When Plattsmouth was founded in 1854, the Missouri River’s close proximity to the east end of Main Street brought extensive trade and travel opportunities. Expensive, stately homes were built in the downtown area. Many of these beautiful, historic homes are still inhabited today and are listed on the National Historic Register. Several offer bed and breakfast opportunities including Parmele House and Bankers House B & B. The finest in Victorian-style hospitality can also be experienced while participating in a tea or luncheon at the 1890’s Victorian Queen Anne home called The Heights.
The Cass County Historical Museum, on Plattsmouth’s historic Main Street, takes you on an historical journey dating back to when the town was settled in 1854. The museum includes permanent displays of pioneer artifacts, railroad history and agricultural memorabilia. Forty-five buildings in the downtown area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking tours are offered daily that tell the history of these buildings.
Plattsmouth Public Library, founded as a Carnegie Corporation Library in 1916, rivals larger libraries with its impressive book circulation, video and computer technology and hands-on reading programs for the whole family.
Besides the draw of the historic downtown area, Lewis & Clark history can be found where the Platte River joins the Missouri at Schilling Wildlife Refuge, east of the downtown area. Recreational programs for all ages can be found at Memorial Park, Garfield Park, Indian Springs Pond and Twin Rivers Aquatic Center. Situated on 28 acres of land in the southeast downtown area, Rhylander Park offers more than 52 species of trees, a bounty of flowering beds, gazebo, pavilion, youth league fields, and a cedar rail station in honor of the town’s railroad heritage. Three golf courses, Bay Hills, Plattsmouth Golf Club, and Lake Ridge provide top notch challenges for golfing enthusiasts.
The calendar is filled with annual festivals that bring the visitor a variety of exceptional entertainment. Band concerts, fun runs, historic heritage events, and other seasonal activities are well attended. Held continuously for 80 years, the Harvest Festival (formerly Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival) draws thousands of people each September to our community. Also high on the list of events that draw big crowds: “Rollin’ On The River,” one of the biggest fireworks displays anywhere; “Cruisin’ Main,” drawing car enthusiasts from four counties to the Show ‘n Shine Car Show; and, especially, the popular horse-drawn carriage rides and live reindeer at “Hometown Holidays.” A mixture of antique stores and niche shops await the shopper. Whether you want complete dinners, fast food, or delectable gourmet treats, our community offers some of the best in dining cuisine experience.
River, Transportation, and City History
The early historic settlers to this area were Indians of the Otoe Tribe. On June 2, 1739 Frenchmen, Pierre and Paul Mallet reached the mouth of a river they called the “Platte.” On Friday, July 20, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their expedition camped at the foot of a high bluff along the banks of the Missouri River, in what is now known as Cass County. They passed the Weeping Water Creek, from there they passed along the eastern boundary of Cass County and on Saturday, July 21, 1804 they reached the mouth of the Platte River. Today, this historic site, the confluence of the Missouri/ Platte rivers, is located on Schilling Wildlife Management Area and is noted with National Park Service Lewis & Clark signage.
In 1848, Libeas T. Coon established a ferry across the Missouri River for the conveyance of the Mormons who were moving westward to Utah. The first permit was granted to Samuel Martin in 1853 to establish a trading post near the Platte and Missouri Rivers. According to logbooks, 125 covered wagons were ferried across the Missouri River on May 9, 1865 and 2,360 wagons were ferried across in the month of May 1865.
Between 1850 and 1860, the Golden Age of steam boating on the Missouri, many side-wheelers and stern-wheelers docked at Plattsmouth (where 3rd & Main St. is today), affording almost daily service. The Missouri River was crossed by means of ferry boats until 1880 when a bridge was constructed and east-west travel was no long a detour along waterways.
In 1869, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad came to Plattsmouth. The town was a stagecoach stop between Ottumwa, Iowa and Kearney, Nebraska. It was also a terminus and shipping point for lumber and supplies from the east and cattle and grain from the west via the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. In 1891, the Missouri Pacific Railroad brought north-south transportation to Plattsmouth.
Between 1890 and 1940, Plattsmouth was home to the Burlington & Missouri railroad tracks, roundhouses and machine shops which at one time employed 800 men. During the ‘30s, the Burlington Refrigerator & Express Company began operations in Plattsmouth. The railroad cemented the future of Plattsmouth and at one time, the town claimed nearly 10,000 residents. The first locomotive, the “American Eagle” was brought to Plattsmouth by boat. In the mid 1960s, the Burlington Shops closed in Plattsmouth and many of its employees either retired or were transferred to the company’s Lincoln, Nebraska shops.
Today, the city’s Rhylander Park (south and east of the downtown area) is located on the site where the Burlington Railroad roundhouses and equipment were once situated. Commemorative railroad memorabilia is located in the park to denote this important part of Plattsmouth’s economic history.
Plattsmouth first appeared in 1854 as "the Barracks,” a trading post established by Sam Martin, owner of the Platteville ferry in neighboring Mills County, Iowa, ferryman Wheatley Mickelwait, and Glenwood, Iowa attorney and politician Colonel Joseph Longworthy Sharp. On October 26, 1854 the Plattsmouth Town Company was established and the city was mapped out by Surveyor O.W. Tyson. By an act of the Territorial Legislature, the town was approved in March 14, 1855. The town’s name was derived from the fact that the mouth of the Platte River emptied into the Missouri River near the town site.
The Romanesque-style Cass County Courthouse, built in 1891 and designed by William Gray, a Lincoln architect, is an impressive, yet functional addition to the downtown area. The Missouri River’s close proximity to the east end of Main Street brought extensive trade and travel opportunities. Expensive, stately homes were built in the downtown area during the late 1880’s and are still inhabited today. Many are listed on the National Register of Historic Homes.
Separating Plattsmouth today from its past would be nearly impossible. The city’s Main Street Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with 45 buildings listed on the national register. Bounded by Third, Seventh and Main streets and Avenue A, the district is comprised primarily of two-story masonry buildings of commercial Italianate design and is noted today as one of the oldest commercial streets in the state.