Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Stories: Where have all the little towns gone?

Maxwell, Nebraska


Lincoln County’s earliest little towns, OFallons, Nichols, Warren, and Gannett, flourished for a few years then disappeared. Maxwell (formerly McPherson Station) and Brady grew and prospered, as did later towns, Sutherland and Hershey, all on the Union Pacific. Further south, Wellfleet, Ingham, Wallace, Dickens, and Somerset followed the Burlington Railroad into the county in 1887. Of these, only Wallace and Wellfleet are still in existence. Bignell, a few miles southeast of North Platte, was born of the expectation of a railroad that never arrived. Platted and laid out in streets in 1908, its lots were sold and numerous buildings erected before its citizens learned that the railroad, a branch of the Burlington, would never come. The town then died a lingering, painful death. (See the University of Nebraska 1925 Place Names.)

Hershey, Nebraska
Once lusty towns all, their stories follow nearly the same pattern. In horse and buggy days, each village was an almost complete unit in itself and its residents seldom needed to travel to North Platte except on county business. Each town boasted a depot, a Post office, and a telephone office, one or more hotels and restaurants, general stores, blacksmithies, livery stables, harness shops, feed and lumber businesses and cream stations. Each had at least one newspaper, meat market, theatre, poolhall, furniture and undertaking store, drug store, barber shop and shoe shop. Most had two banks, two doctors, two or more churches and lodges, and some even had a jeweler and a milliner’s shop.

Brady, Nebraska
Wallace, Nebraska
As cars and better roads brought all parts of the county closer to North Platte, the villages began to fade. Today, (1969) with one exception, most of them have less than a tenth of their former business activity. The hotels and restaurants have closed, most have neither doctors nor drug stores, none has a newspaper. Even the once vital depot has disappeared from some of them, but all except Wellfleet have good schools and run numerous buses out into the surrounding areas to bus the children in. In the Wellfleet district, there are only 2 children of school age and a rural school is maintained for them. Next Year (1970), they too will be bused to a larger school.

The exception, Sutherland, is still a vigorous town, supporting a good newspaper, a fine hospital, busy bowling alley, a small exclusive dress shop, a motel, restaurants and beauty parlors, and numerous other prospering businesses.
Wellfleet, Nebraska

Farms and ranches over the entire county are now consolidated under fewer owners and county schools have almost disappeared. One can drive for miles today and see neither a farm house nor a school, but large herds of finer cattle, and fields producing double the crops of a quarter century ago are on all sides.

Sutherland, Nebraska
(Nellie Snyder Yost prepared the History of Lincoln County for the Atlas. Title Atlas Co. thanks Mrs. Yost for the time and effort she took in writing this excellent history.)

ShareThis