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School records. -- Teachers and their salaries. -- New school building. -- A school squabble. -- The school bell. -- First north side school. -- Schools for First and Seconds wards. -- W. J. Patterson. -- Lighting the city by electricity. -- U. P. strike. -- Strike breakers shipped in. -- Boisterous strikers. -- Military aid asked for. -- Unexpected settlement of the strike.


      It is a pleasant task to turn over the leaves of the school records and trace the progress of education at North Platte. Of course, the volumes are of no great antiquity, as citizens who resided here when school district No. 1 began to be, are still with us; notably, Charles McDonald, who has the honor of having been the first superintendent of schools, although the fact is not mentioned in the records referred to. The first entry is prefaced by the state-



ment that "after diligent search, no record of education can be found;" and is dated Stepember 1, 1869, and refers to a contract between the school board and Maggie T. G. Eberhart of Omaha to teach school for three months at $75 per month, commencing December 8, 1869, to March 8, 1870. At the time, Andrew Struthers was moderator; R. J. Wyman, director and W. J. Patterson, treasurer; all good men and true, but alas, they long since ceased from troubling, and are laid away in our cemetery with other pioneers.

      That the school board was perplexed by lack of funds and fell in arrears with the teachers' salaries is painfully evident throughout the records. On April 4, 1870, Miss Mary Hubbard is paid $530; Miss Maggie T. G. Eberhart $450 and F. Fulton Gant $225 for teaching. At that time there were eight-eight children between the ages of five and twenty-one years in the district.

      It appears that Miss Mary Hubbard taught three months at $100 per month, and received $300 on September 7, 1870; and that Miss Eberhart taught six months at $75 per month and get $450 on same date; and that the school board owned "One build-



ing of logs, valued at $275."

      About this time the long unsolved problem of school accommodation loomed up, and the school board, with a depleted treasury was in a quandary. The log school house, even with an additional room recently added to it was altogether too small to accommodate the ever increasing number of children and something had to be done.

      The citizens seem to have taken the matter up, for an entry in the records states that the school board is authorized to borrow a sum of money not to exceed three thousand dollars at twelve per cent, for the purpose of erecting and furnishing a school house, on condition that the Union Pacfic Railroad company donate a block in the town of North Platte for school purposes.

      Although badly handicapped, the board seems to have struggled valiantly along, hiring teachers when necessary; one by the name of F. M. Beche and another named D. B. McQuarrie being engaged at $75 a month each.

      The board seems to have procured the three thousand dollars, for further on they are authorized to borrow two thousand more for the proposed school



building, and April 11, 1873 it is "Resolved that the school board be instructed to build a school house by the first of December, 1873, to cost not less than ten, and not more than fifteen thousand dollars, and if they cannot procure good merchantable brick or stone in a reasonable time, they build of wood."

      On January 3, 1874, B. I Hinman moves "that the old log school house be sold at public sale, May 1st, 1874; and on January 7th, same date, the board ordered that notice of sale be inserted in the North Platte "Enterprise," to be published four weeks, that the log building now occupied as a district school house will be sold at public auction on the 9th day of February, between the hours of two and three o'clock, p. m; terms of sale, cash. Possession to be given when the new school building is ready for occupation."

      On February 9th, 1874, "The school board met in accordance with the foregoing resolution. As already stated the old school house was sold to Joseph McConnell for six hundred and eleven dollars; the money paid to the treasurer, and a full claim deed given, signed by G. C. Barton, moderator, and Joseph



Mackle, director. Possession of the old school house to be given to the purchaser, not later than May 1st, 1874.

      On April 6, 1874, the director reports that he had taken a careful census and found in school district No. 1, 270 children between the ages of five and twenty-one.

      "April 6, 1874; On motion it was ordered that the board be authorized to borrow the amount of money necessary to complete and pay for the school building now being erected in the district."

      April 25, 1874: Committee had borrowed $850 of J. R. Ottenstein and "Gave note of district, signed by moderator and director, and C. H. Street, treasurer had paid amount to them and indorsed their warrant and took receipt."

      In the many efforts to raise money to complete the school building the board permitted the teachers' salaries to fall sadly in arrears, and even Mrs. Stebbins, the janitor, who received $15 a month for her services, had not been paid a cent for four months; but the financial horizon began to brighten, and on June 27, 1874, a committee of three is appointed to examine the school house when finished, and settle



with Gillett and Thompson. Three teachers are also employed for the ensuing year, and Mr. Church is appointed to offer W. T. Stockdale of $1,000 dollars for his services as principal for the next school term.

      On August 27, 1874, the committee report that "the new brick school house is completed in a good and workmanlike manner as contemplated by contract;" and as "all's well that ends well" everybody was jubilant.

