John “Jack” Sullivan

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 15•21
Originally published to on July 9, 2021

Today’s North Platte History salutes our early railroading days, as many of our early pioneers worked for the railroad. As well as an interesting tale of a man who fought for BOTH sides of the Civil War.

John “Jack” Sullivan was born on a farm in Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1840. A lover of baseball, John spent much of his youth on the baseball diamond, and went as far as semi-pro. He was also fascinated with train locomotives and the railroad industry.

When John was 12 years old, he was set to live with his sister in Virginia. By the time he was 19, he enlisted in the Confederate Army, 1st Virginia Cavalry.

According to an interview with Sullivan, by the Omaha Bee newspaper on January 12, 1908: “He was assigned to duty at the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry. He was on duty there at the time it was stormed by the famous “Osawatomie” John Brown; and later he was at the last scene of the tragic career of that enthusiastic pioneer abolitionist. “It was in December, 1859,” he says, “John Brown had been tried for the crime of treason and had been convicted and sentenced to death for attacking the arsenal. I was assigned to guard duty at the gallows the day of his execution. I shall never forget the look on his face as he walked up the scaffold steps. He did not seem in the least afraid though he was weak with long confinement in the close air of the prison. I was very patriotic, but I could not help feeling that there was a man being hanged for a crime which while technically treason, was not really that. Within a year, the great civil war had begun to settle the very question which John Brown had tried to settle by taking weapons forcibly from the government arsenal.”

When the war began, Sullivan found himself almost before he knew it, a member of the rebel army. He had lived with his Aunt in Virginia for seven years, and ended up fighting under the stars and bars of the confederacy. His record in the confederacy was creditable and honorable.

But, his northern sympathies with his family in Massachusetts brought about an inner conscience and he ended up revolting against the cause he originally fought for. Once his decision to desert was made, he undertook the dangerous trek of deserting and running the blockades. He left his Confederate camp one night and made his way through forests, across rivers, plains, and mountains; swimming, rafting, rowing, undergoing great hardships and risking his life at every step. But he finally got within the Union Lines. John J. Sullivan enlisted again, but this time, for the Union Army and served from February 1-July 11, 1865 in the 17th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment through the remainder of the war.

During the 1860’s (between serving as a soldier), John began working with the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad as a wiper in the roundhouse. After two months, where he was quickly promoted to fireman.

John wanted to move west; and in the spring of 1871, he moved to Kansas City, eventually joining the Kansas City baseball team. Unfortunately, his baseball career only lasted one season, but while in Missouri, John married Catherine B. Bowler on June 17, 1873. After their marriage, they moved to Omaha, and then further west, “down the line” to North Platte, where he was hired on as an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad. John and Catherine made their home on the corner of Fifth and Pine, where the Fox Theater stands today. They had seven children, however only four survived past age 22:

  • 1. Francis Joseph (1874-1941) “Frank”. Became the chief clerk of the Heintze copper mining plant at Bingham, Utah.;
  • 2. John William (1875-1952) “Willie”. He was a machinist in Salt Lake City. ;
  • 3. Mary J (August 3, 1877 – August 9, 1877);
  • 4. Daniel Leo (1878-1942) “Mickey”. He also became an engineer with the Union Pacific and ran a line from Omaha to Grand Island. ;
  • 5/6. Twin Girls— Mary Bebeanna, also spelled Bibiana in some research) (1881-1965) and Theresa (1881-1881). Researchers are pretty sure that Mary B. and Theresa were twins, but cannot conclusively prove this, even after reviewing census records,,, Family Search databases or Both females are buried in the family plot, with the same birth month and year. Theresa died in infancy and Mary B went on to live until age 83: Mary B. Sullivan was a very well read, educated, and quite literary. She wrote a number of articles for newspapers, including a poem dedicated to her brother entitled “Mickey the Engineer”;
  • 7. James S. (1885-1906). James drowned in an accident at Schimmer’s Lake, along the Wood River, near Grand Island. He was 21 years old and worked at the Union Pacific Machine Shops.

John kept advancing his career with the Union Pacific, and became a fireman, eventually working his way up to passenger service. In 1888, Jack pulled the Golden Gate Special which was billed as “The Finest Train in the World!” It consisted of five vestibule Pullman cars. Passengers could go to a library, a barber, enjoy a luxurious bath, eat a five-course meal, smoke and converse, or sleep. All cars had electric lights and a steam heating system!

