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First Mayor and City Council. -- Court House Built. -- Second city election. -- Women debarred from saloons. -- First grading of streets. -- Third city election. -- James Belton elected mayor -- Condition of city streets. -- North side in 1878. -- An Indian scare. -- Presbyterian church history. -- The town goes dry. -- First sidewalks. -- Keith block and its associations. -- McDonald block and first bank in city. -- The M. E. church and its pastors.


     There were two factions in North Platte in 1874. One held that the simple method of early days by which the city was governed was satisfactory, and the other , that it would be more so if a mayor and city council elected by the people conducted local affairs. Details of the controversy being of little importance at this date, it is sufficient to state that North Platte had the population and standing at the time to entitle it to municipal government, and that



the popular party applied for a charter and got it. There was little to attract public attention in those days, and the novelty of a local election caused considerable excitement. Candidates were put forward, an election held, and the following gentlemen chosen to fill city offices: Anthony Ries, mayor: Alexander Struther, treasurer; E. H. Barrett, clerk: A. H. Church, judge: A. Walker, marshal; J. W. LaMunyon, engineer.

      Councilmen -- First ward, W. J. Patterson, and J. D. Wilson; Second ward, Russell Watts and E. D. Thoelecke; Third ward, Claus Mylander and W. C. Bogue. Anthony Ries took his seat as mayor, April 14, 1875, and presided at the first council meeting held at North Platte. This council had much to contend with, and accomplished little in the way of city improvements during its brief term of office.

     Early in 1876 the court house was finished and turned over to the commissioners. It was pronounced a well arranged, imposing building, which it certainly was at the time, but times have changed, and so have the requirement of Lincoln county, and what was never dreamt of, it is now the heart of the city.



      The second election of city officers was held in 1876, and resulted as follows: Anthony Ries, mayor; J. Rogers, treasurer; E. H. Barrett, clerk; W. S. Peniston, police judge; A. L. Walker, marshal, J. W. LaMunyon, engineer,

     Councilmen--First ward, W. J. Patterson and J. Schatz; Second ward, W. F. Wright and A. J. Miller; Third ward, W. C. Bogue and George F. Snelling.

     At the first meeting of this council, the mayor drew attention to the condition of the streets, several being almost impassable after rain, and urged that vice in every form be suppressed. There was ample room for reform, for saloons were numerous, and women of questionable character frequented them, and it was nothing unusual to see cowboys and maidens fair having "a high old time" in such places in full view of passers by. After appointing committees, the mayor selected Bogue, Miller and Schatz to frame "An ordinance to prohibit lewd women from entering or visiting saloons." This was done and approved, and became law January 16, 1877, and no ordinance has been so rigorously enforced or observed, for women are never seen in or around such



places in North Platte.

      It was during this council's administration that city streets were first graded, and the first sidewalks and crossings laid down. The members had high aspirations, and had a scheme to beautify the city with a system of irrigation ditches, water to be obtained from the north river, but after careful surveying the city, engineer pronounced the scheme impracticable.

      The election of candidates for municipal honors to serve during the year 1877 was spirited, and resulted in the following gentlemen being elected: W. M. Hinman, mayor; J. Rogers, treasurer; E. H. Barrett, clerk; W. S. Peniston, police judge; G. Butterfield, marshal; J. W. LaMunyon, engineer.

     Councilmen--First ward, J. Worthley and J. Schatz; Second ward, Charles McDonald and A. Ferguson; Third ward, W. C. Bogue and George Mason.

      This council found little money in the treasury, and being unable to make many city improvements were caustically criticized; a petition signed by James Belton and sixty-seven others calling for its "total abrogation" being presented. This petition did not worry the council, for after being read, it



was "laid on the table" and the council went plodding along undeterred until the time came for it to step down and out.

      At the somewhat hotly contested election of city officers to serve during the year 1878, James Belton was elected mayor with a majority of 168 votes; T. J. Foley, treasurer; T. Keliher, clerk; A. H. Church, police judge; Samuel Watts, engineer.

