NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library




Death of Warren Lloyd. -- Sketch of W. S. Peniston's life. -- Wave of city prosperity. -- Masonic Temple built. -- Dedication and banquet. -- The old Masonic hall and it associations. -- Origin of Platte Valley lodge. -- Additions to city. -- North Platte's possible future.


      After the settlement of the strike, business on the Union Pacific railroad and in the shops regained wonted activity, and peace and good will reigned supreme, and 1903 glided away without any notable local event.

      On April 13, 1904, Warren Lloyd, a pioneer citizen and old time locomotive engineer, died after a brief illness at the age of seventy-four. He witnessed the city's phenomenal growth and interested himself in its advancement. He built the Lloyd opera house, a popular place of amusement in its day, and



conducted it up to the time of his death. He was a model citizen, and served as councilman for the First ward for a considerable time, and even although he had theological opinions more radical that (sic) popular, he was universally esteemed.

      He came to Grand Island when that city consisted of less than a dozen houses, and entered the employ of the Union Pacific Railroad Company as engineer. At the time, vast herds of buffaloes roamed the plains, and hostile Indians made railroading perilous. Mr. Lloyd never had any serious Indian adventures, but on one occasion escaped death by missing a trip on account of sickness, for the engineer and crew that took his train out were murdered at Plum Creek, the train being ditched by Indians.

      Mr. Lloyd ran a passenger engine up to about 1890 when he was retired on account of old age and defective eyesight, and given charge of the stationary engine at the shops, and afterward was made yard policeman, which position he held until he resigned so he could give more attention to his opera house.

      Mr. Lloyd at the time of his death was in fairly comfortable circumstances, but all he had so Indus-



triously accumulated went to distant relatives, and he now rests beside his wife in the North Platte cemetery. A tasteful memorial stone marks the spot.

      Depression of trade throughout the country during the year 1905 did not perceptibly change the routine of business and everyday life in North Platte, and that year also slipped away without anything important occurring. 1906 was also uneventful, but towards its close (October 14) W. S. Peniston, who had had wide experience of frontier life, and whose name is associated with early days in North Platte, laid down the burden of life and entered the silent halls of death.

      William Star Peniston was born at Kingston, Jamaica in 1834, and relatives of his still reside there. He was of good lineage; Lord Peniston of England being his uncle, therefore by right of birth, he belonged to the nobility of that country. His father at one time was the largest ship owner in North America, and resided in Quebec, Canada. Mr. Peniston was educated in this city and resided there until early manhood, when, being of a restless disposition, he drifted to Minnesota and joined a surveying party, which occupation he continued until the spring of



1858. He afterwards passed down the Missouri river to St. Joe, Mo. In that year, the contract to carry the first weekly mail from St. Joe, Mo., to Salt Lake City was let to Hockaday, Burr & Company, and Mr. Peniston being engaged, drove the first stage with the mail from there to Salt Lake, he driving a four mule team, while a whipper up, riding along side kept it going with a blacksnake whip. Mr. Peniston and his outfit camped out, for at that time there were hardly any stations, yet it was so arranged that at certain places a change of mules could be made. When Ash Hollow was reached, another man took the stage, and went on with the mail, and by such relays Salt Lake City was reached.

      In 1859 Mr. Peniston drove a trip or two from Ash Hollow to O'Fallons Bluffs and at that place made the acquaintance of A. J. Miller. Mr. Peniston and a friend named Dan Smith, having a business project in view, spoke to Mr. Miller about the advisability of starting a trading post. He gave the idea favorable consideration and suggested that a good place for one would be about twenty-five miles west of Plum Creek. Mr. Miller was called away, and during his absence, Peniston and Smith built at the



place mentioned and called it Cold Water. The business promised well, and Mr. Peniston, having recognized Miller's business ability, informed him that he and Smith should be pleased to take him into partnership. Mr. Miller threw in his lot with them, and in the fall of 1860 they built another trading post ten miles west of the original and named it Spring Villa. Peniston and Smith conducted it and Mr. Miller looked after the business at Cold Water. In the spring of 1861 this partnership was dissolved. Mr. Peniston and Mr. Miller retained the Cold Water post and accepted sufficient cattle, horses, and money to make good their share of the estate.

