Salute to Nellie Snyder Yost

Written By: nppladmin - Apr• 02•21
Originally published to on April 2, 2021.

Today’s North Platte History Story is a belated salute to Women’s History Month, which just ended on March 31st. We are highlighting a wonderful, inspirational North Platte woman, historian and author — Nellie Snyder Yost. She was only 4 foot 8 inches tall, but she was mighty woman who loved life!

Nellie Snyder Yost was born on June 20, 1905 in a sod house in northwestern Lincoln County to Albert and Grace Bell Snyder. Within 2 weeks of her birth, her family moved to McPherson County. As an infant, Nellie suffered a childhood illness that permanently damaged her spine and slowed her growth, resulting in her diminutive height.

When Nellie was 14 years old, the Snyder family moved to Maxwell (1919). Nellie was a sickly child and although she missed about a month of school each year; she still managed to graduate from Maxwell High School as class valedictorian in 1923. Nellie’s sister, Billie Lee Snyder wrote “We called Nellie the GREAT BRAIN because she knew many words and the meaning of them all – even how to spell them. I remember hearing her say, “I like words. I like the way they feel when they roll off my tongue.” From “Sandhills Kid in the City 1927-1938” by Billie Lee Snyder Thornburg.

After High School graduation, Nellie taught country school in McPherson County, riding horseback to her assigned school, some six miles every day! After teaching for one year she moved to Oregon and worked in a department store. In 1929, Nellie moved back to Nebraska and on July 6, 1929, she married Harry Yost. The couple lived on a ranch in Box Elder Canyon, south of North Platte for 30 years. Harry and Nellie had one child; a son, Thomas Snyder Yost.

In 1949 Nellie published her first book, “Pinnacle Jake.” The book is a recounting of her father’s stories about the west and ranching.

Harry’s health declined during the latter years of his life and he spent his last five years in the Grand Island Veterans Hospital. During those years, Nellie spent about 10 days out of each month sitting by his bedside, writing manuscripts in long hand. When Harry died in 1968, Nellie moved back to North Platte where she was very active in the Lincoln County Historical Society. She was part of the driving force to build a Lincoln County Historical Museum in 1976. She was also active in the Nebraska Writers guild and the Riverside Baptist Church. On August 30, 1984, Nellie married Frank A. Lydic. He was a longtime friend and fellow writer.

Shortly before her death, Nellie wrote her last book, “Evil Obsession: The Annie Cook Story.” It was also probably the book she became most famous for, at least locally. North Platte Telegraph editor, Keith Blackledge called the book a work of history that looked at the darker side of North Platte. The book was about a woman named Annie Cook who ran the Lincoln County Poor Farm. Annie was the true definition of evil. She was a corrupt woman, mentally and physical abusive to everyone she knew, and was accused of murder. It was a book about greed and power. And it was all true. Nellie had changed the character names to protect the people and the families that were still alive and living in the area; as well as some of the locations and directions around North Platte and Lincoln County. Of course, shortly after it was published, many lists surfaced with the real names of the people matching each character in the book.

Nellie spent many years doing research on the book, interviewing people who knew Annie, digging through the information to get to the truth. And when things got hard to bear, she put the manuscript aside. When she finished finally writing the book, the process had taken its toll on Nellie’s health. One can only imagine the inner turmoil and stress she felt when writing about community people she knew personally (townspeople, politicians, doctors, businessmen, church people, and more).

On November 9, 1991, Frank died. Soon after, while finishing a trip to promote “Evil Obsession,” Nellie developed pneumonia and was hospitalized. She was transferred to a Lincoln Nebraska hospital, where she died on January 16, 1992. She was buried beside her first husband, Harry Yost at Fort McPherson National Cemetery. The Lincoln Star Journal wrote, “Yost often said that her epitaph should read “she loved life”. Nebraskans are the richer because she lived it so fully.

Awards and honors:

  • Tenth Annual Spur Award for Boss Cowman, 1969
  • Eyes of Nebraska Award, Nebraska Optometric Association, 1970
  • Golden Saddleman, 1975
  • Western Heritage Wrangler Award, Cowboy Hall of Fame, for Buffalo Bill, 1979
  • Nebraska Foundation Pioneer Award, 1982

Bibliography of her books:

  • “Pinnacle Jake”. Caxton Printers, Ltd. Caldwell, Idaho. 1951.
  • “The West that Was”. Southern Methodist University Press. Dallas, Texas. 1958.
  • “No Time on My Hands”. Caxton Printers Ltd. Caldwell, Idaho. 1963.
  • “The Call of the Range”. Ohio University Press. Athens, Ohio. 1966.
  • “Medicine Lodge”. Ohio University Press. Athens, Ohio. 1966.
  • “Boss Cowman”. Nebraska University Press. Lincoln, Nebraska. 1969.
  • “Before Today”. Holt County Historical Society. O’Neill, Nebraska. 1976.
  • “Buffalo Bill: His Family, Friends, Fame, Failures, and Fortunes”. Ohio University Press. Athens, Ohio. 1979.
  • “A Man as Big as the West”. Pruett Publishing Company. Boulder, Colorado. 1979—biography of Ralph Hubbard.
  • “Back Trail of an Old Cowboy”. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln, Nebraska. 1983.
  • “Keep On Keeping On”. Self-Published. 1983.
  • “Pinnacle Jake & Pinnacle Jake Roundup.” J.L. Lee Publishers. Lincoln, Nebraska. 1991.
  • “Evil Obsession: The Annie Cook Story”. Westport Publishers. Lincoln, Nebraska. 1991.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.