On December 5, 1888, the Southern Pacific Railroad joined with the Union Pacific Railroad to introduce its first deluxe transcontinental service, the weekly Golden Gate Special, between San Francisco/Oakland via Ogden to Council Bluffs where passengers connected with the C&NW’s (Chicago & Northwestern Railways) trains to and from Chicago. The cost for travel between San Francisco and Council Bluffs on this train was $60 for the First Class passage and $40 in extra fare for sleeping accommodations and meals in the dining car.

John J. Sullivan retired after 35 years of service and moved to Kearney. He was a member of the Division 88 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. After the death of his son, James, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1908. He died June 1, 1913 at the age of 72. John and most of his family are buried in the North Platte Cemetery.

Thank you for reading and learning our North Platte History! I hope you join us next week!

Johnny’s Café

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 15•21
Originally published to on July 2, 2021

Welcome History Fans! Today’s Facebook Friday History features a look at Johnny’s Café.

Now, I love a good cafe/diner. The food is usually comfort food with delicious milkshakes and homemade pie. While perhaps not the healthiest of meal options, the food is definitely nostalgic and brings back good memories. I LOVE the first photograph showing Johnny’s Café (which is actually a postcard!). I can just imagine people getting on or off the passenger trains, going through the North Platte train depot (which you can see at the end of the street in the postcard), and coming out the other side, to find a place to get something to eat. This postcard is actually from the SECOND Johnny’s Café. Read on for the whole story!

Johnnie’s Café opened June 5, 1945. The hours of the café were 7:30AM-2PM and 8PM to 2PM. The advertisement states that Johnnie’s Café would feature noon day business men’s lunch, sandwiches, pies, and cold drinks. “Our aim will be to please you, with good food and service in a nice clean café with modern fixtures. –Lloyd B. Johnson, Owner”. We see the name on the advertising quickly change to Johnny’s Café (Johnnie/Johnny-different spellings) and stays that way through the rest of the story.

In 1945, newspaper articles and advertisements state the location of Johnny’s Café as 516-518 N Jeffers. However, most of our readers probably remember Johnny’s Café located on 6th and Pine Streets (now Bailey), behind the Pawnee hotel/in the Continental Trailways Bus depot. So we encountered a little “history mystery”!

In trying to figure out what happened between 1945 and 1970, I combed through the North Platte City Directories to find the answer. And sadly, the city directories are spotty through the war years and the Library only has 1942 and 1947 and 1950. This researcher is guessing that Johnny’s was opened in 1945-1946 at the 518 N Jeffers location and CLOSED because the owner, Lloyd B Johnson left to serve his country during wartime. Therefore, the business closed at the 518 N Jeffers address.

Then in 1957, John Garrick begins working as an agent for the Continental Trailways Bus Lines, located at 220 East 6th Street. Lloyd Johnson (former 1945-46 Café owner) is back living in North Platte and working as a recruiter for the United States Air Force. The bus depot has Anderson’s Terminal Coffee Shop in it at the East 6th location. The bus station sits on the corner of 220 East 6th and 522 N Pine Streets. So, although confusing, this is actually the same building, but because the building has separate entrances on both streets, the Bus Terminal starts out with the 220 East Sixth Street in the late 1950’s and by 1960, the main entrance has been “relocated” to the Pine Street side of the building.

By 1960, Anderson’s Terminal Coffee Shop is now called Johnny’s Café! Eureka!—I think I figured it out, I think? John Garrick is listed as the owner/proprietor of both. And he stays the proprietor of both until 1968. This IS the Johnny’s Café that most of our older readers will remember.

In 1968, Donald and Charlotte Meyer become the bus agents for the Continental Trailways bus depot and Johnny’s Cafe is still listed on site. John Garrick now lists working at the “Central Bar” as his place of employment. In 1969, the Continental Trailways Bus Depot is showing Regina M. Bollwitt as the operator/agent for the bus and Johnny’s Café is gone.

It is of note that the information printed in a City Directory was gathered the prior year, so it is likely that Johnny’s Café closed for good in 1968.

The photographs, pictures of matches, and postcards are all from the Johnny’ Café that was in North Platte at the 522 N Pine Street. The newspaper advertisements and articles are from both Johnny’s café locations, so be sure to look at the newspaper dates for identification.

