Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Small Towns along the Way (#4)

…continuing with our July road trip.  

After a short stop in Atkinson Nebraska, we continued west along US Hwy 20 toward our overnight destination.  For your information, US Hwy 20 is 3,365 miles long, making it the longest road in the USA.  This highway runs from Boston Massachusetts to Newport Oregon.

About 30 miles west of Atkinson, we came to the town of Bassett Nebraska.  Apparently, Bassett was named for an early settler who established a nearby ranch.  Like all the other towns along this route, the town was actually platted/founded in 1884 after the railroad came to town.  With a population of roughly 540, Bassett is the county seat for Rock County.  The town had a population of 1,066 back in 1950 before the railroad ceased service.

The Bassett Lodge and Range Café at 205 Clark Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Having been completed in 1951, it is a fairly ‘new’ structure as compared to most of the Register’s listings.  This Streamline Moderne style building actually encompasses part of the Hotel Crook which was built in 1926.  I love the sign!  It is a classic…

The hotel and café were built in order to serve the then burgeoning Bassett Livestock Auction which attracted buyers from around the USA.  It continues to serve as both a motel/hotel and restaurant.  The Range Café itself has changed little since the 1950s but the rooms in the Bassett Lodge have been updated to today’s standards.  You can stay here in a King Suite for $80.00 a night.  Check it out at Bassett Lodge & Range Cafe.

My advanced research had suggested that we should have our eyes open for an old Phillips 66 Gas Station in Bassett.  It is quite eye-catching for sure…

I clearly remember ‘service stations’ where attendants in uniforms cleaned windshields and checked the oil while pumping gas.  A bit more research post trip revealed that this is non-functional store front with replica and refurbished parts to make it look like an old time gas station.  However, five or more decades ago, this building actually was a gas station.  In about 1997 the Bassett Tourist Council bought the building and refurbished it to look like it did in the 1950s and 1960s. 

As I mentioned, Bassett is the County Seat for Rock County Nebraska.  The Art Deco style Rock County Courthouse was built in 1939 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This “County Citadel” type of building was one of 7 Nebraska courthouses that were built under the WPA/federal works programs of the Great Depression.

After the county was created there had been a big competition between several towns to be declared the county seat.  It came down to Bassett vs. Newport.  Bassett won by a close vote in 1889 and built the first courthouse.  It burned down in 1899 and the county seat controversy heated up again.  Bassett solved the problem by quickly building a new courthouse…which lasted until the current structure was built.  

Rock County encompasses 1,012 square miles and has a population of about 1,400. (About 1.4 people per square mile) At its peak in 1940, the county had almost 4,000 residents… The passing of the railroad was a major negative for growth. 

This is former Chicago and Northwestern Railway depot in Bassett.  From what I could find, as per an old photo the depot was built in the mid-1890s.  Another source indicated that it wasn’t built until 1922 but I think the earlier date fits it.

The caboose beside the old depot didn’t come into vogue until the mid-1920s.  It’s called a bay window caboose.  It provided a better view of the side of the train and eliminated the falling hazard of the raised cupola type.  It also eliminated the need for additional clearances in tunnels and overpasses.  Starting in the early 1930s, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built all of their cabooses like this.   

The depot as well as St. Michael’s Catholic Church, a pioneer home, the Cosgrove school house and 2 other structures are located at the Rock County Fairgrounds.  The church was built in 1897 and it was moved to this site in 1978.  The various buildings are full of period items related to the founding and settling of the county.  From what I could find, The Rock County Historical Society Museum is open daily from 9AM until 5PM from May 1 until October 1 but we didn’t see any signs of life when we stopped by.  There isn’t any admission charge for visitors…

Moving 12 miles further down the road, we came to the town of Long Pine Nebraska.  This home was built by a local dentist in 1895.  By 1919 it was being used as a rooming house that was known as the Miller Hotel.  The home had been expanded in 1914 when Long Pine boomed as a major railroad terminus.  This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Its importance is tied directly to the railroad.  The hotel always served railroad workers and they were the primary customers for over 50 years.  At one time there were 5 hotels in Long Pine.  The Miller Hotel was used by boarders until 1984.  It now serves as the Heritage House Museum.  One room is devoted to a diorama of Long Pine’s railroad heyday back in the 1930s. The museum is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 PM, Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Phone: 402-273-4141.

