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Life sketches of James Belton, Dr. F. H. Longely, Dr. Nicholas McCabe, George W. Vroman, John Bratt and C. F. Tracy.


      A tradition in the Belton family is, that their ancestors went from England to Ireland with Cromwell and settled there. Be that as it may, it is certain that his father and mother came from Ireland to America, and that he was born at Sangerties, New York, on June 27, 1831. He attended the public school at Sundusky, Ohio, until 15 years old, and went to Buffalo, New York, to serve an apprenticeship to the trade of a coppersmith. At its completion, the money panic of 1857 had paralyzed business, and to better his fortune he started for New Orleans, but stopping off at New Albany, Indiana, circumstances in-



duced him to remain for several years. There he married Caroline Graham, a school teacher. A happy marriage makes a harmonious home, and Mr. Belton's was a model in this respect, for a cross word was never heard within it, and two daughters grew to womanhood amid pleasant surroundings, but sorrow came, after a married life of forty-six years, Mrs. Belton died June 22, 1906, and the radiance of the home subsided.

      His daughter Mary married William McDonald, cashier of the McDonald State Bank, who is supposed to have been the first white child born in Lincoln County.

      Mr. Belton came to North Platte in May, 1869, and entered the employ of the Union Pacific Railroad Company as foreman of the copper shop, and held the position for five years. In 1870, he went into the hardware business, and in 1871 was elected county clerk, and held the office over four years, and during the time he did not charge anything for recording deeds, mortgages or taking acknowledgements, with the exception of the cases of Thomas Keliher and James Fraser, and that was owing to time occupied going to their farms to take acknowledgements.



      Mr. Belton was director of the city schools for over seven years, and showed his liberalism by ignoring all religious projective, and making ability to teach, the only qualification.

      In 1878 he was elected mayor when the city was heavily in debt, but under his management, rigid economy, and a levy of five mills for current expenses, and two and one-half to pay off the debt, straightened out the affairs of the city, and two and one-half mills were returned to the taxpayers. When his term of office expired, all obligations were cancelled. It may be added, that he liberally donated his salary for services as mayor, to the city.

      In 1889, Mr. Belton ran for office of county commissioner and was elected, his object being to have county business conducted according to law; as, at that time, things were in a somewhat complicated condition. Mr. Belton labored for reform, and ultimately, had the satisfaction of knowing that the supreme court decided that his way of settling with the county treasurer was correct, and all counties have settled in that way since.

      Mr. Belton has been a member of the Presbyterian church for over fifty years. He retired from ac-



tive business August 1, 1900, but continues to take deep interest in affairs of the city, and everything tending to better social conditions.



      It is needless to apologize for enumerating Dr. F.




H. Longley among the pioneer citizens who materially aided in the up building and development of our city. He is the oldest resident physician, and probably the oldest physician and surgeon in the state of Ne-



braska, as he came to Omaha on the 1st of March, 1867, the day the state was admitted into the union.

      He went to Blair and practiced for a time, but upon his appointment to become the first receiver at the United States land office at North Platte, in 1872, he came to the city and assumed the duties of the office. North Platte was then little more than a straggling village with three stores and many saloons.

      One of the stores was owned by Charles McDonald, who had recently left Cottonwood Springs and become a citizen; the other by Foley and Center, and the third by Otto Uhley. The northern portion of Spruce street (now Dewey) and Front street, from Pine to the military post was the business section, and they who built dwellings did so as near as possible to these thorough-fares. The north side had less than a half dozen houses; and the numerous sloughs by which it was interspersed, were the haunt of ducks and other aquatic birds, and a hunting ground for youths of the city. The late Dr. F. N. Dick was the popular physician, the pioneer drug store was that of McLucas and Dick, and the old log school house was the temple of learning. Such is a glimpse of the city when Dr. Longley arrived. He



held the receivership of the land office for three years, and resigned to devote his whole time to the practice of his profession, having gained a reputation for efficiency and skill. He is now chairman of commissioners of insanity, coroner of Lincoln county, and president of Lincoln County Medical society; and member of the State Medical association.

      He has been financially successful and owns considerable property in the city and vicinity, and on the whole, has secured a competency that enables him to enjoy a well earned leisure. Dr. Longley is a native of Bingham, Somerset county, Maine. He began the study of medicine in Gardener, that state with Dr. Stephen Whitmore and took his first course at Bowdoin Medical college, in Brunswick, Maine, and graduated from the Eclectic Medical Institute at Cincinnati in February 1867; and also from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Keokuk, Iowa, in 1875.



