First Three North Platte Schools

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 19•21
Originally published to on February 19, 2021.

Today’s History series features North Platte school history. Education has always been important factor for a growing community, and North Platte had big challenges to provide quality education to the young people in the area. Enjoy! PS. If you do nothing else–please look through the attached photos–they are amazing images of history!


The first public school in North Platte was a log schoolhouse located at the corner of 5th and Dewey streets. Built in 1868 using private funds, and made of “red cedar logs which were obtained in the canyons south of the river,” it opened on November 30, 1868, with less than twelve students. That number grew to around 80 by 1870, and despite an addition finished that year, the “log cabin” style building became inadequate. In 1873, work began on a new school building. The log school was sold at auction in 1874 for $611. It served several private functions until it was later torn down in April 1921.


In 1874, a brick three story school house opened for the 270 high school students. It was located between Third and Fourth streets on North Dewey. You may notice the two doors and think—that is kind of odd. Researchers believe that it is likely that the boys and girls were separated, which was a common practice in the 1870’s.

Then, on November 15, 1877, the North Platte area experienced an EARTHQUAKE. Yes, you read that correctly – an earthquake. Although the Richter scale to measure the intensity of earthquakes wasn’t introduced until 1935, seismologists rated this historic quake as a 5 on the Richter scale. The earthquake severely damaged the integrity of the building, and despite repairs, the building would sway with strong winds. The building was still used until a new high school building could be funded and constructed, some 23 years later. Researchers have heard stories, but cannot find proof that the building had metal bands wrapped around the building, to provide more stability. The “structural damage” is mentioned in a March 21, 1894 article talking about the amount that should be expended on a new high school building. In August 11, 1896, this appeared in the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune: “–The question of erecting a new high school building is now being re-agitated, but whether it will result in anything but talk remains to be seen. People these times seem adverse to increasing taxation by voting bonds, and it is questionable if a proposition to vote bonds would carry. A suitable building could probably be erected for less money now than in the future, as both material and labor is cheap.” In many of the articles regarding a new high school bond issue, the damage to the school building was less of a concern than the high numbers of students and overcrowding.


In 1900, a new high school was completed on the same lot as the second high school. Be sure to view the rare photograph of this building under construction! It was a grand beautiful building. It contained an auditorium, seven classrooms, and five recitation rooms.

Teacher shortages were common in western Nebraska and the struggle to train educators became a focus for the Nebraska State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1902. To increase the supply of trained teachers, the state developed “Junior Normal Schools”. These schools were summer sessions, lasting 8 weeks and conducted by the State Department of Education across the rural parts of the State of Nebraska. You can see a picture of teachers posing for a class portrait, taken sometime between June 3-July 26, 1912 in front of the third school building. Click here to learn more about Normal Schools, becoming Normal Colleges, which, in some communities, became State Colleges (Peru, Wayne, Chadron, and Kearney):

And finally, you can see part of a panoramic picture-showing the Franklin Junior High School building sitting next to the North Platte High School building in the same block. This was located approximately where Wells Fargo Bank currently sits today. By 1932, this third school was demolished.

And, by 1920, North Platte’s student population had grown to 1,685, and the building became crowded. Which pushes North Platte to build another High School building. The fourth High School Building was the 1930’s high school building, located on West second street, North Platte Nebraska.

This post is Part I of a three-part series on the history of North Platte Education and School History. Part 1 will feature the first three school buildings in North Platte and the challenges facing educators in Western Nebraska. Part 2 (scheduled for March 2021) will continue featuring the fourth and fifth High School buildings, and Part 3 (scheduled for April 2021) will feature the Catholic School history of McDade and St Patrick’s Schools.

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