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North Platte's rapid growth. -- Becomes the County Seat. -- First meeting of County Commissioners. -- Circuit Judge holds Court. -- First County Warrants. -- Cattle raising. -- Judge Daugherty and the school fund. -- North Platte in '68. -- First saloon licenses. -- U. P. Engines levied on for taxes and chained. -- The old Log school house, its teachers and associations. -- An Indian scare, and the gun that scared the teacher. -- First Sunday School in North Platte.

     About the close of 1867, North Platte had so increased in population and importance that it was considered more suitable to be the county seat than Cottonwood Springs where it was located at the time. That this idea was universally entertained is evident by the following enteries in the County Records: "At a special term of the County Commissioners' Court of Lincoln County, Nebraska, at their




usual place of holding court at Cottonwood Springs, Nebraska, on the 27th day of September, A. D., 1867. Present, W. M. Hinman and John A. Morrow, Commissioners; the following proceedings were had: It was ordered that all that portion of Lincoln County south of the Platte river shall constitute Cottonwood Precinct; and all that portion of said county lying between the North and South Platte shall constitute the North Platte precinct. It is also ordered that an election be held in Lincoln County on the 8th day of October, A. D., 1867, for one member of the House of Representatives; one Commissioner for district No. 2; one Probate Judge; one Coroner; one County Treasurer; one County Clerk; one County Surveyor; one Prosecuting Attorney for the precinct of North Platte; two Justices and two Constables; also for the location of the County Seat of Lincoln County, Nebraska. No other business, the Court ad journs to meet at the same place on the 25th day of October, A. D., 1867."

     Charles McDonald was County Clerk, and the Commissioners met at his house. How many ran for these offices, or to what poilitcal parties they belonged, is not recorded, but twenty-one votes were




cast, and the proposition to make North Platte the County Seat carried, and following gentlemen were elcted to guard the welfare, and shape the destiny of County and City: B. I. Hinman, Representative; W. M. Hinman, Judge; Charles McDonald, Clerk; O.O. Austin, Sheriff; Hugh Morgan, Treasurer; A. J. Miller, Commissioner.

     As arranged, the Commissioners met at "the usual place of doing business," on the 25th of October, 1867; and after appointing an assessor for Lincoln County and transacting other busines, "It was or dered that on the 12th day of November, 1867, the County Seat of Lincoln County, and all records of said County shall be transferred to the town of North Platte, State of Nebraska. On motion, the county Commissioners adjourned to meet at North Platte, Nebraska, at noon , on the 12th day of November, A. D., 1867."

     They met on the day and at the hour appointed; but North Platte had no municipal building, or place wherein to transact County business; so the first, and several other meetings were held in a log house used as a residence of W. M. Hinman who that fall had removed to town.




     There being no business to transact at the first meeting of Commissioner in North Platte, an adjournment was taken.

     Towards the close of 1867, Judge Gantt, then Circuit Judge for the entire State of Nebraska, convened Court at the Railroad Hotel, and although a jury was impaneled, no indictments were brought in.

     It was during this year that the first county warrants were issued.

     Mr. A. J. Miller states that when he was elected County Commissioner in '67, there was no money in the treasury, and County Warrants were hardly worth anything, many being sold for ten cents on the dollar. To carry the County along, Peniston and Miller took them at their face value in exchange for supplies to the Sheriff for the jail and other county requisites during years 1868 and 1869; and in this way acquired a pile that figured up to between ten and twelve thousand dollars. Being anxious to realize on them, Mr. Miller warrants amounting to $10,000, to Omaha, and was told by the president and cashier of the First National Bank that they would not load ten cents on the dollar on them, as they did not consider they were worth any thing.




They said that it was doubtful if North Platte was in Lincoln County as the west line was east of it. Disheartened but not discouraged, Mr. Miller returned home, and it was not long before Lincoln County warrants were freely accepted.

     Owing to the aggression of the Indians, cattle raising had not been carried on to any extent around North Platte previous to 1868. About that date, herds were brought in by Nathaniel Russel, Peniston and Miller, M. H. Brown, Keith and Barton, John Bratt and others; and this may be said to have been the beginning of the vast cattle business so long carried on in Lincoln and adjacent counties.