      Dr. Nicholas McCabe, in point of residence, is the second oldest physician in the city, and on this account, is entitled to a place in these annals, were it



for nothing more than the commendable interest he has taken in local affairs, and every public enterprise tending to advance the interests of the community.

      He came to town in 1886, and began the practice of medicine under anything but favorable circumstances, for the population was under 3,000, and there were at least four resident physicians and about as many drug stores stocked with patent medicines. At first, recognition was slow, but he gradually built up a practice, and in course of time his proficiency in physics and surgery was recognized, and he was selected for surgeon at this point for the Union Pacific railway employees. He has held the office for over twelve years and enjoys the confidence and esteem of the workmen.

      His fine home and other possessions show that he has been financially successful, and that wise investments have secured for him a comfortable competency.

      In politics, the doctor is a straight Democrat, and although devoted to his profession, takes deep interest in national and local politics. He discharged the duties of coroner for two years, and in 1906 was



elected mayor of the city, being an advocate of municiple ownership, and of the city owning waterworks.

      Like most public men, he had enemies; but despite their artifices, he was re-elected three consecutive times, and the last time, by a majority of two to one, in the face of bitter and unwarranted attacks upon his private character and official administration.

      To judge by a well stocked library in his office, replete with modern literature and up-to-date medical works, it is evident he keeps abreast of his profession and in touch with the latest scientific developments. The works in his home library treating on a variety of subjects also show that he is broadminded and liberal, and an earnest investigator.

      The subject of this sketch was born at Dunleer, County Louth, Ireland, in 1854, and received public school education, but in early manhood, he acquired a longing to go to the United States, the land of the free, where so many of his countrymen had, and were finding homes; so one day, from the deck of a vessel, he watched his native land recede from sight.

      In due time he arrived in New York to begin life as tens of thousands had done before him. He secured a position in the shipping department of a mercantile



firm at Batavia, New York, but soon thereafter entered St. Joseph's college, Buffalo, N. Y., and completed his preliminary education, after which he entered the medical department of the University of Buffalo, and from it received the degree of M. D.



was born at Leek, Staffordshire, England, August 9, 1842. He came to America in June, 1864, and engaged in business in Chicago until October, 1865, when he invested his all in merchandise and took passage on the steamship "Victor" for New Orleans. The vessel was wrecked, and he lost everything in the Gulf of Mexico, but fortunately was rescued by the "Alabama," a merchantman loaded with cotton from New Orleans to New York where he and other passengers of the "Victor" were landed. Later, almost penniless and without friends, he took passage on the "Morning Star" from New Orleans where for some eleven weeks he was unable to obtain employment, and consequently, few meals. He finally secure "a job" on the levee at Morganzie, near the mouth of Red River, which was being constructed. In the spring of the following year he came to Nebraska



City and hired out as bullwhacker and drove an ox team to Fourth County post, afterwards call Fort Phil Kearney, which fort he helped to erect, hauling logs, wood and hay for the stockade. With others, he planned to go the placer gold mines in the Gallatine Valley, but Col. Carrington, the commander, would not allow so small an outfit to attempt crossing the Big Horn mountains, as the hostility of the Sioux Indians under Red Cloud and other chiefs was so rampant, that a force of less than two hundred men could not safely do so. The expedition was abandoned; but a strange foreboding of calamity induced Mr. Bratt to leave Fort Phil Kearny that winter and proceed to Fort Mitchell. Strange to relate, his two partners, Kellog and Fisher, who remained, were killed in the Phil Kearney massacre. He remained at Fort Mitchell until August, 1867, part of the time in charge of that noted road ranch and stage station, and was often detailed to carry messages between Fort Mitchel and Laramie, a fifty-five mile ride (usually by night) in case of state coaches being waylaid by hostile Indians who frequently cut the telegraph wires. Coe and Carter relieved him at Fort Mitchel ranch, and sent him to Pine Bluffs to



take charge of an ox train that hauled ties, logs and wood for the Union Pacific and the government. In the fall of 1867, he was sent with an ox train, loaded with corn, to Fort Sanders. He afterwards opened a tie and wood camp near Fort Sanders, and gave employment to several hundred tie and wood choppers Later, he opened tie and wood camps at Sherman station and Tie Siding, and filled a tie contract for the Denver Pacific railroad, floating the ties down the Cache La Poudre. In the summer of 1869, he went to Fort McPherson, and filled a 3300 ton hay contract for Gilman and Carter, and went into the cattle business that fall with Coe and Carter under the firm name of John Bratt & Company, being the first firm in Lincoln county to drive cattle from Texas for breeding purposes. He followed the cattle business for some twenty-five years, and assisted in organizing Frontier county, being one of its first country commissioners, combining with it the office of deputy county treasurer. Mr. Bratt was active in organizing the North Platte Guards for home protection, Major North of Pawnee Indian fame being captain, Mr. Bratt, first lieutenant and Frank Alexander, second lieutenant. He led the fight with the



