The Gilded Age Plains City

The Great Sheedy Murder Trial and the Booster Ethos of Lincoln, Nebraska


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Interpretation and Narrative

Charles Gates Dawes

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Charles Gates Dawes arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1887. During the seven years and ten months that he lived and worked there, he occupied some of the most prestigious realms within the city. The central location in his daily schedule was his work office, although the location of such changed often.

As a young lawyer and businessman in Lincoln, Dawes first maintained a law office in 1889 in room 39 on the second floor of the Burr Block (Figure 1). In 1890 he moved his office to room 16 and 17 in the Richards Block (Figure 2) when he joined partnership with J. R. Webster and E. P. Holmes in the law firm Webster, Holmes, and Dawes. The following year he created a new firm with A. Bruce Coffroth and moved his office to 131 South Twelfth Street in a building located directly south of Funke's Opera House and a block north of Herpolsheimer's department store and St. Paul's Methodist Church. It is the second building south following the alley on the left side of this photo: (Figure 3) This would be the office where H. W. Weir would come to have Dawes research John Sheedy's real estate holdings. The firm moved offices again in 1892 into 210 South Eleventh Street in the Montgomery-Billingsley Block (Figure 4).

After living at 1344 J Street for a couple years, Dawes moved into a small cottage at 1400 D Street in 1890 where he paid eighteen dollars a month rent. This residence was far from spectacular and he did not maintain a horse and buggy. Among his neighbors, however, was William Jennings Bryan who lived two blocks east at 1625 D Street. As Dawes' income and stature increased, he was able to afford better housing and around 1892 he moved again, this time into a house at 1305 H Street.

Like all aspiring professionals, Dawes became engaged in Lincoln's social life. On November 2, 1887, just months after entering town, Dawes was invited by John Fitzgerald to a meeting of the Irish National League of America where he met William Jennings Bryan . He continued to develop a relationship with Bryan through his membership in the Round Table Club in which the two engaged in debate. Dawes and Bryan additionally attended the same Presbyterian church.

Dawes' spatial realm also revolved around venues where he met with law and business associates for meals. One of the primary restaurants he dined in was in the Lincoln Hotel (Figure 5) on the southwest corner of Ninth and P streets. A photo of the interior of the restaurant taken around 1912 exists showing Lincoln Market employees at a diner reception in the same room where Dawes had met with his associates in the 1890s (Figure 6). Lincoln Park was another location that he enjoyed, both for recreation and for dining at the restaurant there. A photo survives of the Lincoln Park Restaurant from 1903 (Figure 7). Dawes also enjoyed the opera and frequently viewed shows, most often attending the Lansing Opera House on the southwest corner of Thirteenth and P streets.

Bryan, William Jennings [Brief Biography]
Dawes, Charles Gates [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Fitzgerald, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Weir, H.W. [Brief Biography]

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Directed by Timothy R. Mahoney, Plains Humanities Alliance, in collaboration with the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.
Funded by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, the Nebraska Humanities Council, and the Plains Humanities Alliance.
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