As we cruised around Long Pine…estimated population 288…we came across this big old school at 402 South Pine.  It has been weirdly decorated or landscaped with all of the strange objects and bits that are in front of the building.  The phrase over the entrance reads: “and one tin soldier rides away”.  I think that the look of this place ranges between spooky and pot smoking hippy.

The construction of this school began in the early 1930s by the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Emergency Relief Agency (ERA).  It wasn’t completed and the roof leaked while the heat didn’t work either.  The Great Depression’s Works Progress Administration helped the school district and they finished the project in1936.  The work needed provided jobs for 200 laborers.  The most recent information I could find showed that the school and the 5 acres around it were for sale.  The building with its 18,750 square feet of space and the land could be purchased for just $50,000.

As for the town of Long Pine, it was founded ca. 1876 and it grew quickly once the railroad reached town in 1881.  The town was named after nearby Long Pine Creek.  This small depot was built after the town’s boom days just to handle the 2 trains per day that still passed through.  At one point it served as a Bunk House for folks who are traversing the “Cowboy Trail”.  This trail begins in Norfolk Nebraska and stretches 321 miles west to Chadron Nebraska.  It is one of the largest Rails-to-Trail Projects in the USA.  From a recent map, it appears that this building now houses the city offices.

Looking at Long Pine today, it’s hard to believe that the town had a population of 1,206 back in 1920.  It was a hub for the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company along what was known as “The Cowboy Line”.  At one time, the town had a large locomotive roundhouse, turntable and servicing facility.  With the coming of diesel locomotives, all of the old steam servicing facilities, which also included a water tower and a coal chute, were torn down.  The last train passed through Long Pine in 1992.

Lone Pine is located in a relatively flat area with moderate annual rainfall at best.  Most of the land in the area consists of grassland, and thanks to irrigation, lots of hay and corn.  Some of the last remaining tracts of mid and tall grass prairie also dot the landscape.  But then there is this sight…a hidden paradise in the high plains.  Unfortunately, Laurie and I took a long look at the dirt road ahead of us and, not realizing that the Long Creek Canyon and Hidden Paradise were only about a mile down the road, we turned around and headed out of town.  Bummer!

In 1910, Carleton and Lucy Pettijohn along with 2 other entrepreneurs started Nebraska Hidden Paradise.  It was originally called an amusement park with a few cabins but expansion continued and H.M. Culbertson added a large dance pavilion, a café and 65 cottages.  The expansion also included “The Plunge” with a large water slide, dressing rooms and an enclosed pool.  The “Plunge” was destroyed when a tornado struck in 1926 and it was never rebuilt.

Nevertheless Long Pine and the Hidden Paradise became a destination along the Cowboy rail line.  It’s hard to believe in this day and age but this hidden resort in the middle of northern Nebraska with its dance pavilion attracted big band heavyweights such as Tommy Dorsey and Lawrence Welk.  The resort was especially popular during the war years of the 1940s.  There has been an effort to refurbish the old dance pavilion but in the meantime, many of the cabins can be rented for those looking for real otherworldly escape from today’s hectic life.

Want to visit and stay in Hidden Paradise?  Check it the cabin rentals on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Cabin/Hidden-Paradise-Cabins-440329712833576/.

Another 8 or 9 miles west on US Hwy. 20 and we came to this old 1920s Conoco Filling Station in Ainsworth Nebraska.  I took this photo, not because of any particular historical significance but rather for sentimental reasons.  Service Stations like this were still fairly common in my youth.  They help me recall long Sunday drives plus vacations along 2-lane highways through the back country.  Ahh, the remote ‘boondocks’ and those stops in small towns across mid-America. 

Ainsworth, with a population of about 1,620 residents, is the County Seat for Brown County Nebraska.  The county covers 1,255 square miles…about the size of Rhode Island…and it has a population of roughly 3,000.  The town was named for Captain James E. Ainsworth, chief construction engineer of the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad, who arrived at the town site in June of 1882.  

I learned that during World War II, Ainsworth was the site of a 2,496 acre Army Air Field where crews were trained to fly B-17 Flying Fortresses, P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts.  In 1947, over 7,000 people attended the National Air Show here.  This was one of 11 Army Air Force training bases built in Nebraska during the war.  A few of the original buildings still stand.  After the war, the airfield was turned over to the city and it still continues to operate as a municipal airport today.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, September 24, 2021

Small Towns along the Way (3)

…continuing to explore small towns along the highways and byways of Nebraska, part of our July 2021 road trip.

