Apr. 6, 1940 Lincoln Lancaster County Nebraska, USA
Mrs. Fitzgerald, Pioneer of Covered Wagon Days, Dies; Recalled Indian Encounters
Widow of Burlington Railroad Builder and Early Lincoln Banker Witnessed Growth of West; Saw Three Nebraska Capitols
Mrs. Mary Fitzgerald, 86, Lincoln pioneer and the widow of John Fitzgerald, pioneer railroad builder, died at 4:05 o'cock Saturday morning at her home in St. Elizabeth's Hospital. A resident of Lincoln from 1879 to 1930, she moved to Denver, and returned to Lincoln some time ago to make her home in the hospital. She was the grandmother of Mrs. L. R. Doyle.
Mrs. Fitzgerald had been ill just a few days and was seemingly recovering when she became worse Friday evening.
She had seen Nebraska's three capitols, helped her husband in the problems of building most of Nebraska's Burlington railroad and saw Lincoln grow from a small raw prairie town to a city of consequence.
A fitting tribute to her life was expressed by Mrs. Fitzgerald herself on the occasion of her 85th birthday, when she said that she had no regrets, "I did the best I could."
Born August 21, 1853 in Elgin, Illinois, Mrs. Fitzgerald moved with her parents to St. Paul, Minnesota, at the age of three. Her father wanted to go west, and nine years later the family decided to embark for the frontier in a covered wagon.
Covered Wagon Trek
So the company set out in 82 covered wagons, drawn by oxen, but soon split up. Mrs. Fitzgerald often recalled that trip and told how the other half of the party was attacked by Indians while the half she was with camped 16 days.
The company had been promised aid from the military post in order to help them through the Black Hills, but most of the soldiers were off hunting and with the aid of 50 cavalrymen, the migrants set out farther.
It wasn't long before they ran into Indians.
The covered wagon company returned to the protection of Fort Rice for the winter in order to be safe. Mrs. Fitzgerald's father did not want to return to St. Paul, so they went down the river to Sioux City and stayed there for two weeks.
In 1864, they moved on to Omaha, staying there a year and a half, then moving to Council Bluffs. She was married at 17 to John Fitzgerald, a railroad contractor. Her father was employed by the Union Pacific and freighted between Omaha and Denver with mules. Her father met Fitzgerald and invited him home and that was the first meeting of the young couple.
Mrs. Fitzgerald reminisced that Mr. Fitzgerald used to come over from Glenwood to Council Bluffs every Sunday. They were married in February 1871 and went to live in Plattsmouth.
In connection with his railroad construction jobs, Mr. Fitzgerald was also a banker, having a bank in Plattsmouth and later became connected with the Merchant's bank in Lincoln. He soon moved over to the First National Bank and became President, with John R. Clark as cashier. (Mr. Clark was also cashier of the Plattsmouth bank).
The Fitzgeralds moved to Lincoln in 1879 and acquired property extending from A to D Streets and from Nineteenth to Fitzgerald Streets (now twentieth). At that time only one house stood between the Fitzgeralds home and the capitol.
Mr. Fitzgerald, in addition to his railroad construction, was also active in Catholic circles and built the Catholic school at Thirteenth and M Streets, using brick from his own brickyard, and helped build the original St. Elizabeth hospital. He was later made a Knight of St. Gregory by the Pope.
He was also instrumental in bringing to Lincoln the Sisters of Holy Child Jesus and built a convent for them at Fourteenth and U Streets. Mr. Fitzgerald's name was commemorated by Catholic men in naming the Fitzgerald council, Knights of Columbus.
Mrs. Fitzgerald lived in Lincoln for 34 years following her husband's death. She went to Denver in 1930 and made her home with her son, Paul. She often visited in Lincoln after that and was invited by the Burlington railroad to be the first person to ride the Burlington Zephyr out of Lincoln to Denver.
Surviving Mrs. Fitzgerald are a son, Paul; a grandson, Chauncey Abbott of Denver; a granddaughter, Mrs. L. R. Doyle of Lincoln and five great grandchildren.
The body is at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Doyle, 415 South Fifteenth Street.
Source: Lincoln Star, April 6, 1940, Pg 1, Cols 2 & 3.