Charles McDonald, Father of North Platte

Written By: nppladmin - Mar• 12•22
Originally published to on March 11, 2022.

Today’s Facebook Friday post is about the man who many early businessmen regarded as the “father of North Platte.”  Enjoy!

Please note that much of this post comes from the obituary and biographical sketch of Charles McDonald in “An Illustrated History of Lincoln County, Nebraska and Her People, Volume II” by Ira Bare. The American Historical Society. 1920.

One of the earliest pioneers to come and establish a life in Lincoln County was Charles McDonald. His contributions to the establishment of North Platte and Lincoln County are quite noteworthy in the history of the area.

Charles McDonald was born near Morristown, Tennessee on October 25, 1826. He was the son of Alexander and Mary (McClister) McDonald.

Charles ancestors were quite interesting. Charles paternal great grandfather, Alexander B McDonald (1736-1811) was born in Virginia and served in the 1st Virginia Militia during the Revolutionary War. And, his maternal grandfather, James McClister, also fought in Revolutionary War. According to the Illustrated History of Lincoln County, James McClister served with General Washington’s army when it crossed the Delaware, before the battle of Trenton.

Charles remained with his family until his twenty third year, in Tennessee. He worked on the family farm during the summer, and attended the old-fashioned district school during the winter months. In total, he was schooled, no more than three years. He then went to farming on his own account.

In 1855, Charles moved from Tennessee to Nebraska. By July 1855, Charles settled a claim on Turkey Creek, Pawnee county. This became the present day Pawnee City, Nebraska. 

Charles was politically active and was a member of the Second Nebraska Territorial Assembly in 1856; was a member of the Territorial Council, serving two terms. He was also elected to the Fifth Territorial Council, from which he resigned his seat.

On October 14, 1858, Charles married Orra B. Henry in Omaha, Nebraska. Orra was the daughter of Anan and Lydia (Swift) Henry. We will be highlighting Orra B McDonald and their children in a future Facebook Friday post. Charles and Orra had seven children:

  1. Frank McDonald (1860-1906). Born in Fort Kearney, Nebraska.;
  2. William H. (1861-1961). First white child born in Lincoln County. Married to Minnie Belton;
  3. Nettie V. (1865-1942). Married to Wm C. Reynolds;
  4. Charles A. (1867-1894). Married to Harriet L. Diver;
  5. James B, (1869-1967). Married to Emily Houska; and,
  6. George W. (1872-1895);
  7. Callie E. (1875-1910). Married to Frank L. Mooney.

On January 15, 1860, Charles came to Shorter County (present day Lincoln County) which he helped to organize. In those early days, Charles actually lived at Cottonwood Springs (near present-day Maxwell, Nebraska), where he and his wife, operated a ranch and a Trading Post/General store.

As one of the first pioneers in the County, Charles McDonald was elected as the county’s first judge. On July 10, 1860, he performed the marriage ceremony and issued the first marriage license in Lincoln County. He also held the office of county clerk for one term. Politically, Mr. McDonald was affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Charles sold out his property at Cottonwood Springs to the United States Government for $6,000. The land was then then converted into Fort McPherson, a military post. Charles then moved to North Platte on April 24, 1872 and lived out the rest of his life here in the community he helped establish. Charles was elected as county school superintendent, and served two terms. He later was elected county commissioner and served for one term. In 1873, he opened a general merchandise store in North Platte, continuing in such business until January 1909. He was also a large land owner, having several hundred acres of the best land in the county.

In 1878, he established a bank at North Platte. It was a private institution known as the Bank of Charles McDonald. In 1902, it was incorporated into McDonald State Bank. Charles was the Bank President until his death in 1919. After his death, Charles son, William H. McDonald, was promoted from Vice President to Bank President.