Our next stop was in Plainview Nebraska.  Plainview is located in Pierce County along NE Hwy 13.  The town was platted in 1880 when the railroad was extended to that point.  It took its name from settlers who’d moved here from Plainview Minnesota as well as from the scenic views of the surrounding plains.

The Plainview Carnegie Library was completed in 1917.  It was one of 68 libraries in the State of Nebraska that was awarded Carnegie library grant funds.  This partially Prairie Style building is apparently empty at this point in time.  A new library was dedicated in Plainview in 2016.  I also found a note on-line that stated that the old library would be offered at auction in early 2018.  It appears that little resulted from that effort, at least at this point. 

Plainview has a population of about 1,200.  At its peak in 1970, there were about 1,500 residents.  Back in 1880, soon after the railroad arrived, there were 2 general stores, 2 blacksmiths, 2 farm implement dealers, a drug store, a hotel, a doctor, 2 churches, (Methodist and Congregational), and 80 settlers.

There is one attraction in Plainview that we avoided but which some would love to explore.  My wife has a major aversion to clowns of any type…and Plainview, sometimes known as the “Klown Kapital” of Nebraska is the home of the Klown Doll Museum.  The collection features over 7,000 clowns…allegedly the largest such collection in the world.  We’ll have to take their word for it!  However, should you or someone you know be intrigued by the idea of this museum and its collection of ‘klowns’, go to: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/nebraska/klown-museum-strange-ne/.

If this railway depot looks familiar, I believe that it is the twin of the depot I pictured that’s located in nearby Pierce, the Pierce County seat.  The Plainview Depot was built in 1880 by the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri River Railroad… The last train rolled through town in 1978.  The depot was vacant for years and in great danger of being razed.  However, a group of citizens restored the building.  It is now maintained by the Plainview Historical Society.  Located at 304 South Main Street, the structure houses a plethora of local historical artifacts.  The museum is open from May through Labor Day.  I couldn’t find a website for the museum but Historical Society’s phone number is 402-582-4730. 

While many struggle to have up-to-date internet with updated connections, Plainview is served by an independent telephone company and that company has installed fiber-optic lines to every resident and business. 


         ·         Plainview was used as the fictional town of “Hawthorne” in the movie “Nebraska”.  It was the place that most of the action took place.

         ·         United State Senator Ben Sasse, one of the two current Senators from Nebraska, is from Plainview.


Our next stop was in O’Neill Nebraska.  It was time for lunch so Laurie looked up what might be available…and the top choice for diners was the Holt County Grill in downtown O’Neill. 

For some reason, possibly senility, I forgot to take photos of our food.  I do know that we both had a nice glass of lemonade. (It was hot out!) Laurie had the French Dip Sandwich…slow braised beef with Swiss cheese on a hoagie roll with au jus. ($10.50) I chose the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich...buttermilk brined floured and fried chicken breast on a nice bun with pickles, lettuce and a side of ranch dressing.  Both of our sandwiches came with homemade potato chips.  We were very happy!

Entrees include steak, a ribeye pork chop, salmon and more.  It turns out that the owner of Holt Country Grill is a home town gal who went to culinary school and worked in some upscale restaurants before returning home to open her own place.  This restaurant is located at 320 East Douglas Street in O’Neill Nebraska.  Website: https://www.holtcountygrill.com/.

Holt County was named after Joseph Holt of Kentucky, who was the Postmaster General and the Secretary of War under President James Buchanan.  Occupying 2,417 square miles, Holt County is almost exactly double the size of the State of Rhode Island and its 1,214 square miles.  The county has roughly 10,200 residents’ vs 1,100,000 in Rhode Island.  That means that Rhode Island has over 100 times more people than Holt County does…in half the space!

The old Nebraska State Bank building is located at the corner of Douglas and 4th Streets in O’Neill Nebraska.  This bank was completed in 1883.  Probably the first all brick building in town, it was largely designed and built by Moses P. Kinkaid.  He had his law offices on the second floor.  In addition, he served as a vice president and as president of the bank.  Currently, this building is the home of the Holt County Historical and Genealogical Research Center. 