      At this stage, a difference of opinion regarding school matters arose which resulted in the formation of a school district which the organizers called "No. 5". The seceders opened a school in the Unitarian hall and the squabble became so virulent that it got into court and was tried before the chief justice of the state, the Hon. George B. Lake, who decided against insurgent "district No. 5" making it plain that it had no jurisdiction. A leader of the insurgent band, however, although defeated, argued still, and at his suggestion, the school in the Unitarian hall continued, seemingly to the annoyance of the members of the school board, for they order that their attorneys be instructed to draw up a basis of settle-



ment "to settle the difficulties existing between school district No. 1, and so called district No. 5."

      Like other local squabbles, this one is forgotten, and most of the citizens who took part in it have shared a like fate.

      For some reason, teachers were frequently changed, their deportment after school hours being watched and criticized. One young lady who was consid-




ered an expert teacher, incurred the displeasure of the board and the parents of several of her pupils, by attending an occasional dancing party. Her dismissal being demanded, it depended upon a vote whether or not her service would be retained. The broad-minded John Bratt, who was on the school board at the time, happened to be on a ranch some



twenty miles north of the city when he learned from a party from town that the young lady's fare would be decided by a close vote in the evening. She had his sympathy, and he determined to aid her to retain the situation. Selecting the best horse he had, and although it was late in the afternoon, he rode with all haste towards the city. All went well until he came to the river, which happened to be in flood.

      The hour of meeting was near; but unfortunately, a boat used by ranch people to cross the stream, was on the other side. Determined to reach the city, like a chivalrous knight, he rode his horse into the surging river and swam it across, and got to the school house, wet as he was, in time to cast his vote. It gave the young a majority, and she retained the position.

      In July, 1875, the board orders that teachers be advertised for "to teach school at North Platte;" and also, that the windows of the school house be boarded up and the premises properly secured during vacation. Seemingly, window panes were shining marks to naughty boys of that period, same as they are to some juveniles of this.

      From among several applicants, Miss Daly, Miss



Laura Michall and Miss Annie Ferguson were elected to teach; the first a $70, and the other at $60 per month.

      A school census taken in April, 1877, shows that 120 boys, and 135 girls attended school.

      In September 1877; M. M. Babbitt was hired as principal at $100 per month, and Miss Honn as first teacher at $60, the condition being that "they are to be dismissed if not qualified." Miss Nellie Graves and Miss M. E. Kelleher were engaged at the same time as assistant teachers, at $60 a month each, "On the same conditions as the foregoing."

      The principal, first teacher and her assistants are called before the board and told that if their services proved acceptable, they could teach for ten months, but if not, they would be dismissed at the end of the month.

      The citizens seem to have been well pleased with the new school building, for on September 15, 1877, $51.50 was raised by voluntary subscription to purchase a bell for it. When the bell arrived, the members of the school board and a crowd of citizens assembled to see it put in place in the tower, and when all was completed and approved, a vote of thanks



was tendered George B. .Nettelton for doing the work.

      A census taken in April, 1878, showed that 212 boys, and 225 girls of school age were in the district, making, it is stated, an increase of sixty-one.

      A petition for a school on the north side, which the board had under consideration, was urged by a second, signed by forty-three residents; and the late Anthony Reise moved that a building lare enough to accommodate seventy-five children be built, as he considered that a building of that size would meet the requirements of the north side for many years.

      Seemingly, Mr. Reise and his colleagues had no conception of the district's future, for a motion was adopted that a school house of the size should be built and four lots purchased without delay. Pat Walsh, a popular builder at the time, was given the contract, and on November 4, 1878, pronounced the building finished. Miss E Cassie Casey was chosen by the board, and it was ordered "that she be engaged to teach in the school house of the Third ward at $60 a month for one year."

      In April 1880, the school board had in their employ one principal and five assistants. This staff, however, was inadequate, for there were 364 children



attending school in the city at the time; and the school rooms were taxed beyond their capacity. The board was in a quandary, for funds were limited, and the result of an increasing population were more children. Another room was urgently needed, and the basement of the brick school was converted into a school room and another teacher employed, but this did not lessen the troubles of the school board, for an addition to the north side school was called for, coupled with a request for two more teachers, and a suggestion that there should be a primary school in the First ward near the Catholic church, and one in the Second ward near the barracks.