      In January, 1865, Mr. Peniston and his partner went from Nebraska City to Auburn, New York, and on March 15, both were married; Mr. Peniston marrying Miss Annie M. Webb, of that city. By way of a wedding tour, they started west, and after a long weary journey landed at Nebraska City and put up at the home of their friend, J. Sterling Morton. After a stay of three months, Mr. Miller struck across the plains with the intention of fixing up the Cold Water trading post so that their young wives could have a tolerably decent place to come to. To his as-



tonishment it was wrecked and badly burned. The Indians had been there, and Peniston and Miller lost more than any traders from St. Joe, Missouri, to California ever lost by Indians. On August 12, 1864, M. C. Keith, W. A. Paxton, Guy C Barton and others, estimated the loss at $200,000. The firm never obtained compensation. Disheartened, but not discouraged, Mr. Miller fixed the place up, and Mr. Peniston, accompanied by his wife and Mrs. Miller, came by stage in the latter part of July, and life on the plains was entered upon.

      In the summer of 1866 the Union Pacific railroad was built past the Peniston and Miller trading post. Learning that the terminus would be at North Platte for some time, the partners concluded to move their stock and buildings there. The cedar log store building was taken apart and conveyed to North Platte and set up on what is now the corner of Front and Locust streets. It weathered the storms of winter and the sunshine of summer for many years, and was long looked upon as a relic of early times.

      Peniston and Miller built cosy homes on the corner of Sixth and Locust streets which still stand, and carried on a successful general store business up



to 1870, when they dissolved partnership, Mr. Peniston retiring.

      Mr. Peniston was police judge for several years, and county judge for some time. He also served in the land office, and filled other positions in the city.

      No one knew Mr. Peniston better than A. J. Miller and he states that he was "highly educated and a polished gentleman."

      North Platte awoke from its lethargy in 1907 and was greeted by a wave of prosperity and building activity. In that year seventy residences were built and seven miles of cement sidewalks laid, and the Burlington Railroad Company surveyed for a roadbed through the south part of town and purchased $200,000 worth of property. The Odd Fellows also reconstructed and enlarged their lodge building at a cost of $20,000 and the Free Mason erected a temple creditable alike to Masonry and the city at a cost of $30,000.

      The Masonic Temple was built towards the close of 1907, and dedicated February 22, 1908. The ground floor is occupied by spacious stores, and the second by a banquet hall, reading and lodge rooms,



cloak rooms and kitchen, and contains all modern improvements.

      The dedication was quite an event in North Platte, occurring as it did on Washington's birthday when most people had leisure. It was not wholly local, however, for delegates came from Masonic




lodges located at Sidney, Chappell, Ogalalla, Gothenburg, Cozad, Lexington, Gandy Elm Creek, Kearney, Gibbon, Shelton, Wood River and Grand Island, to the number of between thirty and sixty from each lodge. At 2 o'clock nearly two hundred Masons



formed in line on Dewey street, near the Temple, and proceeded to the Pacific hotel to meet members of the grand lodge and escort them to take part in the dedicatory exercises.

      When the assembly had gathered in the lodge room, the proceedings were conducted in due and ancient form by Grand Master Ornan J. King, assisted by officers and members of the grand lodge, and in conclusion, Henry W. Wilson delivered an oration, the subject of which was "Washington and Masonry."

      In the evening the proceedings were concluded by a banquet served in the dining hall of the temple, at which over two hundred and thirty Mason participated. All spent an impressive, never-to-be-forgotten evening of social joy, and the day will ever be a red letter one for Masonry in the annals of North Platte.

      When the temple was dedicated, Platte Valley Lodge No. 32, had one hundred and seventy members in good standing, and at the time, John G. McIlvane was master; Frank L. Mooney, senior warden; John F. Seibert, junior warden; Frank E. Bullard, secretary; Samuel Goozee, treasurer; Robert Armstrong,



senior deacon; Dr. O. H. Cressler, junior deacon, and Platte J. Gilman, tyler.

      Besides what is designed the Blue Lodge, there was at the time Euphrates, chapter 15, A. A. M., organized in 1876, which a following of seventy members; and the Palestine Commandry, No. 13; Knight Templars, organized in '83 with a membership of sixty-eight. There is also the order of the Eastern Star, to which none but Mason's wives, daughters and sisters are admitted. The membership of this order is one hundred and fifty.

