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RG0907.AM:  Platt Family

Papers:  1843-1960, n.d.

Tabor, Iowa;  Genoa, Nance County, and Columbus, Platte County, Nebraska:  Missionaries and teachers to Pawnee

Size:  0.5 cu.ft.; 1 box


Lester Ward Platt (18? -1875) received government appointments as School Teacher, Assistant Agriculturalist, and Farmer to the Pawnee during the 1840s. His wife, Elvira Gaston Platt (1818-1914), assisted him in his teaching labors. In addition, after Lester’s death, she taught for three years at the Carlisle (PA) Indian School. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Charlotte Ricketts Lehmann (1843-1919), a niece to the Platts, was also a teacher to the Pawnee, prior to her 1863 marriage to Charles M. Whaley. The Whaleys had three children, one of whom, George H. (1870-1960), is represented in this collection. Samuel Platt Ricketts (1851-1937), nephew of the Platts and brother to Lizzie, is also represented in this collection.


This collection is arranged in six series: 1) Lester W. Platt, 1843-1848; 2) Elvira Gaston Platt, 1853-1914 and undated; 3) Elizabeth Ricketts Whaley Lehman, 1857-1876 and undated; 4) Samuel Platt Ricketts, 1858-1862; 5) George H. Whaley, 1891 and 1955-1962; and 6) Miscellany. This material relates primarily to the missionary and teaching work of members of the Platt, Gaston, and Ricketts families. Also included is information about the Lehman Family, and settlement in and around Tabor, Iowa, just north of Nebraska City, Nebraska.

The Lester W. Platt materials of Series 1, 1843-1848, consist of copies of documents nominating him as School Teacher and Assistant Agriculturalist for the Pawnee. Included also is the nomination of his brother-in-law, George B. Gaston, as Assistant Farmer, financial claims filed by Platt, and other appointment requests. The originals of these documents are filed at the National Archives.

Series 2 consists of biographical material about and correspondence of, Elvira Gaston Platt. The materials include autobiographical writings, a description of the location of the Pawnee Mission Station, and an obituary. Elvira Platt’s correspondence describes her life among the Pawnee. Her letters are written to Iowa newspapers, relatives, and to William E. Connelly, a historian who shared her desire to show “what the Indian was before he was demoralized and degraded by his associations with the white man.” In her letters she describes the Pawnee language, Pawnee Chiefs she had known, and conditions under which she worked. Included among her letters to Connelly are two essays entitled “Why Did I Go To Teach the Pawnees?” and “How Did the Pawnees Receive Us?” For the most part, these letters are typed transcripts of originals not in the Society’s possession.

The letters of Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ricketts Whaley Lehman comprise Series 3, 1857-1876, n.d.. Written primarily to her mother and other relatives, Lizzie describes her teaching experiences in southwest Iowa and on the Pawnee Reserve where she was in charge of the sewing and knitting department. After her 1863 marriage to Charles Whaley, most of her letters contain family news and descriptions of life in Columbus, Nebraska where the Whaleys operated a hotel. Most of the letters in this series are typescripts. Lizzie’s obituary is located in Folder 2 of this series.

Series 4 consists of a letters from Samuel Platt Ricketts to his mother including one written while passing through “Platte City,” Nebraska during a freighting trip.

Correspondence of George H. Whaley comprises Series 5. Included is an 1891 letter to his grandmother while Whaley was a University of Nebraska student. Letters from 1955-1960 pertain to Whaleys and Ricketts family history. A 1962 letter from George H. Whaley’s son records Whaley’s death date in 1960. The letters in this series are all typescripts, although a photocopy of the 1891 letter is also included.

The Miscellany of Series 6 includes historical material about Sidney and Fremont County, Iowa, Nebraska City, Nebraska, and freighting, a children’s school atlas, and miscellaneous other items.

Note: Photographs of Platt Family members are located in RG0907.PH (Platt Family photo collection) as well as the Portrait Collection (RG2411.PH), and RG3357.PH (Families).

A small collection of Platt Family items is housed at the Nebraska History Museum. Not all artifacts are on display; researchers must call for an appointment before scheduling a visit.


Series 1 – Lester W. Platt, 1843-1848

Box 1


  1. Nominations for Indian Agency positions, 1843-1848

Series 2 – Elvira Gaston Platt, 1853-1914, n.d.

  1. Biographical materials

  2. Correspondence, 1853-1898

  3. Correspondence, 1899-1914, n.d.

Series 3 – Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ricketts Whaley Lehman, 1857-1876, n.d.

  1. Correspondence, 1857-1865

  2. Correspondence, 1866-1872

  3. Correspondence, 1873-1876, n.d.

Series 4 – Samuel Platt Ricketts, 1858-1862

  1. Correspondence, 1858-1862

Series 5 – George H. Whaley, 1891, 1955-1962

  1. Correspondence, 1891; 1955-1962

Series 6 – Miscellany

  1. Historical Materials: Sidney and Fremont County, Iowa; Nebraska City, Nebraska; freighting

  2. Ricketts and Lehman Family miscellany, including teaching certificates and autograph book (Grace L. Ricketts); a mortgage release for Charlotte Lehman

  3. Obituaries

  4. Children’s School Atlas

  5. Peirre Keran’s public school materials (Nebraska City)

  6. Cook book (Grace L. Ricketts), early 1900s

  7. Newspaper clippings, 1950s-1980s, mostly Nebraska City news, Missouri River flooding, etc.


Subject headings:

Columbus (Nebraska)

Freight and freightage

Fremont County (Iowa)

Gaston Family

Indian agents — Nebraska

Indians of North America — Education

Lehman Family

Lehman, Elizabeth Ricketts Whaley, 1843-1919


Missionaries — Nebraska

Nebraska City (Nebraska)

Otoe County (Nebraska)

Pawnee Indians — Education

Pawnee language

Platt, Elvira Gaston, 1818-1914

Platt, Lester War, ?-1875

Platte County (Nebraska)

Ricketts Family

Rural schools

Sidney (Iowa)

Whaley Family



Additional Platt Family materials are held by the Oberlin College Archives in Oberlin, Ohio.

Revised TMM       12-22-2006