The town of O’Neill is the County Seat for Holt County.  O’Neill has a population of approximately 3,600.  It was founded by ‘General’ John O’Neill, (1834 – 1878), a native of Ireland and a veteran of the American Civil War.  The ‘general’ was a rank given him due to his command of 3 Fenian (Irish republican) incursions/raids into British-governed Canada in 1866.  During the Civil War, O’Neill started as a Sergeant in the Union Army and, due to his bravery and leadership qualities, he ended the war as a Captain.  His last command was as one of the key white officers leading the 17th US Colored Infantry Regiment…

In 1874, ‘General’ O’Neill first encouraged colonists to this fertile site in the Elkhorn River Valley.   O’Neill had immigrated to the USA during Ireland’s “Great Famine” when the potato crops failed.  O’Neill stated that his objective in founding colonies in Nebraska was “to encourage poor people from the overcrowded cities of the East”, meaning the eastern USA.  In 1969, the then governor of Nebraska declared the town of O’Neill as the “Irish Capital of Nebraska”.

This is the Golden Hotel.  This Colonial Revival structure…with some Georgian characteristics was built in 1913.  It is still operating as a hotel and it’s located at 406 E. Douglas Street in O’Neill.  When it was completed the building’s ‘fireproof’ construction was promoted… Wood was only used in the doors and windows.  At that time the hotel had 46 rooms.  Each room had a private telephone as well as hot and cold water.  Fourteen of the rooms actually had private baths!  The final cost for the hotel was $50,000.  In today’s dollars, that would be the equivalent of over $1 million!  

As I mentioned above, the Golden Hotel is still in business.  You can still reserve a room here… After all, wouldn’t you like to occupy the room that Al Capone was reputed to have stayed in when he went on ‘vacation’ and visited family in Nebraska?  To learn more, go to Historic Golden Hotel.

If you’ve seen a few old western movies that featured ‘range wars’ between farmers and ranchers, then Holt County and much of the surrounding area definitely went through that historical type of conflict.  By way of example, at its peak northern Nebraska’s Spade Ranch covered over 500,000 acres with 60,000 head of cattle.  FYI that many acres is the equivalent of about 781 square miles of land…or the equivalent of almost two thirds of the size of Rhode Island. 

Between 1890 and 1900, area ranchers had taken over so much land that the total population actually declined by 10%.  Ranchers had a history of paying poor people and widows to file homestead claims on land…and then selling the land back to the ranchers.  Settlers who wanted to farm were forced to sell or driven out.

This is the Brantly Sturdevant House in Atkinson Nebraska.  This historic Queen Anne style house was built in 1887.  The home remained in the Sturdevant family until 1977… Today it is operated as the Sturdevant-McKee Museum and it features period furnishings that show what life was like in the early 1900s.  The museum is on Facebook at Sturdevant-McKee Museum - Home | Facebook.

Atkinson was laid out by 1878 along the banks of the Elkhorn River and the town’s plat was officially filed at the O’Neill Land Office in 1880.  The railroad came to town in 1881 and the population of Atkinson went from 57 in 1880 to 1,226 in 1881!  The town is named after Colonel John Atkinson who actually owned the site.  He’d served under “General” John O’Neill’s army.  FYI, John O’Neill was responsible for much of the settlement here in Nebraska…even publishing a pamphlet entitled “Northern Nebraska As a Home for Immigrants”.  To learn more about this colorful character, go to O'Neill, Gen. John | History Nebraska.

One last bit of history about Holt County and adjacent counties.  Another feature of old time westerns were vigilantes…locals who took the ‘law’ into their own hands.  These groups were the law for years in these areas…partially because traditional law enforcement was so many miles and days distant.  These vigilante groups actually had names…in this case it was the “Holt County Regulators”.  In one more notorious case, Barrett Scott, who was the county treasurer, disappeared with the county’s money.  He was subsequently found in Mexico and returned to Holt County.  Unfortunately for him, he was let out of jail on bail and was then hung by the vigilantes.  Twelve men were tried for the hanging…and they were acquitted.  To learn more and for an interesting view of these vigilantes, go to https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/188060424.pdf.

That’s about it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Local Happenings!

Time for a short break from my long running July road trip narrative…  We’ve partially pulled back from too many outings.  Despite having had the vaccine, we are both of a certain age and with varying stages of health so we wear our masks in stores and generally avoid large crowds.  Eating out has less appeal as well, just from a risk avoidance point of view.  As the old saying goes, ‘different strokes for different folks’.  In our case moderate caution is our current mantra.

But, we do make exceptions in certain circumstances…

Next door neighbors Sherry and Mike invited us to their annual shrimp boil and, while we skipped it last year out of caution, this year with most of us older folks in our community vaccinated, we joined the party!

As we joined the party, I took this photo.  People were still arriving but one of the shrimp boil pots is visible and so is a big set of Jenga blocks.  The objective when playing Jenga is to remove blocks from the stack without the stack collapsing.  The game stresses me out!

