Thaddeus J. Foley Home

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published to Facebook on September 10, 2021.

Today’s North Platte history was inspired by a grand Victorian home that was built by an enterprising pioneer and North Platte Businessman—Thaddeus J. Foley.

Thaddeus J. Foley was born in Ireland in 1850. He immigrated to America in 1869 through Ellis Island. He came directly to North Platte and started a general merchandise store. He built a large two-story building, on what was the corner of 6th and Dewey streets (formerly the Alco Store parking lot). At the time it was built it was the largest building in North Platte.

Not only was he the owner of the “Foley Block,” but he also was one of the largest cattle owners in Western Nebraska. He owned over 6,000 head of cattle. He owned range land on the North Loup and Snake Rivers. There is a lake in Grant County named for Thaddeus Foley.

Foley had a partner in the general merchandise business, by the name of A. J. Senter, another original pioneer in North Platte.

In March of 1878, TJ Foley successfully ran for City Treasurer on a “Greenback City Ticket.” Thaddeus and other fellow North Platte pioneers & businessmen all refused to be paid for their governmental service.

On August 14, 1878, Thaddeus married Jennie Smiley (from Pennsylvania). Foley met Smiley through her sister who lived here in North Platte. The Foleys had three children. Their first son, Gratton, was born on July 18, 1879. Helen was born on August 13, 1881. The third child, Leonard, was born on July 23, 1888, but died on May 3, 1890.

By 1880, the business partnership between Senter and Foley dissolved. Foley continued running the general store business. And by 1888, Foley built a new grand home for his family, located at 405 West 4th Street (northwest corner of 4th and Willow Streets). The Lincoln County Tribune announced on October 27, 1888, that a new “heating furnace” would be installed that cost one thousand dollars. The Foley house was one of the largest houses in North Platte, taking up two city lots.

In 1892, Foley sold his big mansion to local attorney J. S. Hoagland; and his business building was sold to Henry Waltemath. Foley moved his family to Kansas City, and then Marshfield, Massachusetts. On September 25, 1925, the North Platte Tribune announced that the “old J. S. Hoagland home on West Fourth was torn down”. Hoaglund had passed away, and his son Arthur was having the house removed to build the duplex on what was the “rear” of the lot. The duplex still stands today at 408-410 North Willow Street.

On July 22, 1930, the North Platte Tribune announced that T. J. Foley had written and little “booklet” titled “Memories of the Old West”. The book told stories about his life as a pioneer in western Nebraska.

T. J. Foley passed away on November 25, 1938 and his ashes were scattered in a bird sanctuary in Marshfield, Massachusetts.

Thank you for reading and learning about North Platte History! See you next week for more fascinating history!

Chin Wing

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally posted to Facebook on September 3, 2021.

Welcome back! Ready for some more North Platte History? Then read on!

In 1920, Chin Wing, an American born man moved from California to North Platte. Chin started working as a cook in the King Fong Café. His cooking skills made the restaurant a place where people knew to go to for a good meal.

The first news about the Wing family occurred on April 27, 1929. The newspaper announced that Chin Wing and his wife Lee showed their loyalty to North Platte by naming one of his boys, “North” Wing and another son, “Platte” Wing. The paper wondered if other children would be named Lincoln, County and maybe Nebraska. Chin didn’t disappoint, he named a son, born in 1935, “Lincoln”.

Chin (1888-1962) and Lilllie “Lee” (1907-1963) had 10 children in total:

  1. Lucy “Rosie” Wing (1924-2011)
  2. North Chin Wing (1926-2013)
  3. Platte Chin Wing (1928-2013)
  4. Lily Wing (1931-whereabouts unknown)
  5. Mary Wing (born 1934-whereabouts unknown)
  6. Lincoln Wing (born 1936-2013)
  7. Patty Wing (1937-1991)
  8. Jean Wing (born 1940- whereabouts unknown)
  9. Charles Wing (born 1943-2012)
  10. George Wing (1945-