And in case you are wondering, the Continental Trailways Bus Depot, along with Johnny’s Café were all torn down during the urban renewal about 1970, to make way for the business area where Alco (used to be), Brothers, Tempura, and Ace Hardware currently are currently located.

Readers, please view the attached pictures and advertisements—there is a fascinating article from 08/08/1945 that lists people and businesses that contributed $983.00 for the North Platte Canteen!

Thank you for sticking with me through the history journey. So many times, history is lost and when you dig in and look, you frequently uncover things you never knew! AND… If you remember Johnny’s Café or any of the people mentioned here, please add a comment with your memories. Thank you folks! See you back here next week for more North Platte History!


Postcards from North Platte

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 15•21
Originally published to on 6/25/2021

Happy Friday! It’s time for a little North Platte History.

Well, sort of. I guess it is time for a little honesty between readers, history buffs, and this library director. This week has been seriously super crazy; the Summer Reading Program is in full-swing, we spent time working on the Cemetery Tour research (which will be held Sept 16-17, 2021), NebraskaLand Days is going on, and it is budget time. Well, before I knew it, the week just flew by and Friday is HERE!

I had every intention of ending this week with a fascinating historic look at how NebraskaLand Days got moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to North Platte; and even started going through the existing research. In fact, the research we have is detailed, but incomplete. And, unfortunately, it is going to take weeks, perhaps months of research, to put together that history article. In fact, I think I need to write a book on NebraskaLand Days, or put together a presentation at the very least. Perhaps I can do that after I retire next year. Anyway…

Rather than skipping this week, I am taking a history shortcut and decided to share some fun postcards from North Platte, Nebraska from the 1930’s. Undoubtedly, many of you will have seen these, but I hope that you enjoy looking at them anyway!

For those of you who are a smidge younger than me, don’t embrace the art of writing and the mailing of letters and postcards; a postcard is a card for sending a message by mail without an envelope, typically having a photograph or other illustration on one side. People always looked forward to getting a postcard from friends and family who were vacationing in far-away places. I think everybody loves mail, especially when it is a letter or card (and not a bill!)!

A little postcard history:

On February 27, 1861, the US Congress passed an act that allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or under, to be sent in the mail. That same year John P. Charlton copyrighted the first postcard in America. In 1870, Hymen L. Lipman began reissuing Charlton’s postcard under a new name: Lipman’s Postal Cards. Congress passed legislation on June 8, 1872, that approved government production of postal cards. The first government-produced postcard was issued on May 1, 1873.1 One side of the postcard was for a message and the other side was for the recipient’s address. By law, the government postcards were the only postcards allowed to bear the term “Postal Card.” Private publishers were still allowed to print postcards, but they were more expensive to mail than the government-produced cards (2¢ instead of 1¢).

Happy Friday! Please tune in next week for another bite of North Platte History. I promise–we will have a great piece of North Platte history to share with you! Thank you and have a great weekend!

Charles F. Iddings

Written By: nppladmin - Jun• 22•21
Originally published to on June 18, 2021.

Today’s History post looks back at a grand Victorian home in North Platte, located at 519 West 5th Street. This neighborhood features many large beautiful Victorian houses and you may even see some original gas lamp streetlights.

The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune announced on May 19, 1887, “The fine mansion of C. F. Iddings on Fifth Street, is fast nearing completion and when completed will be one of the finest residences in the city.” <see original homestead sketch>

Charles Iddings was born on July 19, 1856, in Warren, Ohio. He moved to North Platte in October of 1883. One of Charles first jobs was to manage the railroad eating house, and the stockyards. He eventually acquired a lumber yard. He expanded his lumber business and had lumber yards in Sutherland, Maxwell, Hershey, and Julesburg, Colorado. By 1893, Charles purchased a grain business and a flour mill to his business interests. Charles did business all over Lincoln County, as well as several towns in Colorado.

Charles married his first wife, Kate (Taffe) Iddings and built a grand home in 1887 at 519 West 5th Street. Sadly, Kate and her baby, both died during child-birth. Charles remained in the house, living with his sister, until he married Effie Cleland in 1893. Effie and Charles had four children: Florence Elizabeth (1894-1994); Nanine Ray (1896-1998); Charles Forrest Jr (1898-1968); and Henry Cleland 1900-1970). Around 1896, Mr. Iddings’ health took a turn for the worse and he eventually became in invalid, leaving his wife to run all his business interests. <see photographs of Charles and the Iddings family>

The original house was a two and a half story gabled house in a typical Victorian style. There was a windmill in the back, as well as a picket fence (which was removed in 1904). A barn sat in the northwest corner with a wood shed, tool house, privy, and chicken coop. A playhouse and wash shed were built in 1904. Sleeping porches became all the rage around 1907; since it was better for one’s health, to sleep in the fresh night air, so Charles added sleeping porches. In 1911, all the small buildings were removed when Charles and Effie bought their first car. They converted the barn into a garage.