      At a meeting of the school board, April 4, 1881, it was stated that there was 756 children of school age in the district, being fifty-five more than the previous year. At the same meeting, the problem of school accommodation was again discussed, and all agreed that the room in the basement of the brick school occupied as a primary department was too small, having a very low ceiling and no ventilation. and that, although there was seating capacity for sixty children, eight-five were crowded into it. To mend matters, B. I. Hinman made a motion that a



site be procured and a school house erected in the Second ward west of the old barracks. After discussion, it was agreed that bonds be issued for $3,000 to make it possible to purchase sites and build a school in the First and Second wards. These bonds were voted, May 11, 1881.

      On June 1, same year, it was resolved that the board employ M.S. Honn, Jennie L. Dillon, M .E. Keliher, Nora O'Conner, Cassie Casey and Etta Stebbins to teach in school district No. 1.

      On September 7, 1881, an addition to the Third ward school was completed and approved by the board, and Cassie Casey appointed to teach in the new room as wedll as the o9ld with an increase of salary of $10.

      In 1884, schools were erected in the First and Second wards which met requirements for a time, but they in turn became crowded, hence the spacious school building of the present day.

      Now that the progress of education in the city has been traced from the time the voice of the first school teacher in Lincoln county was heard in the old log school house, it will b well to revert to local occurrences.



      It was on November 40, 1900, William J. Patterson, one of North Platte's pioneer citizens passed to everlasting rest at the age of seventy-six, and they who knew him best, regretted it most, for he was straightforward, candid and upright.

      He came to the town in the fall of 1867 and went to work in the Union Pacific shops as a blacksmith. The house he occupied so many years, was either the third or fourth frame building built in town then, for, as already pointed out, dwellings prior to 1868, were constructed of sod or logs. However, the march of improvement has swept away the Patterson home, and the Goozee block of East Sixth street occupies the site of it and its once much admired garden.

      Mr. Patterson did not live wholly for himself, but for others, and took an interest in whatever tended to improve social conditions. He helped to organize the first school in town and was its treasurer, taking care of its scant funds. He was also a justice of the peace, and as fines went to support the school, he imposed and collected from all culprits brought before him. He was one of the founders of the Episcopal church, an earnest worker for its promotion, and a liberal contributor to its funds, as the records testi-



fy. He was a member of the school board and its treasurer, and represented the First ward in 1875 and 1876, when Anthony Ries was mayor.

      After working in the shops for eight years he drifted into a blacksmith business of his own and employed several men. His shop was on West Sixth street, a short distance from the McDonald bank, but a brick building occupies the site, and every trace of it is effaced. He was of a happy disposition, and an excellent conversationalist, and scattered sunshine wherever he went.

      The Electric Light Company erected an electric light plant north of the railroad yard and established the North Platte Electric Light and Power Company.

      The original capacity of the plant was 1,200 lights but in 1904 this capacity was doubled, and in December, 1908, new generators were installed, giving a capacity of 5,000 lights. With electric lighting better understood than it was when the former plant was operated, and lights made reliable, the efforts of this company are appreciated, and the streets, stores and dwellings are lighted by its agency.

      1902 is memorable as the year in which the machinists and boilermakers in the employ of the Union



Pacific Railroad Company struck against a threatened introduction of piece work, a system of labor forbidden by the rules of the machinists' union and objected to by the men. It was considered that this strike would not last many days, but it proved to be the worst and most prolonged labor trouble in which workmen in the shops at North Platte were ever involved.

      As prearranged, fifty-two machinists, and some forty helpers laid down their tools at 10 o'clock on the morning of the last day of June, and joined the boilermakers, who quit work the previous week. The striking machinists made the hall in the First National bank building their headquarters for a time, and met there to discuss the situation and arrange for a campaign by appointing pickets to watch all trains, and patrol the approaches to the shops and round house so that men going there in quest of employment might have the situation explained to them.

      Things remained passive for several days, no truce or concession being asked for, when, to the surprise of all concerned, Messrs. Barnum and Baxter, Union Pacific railroad officials, requested an in-



teview with all striking machinists and boilermakers. This was at once granted and they were invited to visit the strikers' headquarters. Both gentlemen were popular and received an enthusiastic reception and spoke at some length, and did all they could to persuade the men to accept the situation and return to work. Mr. Barnum spoke kindly, but seeing his words did not impress his hearers. he warmed up, and in conclusion said; "Do not think that we are going to keep these shops standing idle; depend on it, that if you do not return to work they will be filled with men."

      Little attention was paid to this predicition , but in a few days it was fulfilled to the letter. A deputation from the Commercial club of North Platte next interviewed the strikers and endeavored to pour oil on troubled waters and avert a continuence of the strike, but their effort failed and the deadlock remained.

      Among the striking machinists were several transient workmen who had no interest whatever in the city or intention of remaining. Such had industriously talked strike, but when trouble came, they lit out and left men who owned their homes or had their



all at stake, to work out their own salvation.

