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The city in 1884. -- J. H. McConnell -- Business streets and stores. -- Presidential campaign. -- Judge Church. -- Store buildings erected. -- Building and Loan Associations. -- City waterworks. -- The Lutheran church built. -- The Tucker saloon burns. -- Erection of First National Bank building. -- The new jail. -- Old Settlers' reunion. -- Town first lighted by electricity.


      In 1884, North Platte was a city of nearly 3,000 inhabitants, with well defined streets, and a business center containing many stores, law and other offices.

      Some three hundred and fifty men were employed in and about the railroad shops, and the pay roll averaged about $30,500 per month, and sixty per cent of the employees owned city property. As liberal buyers make successful merchants, business prospered and the city continued to grow, prosperity being the reward of industry.




      J. H. McConnell was master mechanic in those days, and it is noteworthy that he materially aided in every movement tending to the advancement of the city. He was small of stature, but an expert in mechanics, and was the master mind in many undertaking; notably that of the North Platte Irrigation company when organized, and the providing of free bath rooms and a library of upwards of 1,000 volumes, for employees. This library was merged into that of the Railroad Young Mens' Christian Association when that institution was established in the city in 1890.

      The city was scarcely eighteen years old in '84, but to get a comprehensive view of its development, it will be well to take a retrospective glance at the business streets, stores and industries of that day.

      The city could then boast of two banks and two newspapers, the Nebraskan and Telegraph. The leading grocery stores were those of Charles McDonald on Front street and T. J. Foley corner of 6th and Dewey streets. They were well patronized and always crowded on pay car nights. Less pretentious groceries were kept by A. J. Minshall, C. F. Ormsby and J. D. Jackson. I. E. VanDoran dealt in mens' furnicings, newspapers and cigars, and old man Nixon



in notions and confectionery while J. F. Schmalzried manufactured cigars and supplied smoking requisites. Then there was the Warner book store and the jewelry stores of P. H. McEvoy and Thoelokie.

      The clothing stores were those of H. Otten, Robert Douglas and A. Holzmark; and well stocked stores in which hardware, furniture and stoves were displayed were kept by James Belton, Thomas Keliher and Conway & Wiggans. The drug stores were those of James LeFils, J. Q. Thacker and Dr.F. N. Dick, and the popular doctors were F. H. Longley, C. M. Duncan and F. N. Dick. There were lawyers plenty, the best known being William Neville, Alonzo H. Church, E. M. Day, Oliver Shannon, J. W. Bixler and Hinman & Nesbit, and real estate and insurance had several representatives. Beside the Railroad hotel, there was the Hinman house and several boarding houses. Livery stables were conducted by Dickinson, Besack and VanDoran; and the blacksmith shops wer those of John Ottersteda and the late much esteemed William J. Patterson who had his place of business on West Sixth street, a short distance from Dewey. Cash and Iddings, Birge and Frees had lumber yards and were kept busy supply-



ing the wants of a developing district. R. J. Bangs was sheriff, and G. T. Snelling probate judge, but quietness and order reigned supreme and their duties were light. Twenty-six years have passed since then, and with the exception of tobacconist Schmalzried, there is not a storekeeper or blacksmith in business today that was in business then, and the city has grown and been improved to such a degree that it would scarcely be recognized by the long absent.

      During the presidential campaign of eighty four there was great enthusiasm and excitement in North Platte. In the evenings, old fashioned torch light processions paraded the streets with banners and emblems and bands of music. The Republican nominees were James G. Blain and John A. Logan and those of the Democrats, Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks. Both parties were energetic, and large audiences assembled in Lloyd's opera house on successive nights to hear the best speakers of both parties eloquently extol their candidates and the platforms upon which they hoped to be elected. The tariff was the all important subject of discussion, the Republicns upholding and the Democrats denouncing the measure. John Tracy, a staunch Democrat, as-



