Railroad Contractor, Banker, Millionaire
John Fitzgerald was a railroad contractor responsible for laying many of the primary railroad tracks throughout the Midwest. Fitzgerald was the husband of my great grand aunt, Mary Kelly. Mary was the sister of my great grandfather, Daniel Kelly.
Even as a youngster, this photograph grabbed my attention. Fitzgerald epitomized the Irish Catholic immigrant who created a better life in his new country.
He was born in Limerick county, Ireland in 1829.
The following is from Johnson's History of Nebraska by Harrison Johnson, 1880, page 242.
Groundbreaking in Plattsmouth, Nebraska
At a special election held in Plattsmouth on April 24, 1869, $50,000 in bonds were voted by the city, and donations made by individual citizens of a large number of city lots to the B. & M. Railway Company, on condition that the Company should erect there, and maintain depot, shops, and general fixtures, making and continuing Plattsmouth the headquarters of the Company in Nebraska; putting the road through to the west end of the County, all in good running order and actual operation, within sixteen months after June 3, 1869. These conditions were accepted by the company, and the contract closed by W. Thielson, the authorized agent of the Company, and the City Council, June 15, 1869. Early in July, in the presence of a large crowd of spectators, John Fitzgerald, at the foot of Main street, in Plattsmouth, displayed his strength and skill in "breaking ground" for the railroad track. In September, 1869, in a still larger and more excited crowd, the first locomotive, the "American Eagle," was landed and gave her first scream on Nebraska soil. The long wished, and long listened for whistle was now a matter of unquestionable fact upon the streets of Plattsmouth.