Franklin Peale: Noted Pioneer

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 26•21
Originally published to on February 26, 2021.

Today’s History series features a prominent pioneer who hailed from a famous portrait artist. Enjoy!

Franklin Peale was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 6, 1838 to Reuben and Mary Ann Peale. At an early age he applied himself to become an artist. He had natural artistic talent, being a great grandson of the famous portrait painter, Charles Willson Peale.

On September 16, 1859, he married Mary Ann Comly of Philadelphia and to this union nine children were born.

When Franklin was 18 years of age, he enlisted in Company G, 118th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; and fought in the Civil War for the Union. Franklin was shot in the left thigh during the Battle at Shepherdstown, West Virginia and lay on the battlefield for three days and two nights. During this time, he was under the continuous fire of a company of Union artillery in which his father (Rueben Peale) was serving.

After the war, Franklin re-united with his wife. In 1867, they moved to North Platte, as Peale had a job with the Union Pacific Railroad. Franklin set up the paint department in a shop at the rail yards and his job was to paint the locomotives. At that time, it was custom to adorn the locomotive with floral and artistic designs and portraits of citizens of national prominence. Peale worked in his paint shop until the early 1880’s, when he broke ties with the railroad and opened up a paint and art supply store on the site of today’s North Platte Community Playhouse in downtown North Platte.

On June 13, 1873, Franklin Peale sold five acres of land to the newly formed North Platte Cemetery Association at $20 per acre with 10% interest until paid. Lots were sold at a cost of $10 per single lot and that money was used to pay back the cost of the land purchase. This five acres was what eventually became the North Platte City Cemetery at its current location on Rodeo Road. Of course people died and were buried in the area before 1873. One such location with multiple graves was known as the original grave yard, was located near the intersection of 4th & Jeffers Street, approximately where RX Express and the CenturyLink buildings sit today.

Mr. Peale took an active part in the religious, civic, commercial and social affairs of the then frontier town, aiding in laying the foundations of the present city of North Platte. He was a member of the following: Episcopal church; Platte Valley Lodge No. 32; A.F.& A.M. of Stephen Arnold Douglas Post No. 69, G. A. R.; Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the American Revolution; and Walla Walla Lodge No. 56, I.O.O.F.

Mr. Peale and his family resided in North Platte for forty-five years. In 1912, he and his wife moved to Denver where they were near their children. Mrs. Peale passed away December 22, 1917 and Mr. Peale passed away on April 13, 1922 at age eighty-five. At the time of his death, he was survived by his seven (7) children, thirty-seven (37) grandchildren, and twenty six (26) great grandchildren.

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.

Thaddeus Foley and His Grand Victorian House

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 12•21
Originally published to on February 12, 2021.

Today’s North Platte History series features a grand Victorian home that did not withstand the test of time. So sad that this beautiful home was torn down in 1925!

Thaddeus Foley was born in Ireland. Foley immigrated to America and arrived in New York. From New York, he went to Omaha, and then west to North Platte in 1869.

When he arrived in North Platte, he went into the general merchandise business with another original pioneer, A. J. Senter. Foley built a large brick building for his business interests on what was the north-west corner of 6th & Dewey Streets. That storefront would have been located in what is now the parking lot in front of the former Alco Discount Store. This business area was known as “Foley Block” and many advertisements would just say “located in the Foley block, with no address given!”. Foley also had a ranch and owned a large stock company on the North Loup and Snake Rivers. Foley and Senter were partners until 1882. In 1890, Foley was a part–owner in The Colorado-Nebraska Land and Canal Company (see Articles of Incorporation in the newspaper pictures).

Sometime between 1869 and 1892, Foley had a grand Victorian home built at 403 West 4th Street. Thaddeus and his wife Jennie, lived there. In 1890, they had a son, Gratton. Sadly, the baby boy died at age 18 months of diphtheria. His body was relocated to Kansas City in 1914 (see news article from April 24, 1914).

Before moving to Kansas City, Foley sold the home to attorney J. S. Hoaglund. This home would have been located on what is now the parking lot on the northwest corner of Willow and West 4th Streets (kitty corner from the Prairie Friends & Flowers Business).

There is a brief newspaper article from April 2, 1914 stating that the Foley’s were back to visit Ira Bare and his wife, before returning to Kansas City, to prepare to relocate to Boston.

The North Platte Tribune announced that the house was being torn done on Sept. 25, 1925. “The old J. S. Hoagland home on West Fourth Street was torn down this summer and the material cleared and piled up for use. From it Arthur Hoagland is building a six-room house on the rear of the lot. This he expects to occupy himself when it is completed. Then, when he can get to it, he is planning on putting a fine two-story apartment building on the other part of the lot which is extra wide. He thinks there is a demand here for more dwellings of this nature. The old house which stood on this corner has seen its best days and with the completion of the new buildings there will be a substantial improvement in the appearance of that part of the city.”

Thank you for reading and learning about our community history!

Arthur Hurd: Fastest Brick-Layer in Nebraska

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 05•21
Originally published to on February 5, 2021.

Friday History Series: The Fastest Brick-Layer in Nebraska

Arthur Hurd was born in either 1887 or 1888, there is no birth certificate for him and various resources show different birth years.

Hurd seems to of had a rough life after leaving home as his name starts showing up in the “Crime Scene” articles in the Lincoln, Nebraska newspapers. From 1904 up through 1916 Hurd was arrested many time for various charges, such as throwing brick at a policeman, highway robbery, purse snatching, riding without paid passage on trains, and operating a disorderly house.