pired to a seat in the legislature, and to further his ambition, was ever ready to say a good word for his party and his own candidacy. In an address at a crowded meeting almost wholly composed of Democrats, John seathingly criticised Republican views of the tariff, and in a burst of eloquence declared that he had been "robbed, shamefully robbed" by it. The statement seemed to pass indeed, but it did not, for Judge Church was taking notes; and the next night the Republicans were out in force and the opera house packed to suffocation, he spoke eloquently, and reviewing statements of Democratic speakers at their meeting the previous night, said: 'Right here, John Tracy declared that he had been robbed, shamefully robbed by the tariff, but mark you, what did John Tracy do? Why, he sent to the old country for his brother Bob to come over and be robbed too. That's what John Tracy done." The laughter and applause following this sally shook the building.

      Judge Church was one of several talented men that figured in the public life of North Platte in eight-four. He was a ready and often eloquent speaker, and popular as lawyer and politician, and



when death claimed him, it was universally regretted. In 1885, B. I. Hinman erected a two-story brick business building on Dewey street, and in 1886 some frame buildings at the southeast corner of Sixth and Dewy streets were removed, and on the sites a brick block was erected in which are fine well stocked stores. "Jim" Lefils' drug store on the corner was long a favorite rendezvous of railroad men, and there, quick runs were run over again and railroad gossip dispensed. Alexander Streitz succeeded LeFils in the business and carried it on the with success until failing health compelled him to retire. That same year, J. K. Ottenstein erected a substantial store, and in doing so, displaced some ancient wooden structures that disfigured Dewey street.

      Important local events of 1887 were the formation of a Mutual Building and Loan Association and the erection of a waterworks plant by the North Platte Waterworks Company.

      The Mutual Building and Loan Association has been an active agency for making North Platte a city of homes. It grew steadily from the first, and homes have been built and purchased by it assistance that never could have been obtained otherwise by people



of limited means, and the waterworks has proved a blessing to the community by bringing an abundance of pure water to the door of every householder and making it possible to have trees, shrubs, flowers and blue grass lawns about residences. In those days of hand pumps and windmills there was difficulty in




maintaining vegetation about the home owing to the dryness of the climate, therefore, residence lots generally had a brown, burned-out appearance.

      It was in the fall of 1880 that citizens of the Lutheran faith met affiliated, but it was not until May, 1881 that the first Lutheran church of



North Platte was organized by the Rev. J. F. Kuhlman with twenty charter members.

      Different pastors and missionaries served the congregation until June, 1884, when the Board of Home Missions appointed the Rev. Charles Anderson of Rockford, Illinois, who remained about a year. The Rev. Adam Stump, of York, Pennsylvania, took charge of the work December 1, 1885, and remained until September, 1890. During the Rev. Stump's pastorate, the present church, which was the first church in town built of brick, was erected at a cost of $8,000. This substantial building was dedicated to the service of God December 2, 1889. The Rev. Stump's pasorate was very successful, the membership increasing to ninety-two.

      After the Rev. Stump came the Rev. J. F. Kuhlman who served the congregation as "supply" for a time, but was afterwards appointed the regular pastor. Rev. Kuhlman resigned, May 21, 1893. During his pastorate the congregation received no aid from the Home Mission Board.

      The Rev. David J. Foulk became pastor January 1 1894. During his pastorate, the indebtedness of the church was cancelled, a bell for the tower purchased,



and needed repairs made. Rev. Foulk was pastor for over five years, and was succeeded by the Rev. N. O. Wolfe, who served the congregation for over two years, but resigned when called to another field.

     The Rev. John Seibert was the next pastor, and took up the work November 1, 1900, and after an eminently successful pastorate of nearly nine years, resigned to become missionary of the Synod of Northern Illinois. In 1901 the parsonage was enlarged and beautified, and in the year following, the church was renovated by being painted, papered and carpeted. Electric lights were also installed and the Altar and Chancel improved.

      The new parsonage was built in 1907, the old parsonage being removed to its present location on Sycamore street.

      The Rev. Seibert did more for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the congregation than any previous pastor. He infused new life in the church and gave it a standing in the community; and when he left the members were thoroughly organized and united on a distinctively Lutheran basis, irrespective of natonality.

