the American College of Surgeons, an organization affiliated with the American Hospital Association.

Occupying the greater part of two square blocks and surrounded by attractively landscaped gardens, the two hundred twenty-three-room hospital has progressed far from its early frame structure consisting of two floors of four rooms each. Even in 1880, it had achieved fame, however, as the only sisters' hospital between Omaha and Salt Lake City.

The institution was started as the result of a plea made in August, 1878, by Father Ambrose Janssen, O.F.M., the first pastor and superior at St. Bonaventure's Monastery, who wrote to the Franciscan provincial at Teutopolis, Illinois. The priest stated that there was a demand for a hospital in Columbus and mentioned Doctor D. T. Martyn, Sr., as one of the local citizens interested in assisting the venture.

The next step in the creation of St. Mary's was the arrival of Mother Teresa Bonzel, general superior and foundress of the Franciscan sisterhood in Olpe, Germany. When she had reached her destination in Platte County, a meeting of the prominent citizens was held in the Opera House under the chairmanship of Doctor Samuel A. Bonesteel. A committee of five was selected to solicit funds, including: Judge J. G. Higgins, Leander Gerrard, Timothy C. Ryan, John P. Becker and Charles A. Speice.

The campaign to finance the building of the hospital was given greater impetus by the Venerable Sisters, Augustine and Raphaela in February, 1879.


Sister M. Jacoba on her 60th anniversary at St. Mary's Hospital, receiving a gift from Reynolds O'Donnell, Jr.

Between their foot-caravans, the sisters took carriages and early railroad coaches to communities where they sought contributions. Although the funds were slow to appear, certain individuals, such as John Creighton of Omaha, who gave them one thousand dollars, helped the drive by their outstanding generosity. A few of the donors from the Columbus community were: John Early, John Vogel, David Schupbach, Barney Deisman, Marcus Vogel, Leander Gerrard, M. K. Turner, John Stauffer, Doctor Stillman, Jacob Louis, John Browner, J. P. Becker and J. N. Taylor. The half-block on which the hospital was to be erected was donated by Fred Gottschalk, Sr., who later sold St. Mary's the adjoining half block for the nominal sum of one hundred fifty dollars. Benefits were also given for the hospital by the Maennerchor and other Columbus clubs and excavation was begun in the fall of 1879.

The first patient to be cared for at St. Mary's Hospital was a Polish workman who had lost both hands while uncoupling a railroad car in the Columbus yards. The pioneer building at first had no screens on the windows and no sewerage system. Its rooms were heated in winter by small stoves, and doctors, arriving in the night to visit a patient, would toll a large bell which hung in the vestibule, and await the arrival of a sister with a lantern in hand, to open the door and lead their way. With the aid of a carpenter and a plumber, Doctor C. D. Evans, Sr., constructed the first operating table when one of the rooms was converted into an operating room.

The hospital received the complete support of the community, however, and much of its progress can be traced to the loyal services of the following superiors who served the institution since it first opened its doors: the Venerable Sisters M. Augustina, 1879-80; Bonaventura, 1880-81; Magdalena, 1881-82; Xaveria, 1882-83; Francisca, 1883-85; Huberta, 1885-89 and again in 1900-01; Bonafacia, 1889-94; Joachima, 1894-95; Henrica, 1895-1900; Aegidia, 1901-04 and again in 1919-27; Augustina, 1904-06; Hilaria, 1906-19; Hubertina in 1927; Hermana, 1927-29; and 1929-48, Sister M. Alfreda, Sister M. Consolata and Sister M. Sigberta who celebrated her golden jubilee in 1947.


The Lutheran Hospital was incorporated under the name of the Evans Hospital on March 24, 1920, by Doctor Carroll D. Evans, Edward



Old St. Mary's Hospital, Columbus, with first addition.

W. North, Doctor J. North Evans, Doctor Carroll D. Evans, Jr., and C. N. McElfresh.

In 1922, the hospital was leased to the Matzen sisters, graduate nurses, who had formerly conducted the Matzen Hospital as a private institution in Columbus. The name was changed to the Columbus Hospital and remained that until 1932, when the institution was taken over by the Good Samaritan Society, composed of a Lutheran group of stockholders. Reorganization took place again in 1938, when it was incorporated as the Lutheran Hospital and Homes Society with headquarters in Fargo, North Dakota. The name was changed in that year to the Lutheran Hospital, and Miss Hedwig Bokelmann took charge as resident superintendent.

A thirty-bed hospital, the Lutheran institution has added many facilities and remodeled many others since 1944, when it began a program of modernization that extended from the large, sanitary hospital kitchen to the modern X-ray room. A portable Kelley-Koett X-ray machine and a Cassette Tunnel, as well as a radiographic table and developing tank, are a few of the additions which the hospital has purchased to increase and improve its facilities. A home for nurses is also maintained on the hospital grounds.

Not only does the Lutheran Hospital serve the people of Platte County but its patients come from the surrounding territory of Boone, Nance, Colfax, Butler, Polk and Merrick Counties and it is affiliated with the National Lutheran Council, Division of Welfare.


In view of the outstanding growth of Columbus as a city of power and progress, the Ninetieth Anniversary-homecoming celebration of the city, held in 1946, was a spectacular affair. Fred Gottschalk, III, the chairman of the homecoming committee, issued an invitation to every person of importance in the United States who once resided in Platte County to be present at the event which took place August 27, the first day of the 1946 fair. Serving on the committee were: Albert D. Becker, Margaret Curry, C. B. Fricke, Carl Hoge, Harold Kramer, Judge Louis L. Lightner, Nell Evans McHenry, Metta Hensley Neumarker and C. C. Sheldon.

Many prominent Platte County former residents made the trip back to Columbus for the event including Andrew Higgins the boat builder and three of his sisters who with many others were honored at the celebration by their fellow townsmen. Among these was one who had achieved fame in the service of his country, Colonel William H. Hensley, Jr., of the United States Army Air Corps. Colonel Hensley the son of Judge and Mrs. W. N. Hensley of Co-

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