On October 14, 1932, the Evening Telegraph announced the opening of a new restaurant. Wing had leased the building at 116 West Front Street (formerly the Blue Goose restaurant) and opened up a new restaurant, The North Platte Café. The announcement in the paper it said you could get any item on their menu and pay once cent and get another of the same item FREE! <See advertisement>

Wing stayed at that location until 1938. The North Platte Daily Bulletin announced on May 4, 1938 that the North Platte Café was opening at their new location in the Brodbeck Building at 105 East 5th Street. The new dining room could seat 160 people. The café has air-conditioning, lavatories telephone booths and many new modern convinces according to the paper.

On November 4, 1941 the North Platte Café was almost a scene of a murder! <See headline article on the trial in the post attachments>

The newspaper story read: A cook at the North Platte Café, named Frank Fong was being harassed by an American-born German named Eric Brunkow, a bartender at the Ritz Bar. Brunkow started an argument with Fong by teasing him and then said, “It will be different when Hitler gets hold of you.” Fong stood up and hit Brunkow and knocked him to the floor. When Brunkow got up the fight was on. A waitress separated the two and ordered Brunkow to leave. After he left, Fong went to his room behind the kitchen and got his gun.

Meanwhile Brunkow went to the Glendale Rooms on the second floor of the restaurant and that’s where Fong went to confront him with the gun. When Fong found Brunkow he shot four times, hitting Brunkow twice, killing him. Fong was found not guilty because of insanity and sent to the hospital in Hastings.

On November 18, 1949 Chin Wing opened a new restaurant on the corner of Front and Pine (now Bailey) Streets. Right across the street from the Union Pacific Depot. It was a new building and much more space for his growing business.

Chin’s son, Platte Wing, started working for his father in the restaurant and became manager by 1960. Chin passed away on August 12, 1962 and passed the restaurant onto Platte Wing, who became sole owner. Platte followed closely in his father’s footsteps and kept the tradition of serving excellent meals at reasonable prices.

That tradition, garnered the North Platte Café national attention when a writer and a television reporter from San Francisco wrote a review of the restaurant in the Saturday Review magazine. The men had stopped and got off the I-80 and ate at the restaurant and went back three different times as they were traveling the country. Their first stop there was so good that they knew they had found something special.

Even though they never got to meet Platte Wing and his wife Margaret, they had talked to them over the phone many times. They quoted that, “Each subsequent stop at the café has lived up to the fantasies of memory.” At the same time the article came out in the Saturday Review, the Wings’ got the letter in the mail they had been anticipating. <see picture of Platte and Marge with their family in the post photographs>

The Urban Renewal Authority said they wanted to discuss their plan for rejuvenating downtown North Platte. The block where the North Platte Café was located was part of the urban renewal process and as such, all buildings were to be demolished.

By 1975 the North Platte Café was no longer listed in the City Directory, ending what just might have been the best restaurant ever in North Platte!

If you remember the North Platte Café or ate at it, please share your memories in the comments below. Thank you for reading!

Kate M. Woolsey: Children’s Librarian

Written By: nppladmin - Aug• 27•21
Originally published to on August 27, 2021.

Today’s Friday history looks at a beloved librarian, that many of our readers will remember. Enjoy!

Kate M. Woolsey was born July 25, 1880 in North Platte. She graduated from Peru College in 1899 and began teaching school, first at Echo School, then in Sutherland, Hershey, and finally at Washington School in North Platte from 1904 until her marriage in 1910. Following her marriage she moved to Portland, Oregon and remained there until 1932, when she returned to North Platte. She and her husband had two children. Kate’s passion for bringing children and books together left a legacy to the North Platte community. When the new North Platte Public Library, located at 120 W 4th Street was formally dedicated, in November 1967, the Library honored her by naming the children’s area, “The Kate Woolsey Children’s Room.”

The following excerpts are from an article written by Sharron W. Hollen and appeared in the November 27, 1968 edition of the North Platte Telegraph.