      The modest two story frame building, long known as the Masonic hall, that occupied the site of the temple was erected in 1872 at a cost of $2,600. The amount was raised by the sale of shares at $50 each to local Masons. The site narrowly escaped being that of a church building. It seems that while the Episcopalians were considering purchasing it, Major William Woodhurst, at the time of enthusiastic Mason, made a trip to Omaha and secured it for "the craft."

      The old building was in a sense historical, for before the erection of the court house, the ground floor was leased to Lincoln county and used as a court



room and office for the transaction of county business. The old lodge room too had its associations, and will not be readily forgotten by Masons who first saw the light within it. It will also be memorable to




many as the scene of social events at which pleasant hours were spent and friendships formed which time cannot efface.

      Platte Valley Lodge No. 32, ancient, free and accepted Masons, had its birth at Cottonwood Springs,



November 15, 1869 in a room 24x24 feet in size, in the second story of the Charles McDonald store building, a rough frontier structure more useful than elegant. $60 was spent on furniture for this modest lodge room, and at the first meeting five Masons were present, and as their names have been preserved, it is a pleasure to give them; Rev. A. A. Reese, army chaplain and first master of the lodge;




Captains A. B. Taylor and W. H. Brown; Edward A. Lieb and Lieutenant Charles B. Brady.

      Shortly afterward, Charles McDonald, Dr. F. N. Dick and Eugene A. Carr were admitted, and at the first meeting after letter of dispensation had been granted by the grand lodge of Nebraska, eight petitions for membership were presented, and follow-



ing the first installation of officers was a modest banquet at which the military band furnished music. The first emergency meeting was called January 13, 1870, to attend the funeral of Richard Ormsby.

      When Masonary began to assert itself at Cottonwood Springs, Fort McPherson was garrisoned by a contingent of the Fifth United States Cavalry under the command of Col. W. H. Emery, who was bitterly opposed to Masonry in general, and the local lodge in particular, and did all he could to crush it by persecuting officers and men who attended its meetings. As there was no abatement to his hostility, the brethren concluded to remove the lodge to North Platte, and the erection of the frame building which gave place to the more enduring edifice, was the result.

      The Odd Fellows' hall, or rather the home of Walla Walla lodge No. 56, I. O. O. F., was dedicated January 14, 1908, and is a credit to the city and that fraternal order.

      Adjacent to the Odd Fellows' hall is the Keith theatre, a well arranged place of amusement with capacity to seat 650 persons. It was erected in 1908 at the cost of $40,000.



      The erection of fifty residences and the laying down of some four miles of permanent sidewalks made the above year a prosperous one for North Platte.

      In August, 1909, bonds for $100,000 were voted for the erection of a waterworks plant to be owned and operated by the city, but the Waterworks Company filed an injunction to prevent the sale of the bonds, claiming that the city agreed to purchase their property at an appraised valuation of $85,000.

      At this writing, the matter is still in court.

      By the close of 1909, North Platte had secured fifteen miles of cement sidewalks, and the streets had been wonderfully improved by grading, and with an elaborate sewer system, the city is sanitary and healthful.

      In the spring of 1909 the city purchased four blocks of the Riverdale addition for a public park and set out 250 trees.

      Beside the Peniston and Miller additions to the city, and they are extensively built on, there are the Hinman addition, included by the city, April 4, 1887; the Trustees addition. laid out May 5, 1908; and the Riverdale addition, twelve blocks, laid out



in the spring of 1910; then the Selby and South Park which were laid out about the same time.

      Just now the citizens have in anticipation the erection of a public library for which Mr. Andrew Carnegie has generously offered to give $12,000, on condition that the city furnish a site and provide a fund for its maintenance.

      That the government will erect a federal building in the near future is assured. Building goes on, and the town keeps expanding. Among the substantial buildings erected, may be mentioned the Timmerman Hotel, the Elk block, and Goozee building on Sixth street.

     North Platte is classed as a city of the first class, and the largest in Western Nebraska with a population of nearly 5,500. Although a railroad town, it is much more important than such towns usually are; for it is a distributing point, and enjoys all the agricultural trade of the Platte Valley, and when the North River branch of the Union Pacific railway, and the branch line of the B. & M. railroad are in operation, who can predict is possible future?

Prior page
General Index
Next page

© 2003 for the NEGenWeb Project by Cris Geis, Ted & Carole Miller