Charles was involved in several civic organizations and was a charter member and officer in most of the following North Platte organizations:

• Platte Valley Lodge No. 22, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons,

• Euphrates Chapter No. 15 of the Royal Arch Masons,

• Palestine Commandery Lodge No 985; and

• Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

Charles McDonald was raised in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (a more conservative branch of Presbyterianism), but there being no such denomination here, he attended the Presbyterian Church in North Platte. He also attended the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which his wife, Orra was a member.

Charles McDonald died on April 22, 1919 at 8:30PM from pneumonia. He is buried in the North Platte Cemetery.

Future Facebook Friday posts will be featuring: Orra B. (Henry) McDonald, the McDonald children, and the McDonald State Bank.

Thank you for reading!


The Swift Butter Company

Written By: nppladmin - Mar• 05•22
Originally published to on March 4, 2022.

Welcome back to our Facebook Friday history series! Today’s history is looks at an iconic building next to the railroad tracks–The Swift Butter Company! This article and building photographs are from the book, “City Bones” by Kaycee Anderson and Steve Olson. Second edition. 2012. Published by the Lincoln County Historical Museum.  Enjoy!

“Swift & Company of Chicago, a national company specializing in the handling of poultry and eggs, and in the production of butter and cheese, chose North Platte Nebraska, as the site of a new manufacturing plant in 1928.

On February 2, 1928, the Daily Telegraph reported that Swift had selected a site for the construction of a new plant. The site of the old Union Pacific round house was the chosen location. The place would be three stories tall, with ground space of 72 by 126 feet. The building would include reinforced concrete and fire proof construction. The lease gave Swift enough land for the erection of additional units when future demand warranted.

Plans revealed in September of 1928 indicated a change to the size, scope, and location of the building. The land area was reduced to 76 by 110 feet; however, the height would now be four stories tall. The upper three floors would be solid glass.

On September 24, 1928, the contract for construction was given to Collins Brothers of Kansas City. Work on the foundation began the next week.

The final plans for the building showed the building site dimensions had once again changed. The final measurements were 75 by 120 feet. The plans also included switch track connections that would allow direct shipments of produce to markets and unloading dock facilities.

The new building would face East 7th Street between Pine (now Bailey) and Chestnut Street.

Feeding batteries for poultry, located on the light airy top floors, would accommodate 12,000 chickens at one time. The chickens would remain in the plant for an average of one week before being killed and dressed. Fifteen thousand chickens would be processed every week.

A butter churn, capable of making 1,800 pounds of butter a day, would be in service with room for a second unit, if needed.

Eggs would be handled in the grading and packing room. The plant staffed eight women to candle, sort, and pack the fresh eggs in cartons.

Rooms for cheese vats would also be included in the construction. Fresh milk would be supplied from dairy farmers within fifteen miles of North Platte. Cream would be handed from the east of North Platte to the border of Lincoln County and from the west of the city along with the Union Pacific and Burlington Railroad lines to the Nebraska state line.

On April 22, 1929, it was announced that the plant was open. The first wrapped package of butter manufactured at the plant was presented to the Chamber of Commerce.

Twenty thousand pounds of butter would be produced per week with the first carload of butter being shipped to Manchester, New York.

On July 18, 1929, a grand opening celebration for the public was held. The plant closed for the day so visitors could tout the new building.

By 1950, Swift & Company was gone from the building. Hipp Wholesale moved in and remained for a number of years.

The Swift & Company Building remains standing today as one of the largest buildings ever built in North Platte. It is a visible part of the historic skyline of North Platte.””

See you next week for another look at North Platte History!

King Fong Cafe

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 26•22
Originally posted to on February 25, 2022.

Today’s Facebook Friday History looks at a popular restaurant located at 501 N Dewey Streets in downtown North Platte, Nebraska, the King Fong Café! You may know it or remember it as “Salon Nicholas” or “Stephanie’s” or perhaps even the King Fong Café!  

The King Fong Café opened in 1921 and continued to be a popular restaurant in North Platte until about 1960. By 1961, there is no business located at 501 N Dewey according to the 1961 North Platte City Directory.