      Councilmen elected were: First ward, J. Worthly and J. Schatz; Second ward, James Babbitt and Charles McDonald; Third ward, George Mason and Goodale.

      When James Belton took his seat as mayor of North Platte, April 15, 1878, the few streets of the city most frequented were in a deplorable condition with mud and filth after rain. A resolution presented to the council in the spring of that year gives a graphic word picture of their appearance. It follows: "Resolved by Charles McDonald that the present condition of Locust street, between Fourth and Front streets, and of Fifth street, between Locust and the southeast corner of the government post is standing disgrace to our fair city, being a nuisance that



should be at once abated. Therefore, resolved that the committee on streets and bridges be, and they are hereby authorized, and made their duty to proceed at once and have said streets well repaired by ditches, bridges and putting in cross-walks so that the citizens of our city may be able to travel those streets, and the frog ponds of filthy, stagnent water be dried up."

      This resolution was adopted, but it does not appear that it was ever put in force, however, in it we have a glimpse of the city streets as they were in 1878.

      There were few dwelling houses on the north side then, but among the residents were W. C. Bogue, S. W. Bye, Clause Mylander, the Frazers and VanDorans. It may be remarked that Mylander planted the first tree on the north side, and they were a land mark for many years. For a long time there were no other trees, and the scene, east, west and north was uninviting prairie containing many sloughs and marshes difficult to cross, but the council remodled (sic) this by having foot bridges built. During the Belton administration, the Indians got on the warpath, and committed deeds of rapine



in the district no great distance from the city. For home protection, a body of citizens called the North Platte Guards was organized. These patriots were commanded by Major North of Pawnee fame, and had John Bratt for first lieutenant. The mayor and council petitioned Silas Garber, then governor of Nebraska, to send arms, and in due time, 180 rifles with ammunition reached the imperiled city. This scare, like previous ones passed, but the council chamber looked like an arsenal while it lasted and when the rifles were returned, a resolution signed by the mayor, was sent to the governor, thanking him "for his consideration for the lives and property of the citizens of North Platte."

      James Belton served the city faithfully as mayor, but at the next election, R. J. Wyman was elected with a majority of 263 votes, and Mr. Belton retired, generously donating his salary to the city.

     When R. J. Wyman took his seat as mayor, April 5, 1879, he announced in his inaugural address that he was opposed to all forms of vice in the city, and as liquor was at the root of most evils, its sale within the city limits ought to be suppressed. The majority of the councilmen agreed with him, and despite



reason given by the minority that a crusade of the kind would be ineffectual, applications for renewals of saloon licenses lay on the table disregarded, and it was "Resolved, that his honor the mayor notify, selling intoxicating liquors, that no licenses to sell liquor in North Platte will be granted by the council."

     The foregoing resolution became law May 6, 1879, and the town was declared "dry" and it may be remarked that North Platte was the first (supposed to be) "dry" town in the state of Nebraska.

      Law in those days was loosely administered and western life too free and easy for saloon keepers to be deterred from selling liquor by any such measure, and they went right along doing business, with the slight difference that beer was called "buttermilk" and sold under that name.

      The fact that saloon keepers continued doing business being brought to the attention of council the marshal was ordered to suppress the sale of liquor, and close all houses of prostitution within the city. The order of the council and the marshal were alike unheeded, and matters went on, the mud in the



streets becoming deeper, and pools of stagnant water undimished.

      Although this council's idea of prohibition was somewhat crude, it passed some good measures one being an ordinance to prohibit shooting within the limits of the city, and carrying deadly weapons; also, making the construction of sidewalks compulsory.

      Such is a glimpse of the doings of the city fathers in days gone by, when North Platte was emerging from the primitive and becoming a fit claimant for a place among the cities of Nebraska.