As the crowd grew, it spread out.  The first photo shows part of the gathering in the garage and the second is of those who migrated to the back deck under Mike and Sherry’s louvered roof.  Other folks situated themselves at the island in the kitchen and on the screened porch.  There were people from around the USA in attendance…typical for our community.  We talked to people from New York, Florida, Illinois, Michigan and California.

When the food was ready, the potatoes, shrimp, sausage and corn were dumped into these big serving pans.  By the time I took this photo, this pan was greatly depleted… We usually aren’t big fans of seafood boils but, as they say, it’s all about timing and Mike timed it right!  Even the corn was perfect…as most corn on the cob that we’ve experienced at boils is mushy.  Not the case here! 

The stunner at this party was the dessert table and the over-the-top selection!  I took these 3 photos and I didn’t capture all of the options.  We brought some caramel cheese popcorn for an appetizer and our dessert contribution was that extra-large Costco Apple Pie.  It was almost completely gone when we headed home.  I had a slice of the pie and two…or perhaps three of the cookies.

When we headed home, most of the attendees were still going strong.  Two couples were playing Jenga and some of the guys were chipping golf balls at a target or playing corn hole.  Most of the ladies had retired to the screened porch or the deck.  It certainly was a beautiful day for a party!

I did take one other photo as we departed.  This is one of couple’s dog…her name is Maddie.  She’d trading in the toy she brought with her to the party and replaced it with a large rock from Mike and Sherry’s yard.  She wasn’t giving it up either!  Very cute!

Dawn Marie flew up from Miami to spend a few days with us.  We hadn’t seen her since last January.  Her job with an IT company usually has her on the road but during the pandemic she’s been mostly working from home.  As she’s as vulnerable as we are to infections, we stayed home for most of her 3 day visit… Watching her ‘relax’, I’m sure glad that I’m retired because in today’s work environment, you can’t get away from ‘the job’.  She has international responsibilities so she had conference calls at odd times and the emails/texts never slowed down.  Still, it was a comfortable change of venue for her and we got in quite a bit of football on TV.  

Fiona was our most recent houseguest… She lives next door with Mike and Sherry and they’d asked us if we could dog sit over this past weekend.  Mike was off playing golf in South Carolina and Sherry was headed to a mahjong tournament in Nashville.  She has 2 beds…one was near Laurie’s recliner and the other was in our bedroom.  She seems to favor lying on her back and she’s always asking for belly rubs.

Fiona’s visit went well too…except that she expects to go for a walk and to be fed later than 7 AM…and we usually don’t get up until 9 AM.  We adjusted to her schedule on the second night.  It was a nice visit except when she sprinted across the bedroom floor and leaped on our bed and did a couple of circles and leaped off the bed.  She apparently sprained a muscle in her left hind leg…nothing broken, thank goodness.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave   

Friday, September 17, 2021

Small Towns along the Road (2)

…continuing with our July road trip as we began to explore/sightsee in northern and western Nebraska.

Our next stop along US Hwy 275 was in Scribner Nebraska, a town of about 800 people, that was founded ca. 1870.  The surveyor who plated the town named it for his son-in-law, who had founded the Scribner Publishing firm.

The Harder Hotel at 503 Main Street in Scribner was built in 1901 for Hans Harder, a German immigrant from Schleswig-Holstein.  Harder had been a stonemason before moving to Nebraska.  The building was designed in the Rundbogenstil style and it is Nebraska’s only recorded example of an Atrium Type hotel.

OK…I had no idea what the Rundbogenstil style was.  It is a round-arch style that was popular in the German speaking lands of Europe and among German immigrants.  It is an amalgamation of several architectural styles.  As for an Atrium type hotel…basically it is a hotel where the atrium is the central focus of the building with bars, restaurants, seating areas around it and the rooms reaching out from the central core.

The second and third floor rooms in the old hotel are now vacant.  In addition, the Old Hotel Café and Saloon on the ground floor is no longer in operation.  The building is reputed to be haunted…a piano playing has been heard by locals and the sound of children playing has also been heard.  It is alleged that in the past a man was found dead in one of the rooms, a woman was found dead in the closet of another room and another fellow supposedly flung himself to death from the top floor.  To learn more, go to http://www.doyouseedeadpeople.org/usr/docs/Old-Hotel-PRISM-article-Scriner-HS-2013.pdf.

FYI, the Harder Hotel building is currently for sale/redevelopment.  It can be yours for only $50,000.  Check it out at: https://www.scribner-ne.gov/the-hotel/.