Below are the managers/proprietors, listed by year, for the King Fong Café:

  • 1921-1931: Harry Chin
  • 1932-1933: Harry Sang Chin, other workers at this establishment: Gim Chinn, Kim Chin, Many Chin, Ping Chin, and Shung Chin
  • 1934-1937: Fung Fong
  • 1938-1949: Harry C Sang
  • 1950-1955: Harry Sang and Henry K. Chinn, co-managers
  • 1956-1957: Harry Sang
  • 1958-1959: Harvey E Sang
  • 1960: Harry C Sang

For a little while, I actually wondered if all the name variations, could actually be the same person.  However, after some deep research and digging, I can inform you, that these are all different individuals. And, because Harry Chinn was the first person to open the King Fong Café, the rest of this post is about him and he led an amazing life.

Harry Chinn (Chinn Tai Sing) was born on April 23, 1894 in San Francisco, California to Yep Sill Chinn (Chinn Sill Yep) and Rose (Wong) Zee. Harry’s parents were from the Mongolian Province of China.

Harry Chinn was 24 years old when he served as a cook for the United States Army during World War I. He enlisted in the Army, 40th Division, 43rd Field Artillery Regiment, and was a cook. Researchers believe that Harry served for two years and was honorably discharged in 1919. World War I soldier information would normally be available to researchers, however, a fire on July 12, 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed 80% of their records. The NPRC is part of the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA). During the fire, most of the Army records for WWI from 11/1/1912-9/7/1939 were damaged or destroyed. But by reviewing other information, it would seem that Harry remained in California after the war. Harry was involved with the American Legion in most of the communities he lived in.

Harry married Daisy Lang (Lang Kim Linn) on July 29, 1924, in Oakland, California. When they married, Harry was 30 years old and it is believed that Daisy was between 13 and 18 years old. And, there is quite a story behind their marriage.

Daisy was raised by her uncle, Charlie Chew, a restaurant owner.  Harry Chinn was a family friend since Daisy was a child. When Daisy dropped out of school to be married, a social worker believed that Mr. Chew, Daisy’s uncle, had sold her into the slave trade. And it really wasn’t such a far-fetched thought, because the abduction of young Asian women and selling them into the slave trade was becoming increasingly common. The social worker filed a report, which brought Uncle Chew into court to defend his niece’s absence from school.

The juvenile probation case hearing became “sensationalized” in the newspapers when a district attorney took the social worker’s accusations and openly accused Mr. Chew of selling Daisy in exchange for restaurant properties. It was also brought to light that Daisy was only thirteen years old!

Mr. Chew strongly denied the allegations, stating Daisy had been in his charge since she was an infant. He volunteered that she wasn’t in school because she had eloped with Harry Chinn. He insisted that her marriage was what happened, and that she was not being sold into slavery. The marriage certificate from Oakland, California was obtained by the courts, and it was noted that Daisy had acknowledged that she was at least 18 years of age (marriage in California required that both parties be at least 18 years of age).

At the hearing, “Mr. Chew declared that the girl, whose Chinese name is Leong Lee, and Chinn had known each other from childhood and that Chinn had come to Santa Rosa over two weeks ago, after a four years’ absence in the East. He described the girl as practically a Chinese “flapper.” In love with Chinn and determined to marry him despite any advice from her uncle. “He loved Daisy and Daisy loved him. I couldn’t stop them,” was the uncle’s version of the affair. He said the girl was born in Vallejo and that on the death of her mother, Chew’s sister, she had come to Santa Rosa to live with him.

On August 16, 1924, all parties were back in court. It was proved that love, not the slave trade was what took Daisy Lang out of school. Daisy stated that she was 13 years old when she *entered* grammar school (researchers cannot confirm Daisy’s exact age at the time of her marriage) and insisted that she was currently 18 years old. Her headstone birth year is 1906, which would make her 18 years old in 1924.  However, modern times tend to think of “grammar schools” as elementary schools, covering grades 1-6 or 1-8.  So it is unclear of Daisy’s exact age. In the end, the judge withdrew out all the charges, dismissed the case, and let the Harry Chinn and Daisy Lang marriage stand.

