Know Nebraska: Lincoln Highway - Duncan

A trip down Nebraska's Lincoln Highway toward the eastern end of the state takes you through myriad beautiful small towns. Duncan is one of these.
In Lincoln Highway lore, Duncan is famed for its "tree lane". Pictured above, these two lines of trees lined the original Lincoln Highway in 1913.
From Duncan wasn't always Duncan. The first post office was established in 1869, " the fertile valley of the Platte River, six miles west of Columbus," and according to legend, called "Cherry Hill," for the wild cherries found in the Sandhills. The first postmaster was Alonzo Shepard.

In 1871 the Union Pacific platted a town at this location which it called "Jackson." However, since that name was already taken by a town in Dakota County, the railroad was obliged to choose another. Finally, in 1880, the name was changed to "Duncan," for a favorite conductor on the UP.

The Village of Duncan was incorporated on March 7, 1913. Newspaper accounts noted, "it is located 100 miles west of Omaha, and is quite a stirring little business center."

From Today, Duncan has several businesses including a gas station, bar, two auto repair shops, beauty salon, three home daycare facilities, local garbage collections service, farmers’ cooperative, convenience store and an equipment repair and welding shop.

Duncan is also where all Dorothy Lynch salad dressings are manufactured.  In 1964, Tasty-Toppings, Inc. purchased the recipe and rights to Dorothy Lynch and built a production facility in Columbus, Nebraska.  The company later expanded its production capacity with a modern 64,000 square foot plant in Duncan.

I will admit that I did not know the part about Dorothy Lynch, nor did I see a 64,000 sf production facility, but I love the idea that a town with a population of 351 is home to this plant.
Inside "My Place", you'll find this amazing bar. I was told that the front bar is original to the establishment, but the back bar was purchased from Minnesota, possibly in the 1970's.
Above is a photo of the bar interior, dating from 1916.
The text on the back of the photograph names the people in the photo.
Main Street in Duncan, possibly dating from the early Lincoln Highway era, as there seems to be a row of young trees in the foreground.
The Duncan Rural Volunteer Fire Department is located right downtown.
The St. Stanislaus complex is very beautiful, and the history of the Catholic Church in the area is fascinating. I believe this new church was built in 1939.

A quote found on the Duncan community website states: What is not mentioned are the porch parties on hot summer nights or sledding down a hill on a snowy Sunday morning.  Nor is there mention of how citizens rally around a neighbor in need, or the words of a lifelong resident and former postmaster who said at age 90, “That although the outward appearance of Duncan has changed, the essence of it has not – peaceful evenings, kids being kids, and citizens striving for a better life”.

On a quick road trip down the Lincoln Highway, one doesn't get to experience all these great little towns have to offer. From the history of Duncan: "When you visit the fascinating village of Duncan, be sure to take the time to drive south across the Platte River, and east to Duncan Lakes. The road along the lakes wind around and around, truly one of Nebraska's "scenic views." In season, you'll see swimmers, picnickers, water skiers, and fishermen."

One day I'll have to return to Duncan, spend some time and truly explore the area.


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