Memorial Park

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published to Facebook on November 12, 2021.

Today we pay homage to a notable park in North Platte that has been honoring local soldiers for more than a century. Through the years our community has come together to make this park what it is today.

It wasn’t always called Memorial Park and the most prominent name before 1919 was East End Park. In 1909, a fellow by the name of Wm. E. Shuman (1882-1965) proposed that a tract of 11 acres he possessed, be sold to the City of North Platte for $2,000, payable over 2 years. On July 9, 1909 the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune reported that the proposition was accepted. The deed stipulated that the tract of land had to be used for park purposes for at least the next ten years.

On October 7, 1919, ten years after purchasing the land, Ordinance No. 109 officially provided the name of “Memorial Park” in memory of the boys from North Platte and Lincoln County who gave their lives in the war (World War I). The land described in the ordinance matches the land purchased from Shuman. The name change from East End Park to Memorial Park was requested by the Twentieth Century Club.

About a month later on November 13, 1919 the North Platte Telegraph reported that W. E. Shuman is suing the City, claiming the East End Park was never used as a park and that he will give back the $2,000 paid to him, if the City returned the land deed to him. This karma would not work in his favor when he ran for mayor in 1921 and an article ran on March 16, 1921 that stated if he was nominated as mayor, he would withdraw the park suit against the City. Before the election counts were finalized, Shuman leveled a libel suit against the North Platte Evening Telegraph’s editor, A. P. Kelly. Soon after losing (871 to 1,507) the mayoral race to E. H. Evans, Shuman announces candidacy for Nebraska 6th District Congressman, he did not win that seat either. Shuman was an attorney in town for over 50 years.

A year after Memorial Park was named, in November of 1920, the American War Mothers group in North Platte decided to build a Memorial Fountain to commemorate the sacrifices made during the Great War. They wanted the fountain to be located in Memorial Park along the Lincoln Highway. Several small fundraisers over a few years helped fund the fountain which was dedicated on May 30, 1924. In December 1920, just a short month after deciding to build a fountain, there appeared an article where youth were cutting down the small trees in the park to make bows for “fighting Indians”. And the War Mothers quickly decided to plant memorial trees to help recover the lost trees. In July 1926, 43 bronze markers were installed on 43 white elm trees in Memorial Park. The markers were provided by the North Platte Women’s Club to honor the 43 Lincoln County boys who gave the ultimate sacrifice in World War I.

In July 1923, a log cabin that had been located on South Dewey was moved to Memorial Park after being purchased by the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) to be used for a museum. It sat there seeing up to 5,000 visitors per year until 1995 when it was relocated to the Lincoln County Historical Museum. In the same month, sparked by the D.A.R. cabin plans, Mr. Frank Cryderman expressed concern for an old canon that used to be fired by soldiers in town at sunrise the morning of each July 4th. He was informed at a Rotary meeting that the D.A.R. has made plans and will relocate the canon to their museum soon. Many more pioneer relics were and continue to be preserved and displayed in the D.A.R. cabin.

The American Legion erected a steel flag pole in Memorial Park on February 25, 1924. The flag was donated by the American Legion Auxiliary.

The sight must have been quite impressive in February 1956. The UP Steam Locomotive 480, a 97 ton locomotive that was in service for over 50 years, was pulled by a D-9 caterpillar. Track was laid on Bryan Street, leading it to its final and current resting place, facing West like the Union Pacific, in Memorial Park. Locomotive 480 was built in 1903 and is of the “Consolidated Type”. Not only is it a standing sentinel to our community’s heritage, but was also intended to be a place for kids to explore up close, a locomotive of by-gone years.

The most recent improvement to Memorial Park, the Betty Keenan Memorial Splash Pad, was dedicated on May 31, 2012. Every hot summer day sees children playing and staying cool on the refreshing splash pad.

The next time you drive by Memorial Park, take notice of how our community has pulled together through various volunteer organizations and generous donors to honor area soldiers who perished in World War I, and provided a park that will hopefully be enjoyed by our community for at least another century.

North Platte Public Library says “Thank You!” to all veterans for your service and sacrifice.

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