      The Rev. C. B. Harman began where the Rev.



Mr. Seibert left off, and is concluding a year of successful church work, having gained the esteem and co-operation of his people. He began his labors as pastor near the place of his birth and scenes wherein he spent his early life, and has served as pastor of churches in Pennsylvania and Illinois. He received his college and seminary training at Selin's Grove, Pennsylvania, graduating from the college in 1897 with the degree of B. A., and from the seminary in 1900, with the degree of B. D., having taken the full collegiate and logical course.

      The property of the North Platte first Lutheran church, notwithstanding its humble beginning, is calued at $13,000 and the baptized membership numbers 370, with a large number of adherents.

      In 1889 there was a den called "the Tucker saloon" on the northeast corner of Sixth and Dewey streets. It was a celebrated place of its kind in early days and a favorite resort of cowboys, gamblers and thirsty citizens. It had a sinister reputation, and no one was particularly grieved when, on a bitter cold night in November of that year the place caught fire, and it and some low roofed buildings close to it were consumed. It was a big fire, and



the first to which the newly organized fire brigade had been called, but despite their efforts, there was nothing left but a heap of smouldering, blackened ruins. In the burned off space the directors of the First National Bank saw a desirable site for a ban building, and at once interviewed the owner, the late John Neary, who accepted terms offered as they were favorable alike to himself and them, and the erection of the fine building in which the banking business of the First National is now conducted was at once begun, and completed in January, 1890. The original quarters of this bank was on the corner of Front and Dewey streets.

      Prisons are necessary in all civilized communities, and will be, so long as avarice and evil passions rage. The old log jail was never a safe or suitable place in which to confine law breakers. North Platte having ceased to be a frontier town, a jail that was sanitary, secure and commodious was requisite. This was long under consideration, but it was not until 1889 that bonds were voted, and it was near the close of 1890 when the modern two-storied brick jail on Locust street was erected. There is nothing remarkable about the institution, and so far, no very des-



perate or notorious criminals have been confined in it, and escapes have been few. The several sheriffs who have had charge of it wre men of decisive character who delighted in discharging the duties of the office.

      Residents of North Platte in early days were more than neighbors, they were friends, and it is no wonder that a feeling akin to clannishness bound them together when the town became populous. We have evidence of this, for on the 6th of March, 1890 they met with their families and friends to recall events and incidents that occurred in days when the city (such as it was) was on the frontier of civilization. W. F. Cody acted as toastmaster, and the meeting was put in his charge. W. H. McDonald, the first white child born in Lincoln county, was the guest of honor. There was among those present, W. H. Hinman and B. I. Hinman and many other old settlers who helped to lay the foundation of our city. M. C. Keith, George Vroman, Robert E. Peale and Superintendent W. L. Park responded to toasts. The meeting was highly successful, and ended by W. F. Cody inviting all old settlers to a banquet at Scout's Rest Ranch.



      In 1892 an Electric Light company was organized most of the shareholders being residents of North Platte. The plant was built north of the railroad yards, poles erected and wires strung, and when in operation, many visited and viewed the generator with wonder. All admitted the superiority of the new light, but the change from coal oil to electricity was not appreciated to the extent expected, as only a limited number of business places and a few homes had it introduced. Electric lighting at the time was new and not well understood, and when lights went out - and they had a habit of doing so frequently - people would strike matches and attempt to light them as they would a lamp, but failing, ignorance begat prejudice, and many holding that the old system of lighting was more reliable and cheaper, returned to its use. This resulted in the expenses of the company exceeding the income, and after a valiant struggle, it went out of business in 1895, having sunk some $15,000. The plant lay for several years in a ruinous condition, but the power house was ultimately moved to the fair grounds, and there it stands a memento of a well intentioned endeavor to light North Platte by electricity.



     The failure of the Electric Light Company did not disturb business in the city; things went on as usual - the industrious prospering and the city expanding.

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