      Persons of the same creed have a tendency to get together and worship in unison. Ten Presbyterians combined in 1873, and at a meeting held in the Baptist church in June of that year, a church was organized by the Rev. N. C. Robinson, superintendent of missions for southwestern Iowa and Nebraska. The congregation worshipped in the Baptist church until the autumn of 1877, and afterwards in the court house hall until the summer of 1878 when it moved into a small frame church built by the congregation. This church stood on the west side of Dewey street on the site now occupied by the Keith theater. In course of time it came to be sandwiched



between much higher buildings and looked the most unpretentious place of worship in town. The congre-





gation, however, had high aspirations, and in 1905 the sanctuary was moved from shade to sunshine and



placed on the corner of Fourth and Willow streets, and there it remained until the fall of 1909, when it was torn down to make room for the finest church building in the city. It is in the Gothic style and constructed of pressed brick, and has a belfry and tower. The property including lots, is presently valued at $28,000.

      The interior of this church is spacious and fitted with every modern convenience. The windows are of brilliant art glass. One portrays Christ in Gethsemanie, and another a luminous picture of "The Creation.." A melodiously toned organ that cost $2,500 complete this well arranged place of worship.

     The fine sanctuary was dedicated Sunday, June 26, 1910. Dr. Thomas B. Greenlee, a former pastor, preached the sermon, and following the simple ceremony of dedication Dr. W. H. Kearns offered an impressive prayer, and at its conclusion, all understood that the building was set apart for the service of God.

     The Rev. George Franklin Williams, M. A., is a son of the late Rev. George Williams, D. D. He received his education in Bellevue college and Princeton Theological Seminary, and did post graduate work in Princeton University. He was ordained by



the Presbytery of Omaha, in September, 1899, at Bancroft, and was inducted to the charge, May 1, 1909.

      Mr. Williams is a fluent and attractive speaker, and since his settlement, the congregation has increased and become prosperous. During the ten years of his ministry, all of which has been in Nebraska, he has gained a wide acquaintance over the state, and at a meeting of the Presbyterian Synod in October, 1910, was elected moderator. He is, presently, the most popular clergyman in and out of the church the town has known.

      Early in 1880, several shacks and a frame building on the corner of Front and Dewey streets in which P. J. Cohn & Company had a clothing store were moved, and on their sites a brick block was built. It was much admired at the time, but it was only the forerunner of similar building. "Beache's Bank," as it was termed, was in this building, and the Star clothing house, conducted by the late H. Otten, occupied the corner store room up to May, 1886, when he vacated the premises in favor of the newly organized First National bank which went into business with a paid up capital of $50,000. The upper floor of this building has been transformed sev-



eral times. At first it figured as the Keith hall and was rented for entertainments, but as that did not pay. it was divided into rooms designed for offices. The land office was located in it, and many lawyers procured a precarious livelihood acting for homesteaders in contest cases and such like. The North Platte Telegraph had its birth in one of the rooms in 1881, and redoubtable James McNulty being proprietor and editor. James sold out, September 1st, 1883 and left the city, but the paper survives after many vicissitudes as a daily and weekly.

      Early in 1882, Charles McDonald erected the fine brick building on the west corner of Front and Dewey streets and installed therein the McDonald State bank, which the oldest banking house in town. It began as the McDonald and Walker bank, and was located in a small frame building on Dewey street, but in 1878, Mr. McDonald purchased his partner's interest in the business and carried it on in his own name. In 1891, he bought the imposing building corner at Sixth and Dewey streets, and transferred his bank to the corner room, February 22, 1902, and there the McDonald State Bank prospers.



      The North Platte National bank occupied the premises in which the McDonald State bank is located. The late Dr. A. D. Buckworth, who came from Hastings, Nebraska in 1872, to be register of the United States land office, was its president and Samuel Goozee the cashier, but in some way, its affairs got tangled up, and after a brief existence, its door was closed on December 19, 1894, and its affairs passed into the hand of a receiver.

     It was 1882 that the corner stone of the first Methodist Episcopal church was laid, but it was not until 1883 that the building was completed and dedicated to the worship of God by Bishop F. Hurst. The cost was $3,5000.