Indians on the east Birdwood creek in the winter of 1878, and has held several county and city offices, having been mayor of North Platte two terms. Although bordering on three score years and ten, he is still alert and active, and leads a busy life. He contemplates publishing his autobiography, and as it is racily written and abounding with anecdotes of early day western life, it cannot fail to be a valuable addition to Nebraska literature.



being a worthy pioneer citizen of North Platte, and a




prominent railroader, is given a place here. Born at Fitchburg, Wisconsin, September 27, 1841, he was



sent to school at the age of 7, and at 17 entered the academy at Albion, Wisconsin, and attended for one year. In 1859 he took one term at Wisconsin State University, but having a taste for mechanics, he went to Lafayette, Indiana, December , 1861, and secured a position as fireman on the Wabash railroad. In the summer of 1863, he was promoted to engineer, and in the fall took charge of the round house at state line between Indiana and Illinois and held the position one year. Resigning, January, 1869, he proceeded to North Platte to run an engine on the Union Pacific railroad. He ran freight until the latter part of 1870, and was assigned a regular passenger run. In 1881 he was appointed general foreman on the North Platte shops, and held the position until May, 1884, when he resigned and resumed the occupation of locomotive engineer.

      Mr. Vroman became a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in June, 1865. In 1877 he organized a committee of adjustment for the settlement of grievances, and was elected general chairman of the brotherhood, and filled the position up to the close of 1906. Having reached the age limit established by the Union Pacific Railway company, he was retired, March 31, 1908.



      Although Mr. Vroman never met any serious mishap during his thirty-nine years of service, yet life on the rail with him was not without incident. In 1877, while coming east with the Overland express, the train was stopped by a gang of robbers who secured $60,000 in gold, and $1,000 in currency from the safe, and $2,000, and five gold watches from passengers. Mr. Vroman and his fireman were attended to by an armed bandit, and the train crew was kept together and guarded by others while the looting of the express car was in progress.. Four days after the robbery, two of the bandits were traced to near Buffalo station, Kansas, by a sheriff's posse, and upon resistance, shot down. $1,000 in gold and currency was found on their persons. A third was mortally wounded near his farm house and a fourth was shot in Texas. A fifth was arrested and lodged in jail, and while awaiting trial, escaped, stole a horse, rode off, and was never heard of.



in point of service, is the oldest locomotive engineer at North Platte at this date, having been forty-one years in the employ of the Union Pacific company.



     Mr. Tracy was born at Port Kent, New York, June 13, 1851. Owing to the death of his father, he was thrown on is own resources and at the early age of 13 started the battle of life as clerk in a grocery store. Being desirous of an opportunity to run an engine, he secured a situation in the engine room of a ferry boat on historic Lake Champlain, running




between Plattsburg, New York, and St. Albans Bay, Vermont. With him, circumstances were adverse, yet favorable, for the boat ran aground one summer night, and the next day a storm came up and left it a total wreck, and the youthful Tracy without a job.

      The engineer of the boat had taken an interest in him, and knowing of his ambition to become an engineer,



wrote a friend who was running a locomotive between North Platte and Sidney, to find him a job as fireman. He was successful, and Mr. Tracy turned his face westward, and arrived at North Platte on the night of September 8, 1869. Next day, he was hired by the late David Day, who was round house foreman, and made his first trip as fireman with Engineer Hedding. In 1872, John P. Marston, master mechanic, was succeeded by J. H. McConnell, and Mr. Tracy was the first fireman promoted by him. Mr. Tracy made his first trip as engineer on an engine bearing the unlucky number 13, with Charley Hall as fireman, and got safely through.

      Mr. Tracy's railroad experience is not without incident. In the spring of 1870, the engine he was firing ran into a washout near Chappell, and turned over with some thirty cars on top of it. His limbs were caught between the boiler-brace and set box, and when found, pinch bars had to be used to free him, and it was three months before he could walk without crutches. Strange to relate, Mr. Tracy met with a similar accident at the same place, twenty-five years after this mishap.

     With the above sketches, the author bids the



reader adieu. Materials for work of this kind are by no means plentiful, but fact and incidents have been carefully gleaned and rescued from oblivion, and glimpses of the own in early days given. Of course North Platte never could boast of raids and battles, but nevertheless, with the advancement of eastern civilization, it has kept in the van, and its battles and victories have been those of industry and commerce.

The End

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