His nose is missing and he has a blank stare, but he stands just like he has for 85 years, watching over the route that settlers took along the South Platte River to reach the West.Sometime in the past, a shotgun blast damaged the face of 1928 Ft. McPherson statue, and now some North Platte residents want to polish it up.
The statue is at the site of the original Ft. McPherson, a couple miles from Ft. McPherson National Cemetery south of Maxwell.
That area recently got new landscaping, thanks to the efforts of rural Maxwell resident Logan Mull and his Eagle Scout project.
Mull gathered volunteers to contruct a parking area on the side of the road, where motorists and even tour buses can stop to see the statue. He and his helpers landscaped the area, put a bench at the site and built new fence behind.
But the soldier's face remains damaged.
Sculptor Mary Tanner recently took a close look at it and said she could repair it.
Tanner, who restored the face of the Sioux lookout monument that now stands at the corner of the Lincoln County Courthouse, said the Ft. McPherson statue is made of Bedford stone, and she has the stone on hand in her shop. She would also clean the statue and remove lichen that is growing on it.
Other than the face, the statue is in good shape.
Lincoln County Historical Museum Director Jim Griffin has expressed an interest in helping fund the $800 renovation, but more contributions will be needed.
A donation account has been started for the renovation. Contributions can be sent to the Lincoln County Historical Museum - Ft. McPherson statue.
The mailing address is Lincoln County Historical Museum, 2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave. North Platte, NE 69101.
Ft. McPherson anniversary
Griffin is working on a broad display of Ft. McPherson this year to observe the 150th anniversary of the fort.
The fort was first occupied in 1863. It operated until 1880.
Griffin is creating a permanent museum display of artifacts from the fort, including an interactive four-foot square replica of the fort.
Griffin said busloads of people could arrive this summer to see the fort, including travelers on the old Lincoln Highway who are driving the first U.S. coast-to-coast highway, which historically goes past the Ft. McPherson statue.
The Lincoln Highway is also observing its centennial this year.
On March 19, 1928 the County Commissioners announced that John Ritner of North Platte was awarded the contract for his design of a Civil War soldier statue to mark the spot of the site.
The cost would be approximately $800, which the county would pay, according to a newspaper report.
Ritner sent the design to Bedford, Ind. with the order. The life-size soldier was built on a four-foot pedestal, on a concrete base. On the pedestal was an inscription with the date of the fort and the year of its abandonment.
Sidney Guy Tibbetts donated the land and the monument was erected on Ft. McPherson Road and surrounded by an iron fence.
The statue was finished by May 15 and dedicated during Memorial Day services.
It was “commanding,” the North Platte newspaper said, and located “such as to draw the attention of all travelers on that main valley highway.”
“The marking of this historic spot, once the outpost of civilization and a safeguard against depredations by the wily Sioux, is in line with similar markings that are being made throughout the state,” the newspaper said.
First published in the Bulletin's Feb. 27 print edition.