     Hundreds of miles of Government and Railroad lands lay unoccupied, and it might be said that range for cattle was unlimited. The winters were less severe then, and really rough wintery weather was of short duration, and cattle came through in fairly good condition. Putting up hay to winter stock was considered unnecessary; and so matters went on until the winter of 1880 when cattle perished by the thousand, and the prairie was strewn with carcasses. Many had invested, and a few made fortunes, but this catastrophy ruined several. Ever after, cattle re-




ceived attention; and all went well until homesteaders invaded the range. Cattlemen fumed and swore, and tried to drive them away; telling them the land was unproductive and they would starve. To this the homesteader turned a deaf ear, and continued to plough and sow, and see crop after crop fail for lack of moisture. He experienced privation and hardship, but hope sustained him and in the expectation of better results, he plodded along. Threats did not deter homesteaders, for they continued to come until it be came impossible to run herds, and cattlemen had to give up business, or leave for other pastures. Moisture gradually became more abundant, and in course of time, a grazing country became a rich farming country.

     In January, 1868, Charles McDonald was re-elected County Clerk, but having neglected to qualify for office, R. C. Daugherty was appointed. Daugherty was also Justice of the Peace, and on February 4, 1868, fined a man $21.50 for stealing an overcoat. This was the first money paid into the public treasury, and was the first contribution to the school fund, the law of the state being, that all money collected as fines go to support public schools. Daugh-




erty is said to have been a stern judge who never scrupled to impose a penalty. "Go on with your school," he would say, "and I'll find funds for it," and he did; for every one brought before him was fined to the limit.

     At that time, North Platte was infested with reckless desperados, brothels, gambling dens and unlicensed saloons that ran wide open all days of the week and hours of the night. Most men went armed, and few law abiding citizens ventured out alone after dark. There were some small buildings arranged along what is now Dewey Street, and where the First National Bank stands, was a notorious saloon much patronized by gamblers and questionable characters of both sexes. Front Street, however, was the business street, and from Walnut to Ash Street were many one storied shanties in which drinks were dispensed. Then cowboys would ride long distances to have "a good time" at North Platte, which generally consisted in patronizing its saloons and resorts. They were a frolicsome lot and seldom gave trouble, no, not even after a round up when they spent their hard earned dollars freely, and made things lively, and it was not uncommon for one or




more to ride into a saloon, order drinks and in wild glee, shoot out the lights; or ride at a furious pace through the town, whooping and yelling as they shot in the air. Then, many a man died with his boots on, and it was a question with the law abiding, whether white men or Indians were most to be feared.

     The transactions of the County Commissioners were somewhat formal at first, but at a meeting held, March 23, 1868, they got down to business, and insti tuted reform that startled the community. At that meeing it was ordered the O. O. Austin be appointed Assessor for North Platte precinct, "and that he be directed to assess the property of the Union Pacific Railroad company in this precinct which consists of the district of country between the Platte rivers, to the western boundary of the State of Nebraska. Also to assess all town lots in the town of North Platte and Julesburg; and further ordered that all persons be prohibited from selling spirituous or malt liquors in less quantities than five gallons, unless they obtain license from the County Commissioners as provided by law. Also, that all person applying to sell liquor pay the sum of twenty-five dollars as a license fee for one year from date of application, into the




County Treasury, and that the County Clerk post notices giving ten days to all retailers of spirituous and malt liquors to comply with the order."

     To pay for license was considered an imposition, and an infringment of western liberty and the saloonists refused to comply. However, the Commissioners remained firm, and at a meeting held on the 6th day of April, 1868, the bonds of seven saloon keepers were approved, and license granted; and all went well until the following year when the Commissioners saw fit to increase the fee to one hundred and fifty dollars for twelve months. This order caused great dissatisfaction and was so vigorously opposed, that it had to be rescinded and former fee restored. Then, and long after, whiskey retailed at twenty-five cents a drink, and other beverages were proportionately high priced Wages were high, and so were the necessaries of life; a quarter having no greater purchasing power than a five cent piece has today.

     The assessor, acting upon the order of the Commissioners, levied on the property of the Union Pacific Railroad company in North Platte Precinct, and made an assessed valuation of $49,000. This tax-




ation the Railroad Company refused to pay, and the case was tested before the courts of the state and finally brought to a settlement by the Sheriff locking and chaining the engines in the round house under a writ of attachment procured by the County Treasurer. Major William Woodhurst was sheriff at the time, and he states that he chained the engines and left an armed guard in charge, and that the process speedly brought about a settlement. Since that time, there has been no trouble with the Union Pacific Company regarding the payment of taxes.