The J.O. Milligan Building at 439 Main Street in Scribner was constructed in 1884 and it was home to the Milligan Dry Goods Store.  Over the years it served a number of businesses.  However, in 1973 Amos Musbach purchased the building.  The son of German immigrants, Musbach bought the Milligan Building just a year before his death.  He wanted to have a place to leave and display his most cherished possessions.  The Musbach Museum opened in 1973, the same year that it was purchased.

Today this museum features antique farm machinery, medical equipment, kitchen ware, an old pioneer wagon, a player piano and a large salt and pepper shaker collection…with 1,728 sets of shakers!  To learn more about the Musbach Museum, you can go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Museum/Scribner-Musbauch-Museum-104420454713503/.

I wasn’t able to determine when this building was constructed.  I did find a postcard on line from 1923 that describes it as the City Hall.  It also appears to have served as the town’s fire station at some point.  Love that bell tower... At its peak in 1930, Scribner’s population totaled 1,066 and today it has about 800 residents.

Like most towns along the northern portion of Nebraska, decline set in when the Chicago and North Western Railway ended service in the spring of 1982.  Scribner still had a population of over 1,000 when rail service ended.  Flooding along the Elkhorn River had damaged and destroyed too many bridges.  Repairs weren’t economically feasible.

A notable event occurred in Scribner on March 7, 1929.  Poorly stored dynamite exploded in a house fire, killing 6 firefighters and as many as 50 others were injured.  This is the second largest loss of firefighters lives in Nebraska’s history.  One survivor lived to be 100 years old…with a 2.5 inch nail lodged near his heart.  He died in 1998.

We love a good country fair and Scribner is home to the annual Dodge County Fair during the first week in August.  It lasts for 4 days and features 4-H exhibits, livestock shows and plenty of old time entertainment.  There is no admission fee at this fair.

The next small town along our route was West Point Nebraska.  West Point, with a population of about 3,300, is the county seat of Cuming County.  The town was founded in 1857 when 4 Omaha businessmen formed the Nebraska Settlement Association which was focused on finding suitable townsites in the Elkhorn Valley.  West Point was the westernmost outpost along the valley.

The West Point City Auditorium was built in 1911 and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.  Significant as a local venue for performing arts and community events and financed by local donations, this Early Commercial and Tudor Revival Style building was purchased by the city in 1945. 

The auditorium has also been known as the Nebraskan Theatre and, as shown in the photo, the West Point Community Theater.  Currently it shows first run movies and it is also used as a performing arts theater.  To learn more or to see what’s playing, just go to https://westpointcommunitytheatre.org/.

West Point became the county seat of Cuming County in 1858 after winning the election over the community of DeWitt.  Only 19 votes were cast but 12 were for West Point.  The following spring, over 4,000 Pawnee flooded the valley during a hunting excursion.  They were displeased that white settlers were in the valley and they burned down several homesteads and killed livestock for the meat.  The so called “Pawnee War” ended without a fight.  To learn more, you can open the following and read what the general in charge of the army told to the Nebraska Historical Society in 1900.  https://history.nebraska.gov/sites/history.nebraska.gov/files/doc/publications/NH1937PawneeWar.pdf.

The Cuming County Historical Museum complex, at the county fairgrounds in West Point, includes several buildings filled with historical displays.  It’s maintained by the Historical Society and the Cuming County Agriculture Society.  

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, which was built in 1886, was moved to the site and dedicated at the Cuming County Fair in August, 1996.  This church served the community for about 108 years before closing in 1994.  Every year during the Cuming County Fair a non-denominational service is held in the Church on Sunday morning.  This is also a local wedding venue…

In addition to the church, the museum complex is home to a 1012 one-room schoolhouse as well as the Dinklage and the 7,200 square foot Cuming County Heritage Museum building was completed and dedicated in 1997.  The latter building’s displays include machinery, cars and a variety of antique tools.

The museum complex also features this handsome and rather large Chicago North Western Depot.  It was built in 1904 and it was moved to the fairgrounds in 1975.  Upon entering the depot, visitors can see a kitchen with items used in local homes in the early 1900s and lifestyle exhibits of the past are featured.   The Union Pacific caboose was placed next to the depot in 1990.

The original railroad through West Point was the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri, sometimes referred to as “the Elkhorn”.  It was established in 1869 with the railroad building several lines in Nebraska, including a long east-west route from Omaha across the northern part of the state to Chadron.  This line became known as the “Cowboy Line”.  Chicago North Western acquired the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad in 1903…and, as I’ve mentioned before, all service was discontinued in 1982.