Hurd was married in 1914 to Lulu Scott of Lincoln. The marriage came to an end when a large fight occurred between the Hurd family and Lulu, according to the Nebraska State Journal on March 2, 1916. Officers were called and both Arthur and Lulu were charged with disorderly conduct. Lulu promised to go back to Kansas to her family and leave the marriage if the charges would be dropped. Arthur agreed and was glad to have his “freedom” back.

Hurd started brick-laying sometime in 1913. The Lincoln Journal Star printed this short article on October 1, 1913: “For two men to lay 72,400 paving brick in ten hours is a considerable feat. The average day’s work of that kind is 25,000 a day. Arthur Hurd of Lincoln and William Wright (both from Omaha) laid 72,400 paving brick in David City Tuesday. They are in the employ of Contractor I. E. Doty, who has the contract for nineteen blocks of street paving in David City. Superintendent Bell, in charge of the street paving work, says Hurd and Wright are faster in their line than any other men he has known of.”

On February 9, 1918 Hurd passed his physical examination and was qualified to serve during World War I. A detachment from Lincoln, Nebraska left for Camp Pike, Arkansas in August 1918 for training. Arthur shipped out of New York City on October 12, 1918 and he was assigned to Company “H” 816th Pioneer Infantry. The Pioneer Infantry units were primarily African American men trained to be engineers. They did receive combat training but most of their time was spent constructing roads and bridges. After the end of the war they were assigned the sobering task of collecting bodies and body parts from the battlefields of France and prepare them for burial according to historian Kristin Spalding.

In 1920, Census records show Arthur living with his sister Malinda’s family in Lincoln, Nebraska. The record shows his occupation as a brick-layer. On November 5, 1921 Hurd married Dollie Duncan in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Shortly after their marriage they came to North Platte. Arthur was working for the Able and Roberts-Asphalt and Brick Paving Company.

Dollie was interviewed in 1973 by historian John McNeil and she talked about how proud Arthur was for being the fastest brick-layer in the state of Nebraska. She said he was a “well-built man with muscular arms and shoulders.” She said he would only eat toast and a small bowl of cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch with a boiled egg because you didn’t lay bricks on a full stomach.

According to McNeil, “Hurd would lay five rows of brick, then a relief man would lay one row while Arthur rested his knees and back.” “Ten men, five on each side, carried the bricks and piled them on either side of Hurd,” said Dollie.

Hurd continued laying bricks through the warm months up through 1928. During the winter months he would find other jobs. In April of 1928, Hurd had been working in the Higgins Chevrolet Garage when a car fell off of a hoist and crushed him. He passed away shortly after and was taken to Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln for burial.

The brick portions in downtown North Platte still have the original 1921 bricks that Arthur Hurd and others laid. They provide beautiful nostalgia to the newly created “Canteen District” in downtown North Platte.

The picture was from the May 23, 1973 article in the North Platte Telegraph.

Dr. Marie Ames and Her 100 Year Old House

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 29•21
Originally published to on January 29, 2021.

TGIF! It’s Time for our Friday History Series! Today, we are talking about Dr. Marie Ames and her 100 year old house.

On April 12th, 1921, the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune announced that Dr. Marie Ames approved a contract to have a house to be used as both her residence and medical office, to be built at: 310 East Fifth Street, North Platte. The newspaper said the cost of the two-story home would be $5,500. The first floor was her private residence and the second floor would be her medical practice offices.

As you can see in the photograph, the house was located across the street from the Fox Theater on the south side of the street. This is a relatively unique photograph, as it is rare to run across photographs of residential areas before they were taken down to put up businesses (reconstruction). Thank you to Jim Griffin and the Lincoln County Historical Museum for sharing this photo.

The house had two staircases attached to the house for her business. The front staircase (on the side of the house) was for her respectable customers. The back stairs were for the girls from the “houses” and persons needing medical attention “off the record”.

Dr. Ames received her degree from the John A. Creighton School of Medicine (now Creighton University) in 1894—the first woman physician in Nebraska. She and her husband were both doctors and settled in North Platte in 1905. In 1913, Dr. Ames and her husband divorced.

Dr. Ames had a pretty good business until 1913 when she performed an abortion on a woman in Kearney, Nebraska, resulting in the woman’s death. Charges were filed and the case was heard by the Nebraska Supreme Court. All charges were dropped against Dr. Ames. Then again, in 1925 and 1927, charges were brought against Ames for continuing to perform illegal abortions. Charges were dropped in both of the cases as long as she gave up her medical license. Which she did. Her career as a physician was over.

On December 27, 1935, the Evening Telegraph announced that Dr. Ames had a fire in the basement of the house. She lived in the house up until her death in 1937. The house remained at that location until 1948, when Sears and Roebuck bought that half of the block to put up a storefront. All the houses along that side of the block were auctioned off and physically moved to other locations around North Platte.

On October 21, 1948, the North Platte Telegraph ran this story in the paper: “The moving of a house may be just another job to the fellows of the brawny muscles, who sweat and slave and work their brains over the big problem, but, to passerby, it’s a mighty fascination operation, judged from the crowd that gathers to watch the moving of a house at 310 East Fifth street. To get a job on the crew, one should be an engineer, a carpenter, a mechanic and a weight-lifter.”

The house still stands today in the location it was moved to in 1948; and in April 2021, the house will be 100 years old. This house sits in the 600 block of west B Street.