“When Kate Woolsey started out, libraries were for adults. No one thought of making special places for children, especially for children who couldn’t even read. But Kate Woolsey loved children as well as books. She also had a great deal of determination and managed to corner a basement room; and then a whole basement in the old North Platte Public Library <the “old Carnegie Library”, which now hosts the North Platte Area Children’s Museum>.

As a result, thousands of North Platte youngsters have been introduced to books and the Library over the past 35 years, with Kate Woolsey doing the introducing. Kate was a library helper when she began working in the North Platte Library in 1933. “We were just a library then,” Kate said, “There was no special provision for children. I’ve been batty about kids all my life and the same way about books; and I thought there should be something special about the library for youngsters.”

Miss Eleanor Wheeler was head librarian when Kate first proposed what seemed to be a rather preposterous dream. “It took an awful lot of persuasion on my part to talk Miss Wheeler into letting me have a room in the basement for children. She thought it would never succeed. I was determined it would. By the time they learned to read, the Children’s Library room was an old friend. The books they read introduced them to new friends and faraway places.” That single room grew into two rooms, and finally the entire basement. A one woman operation soon called for assistants.

Bennett Cerf once said, “The most unfortunate people in the world are those who have never learned the soul-satisfying pleasure of reading good books.” Thanks to one woman’s love and determination, there are thousands of youngsters from North Platte and the area who are not among Cerf’s classification of “the most unfortunate.”

Thank you for reading! And if you were lucky enough to have known Kate Woolsey, or have been inspired to read by a librarian or teacher, count yourself blessed!

See you next week for more North Platte History!

Paul Holley, a Pearl Harbor Hero

Written By: nppladmin - Aug• 27•21
Originally published to on August 20, 2021.

Today’s North Platte Friday History Series salutes all those persons who are currently, or have ever served in the military.

Paul Holley was born in 1918 in St Albert, Missouri to John and Everine Holley. John was serving his country during World War I when his son, Paul was born. They moved to North Platte when Paul was 11 months old and the Holley family lived at 415 West B Street. Paul attended school in North Platte and graduated from North Platte High School in 1937. Paul and his brother, Errette, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1938 after Errette’s graduation from high school. The brothers were both assigned to the USS California and were stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. <See the brother’s NPHS photographs>

At dawn on December 7, 1941, the 23-year-old NPHS graduate was on duty on board the USS California as a gunner. At 7:50 a.m., the first Japanese bombers appeared in the sky. The attack lasted two hours, and hit other military bases and sections of the island. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged and 323 aircraft were damaged or destroyed.

The California, a flagship of the battle force, was hit fore and aft by two Japanese torpedoes in the early minutes of the raid. The ship was later hit by a bomb; and nearly missed by another, both of which caused massive flooding. A large mass of burning oil drifting down “Battleship Row” threatened to set the wounded ship afire. She was ordered abandoned.

Errette followed the abandon ship order and jumped overboard into the oily burning sea. He and other surviving crewmen were picked up by a PT boat and immediately put to work trying to extinguish and control the fires that threatened to destroy the ships. They took the crewmen back to other ships to fight fires. When the crew returned to the California, they extinguished the fires and counter-flooded the vessel to correct a 16 degree tilt. Errette desperately looked for his brother. Finally, someone told him Paul was dead. Paul died passing ammunition during the battle, likely when one of the torpedoes struck the California.

Despite the crew’s best efforts to keep the ship afloat, the California settled on the bottom of the bay on December 10th, three whole days after the attack. When the ship sank, the bodies were removed from the hull and all the surrounding water. Almost one hundred officers and men from the ship were killed during the attack. Many were never identified. Paul Holley was one of those men.

At that time, the nation didn’t have the man-power or resources to identify all the bodies right away. The Country was at war. Most of the unidentified were buried in two different cemeteries in Hawaii. There were 647 unidentified from Pearl Harbor in graves marked “unknown”.