On September 11, 1924, the Chinn’s held a “Freedom Celebration” in California to celebrate their love and good outcome of the court.

The Chinn’s went on to have TWELVE children!  And some family obituaries actually indicate that there are 13 or 15 children; however, this researcher could only find/prove twelve.  No matter the number of children, this was a couple that was very blessed.

The Chinn’s children are:

  1. Harry Terrance Chinn, born in Solano, California (1927-1988);
  2. Edith May Chinn, born in North Platte, Nebraska (1928-1975);
  3. Doris A. Chinn, born in North Platte, Nebraska (1919-1946);
  4. Franklin Peter Anthony Chinn, born in Vernon, New York (1932-1997);
  5. Mary L. Chinn, born in New York (1935-unknown);
  6. Albert Eugene Chinn, born in New York (April 3, 1937-2005);
  7. Leonard David Chinn, born in New York (July 24, 1938-2015);
  8. Raymond Edward Chinn, born in Mount Vernon, New York (June 4, 1940-2007)
  9. Patricia (Chinn) Haynes
  10. Charlotte (Chinn) Williams
  11. JoAnn (Chinn) Wiles
  12. Linda Chinn
  13. Richard Chinn

From 1921 to 1931, Harry and Daisy lived in North Platte. Harry started out working in a laundry business, but quickly formed business partnerships with other Asian businessmen and in 1921, Harry Chinn opens the King Fong Café. Around 1928, Harry Chinn cut his ties with the King Fong Café, and invests in a new restaurant called “Golden Eagle Café”.

Sometime in 1931, the Chinn’s leave North Platte and move to New York. He opens up a King Fong Café in Mount Vernon, New York. And then, they eventually move to Wilmington North Carolina, where they live out the rest of their lives.

Harry Chinn died in Jacksonville, North Carolina at age 60. Daisy passed away in 1986 at age 80. Both are buried in Wilmington National Cemetery due to his service in World War I.

We hope you enjoyed our North Platte history!

Northwestern Telephone Company and North Platte’s First Telephones

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 18•22
Originally published to on February 18, 2022.

Welcome Facebook Friday History Readers! Last week, we talked about Fred Marti, who sold part of the 100 W 4th Street block to Northwestern Telephone Company. This week (part 2), we are going to talk about the development of the telephone and the impact it had on North Platte, Nebraska. And, did you know that when they dug the foundations for buildings in the 100 block of west 4th Street, that they found skeletons/human remains? The end of this post will also share the newspaper articles on those “construction hazards,” as well as the 1959 expansion of the Northwestern telephone building. Read on!

One can hardly remember the days of “long distance,” much less having to use an operator to connect a phone call. Cell phones have revolutionized our society. Likewise—the actual invention by Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone, dramatically connected people and was just as revolutionary as the cell phone.

Today’s post comes from “City Bones: Landmarks of North Platte” by Kaycee Anderson and Steve Olson. Second edition. Published and Funded by the Lincoln County Historical Museum. 2012.

“The history of the telephone in North Platte began in 1895 when Oliver Wentworth Sizemore, a former telegraph operator from Evansville, Indiana, decided to install the first telephone. According to the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune, printed on September 30, 1930, Sizemore was a follower of Alexander Graham Bell and Bell’s invention of the telephone. Sizemore had assembled a few crude telephone sets by the time he settled in North Platte, but he didn’t install an actual telephone until 1895; when he outfitted Dick Bank’s Livery Stable with a telephone device.

The telephone’s popularity was immediate, so he installed one in the A.F. Streitz Drug Store, in Charley Ling’s Lumber Yard, in the Newton Book store, and in Clinton’s Jewelry Store.