Given the size of this local museum, I was surprised to learn that the buildings are only open by appointment and during the County Fair.  It seems like a wasted resource…but a general opening must require several volunteers to monitor the different buildings. 

In a previous post I mentioned that one big crop in Nebraska is corn.  Well let me tell you, everywhere we went there were scenic fields of hay much like this one.  In 2020, Nebraska planted 2,770,000 acres of hay which yielded 6,544,000 tons of feedstock!

Continuing along US Hwy 275, we passed through Norfolk Nebraska.  While I’d noted several places in town of historic interest, given the size of the city, with its 24,500 residents, I decided that it would take too long to locate and photograph the buildings…so we kept moving so we could reach our planned destination with time to spare.  FYI, Norfolk was Johnny Carson’s home town the local museum has a section dedicated to him.

The next town that we explored a little was Pierce Nebraska.  Pierce, with a population of about 1,730, was founded by Germans from Wisconsin in 1869.  Pierce is the county seat of Pierce County.  Both were named in honor of President Franklin Pierce.

The Chicago and North Western Railroad Depot is the cornerstone of the Pierce Historical Museum Complex.  Built in 1880, the depot first served the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad.  In 1879, a line had been built from Norfolk through Pierce to Niobrara on the Missouri River.  This building’s passenger area has many photos showing scenes from the town’s past as well as dishware, rooms depicting home styles of times past as well as exhibits from the old doctor’s office, the former newspaper’s printing press, the old Pierce Telephone switchboard, an old soda fountain and much more.

In the early 1900s, the railroad was very busy, with at least one freight and two passenger trains daily.  After World War II the line and the services offered began to deteriorate.  In 1951, passenger service was discontinued.  In 1968 the Pierce depot facilities closed and in 1969, the railway agent was removed.  The last train rolled through Pierce in June of 1978.

As you can see from this old photo that is part of the Pierce Museum Complex, the depot and it surroundings looked a bit different back in the early days...

In addition to the old railway depot, the museum complex includes a rural schoolhouse.  It is set up exactly as a school would have been decades ago, complete with the original desks, school supplies and children’s books.  Other buildings include the fully equipped Frank Kratochvil Blacksmith Shop, which was in operation from 1889 until 1921, a machine shed that contains functioning threshing bee equipment and a full size covered wagon.  A 3,000 square foot exhibition building rounds out the structures at this community museum.   

The Pierce Historical Society Museum is staffed with volunteers.  The museum is open on Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 1:30 PM until 4:30 PM.  Admission is free.  Unfortunately, we weren’t in Pierce on a Sunday…  To learn more about this museum, go to


During my research I noted that at one time Pierce was home to a flour mill (Gold Crescent Flour) and a creamery, both of which shipped their products throughout the Midwest.  In addition, the town had a cigar factory, a brick yard and an ice plant.  Sadly, time and ‘progress’ does take their toll on our small towns...

That’s all for now.  Just click on any of the photo to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Small Towns along the Road (#1)

…continuing with our July road trip.

Our initial stay with our family in Omaha was over and we hit the road, heading northwest along US Hwy 275.  I had researched towns, possible attractions and places to eat along our route.  We love exploring out of the way places and especially small town America…avoiding the Interstate Highway System whenever possible.

The first town on my list was Hooper Nebraska.  Hooper is located in eastern Dodge County and its estimated population stands at about 840 residents.  This 24-foot tall obelisk was completed in 2010.  Residents were concerned, rightfully so, that the new road bypassing the town would mean that the town would no longer by noticed or frequented by passing travelers.  The town’s population peaked in 1920 at 1,014.  Hooper was named for a 7 term member of the US House of Representatives from Massachusetts, but the ‘why’ is a mystery to me…

I like trains and especially old trains and rolling stock.  As we neared the center of Hooper, I took note of these 2 old rail cars.  The first one, a coach-observation car (#125) is clearly marked as having belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad.  As for the unusual looking second railcar, I just don’t have a clue what it might have been… The letters on its side appear to read D.G. & T.R.R., but I can’t find any old railroad with a corresponding name…