      This church was organized in February 1877, with fifteen members, and as near as can be ascertained, they were, Mrs. J. H. McConnel, Mrs. Charles McDonald, Miss Alice Darly, Miss Alice Tinkham, Mrs. B. L. Robinson, Charles Ormsby, Mrs. Makinson, Mrs. Morgan Davis, Mrs. Emma Marsh, Mrs. George Simpson, Mrs. J. Beattly, Mrs. Charles Hall, Mrs. A. B. Hall, Mrs. D. W. Adamson and Mrs. A. M. Mason.

      The first meetings for worship were held in the



court house hall, afterwards in the Unitarian hall, then in the Baptist church, and again in the court house hall until a church was built.

      The first pastor was the Rev. J. C. Stoughton who was appointed in 1877 and removed in 1878. He was succeeded by the Rev. Edward Thompson who was appointed in March, 1878, and removed in October, 1879. He was followed by the Rev. P. C. Johnson, October, 1879, and it was during his pastorate the first church building was erected. The Rev. Johnson was removed in October, 1882, and was followed by the Rev. Joel A. Smith who remained one year. The Rev. W. G. Vessels was appointed in 1883, and remained until September, 1886, when the Rev. W. A. Amsbury was appointed and removed in 1887, to take the district. The Rev. George W. Martin followed and was removed in 1888, to give place to the Rev. A. J. Clifton who remained until the close of 1890. The next pastor was the Rev. Erastus Smith who served two years. The Rev. W. E. Hardaway was appointed in October, 1892, and was removed in September, 1895. The Rev. C. C. Snavely followed and served the charge until September, 1898, when the Rev. C. C. Wilson was appointed. Since the Rev. Wil-



son's time, C. P. Wimberly, R. Randolph, E. J. Robinson, J. W. Morris and S. J. Medelin have served. The Rev. W. S. Porter succeeded Medelin, and is the present incumbent.

     The clergymen whose names are recorded above, were well know in North Platte. Several of them were eloquent speakers and had the gift of fascinating an audience, and were influential outside their own church circle.

      The Rev. W. S. Porter wad inducted to the pastorate on the 11th of October, 1908, and is fully as popular as any of his predecessors. He was ushered into this world of care in Louise county, Iowa, on May 15, 1868. His parents moved to Kansas when he was about two years old, and remained until he was about seven, when they again moved and located on a farm near Monmouth, Illinois, where he attended the district school during the months of winter, and from spring to fall, worked on the farm from early to late. His lot was no worse than that of other farmer boys, but unlike many, he had a thirst for knowledge and self-improvement, and shortly after attaining his majority he took a full course at Helling college, Abingdon, Illinois.



      After six years, two in preparation work, and four in the College of Liberal Arts, he graduated in 1895 as valedictorian of his class with a degree A. B. In September, 1895, he joined the Central Illinois conference of the Methodist Episcopal church and served four years at Victoria, Illinois; two at Burnside, Illinoise, and two years at LaHarpe, Illinois. In the fall of 1906, he transferred from the Central Illinois conference to the Western Nebraska conference, and was stationed at Holbrook, Furnas county, Nebraska, where, after serving two years he was transferred to North Platte. On December 20, 1894, the Rev. Porter was united in marriage to Miss Nellie Childs, and their home is now blessed with four children, three boys and one girl.

      The first presiding elder of the M. E. church was the Rev. T. B. Lemon. Rev. W. A. Amsbury followed him, and he in turn was followed by the Rev. James Leonard. Afterwards, R. S. Moore and A. Chamberlain were appointed.

      Associated with this church is a branch of the Epworth League, organized in May, 1889, and also, a Ladies' Aid Society



      Many entertain pleasant memories of the old M. E. frame church, the original home of the congregation, which caught fire from a defective flue




while a prayer meeting was in progress, on the evening of December 7, 1898. The calamity was deplored by the congregation, but with them, to think was



the act, and getting together, plans were laid and arrangements made to erect a better church building. Solicitation for aid to do so met with a hearty response and the result was, that the corner stone of a brick edifice was laid by the Rev. C. C. Wilson on April 12th, and on July 23, 1899, it was dedicated to the service of God by Dr. Lewis Curts. The cost of the church when completed was about $8,000. It makes an imposing appearance and is a credit to the city.

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