North Platte Elks celebrate 100 years
By DIANE WETZEL , The North Platte Telegraph

One hundred years ago the people of North Platte were treated to the sight of Elks parading down Dewey Street.
The North Platte and Grand Island bands provided the music as Elks from Omaha and Grand Island joined their North Platte counterparts to dedicate the North Platte chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks.
It was June 24, 1905, and this week, the B.P.O.E. lodge No. 985 will have a celebration of their centennial on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the lodge at 1800 N. Jeffers.
The B.P.O.E was founded in 1868 and is one of the oldest and largest private organizations in the United States. Today there are over 1.1 million members in more than 2,100 local lodges found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and overseas.
The North Platte chapter originally held meetings at the Knights of Pythians Hall until the construction of a new lodge building, according to information provided by Larry Britton. On March 13, 1911, the lodge held its first meeting at 4th and Dewey, which first housed the five-and-dime Kaufman-Wernert, then later the W.J. O'Connor Store.
Buffalo Bill Cody's son-on-law, Fred Garlow was the lodge secretary the year the building opened. Garlow donated the elk's head trophy that is at the current lodge today.
Buffalo Bill was a member of the Elks, although not a North Platte lodge member. After his death, Cody was taken to the Elk's lodge in Denver where his funeral service was held, conducted by an Elks chaplain.
The present day Elks Lodge was dedicated on November 8, 1964. A class of more than 100 people was inducted into membership the day before the dedication, and was the largest class inducted at anytime in the lodge's history.
On May 9, 1994 a mortgage burning ceremony was held to celebrate the payment of the construction debt.
The North Platte lodge has donated many hours to the community. The building has been used for free health clinics and for oral dental clinics for low-income families. It has sponsored a wide variety of programs, some of which include, providing leather gloves to disabled veterans, Christmas baskets for the needy, and has been a leading participant in the annual Salvation Army Bell Ringing program. The lodge has sponsored a youth baseball team for more than 50 years.
The Wild West Memorial in Cody Park has been a highly successful lodge project. The project has a display of flags representing all the countries where the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show traveled.
According to Britton, Past Exalted Rulers of the North Platte Lodge have included two former governors of the state, several former mayors of the city, a state senator, several bank presidents, and attorneys.
"There are many fine men who are concerned with the welfare of the North Platte community," Britton said. "We are celebrating our 100th anniversary with pride and honor, and hope that the order and its benevolent work will grow and prosper."

©North Platte Telegraph 2005