      Time, tide and passenger trains wait on no man, and as nothing short of a earthquake could stop traffic on the Union Pacific railroad, the company shipped in men to replace those who had gone on strike, not only at Omaha, Grand Island, Cheyenne and other places disorganized by the walkout of skilled workmen.

      At North Platte, elaborate arrangements were made for the reception of the new men, or "strikebreakers" as they were termed. The boiler shop and numerous box cars were fitted up with bunks, and cooks and waiters hired to minister to their wants, and at night the yards were illuminated with electric lights, and deputy police and armed guards patrolled them to preserve the peace and prevent interference with the new arrivals.

      Three car loads of these breakers under a strong guard arrived at the shops one morning, and large orderly crowds on the depot and Front street watched them leave the cars and file to the office for enrollment.

      Strikebreakers in closed cars well guarded, arrived at and passed through North Platte daily, and



although strikers in plenty were on the depot, they found no opportunity to interview the incomers, and all that they or their sympathizers could do was to hoot and yell "Scab" and this demonstrative clamor at times was so great that townspeople thought that a riot was in progress.

      At night the scene was novel and picturesque upon the Union Pacific Company's premises, the whole being lit up by a blaze of electric light and guarded by an army of armed watchmen and deputy police who scrutinized and questioned persons who attempted to cross the track or approach the shops or round house.

      The railroad officials soon found it difficult to retain the services of strikebreakers, many of them being birds of passage and of low moral character, and others had conscientious scruples about what working men call "scabbing" and made their stay short. This made it necessary to ship in more strikebreakers to fill vacancies in all shops on the system, and car loads of them arrived at, and passed through North Platte almost every day.

      The strikers got to know in some way when trains bearing strikebreakers were due, and they and their



sympathizers were generally at the depot in force to give them an ovation and voice their disapproval of men accepting employment under prevailing conditions.

      These tumults often had the semblance of a riot and alarmed timid people so much that his honor, the mayor of North Platte, was prevailed upon to request the governor of the state to send troops to maintain order, as the strikers carried sticks and and had hung a Union Pacific railway official in effigy, a circumstance of which every citizen was aware. The governor, however, acted with deliberation and personally investigated the situation, and after interviewing the striker and local authorities, concluded that troops were unnecessary, and that the sheriff and his deputies were sufficient to maintain law and order.

      The governor's decision, however, did not satisfy certain parties, and the major was prevailed upon to issue a proclamation prohibiting strikers from carrying sticks and frequenting the railroad depot. Such precaution proved wholly unnecessary, for as weeks passed without sign of settlement, enthusiasm cooled, and strikers become orderly and attended strictly to their own business.



      The strikebreakers were as closely guarded as convicts in a penitentiary, eating and sleeping on the company's premises, and when a thirst induced any of them to venture over town and visit saloons, they were frequently subjected to rough treatment by loungers who hang around such places. They were a promiscuous crew made up of foreigners, few Americans being among them, and the few that were, disliking restriction and the class they were compelled to associate with, generally left when sufficient money was earned to enable them to get away.

      Strikers were successful in persuading many to leave the company's service, and as competent mechanics could hardly be retained, locomotives got out of repair, and boilers leaked so badly that engines frequently "died" on the road. Trains were late, and although the officials had much to contend with, surrender or compromise was never mooted, and months of suspense passed: the strikers drawing in weekly stipend from their unions and doing "picket duty" with an air of indifference. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," and several hoping against hope for a settlement of the strike, procured situations elsewhere, and the ranks of the strikers gradually became



so depleted that there was barely sufficient men left to "hold the fort" and vigilance relaxed to such a degree that strikebreakers walked the streets without fear of molestation.

      Strange as it may appear, the sympathy of the people, the merchants and the local press was with the strikers from the first. Merchants would not sell anything to strikebreakers, and barbers would not shave them, and when some brought their families, landlords refused to rent them places to live in, but as the prospect of the strike being settled waned, restrsiction relaxed, and landlords, merchants and others gradually favored them, and in this way they gained what seemed a permanent settlement, and it was conceded that the strike was as good as lost.

      To the surprise of all, the result was otherwise, for the officers of the machinists' union had been in communication with the directors of the Union Pacific railway, and at a conference it was arranged that all men who had been engaged in the strike be restored to their former positions without prejudice, and that machinist receive one and a half cents an hour advance in wages and resume work June 8, 1903.

      The question of piecework was nullified, but the re-



quest that all strikebreakers be discharged was denied.

     The strikers returned to work jubilant, and the strikebreakers gradually faded away, and in less than three months all were gone. And thus ended the worst labor trouble that ever occurred on the Union Pacific railroad.

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