North Platte sculptor restores two historical statutes

The restoration of two prominent historical statutes is thanks to one North Platte woman.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 9:57 PM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Fort McPherson and the Sioux Lookout share historical relevance of growth and development for North Platte and surrounding areas. Two statutes represent the history and significance of the two locations.

The process began in the 1920s to preserve history from the pioneer period. Sioux Lookout is a high point of the Oregon Trail. It was used, by Indians, to look for bison.

“People would hike it and learn about the history and uses for the area,” said Jim Griffin, Curator Director of Lincoln County Historical Museum.

At the same time, across the nation and state, people were putting up statutes of soldiers in their respective areas.

“The statute over by Fort McPherson is another important spot in the development of Lincoln County,” said Griffin. “It represents all those who sacrificed their lives and allowed people to progress on the Oregon Trail and more.”

The Fort McPherson statute is a soldier standing with his weapon at the location where the last veterans said was the flag pole area. The Sioux Lookout statute is an Indian overlooking the Oregon Trail.

As years went on, vandalism and erosion chipped away at the history of the Sioux Lookout statute. The soldier statute near Fort McPherson also experienced damage. Lincoln County officials believed it would be best to move the Sioux Lookout statute to its current location in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse.

A North Platte woman is credited for the restoration of two prominent historical statutes. Mary Tanner has a background in scientific illustration and creative talents working with clay and wood. After watching stone masons repairing a building and learning from them, she knew she could fix the statutes.

“I used stone from the front of McDaid School to repair it,” said Sculptor Mary Tanner. “The Sioux Lookout statute, Fort McPherson statute, and school all used the same stone called Bedford limestone.”

She worked for over three months to repair the Sioux Lookout statute.

“I didn’t use power tools. It was all done by hand, so it took a while,” said Tanner. “A lot of the feather tips were broken off, so I would make a flat surface and re-carve them. I worked slowly at my own pace.”

Mary Tanner is also known for creativity at the North Platte Regional Airport. She designed the plane, and a Hershey man did the welding and built it.

“I am happy I can do what I can to support the community,” said Tanner. “There are lots of very talented people here in North Platte, so give a lot of credit to people here.”

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