These first telephones were connected by iron wire, and, according to the paper, “Service was far from perfect, especially in rainy weather.”

The following year, Sizemore announced the installation of a switchboard in the rear of his barbershop at 116 East Front Street. Many businessmen were ready to install phones in their businesses and Sizemore’s “phone company” saw rapid growth. Within a few months, business became so great Sizemore had to move his telephone office to a room over Tom Green’s Pool Hall at 618 N Dewey Street. Sizemore operated his switchboard at this location for seven years.

In 1903, Sizemore sold his business to George P. Field. Three years later, in 1906, Field sold the business to E. M. Leflang. Nebraska Telephone company bought the business in 1909 and son merged with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. The expanding company located new equipment and additional workers at 611 ½ North Dewey Street in the Waltemath Building.

North Platte was growing rapidly and in order to keep up with demand. Northwestern Bell decided to build larger quarters. On Friday, August 8, 1928, it was announced in the North Platte Evening Telegraph that Fred Marti had sold his lot on the corner of Vine and Fourth Streets to Northwestern Bell for $13,000. Marti, a local butcher, had 60 days to move his home from the corner.

It was estimated that building would be built in similar fashion and for a similar cost to their Kearney building. That building cost $100,000. The Evening Telegraph announced that excavation for the new building would begin on November 1, 1928, even though the construction plans weren’t finalized.

On Saturday, December 28, 1928, the Crawford Company of North Platte was awarded the contract for all the electrical work. The digging of the basement had been started and work would begin within the next thirty days. During the following two years, streets and alleyways were torn up so cable line could be installed in the new building.

At 10:12 a.m. on Monday, September 29, 1930, it was announced that the switchboard was activated in the new building. The old switchboard on the second floor of the Waltemath Building would soon be shut down. Several phone conversations were in progress during the changeover, however, there were no interruptions during the transition from old to new.

The North Platte Community was treated to guided-tours during the grand opening for the new building held October 7, 1930. North Platte had grown from a town with 300 telephones in 1909 to a community with over 2900 telephones when the new building was completed. The “hello girls” at the phone company were averaging between 14,000 and 15, 000 calls in a twenty-four hour period.”

A couple of additions by this researcher:

On March 5, 1940, the newspaper ran an article with the headline, “City’s First Burial Place is unearthed: Located at Fourth and Vine.” Theodore Lowe was in the process of having his office building at 121 West 4th Street constructed, formerly the site of the Fred Marti home. In digging the basement for the Lowe building, the construction crew unearthed 6-8 skeletons in what was apparently the city’s first cemetery. This early cemetery was abandoned in 1871, when North Platte was just a frontier village. The article goes on to mention that when digging the foundation for the Northwestern Telephone building, several skeletons were found at that time as well.

So what did they do with the skeletons, in 1940? Well, the article states that the bodies were left and re-covered with soil and the buildings built on top of them.

You will see in the Circa 1940’s telephone building, that the facility was originally a two-story building. The January 31, 1959 edition of the Telegraph-Bulletin (North Platte) dedicated the front page to the new 3rd floor expansion and new technology. By the third page, the Don Musgrove Construction company has a clear picture of the newly expanded, three floor facility. The cost of adding the third for was $220,000

My how times have changed. We hope you enjoyed our look back at the telephone, Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, and Fred Marti! Keep reading!

Allen Wilson Tout – Lincoln County’s Ornithologist

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 11•22
Originally published to on February 4, 2022.

Welcome back to Facebook Friday History! Did you know that February 18-21, 2022 is the Great Backyard Bird Count? Click here for more information:… And read on for a fascinating North Platte bird lover who would have counted his birds, for sure!

Allen Wilson Tout was born in 1876 to Joseph Allen and Celestia (Gray) Tout) in Sutton, Nebraska. Allen was the oldest of eight children, and his father was a carpenter. Allen always went by his middle name, “Wilson”.