Then on Feb. 4, 1913 the North Platte Telegraph announced, “The Iddings residence will be remodeled this spring, the work to be done under the supervision of D. M. Hogsett. While these changes are being made the family will spend the time in California.” The major renovation included the house being raised up and an underground basement put in. The house was moved back over the new basement and a third story was added. Large wrap around porches were also added to the first and second floors.

Sadly, Charles Iddings didn’t get to enjoy the new renovations to his beautiful house for very long. He died a few months after the renovations were completed, on January 25, 1914. After his death, Effie sold all his business interests shortly after his death, but continued to live in the house for several more years with her children.

The current-day exterior of the home looks mostly like it did after the 1913 renovation, with only a few changes. Interesting facts about the house:

**Buffalo Bill Cody was a friend of Charles Iddings and used to pay poker in the formal dining room.

**On the first floor, all the doors were faced with the wood that was used in the corresponding room. Oak was used in the entry hall; cherry wood was used in the front parlor and dining room; and sycamore was used in the back parlor.

**This house is mentioned in Nellie Snyder Yost’s book, “Evil Obsession.” When one of Annie Cook’s captives escaped, she sought sanctuary at the “Kelly” house. Charles Iddings house is “the old Kelly house.”

The history of the ownership of the house is as follows:

  • Charles and Effie Iddings
  • The Cramer Family
  • A. P. Kelly (Owner of the North Platte Telegraph)
  • Sarah and Verne Taylor
  • The Ken Hornbaucher Family
  • Marcene and Darrell Franzen
  • Claire and John Hawley
  • Trista and Duane Smith
  • Rachel and Steven Stahr
  • And now there are new residents living there and enjoying this beautiful historic home.

Come back next week for more North Platte History and get out and enjoy NEBRASKALAND DAYS!!

James A. McMichael

Written By: nppladmin - Jun• 14•21
Originally published to on 6/11/2021.

Since we have been highlighting buildings and homes in North Platte over the past few months, I thought it was time for you to meet the builder/contractor of many businesses and houses. So, let me introduce the McMichael Family!

James A. McMichael was born on April 22, 1861 in Lickingville, Pennsylvania to Alonzo and Mary McMichael. James was the oldest of ten children born to Alonzo and Mary.

In 1878, Alonzo came to North Platte as a carpenter, builder, and contractor by trade. His wife and family joined him in 1880. Their last child born to them was Jennie May and she was born in North Platte, Nebraska. Alonzo established his carpentry business and built a number of the larger buildings and residences in North Platte. He was a hard-working man, who passed along both his trade and his honest reputation and integrity to his sons; who in turn continued the family carpentry tradition and also built many structures in North Platte. James became the primary contractor in the family, and three of his brothers were also carpenters in North Platte: Benton “Bent”; Franklin Clyde “Clyde”; and Howard Russell (Howard also served on the City Council in 1921).

On November 22, 1888, James married Sciota Salinda “Sota or Zota” Rowley, and to them four daughters were born: Estella M. “Mame” (1889-1968); Daisy Frances (1891-1958); Luella “Dollie” Margaret (1894-1927); Ruby Irene (1900-1943).

James’ work as a contractor led him to build some of the most prominent buildings in North Platte. He built the McCabe Hotel, the Palace Hotel, the Hendy-Ogier Ford Garage, the 2nd High School building, the Knights of Columbus Hall and more. James A McMichael also put up the first house on the site of Hershey in Lincoln County in 1890. One can only imagine how many other buildings and houses were built by the McMichael family, since only the large prominent ones are mentioned in the research materials. Many, many notices were seen in the North Platte newspapers of James McMichael starting or completing farmhouses, businesses, homes, and other types of buildings. By 1920, the name of his contracting business was McMichael Brothers.

James was affiliated with Lodge No 985 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

James A. McMichael died on August 21, 1924 in an Omaha hospital, after suffering a heart attack and stroke.

Family photographs are courtesy of Charlene Rowley.