The Gilded Age Plains City

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


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Spatial Narratives

Interpretation and Narrative

Tunis P. Quick

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

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Figure 3

When Tunis P. Quick came to Nebraska from Peoria (or Chicago — sources differ), Illinois in the spring of 1870, he purchased a lot of land near Emerald where he raised livestock and settled in an elegant "modern style" home. Soon after he moved into Lincoln and became involved in the social, cultural, political and economic affairs of the city. He boarded first in the Metropolitan Hotel at the corner of Eighth and O streets and then the Delmonico Restaurant located between O and P streets.

In the late 1870s Quick erected a three story building on the southeast corner of Tenth and P streets where he was the proprietor of a saloon on the first floor. "Quick's saloon," as it was known, drew the most select patronage, such as Carlos C. Burr, of any of the twenty or so saloons in Lincoln at the time. It also became the quasi-official headquarters for many of the city's fraternal orders and societies. Two photographs exist of Quick's building, showing its front and the surrounding buildings on the west side of Government Square as they would have appeared in the 1890s. In both photos the Quick building is the on the left side of the block behind the Post Office building (Figure 1). Another photo taken in the early 1940s shows the building as it was occupied by a grocery store at the time. Beyond his saloon, Quick also acted as a wholesale agent for the Milwaukee Brewing Company and distributed beer throughout Nebraska.

As proprietor of Lincoln's most known and perhaps most rowdy public gathering place, Quick soon became the target of reformers and the police; subsequently, he was brought into the court system often. In February of 1874 members of the Ladies' Temperance Society organized a prayer meeting at the saloon but were locked out by a bartender named Whipple. They were forced to sing their hymns and pray outside on the sidewalk where they were surrounded by the taunts of a few men. When the group returned to Quick's the following day, they were met by all the drinkers of the city, including councilman Quick himself, who harassed the women. As a result of the incident, charges were brought about by a husband of one of ladies in the group and Quick was arrested. He spent over a week at the police court on the corner of Tenth and Q streets dealing with the charges of assault and battery, disorderly conduct, and carrying a concealed weapon. Quick also appeared before the police court numerous times in response to charges of selling alcohol on Sundays.

In the early 1880s John Sheedy began operating a gambling hall on the second floor of Quick's building that became Lincoln's most notorious casino, increasing the amount of attention Quick received from temperance and reformist organizations. As the 1880s progressed, the Quick building became a spatial battleground in the cultural conflict between those who maintained a "traditional" view that any product, even if it was alcohol, gaming, or sex, that brought economic growth into the city was ultimately beneficial and acceptable, and those reformists who sought to eliminate all vice related establishments.

Despite Quick's activities within Lincoln's demimonde, he maintained good standing within certain segments of the population and wielded some degree of political power and social prestige. On April l, 1873 Lincoln voters selected him as the city councilman presiding over the second ward. At that time the city council met at the fire engine house at 225 South Eleventh Street. Quick became well acquainted with this engine house not only as a councilman but also as the chief of Lincoln's fire department for fifteen years. In Quick's final years as chief, the department maintained a second engine house on the northeast corner of Tenth and Q streets. This engine house is shown in a photo of the Haymarket Square — it is the two-story building on the far right side of the image (Figure 2).

Additionally, Quick was a member of the Lincoln Board of Trade, for whom he served on the Livestock committee. The Board of Trade met at many locations over the twenty-two years it worked to expand Lincoln's economy. In the 1880s the group convened in rooms in a building at 1104 O Street. Many meetings, however, also took place in Temple Hall at the State University, the district court room, city hall, and the Commercial Hotel (which would become the Capital Hotel). Quick was also a prominent member of one of Lincoln's largest fraternal organizations in the Gilded Age, the Knights of Pythias. The Knights of Pythias occupied a hall in the State Block where they congregated for meetings and banquets. The three-story State Block, where Monday McFarland worked for a short time as a barber for Harris & Crampton and where the First National Bank was located, is shown in the photo (Figure 3).

Around 1876 Quick built a house at 1003 H Street where he lived for the next ten years. After building a second business block near Quick's saloon on the north side of P Street between Tenth and Eleventh streets in 1886, he retired from the saloon business to return to his farm style of life. On May 11, he died at the age of fifty-three. Quick's funeral was conducted in his home by the Knights of Pythias.

Burr, Carlos C. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
McFarland, Monday [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Quick, Tunis P. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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