From: RG5117.AM Wilson Tout, 1886-1951 at :

“As a young boy, Tout had collected large numbers of birds’ eggs from the prairie near his home, but as he grew older, he began to realize how much damage his collecting had caused to the bird population. He resolved to teach his young students about birds and wildlife in the classroom. He hoped that this would satisfy their natural curiosity and that understanding would prevent them from destroying nests and killing the adults.

In 1894, Tout answered an advertisement laced by Isadore S. Trostler, who was trying to establish an ornithologists’ organization in Nebraska, but the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Association was not formed until May 1899. Two months later it joined with the Nebraska Ornithological Club, and in December of 1899, the name Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union was chosen for the combined group. Wilson Tout was a charter member and lifetime supporter of the organization. Among the charter members was his future wife, Eva Nell Harrison, a teacher from York, Nebraska. The courtship had begun in high school in York. Nell shared Wilson’s belief that education would provide the best protection for birds, and also taught nature studies in the classroom. They married on July 30, 1903.”


Wilson Tout graduated from York High School in York Nebraska, and then went on to York College, where he graduated with a teaching degree. During summer breaks at York College, Wilson attended the University of Nebraska. He taught school in Utica public and Clay Center schools for two years (1899-1901), then to Dunbar, Nebraska, where he remained for six years (1901-1907).

In 1907, Professor Tout came to North Platte as principal of the high school. Nell and Wilson had a son, Harrison, who was born in July 1905 and Nell was pregnant with their second child, Rebecca, born in October 1907. In 1908, Wilson was promoted to Superintendent, a position he held for the next twelve years. At that time, North Platte had six separate schools with fifty-two teachers under Tout’s management. The enrollment for the North Platte public Schools at that time was about 1,800 students.

During his time in North Platte, Wilson Tout was not simply a School Superintendent, but a very community-minded individual. By 1908-1909, He was a supporter and secretary for the North Platte Chautauqua Association. He served as judge at a state declamatory contest (Speech/Debate). He conducted County Teacher institutes; and attended County Superintendent and Teacher Association meetings all over western Nebraska. In 1910, Tout dedicated the newly constructed Lincoln School.

Wilson Tout remained the Superintendent until July 1, 1920. He resigned to purchase the Lincoln County Tribune from Ira Bare, who had operated that newspaper for about 35 years. The entire Tout family helped in the production of the newspaper and Wilson served as editor-publisher for twenty-nine years, until he retired at the age of 74.

From 1920-1949, the Tout’s passion for birds (ornithology) was clearly evident. The North Platte Bird Club was organized April 7, 1934. In 1954, the club name was changed to honor Mr. Tout, and became the Tout Bird Club. The Tout Bird Club dissolved in 1982. In 1938, Wilson began publishing “Lincoln County Bird” segments and articles in his newspaper. By 1947, Wilson Tout published a book, “Lincoln County Birds.”
Tout was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons in North Platte. He was also a member of the Musicians’ Union and played in both the band and orchestra.

Mrs. Nell Tout was equally as accomplished as her husband. Before she was married, she too taught in both the elementary and high schools in York, Nebraska. During World War I, she was chairman of the surgical dressing division of the Lincoln County chapter of the American Red Cross. She served as president and various officers in the North Platte Bird Club, Travel and Study Club, Sioux Lookout chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and North Platte Woman’s club. She was active in the Methodist church and taught Sunday school. She also served as president of the Nebraska Ornithologists Union. Nell also maintained a bird banding station of the USDA Biology survey.

During all their years in North Platte, the Tout family lived at 621 West 3rd Street.
Eva Nell (Harrison) Tout died on June 26, 1942, age 64.

Allen Wilson Tout died June 18, 1951, age 75. Approximately one month earlier, The Nebraska Bird Review had taken a photograph of Wilson and it was featured in the July issue of this periodical.

Join us next week for more North Platte history!