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Remembering railroaders, ranchers, thievesTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Washington Hinman
Courtesy Photo­Image
Jack Morrow
Courtesy Photo­Image
Morrell Case Keith
Courtesy Photo­Image
Charles McDonald
Courtesy Photo­Image
Edward D. Morin
Courtesy Photo­Image
George Vroman

Railroaders, ranchers and thieves from Lincoln County history came alive Friday on a North Platte Cemetery Tour.

The "tour" will move indoors Tuesday night from 7-9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express (300 Holiday Frontage Rd.)

Advance tickets are $10 or $15 at door (after 7 p.m.). Children under 16 years free with accompanying paid adult.

The tour is a look at the departed who have helped bring us to where we are.

The Cemetery Tour, part of the North Platte Rail Fest, pays homage to ancestors who fought the elements to build the railroad, the ranching industry, and sometimes lined their own pockets in less-than scrupulous ways.

Actors perform living history, standing onstage or at the gravesite in period costume, telling their unique and interesting stories in a dramatic presentation.

The "ghosts" on this particular tour include the early pioneers of Lincoln County who ranched or arrived with the Union Pacific Railroad, many of whom became civic leaders.

The characters:

Washington Hinman

portrayed by Colin Taylor

Washington Hinman was born in Wysox, Penn. on Sept. 14, 1819.

Hinman was raised on a farm, but wanted to explore the Wild West. He left home when he was 19 years old to go West.

After exploring the upper Midwest, he headed to California during the gold rush fever. Discouraged after not finding much gold, he wandered north into Oregon and built up a lumber business.

Hinman saw an advertisement for Indian Interpreters at Fort McPherson, Neb. and headed that way.

Washington Hinman became a major supplier of beef and lumber to the military. He built a steam sawmill near Cottonwood Springs. He became a Lincoln County Commissioner and in 1868 he helped temporarily shut down the railroad for failure to pay local property taxes.

He led a fasinating life and died at the age of 84 on Jan. 27, 1904.

Jack Morrow

John Andrew “Jack” Morrow was born around 1832 in Pennsylvania to John and Sophia Morrow.

Not much information could be found about his life before he left home and came west.

But in 1860, at the age of 28, Morrow is listed in the U.S. Census as an Indian trader in Shorter (now Lincoln ) County, Neb. worth a personal estate value of $10,000.

According to George Stephens, author of Annals of Wyoming: “Adventurous men, some good, some bad, had many stories woven around them in the early days. Jack Morrow was one of the bad ones.”

This notorious thief rose to become a Lincoln County commissioner in the Nebraska Territory , but his drinking and gambling consumed his wealth and he died in poverty in 1885.

Sarah Dwyer

portrayed by Teresa Smith

Sarah (Duffy) Dwyer was born in January 1841 in Ireland.

Duffy grew up and married John Dwyer in Ireland. They arrived in America on Dec. 16, 1869 with two young children, Alice, 6, and John, just nine-months old.

It is unknown when the Dwyers arrived in North Platte, but research shows that the Dwyers owned a house on Front Street with their saloon next door. According to Lincoln County Courthouse records the legal description for the Dwyers house and saloon was: Lot 2, Block 105, Original Town. That lot is on the corner of Front and Walnut streets.

Sarah kept the saloon after John’s death in 1873. She was a feisty Irish woman who was a force to be reckoned with if you got out of line in her saloon according to the North Platte Republican on March 27, 1875.

In a man’s world, Sarah did what was needed to do to keep her family fed. She was a “benevolent, kind-hearted soul,” according to Archibald Adamson, author of North Platte and it’s Associations.

Dwyer passed away on March 7, 1901.

Morrell Case Keith

portrayed by Bill Kackmeister

Morrell Case Keith was born on Nov. 21, 1824 in Silver Creek, New York.

Keith and wife Susan moved to Apple Grove, Iowa and ran a hotel. Keith joined a wagon train and the westward migration and settled in Topeka, Ks. From there, he went to St. Joseph, Mo.

According to Irene Neville Bystrom, Keith’s granddaughter, author of Tagging Along,

Six years later, in 1867, the couple moved to Ogallala. In 1873, the county was organized and named Keith County – named for Morrell Case Keith.