     The effort of the County Commissioners to control the liquor traffic is commendable, but no effort was made to improve the moral condition of the people. There was not a place of worship in the city, and the means for educating children was limited and crude. The old log school house that stood on the corner of Fifth and Dewey Strets, was newly built when they began to legislate, but there is no record that the Commissioners had any thing to do with its erection. Mr. A. J. Miller states in a communication that it was built by money subscribed by citizens for the purpose, he thinks, not before 1868.

     "When it was built,', he says, "we had no teacher,




so I wrote to an uncle in New York and told him if Mary Hubbard would come out, I would meet her in Omaha, and we would give her the school to teach at $100 per month, and she could live with my family. She came and taught in the first Public School in Lincoln County."

     In the records of the Public Schools of North Platte, there is an entry signed, "James Belton," stating that "the origin of our district like that of our ancestors is lost in gloom, but tradition tells us that in the year 1868, a few citizens of this place met and organized School District No. 1 by electing L. H. Baker, E. Morin and Mr. Probin, school officers. who proceeded to the erection of a log school house. Lou Baker was elected to the honorable office of Treasurer, and as the district had no money, he went down into his own pocket every Saturday and paid the workmen. Mr. T. M. Clarke, the brother of Mrs. Lou Baker was the first teacher. The school attend ance was about eight pupils. The foregoing was obtained from Mr. L. H. Baker as no record is now in existence."

     Local tradition has it that the first public religious service in North Platte was held in the log school




by an itinerant Lutheran minister named Cook, in August 1868, and that the voice of the first school teacher in Lincoln Count also woke its echo. He is said to have been a young man named Clarke; but he did not take kindly to teaching, and resigned before the term expired. He was succeeded by a Mr. Garman who also resigned after a brief stay. The next apointed was Miss Mary Hubbard, a young




woman in all the bloom and blush of early womanhood, and school was opened by her, November 30, 1868. She had less than a dozen scholars, and few school books; only one Fourth Reader, and it was monopolized by the only one in the class, a tall young man, so tall, that the teacher had to look up to him, and when the class was to be heard, the one book




difficulty was got over by the pupil sitting down so the teacher could see the page from which he read. Miss Hubbard is now Mrs Gilman, and although somewhat aged, retains much of her youthful vivacity. No pioneer citizen is more esteemed than she, and her family is alike a credit to herself and the city.

     A report was circulated that the Indians were about to invade the town and scalp all and sundry, people became excited. A school director called at the school house and gave the teacher a revolver to protect herself and the children. The weapon was laid aside, but she eyed it with suspicion, and spent the afternoon in fear and trembling, not of the Indians, but of the pesky gun, lest it might go off and kill some one.

     In course of time the population increased, and children of school age soon taxed the capacity of the log school house. To obviate this, an addition was built to it in 1875, and Misses Holcomb and Hall engaged to teach. This enlargement, however, only gave temporary relief, and a more commodious building was necessary. In 1873 a two-story brick school house was erected, and the log school house having served its day was sold at public auction, February




9, 1874, and knocked down to Joseph McConnell, his bid being six hundred and eleven dollars. It was long occupied by Mrs. Thompson as a residence and millinery store, and was looked upon as a relic of pioneer days.

     Mr. Hershey came to own it, moved it to make space for the erection of the Warner building. It presently stands in the Alley behind the Lock residence on Fourth Street, covered with sheet iron and converted into a stable. Its identity is gone, and it is to be regretted that it is thus desecrated. There was nothing very lovable or attractive about the old build ing, but it was an interesting relic of the past; and it was with genuine regret that several who received the rudiments of their education at it, witnessed its removal.

     It is worthy of remark that the first Sunday School in North Platte was held in the log school house. The late Mrs. E. J. Cogswell of blessed memory, came to North Platte in 1868 intent upon missionary work. She was a Unitarian, but no sectarian, and willingly co-operated with people of all shades of belief for the moral good of the community. Near the close of that year, aided by Mr. M. C. Keith,




Mrs. A. J. Miller and Mrs. Kramph, she had the school room arranged for the reception of scholars to form a Sunday School class, but to the vexation of these excellent women, only three children attended. Mrs. Cogswell, however, was not easily discouraged, and visiting every family in town, in which there were children, she solicited their attendance and was rewarded by having quite a number of scholars. This school was organized as Union Sunday School, and continued for many years.

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