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Historical monuments beg for restorationTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Leaning overland ranch monument.
Courtesy Photo­Image
Marker in Cottonwood Canyon
Courtesy Photo­Image
Closer view of Ft. McPherson Trail marker in Cottonwood Canyon.
Courtesy Photo­Image
The memorial side of Ft. McPherson Trail marker.

Lincoln County is rich with history.

Traveling through the county one can find monuments of many kinds — on the Oregon Trail, Pony Express route and the Lincoln Highway, to name a few.

These monuments document our history. How one documents history, whether by monuments, written words, films, photos or artifacts, it doesn’t matter, it should be preserved.

South of Maxwell along East Ft. McPherson Road, past a statue of a soldier at the original site of Fort McPherson, stands an historic monument that needs restoration.

The monument was erected on June 14, 1931 by Platte Valley Lodge No. 32 of the Masons and presented to Lincoln County by William H. McDonald, the first white child born in Lincoln County, the son of pioneer Charles McDonald.

The monument was dedicated on William McDonald’s 70th birthday. It marks the site of Charles McDonald’s “Road Ranch,” along the Oregon Trail, where travelers could stop, rest and replenish supplies.

The 18-foot-tall, red granite monument carries an inscription that is divided into two parts. The top reads: “Overland Ranch of Charles McDonald, Established at Cottonwood Springs on Oregon Trail, January 1860.”

The ranch was later on the east border of Fort McPherson, when the fort was established in 1863.

The bottom half of the monument reads: “Site of first home of Platte Valley lodge, No. 32, A.F.& A.M., organized November 15, A.L. 5869. U.D. Jan. 15 A.L. 5870, Chartered June 28 A.L. 5870, Moved to North Platte Sept. 10 A.L. 5872. This stone dedicated June 14 A.L. 5831.”

The stone sits on the south side of the road in a privately owned pasture. The stone is leaning toward the road ditch and is unprotected from livestock that might want rub against it. It sits on a concrete base but the ground below has been undermined.

Cottonwood Canyon

Another monument in danger of being lost is in Cottonwood Canyon in the hills southeast of North Platte. The stone was also erected in July 1930.

Frank Neiswanger of Cambridge erected the stone at his own expense. Frank loved history and placed standing monuments across the state.

The monument in Cottonwood Canyon is in middle of a pasture, with no protection. Cows use it for a rubbing post and it has sunk into the ground. The bottom words on the stone cannot be read without digging.

The stone has inscriptions on both sides. The north side bears a buffalo and commemorates Fort McPherson and the migration trail that ran through Cottonwood Canyon, once used by thousands of buffalo as well as Buffalo Bill in his famous hunt with the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia.

The south side of the stone has the names of many prominent citizens of Lincoln County of that time.

It reads: “In memory of Early Settlers of Cottonwood Springs and Fort McPherson 1854, Chas. McDonald built and operated first store, John Burke Sr. built first bridge across Platte; Fred Erickson first blacksmith; M.C. Keith first extensive cattleman; Cyrus Fox, Theo. Lowe, Chas Hendy, R.M. McMurry surviving soldiers of the old Fort McPherson; John Gilman, Ike Boyer, Sam Ritchie, John Burke and four brothers all ranchmen and holders of various government contracts.

The south side of the marker says: “Fort McPherson Trail from 1868 to 1880. Last of the old west hunting grounds of our pioneer scouts and plainsmen: Buffalo Bill Cody, General Sheridan, General Custer, General Carr.

These are some of the many names included on that side of the marker. The list also includes Doc Carver, Paddy Miles and John Bratt.

The stone is made of red sandstone and mounted on a concrete base.

This report was first published in the Aug. 8 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 8/14/2011
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