Spending a warm, September Saturday afternoon in a cemetery is fun, but talking to the dead makes it special. The 2008 Cemetery Tour of the North Platte, Nebraska Cemetery, sponsored by the North Platte Public Library Foundation, was held this past Saturday. And, indeed the dead spoke!
The theme of the cemetery tour was "The Movers and Shakers of Little Chicago." North Platte had a reputation of being linked to the mobs. Maybe they just created their own gangs and hoodlums. That era in our history is always interesting.
One of the leading players in the cemetery was Annie Cook, a ruthless character who ran the poor farm and preyed upon other, even her own daughter, for her personal rewards. From the time she was a young girl she knew she had to have money to succeed in life and she would obtain the money and status any way she could. She realized that to obtain that success she would need to grease the palms of corrupt government officials and there were plenty of them in Lincoln County, Nebraska.
Her own daughter became an employee and she put her out to work in prostitute houses that Annie eventually owned. Selfish, greedy Annie is buried in the cemetery. The person portraying her did an excellent job, even jabbing at the crowd with slurs about them and others that she knew. She was definitely a part of "Little Chicago." Rocking at the foot of her grave, Annie told her story, leaving out no details or expressions of hatred.
Others included Dr. Marie Ames who benefited from treating gunshot wounds and prostitutes, and the undertaker, William Maloney, who reportedly wrote out death certificates to the advantage of those who forked over the money. Ever consider that when you are doing your research? Maybe the information was padded or totally incorrect. There were many mysterious deaths at the Lincoln County Poor Farm that were covered up by Maloney.
The best book to read about the Little Chicago era of North Platte and Lincoln County, Nebraska is Evil Obsession by Nellie Snyder Yost. It was published in 1991 by Tom Yost Publishing. Now deceased, the author anguished writing it, knowing about the corruption that prevailed in this area and how it was accepted and covered up.