Shortly after that, Keith moved to Lincoln County and developed the Pawnee Springs Ranch.

The obituary for Morrell Case Keith dated, Sept. 29, 1899 , stated, “The deceased was a man of quiet habits whose principle enjoyment in life in later years, has been the companionship of his grandson, to whom he was very devotedly attached. He was well known throughout the state and had hosts of warm friends to whom his death brings a sense of irreparable loss.”

Helen Ritner

portrayed by Shelly Deardoff

Helen M. (Thomas) Ritner was born Oct. 2, 1845, near Cleveland, Ohio. In 1863, at age 18, Ritner married Alexander W. Randall. Randall was the Governor of Wisconsin from 1858- 1861.

The Randalls adopted a daughter, Julia shortly after her birth in Elmira, N.Y., in 1867 according to Julia’s obituary.

Alexander Randall passed away in 1872.

Following his death, Ritner moved to Nebraska where she became Nebraska’s first cattle queen. She operated a dairy cattle ranch near North Platte. In 1885, she married William C. Ritner, a cowboy who worked for her.

The biography of William C. Ritner in “An Illustrated History of Lincoln County, Nebraska And Her People” states that the Ritner’s adopted several more children during their marriage.

The Adam County Press (Wisconsin), stated in 1879, “She has become rich, and that she has the reputation of being one of the sharpest business managers in Nebraska.”

Ritner’s obituary on Oct. 7, 1918, said that, “She was universally admired for beauty, grace and intellectual gifts, while her gracious and winning manners were the true indication of a gentle and generous nature.”

Charles McDonald

portrayed by Andrew Lee

Charles McDonald was born Oct. 25, 1826 in Jefferson County, Tenn. He was the ninth of 11 children born to Alexander and Mary McDonald.

In 1859, Charles relocated to Cottonwood Springs where he operated a trading post and rest stop along the bluffs on the Oregon Trail, east of the entrance to Cottonwood Canyon and east of North Platte . McDonald was integral in convincing the U.S. War Department to locate Fort McPherson south of Maxwell.

First in Cottonwood Springs and later in North Platte, McDonald owned and operated a general store and ranch until 1898.

McDonald was highly involved in community affairs. He organized Shorter (now Lincoln) County and moved to North Platte, where he started a general merchandise store and later founded The Bank of Charles McDonald.

McDonald passed away on April 22, 1919 at the age of 92 after leading a full life and being involved in community affairs. The McDonald-Belton building at the North Platte Community College is named in part for his son, William McDonald, first white child born in Lincoln County.

Edward de Morin

portrayed by Michael Davis

Edward de Morin was born in Montreal, Canada to French Canadian parents in 1818. At age 16, Morin was employed as a boatman at Fort Dearborn, Ill. Morin’s father was a voyageur and trader on the St. Lawrence River and was influential in Edward’s life.

In 1836, Morin joined the American Fur Company engaging in the fur trade with Indians along the Missouri River. During that winter he lived with the Ponca Indians near the Niobrara River.

After Morin’s marriage and working as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, the Morin’s settled in Nebraska Territory and what would become Lincoln County. He was well-known in the area as one of the leading Indian interpreters for the government for many years.

Morin established a trading post at the mouth of Box Elder Canyon and later south of North Platte near today’s Moran Canyon according to the North Platte Telegraph Compass, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1987.

Moran died in 1902 at the age of 84.

George Vroman, as told by his daughter Arba Vroman

portrayed by Lois Lynes-Miles

George W. Vroman was born Sept. 27, 1841, at Fitchburg, Wisc.

The Silver Anniversary Souvenir booklet printed in 1907 stated that Vroman began working for the Wabash Railroad in La Fayette, Ind. in December 1861. He worked as a fireman for two years, and then in the summer of 1863, he was promoted to engineer.

George Vroman came to North Platte in January 1869, the year the Union Pacific Railway was completed. In 1877, Vroman organized the first general committee of adjustment for the settlement of grievances.

He was elected general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), an organization working to protect the rights of its members.

George Vroman married Mary Jordan in 1874. They had five sons and two daughters.

George proved his dedication to issues of labor relations when he named his second daughter "Arba Tration Vroman." He died May 9, 1921.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 9/17/2012
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