Holley’s parents received a telegram about their son’s death. Paul’s father, John, didn’t take his death well. He fell ill and passed away in July of 1943. Paul’s mother passed away in 1990. Errette left the Navy, got married and moved to New Columbia, Pennsylvania. Before Errette died in 2001, he told his wife that if they ever found Paul, he wanted the remains to stay in Hawaii.

In June of 2020, researchers believe that Paul Holley’s remains were positively identified. Per his family wish, his remains are still in Hawaii.

Thank you for reading Paul Holley’s North Platte story.

Walter A. Stevens and His Lost Medal

Written By: nppladmin - Aug• 27•21
Originally published to on August 13, 2021.

If you liked the “History Detectives” television program that aired on PBS a few years ago, then you will really enjoy today’s North Platte History! Read on…

Several years ago, a medal was uncovered from a residential yard here in North Platte. The man who uncovered it, was a hobbyist metal detector and loved searching for buried treasures. <see photograph of medal>

Inscribed on the medal was “Walter A. Stevens, 1st Lt. No. 589.” Around that inscription, the medal reads: “Santiago Campaign June 14-July 17.” And the lettering on the front reads: “Society of The Army of Santiago 1898.” That year, plus the inscription “Army of Santiago” tracks that medal to the Spanish-American War.

The man who found the medal tried to find a descendent of Walter A. Stevens, but wasn’t successful in his search. Before he passed away he asked his daughter to see if she could find anyone who knew something about Stevens. The daughter, who was a patron of the North Platte Public Library, thought, “I bet the library could help!” So, she brought the medal in and asked for our assistance in tracking down some descendants. Library staff members Kaycee Anderson and Sara Aden found a good deal of information about Stevens, but couldn’t track down any living relatives. So, Anderson posted a message on, specifically on the message board for the Spanish American War. Rootsweb is a genealogical online resource and we hoped that somebody would see our message about Walter Stevens. Months passed and nothing. No response. From anybody.

Approximately 16 months later, Anderson opened up her email and BAM! She received an email stating that someone had responded to her message about Stevens on Opening up that message gave them all the information they had been looking for, not to mention bringing life back to that unsolved history mystery! Not only did they learn about Steven’s family history; but that he had a granddaughter who shared several photographs of medals he won during the war, as well as a lot of personal information about his life.

Walter A. Stevens was a first sergeant in Company C, 22nd Infantry Regiment from 1898 to 1899. They traveled from Fort Crook, Nebraska (near Omaha/now a part of Offutt Air Force Base) to San Francisco, California, on January 27, 1898. Then to the Philippines, according to records from the National Archives army records, and a genealogical web site. Stevens saw serious action with the 22nd Regiment during the Spanish-American war. His regiment was the first American troops to land in Cuba, according to an account on The men struggled against artillery fire, snipers, heat, disease and lack of food; as they fought its way into Santiago, Cuba. Supply blunders left the soldiers in their winter uniforms for the training in Florida and during their campaign in Cuba. Summer uniforms were finally issued as they boarded their ship for Montauk Point, New York, in August. Out of the 513 officers and men who left Camp Crook, some four months earlier, only 165 returned home.

The records from the archives stated that Stevens enlisted in the United States Army on December 9, 1896, he was 22 years old. Stevens served 3 years and was discharged on Dec. 20, 1899. His character was rated as “Excellent.” It also stated he was born in London, England.

Stevens volunteered again when America entered World War I. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and later advanced to first lieutenant. He was discharged Sept. 30, 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Stevens passed away in 1950 and is buried at Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

So what does this have to do with North Platte and how on earth did this medal get buried in a residential yard? No one knows.

Stevens’ granddaughter said she doesn’t think Walter was ever in Nebraska; except for the time they left Fort Crook heading for San Francisco. Chances are pretty good that the train came through North Platte. Even if it did and the train stopped, it would have been before Stevens fought in the battle of Santiago, before he was awarded the medal. So we still have a little mystery on our hands, but I think that our research trail has now run dry.

Thank you for reading and we’ll see you next Friday for more North Platte history!