Hooper, like many towns in western Nebraska, got its start due to the coming of the railroad.  Hooper was founded in 1871, following the construction of the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad through the Nebraska Territory.  The Chicago and North Western Railroad was the successor to the FE and MVRR but due to flooding and declining freight traffic, it abandoned the line in 1982.  Service was revived in 1986 by the Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad…but damage to a bridge on the line in 2003 ended all traffic through Hooper.  I did discover that the town isn’t too happy with the Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad as they’ve just let their property and equipment rot and rust away right at the entrance to Hooper’s downtown…

This is a view of downtown Hooper Nebraska.  Main Street is so wide that there is parking in the middle of the street.  The center of town is the Hooper Historic District, covering 4 acres and including 22 contributing buildings.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Most of the historic buildings consist of one or two story commercial structures that feature Italianate architecture.  Note all the American flags!  We came to town shortly after the Fourth of July…

Note all the brick buildings… One of the reasons for this solid construction was the fact that a fire in the 1880s destroyed much of the business district.  This disaster prompted requirements for ‘fireproof’ construction.  It was important that there were two nearby brickyards where abundant yellow clay was found.

Note the building to the right of this photo.  The center portion with the higher peak identifies this 3-segment structure as the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons Building.  It was built in 1890.  The Lodge occupied the upper floors, there was a general store in the center, and one side was occupied by a saloon, while the other side was a drug store.  FYI, this Mason’s Lodge was organized in 1878 and it still meets in this building.

The structure at the left of the Mason’s Building is the C.W. Klingbeil Building.  C.W. Klingbeil was a businessman dealing in general merchandise who came to town in 1883.  Unfortunately, like much of the business district, he lost his store to the big fire in January of 1990.  This two-story brick over cast iron building promptly replaced the original store.  It cost over $8,000 to build…

It never fails to amaze me just how important newspapers were back in the days before Radio, TV and social media.  Consider how small Hooper was and yet the Hooper Sentinel Newspaper was published at least weekly for over 80 years. 

This little one-story brick building was built in 1886 for the Hooper Bank… Later, as the State Bank of Hooper, in 1900 the building was sold to the First National Bank before becoming the Sentinel Building.  Although the newspaper didn’t occupy this building when it was first published in 1885, I read articles from as far back as 1893.  To see what the news was in Hooper back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, you can go to The Hooper Sentinel on Newspapers.com.  The paper ceased publication in 1966.

Here’s another view along one side of Hooper’s main street.  The side of the old Heine Brothers Block, ca 1886, proudly displays a big patriotic mural featuring an American Flag with an old veteran and a new soldier (hidden behind the telephone pole) painted on the side of one building.  I believe that it was completed in 2010 and it replaced an older mural.  In addition, note the unusual tin roof coverings over the sidewalks…all part of the Historic District’s description.  Based on old photos I looked at, some of the coverings have been lost over the years.  The Heine brothers were pioneer dealers in hardware and implements.

Excitement and Hollywood came to Hooper in 2012!  A film crew took over the town’s Main Street to shoot a scene for the movie “Nebraska”, with a scene was shot at the town’s Sodbuster Saloon.  As it was early in the day, we missed a chance to visit the saloon…

“Nebraska” was an American black and white comedy that was released in 2013 and it starred Bruce Dern and Will Forte.  Dern, who is still making movies with his first one in 1960, won the Best Actor Award for the film at the Cannes Film Festival and the movie was nominated for 6 Oscars at the Academy Awards.  It also was a box office success, bringing in about twice as much money as it cost to make…

There is one other prominent mural in Hooper… This old time steam locomotive and train with an image of the old Hooper Railway Depot has been on the side of this building since at least 2004.  Its very appropriate for an old railroad town...

I’ll end with the old Dodge County Bank Building that is located at the corner of Main and Fulton Streets in Hooper.  This two-story brick on raised basement structure was built in 1899.  Today, part of the building is occupied by an attorney.  The bank itself was founded in 1882 by T.W. Lyman who came to town in 1871, and John Heimrich.  The bank was first known as Lyman and Heimrich, Bankers.  They were succeeded by the Dodge County Bank in 1884 and this building was built to replace another lost to a fire.  FYI, the nearby Elkhorn River has also caused problems for Hooper over the years…especially in 2019.

We were way too early to eat lunch but I did note that there are two restaurants right in the middle of town.  One is Iron Horse Food and Spirits at 107 North Main Street right next to the old Dodge County Bank Building.  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Diner/Iron-Horse-Caf%C3%A9-200705113281981/. The other option is the Office Bar and Grill at 121 North Main Street.  You can check out their website at: https://www.officebarandgrill.net/index.html.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what we saw on our road trip!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave