History of Towns & Communities

 

This page added 06-08-01

 

Brief History of Some Richardson County Communities

 

(Source: 1890 Business Gazatteer, "1887 Immigrant Promotion")

 

 

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Info on Past and Present Towns / Communities and Post Offices

 

Arago, Archer, Athens, Barada, Dawson / Noraville, Falls City, Fargo, Humboldt, Middleburg, Miles Ranch, Nemaha, Nemaha Falls, Nims City, Nohart, Preston / Blufton / Sac, Rulo, St. DeRoin, St. Stephens, Salem, Shubert, Stella, Straussville, Verdon / Springfield, Wells Mills, Williamsville, Winnebago, Yankton.

 

Other Past Towns not listed above.
 


Arago / "Fargo" (Past Towns)

Arago was a port of entrance for many pioneers who came up the Missouri River on steamers.  It was settled in 1858 by a sizeable group of persons from Buffalo, NY, most were of German descent.  They had formed the German Colonization Society for the purpose of buying land on some western river for a home. 

The first 12 settlers landed at Arago on July 4, 1858.  Some of the land was purchased from Stephen Story who had founded St. Stephens nearby in 1855.  Arago was the first town in Richardson County to be incorporated by an act of the Legislature.  This was January 10, 1860.  Population then grew to as many as 1400-1500. 

When the railroad built on the Missouri side of the river, steamboat commerce almost ceased and many businesses moved to Falls City in the 1880ís.  Many laborers moved to farms and the buildings either burned or were moved to farms or to Falls City. 

After a severe flood, the post office was discontinued at Arago and moved 3-miles west in 1903.  For some reason, the name Arago went with the post office, while the original village of Arago became known as "Fargo" or Old Arago. 

There was a post office at Fargo (Old Arago) from 1862 to 1903 and one at New Arago from 1895 to 1913.  Many descendants of the original Arago (Fargo) settlers still reside in the Arago Precinct.

Archer (Past Town)

The most prominent of the numerous towns which have had an existence on paper or in reality for a comparatively brief time, was Archer, the first county seat.  Even by 1882, the land which was, in 1856, covered by a considerable village for the times, had became part of a farm, and knew no streets save the ridges between the corn rows. The town, which was largely the property of H. Nuckolls and Judge Miller, was, in 1857, a mere collection of log houses, numbering, according to the recollections of the old settlers, scarcely more than twelve. After the passage of the half-breed line and the necessary removal of the county seat to land owned by the county, many of the houses were removed to Falls City.

The town was laid out in 1855 and named for founder, Robert T. Archer, the countyís first sheriff.  The post office was established in 1856 and discontinued in 1865. Archer was the county seat until the site was found to be partially on the Half-Breed Tract and abandoned in 1857.  There were 10 houses, 2 stores, and a log house used as a hotel and kept by the countyís first judge, John C. Miller, who held court in his home and served as post master.  Also there was a school house, a doctor, and a saw and gristmill.  Currently, only an abandoned cemetery remains at the site 1 mi east and 2 mi north of Falls City.

Athens  (Past Town)                                                           Top of Page

The Post Office was established in November, 1860 and discontinued November, 1881.  The town was named for Athens, Ohio, from where the areaís early settlers had come.  Only an abandoned cemetery is there now in the southwestern part of the county in Speiser Precinct.

Barada - 2000 Census = ?? about 25 ??

Barada and Barada Precinct are named after first settler, Antoine Barada (1807-1887).  In 1856 he received a patent of 320 acres from the U.S. Government in what was known as the Half-Breed Tract.  He settled on the grant, built a house, and raised his family.  This land became the site of the village of Barada in northeast Richardson County, Barada Precinct.  The exact date of the original town plat has not been established.  A post office was established in the village general store in 1877, where it remained until near the end when it was relocated to the home of Duane Sailors, and Mrs. Barbara Sailors was the post mistress until the post office closed in 1966. 

The population increased from 70 in 1880 to 200 in 1910 and then steadily declined to 23 citizens in 1990.  Even without a railroad the community remained a stable trading center for a large rural area.  At one time there were 3 stores, a bank, a hardware store, a photo gallery, 3 blacksmith shops, a drug store, a dance hall, a saloon, a doctor, a veterinary, and a barber shop.  Today the original grocery store, which housed the post office, is still in operation and is the only business there. 

Prominent residents included John H. Morehead, Nebraska Governor and U.S. Representative to Congress; Byron Dunn, former president of National Bank of Commerce in Lincoln; Henry Gerdes, state senator and member of State Board of Control; and Louis Buchholz, former State Secretary of Agriculture.

Dawson - 2000 Census = 209

Joshua Dawson built a gristmill in 1867 on the bank of the Big Nemaha River just south of the present village of Dawson.  In 1872, W.F. Draper founded the town of Noraville, which with the post office of Dawson Mills, then became known as Dawson.  The village was the site of the Dawson-Verdon Consolidated School, from 1960 until 2004.  The school was closed in the summer of 2004 and the building was sold at auction the same year. 

(Some of the above info is from the 1890 Business Gazatteer and 1914 Dawson Reporter)

Falls City - 2000 Census = 4,671

A notice of the new town site of Falls City was filed in the courthouse at Archer on March 27, 1857 and a plat was filed on April 29, 1858.  It gained citizens from flooded Nemaha Falls and the village of Archer.  On the Nemaha River, south of the town site, was a water fall, a potential source of power for mills and machinery. 

 

In its first 20 years, Falls City won a struggle to become the county seat, saw the end of the Civil War, was reached by its first railroad and a newspaper was established.  In the second 20 years (1877-1897) the town made big gains with another railroad, German immigrants, public utilities, corporate banking, many businesses and social clubs. 

 

In the third period, (1898-1916), apple buying from local orchards began on a large scale, the Lydia Bruun Woods Memorial Library was established, and the city faced the problem of finding a good supply of water. 

 

The fourth period of time from 1917-1932 saw prohibition, WWI, several major fires including the court house, many more automobiles, services and brick streets for them, an outbreak of Spanish Influenza, suffrage for women, election to offices, and shipment of 300 train car loads of poultry and eggs a year. 

 

From 1933-1953, Falls City saw the WPA put people to work on such stone landmarks as the Jug Brown Stadium at the high school and the Prichard Auditorium.  During the days of the WPA, the city, to provide work, undertook the task of removing the paving brick on main street, turning the brick over and relaying the brick with the worn side down. (Most of the brick paved streets are still in use today)  Banks closed and were consolidated, prohibition was repealed, many served in WW II, while those at home experienced war bond sales and rationing. 

 

The Missouri Pacific Railroad closed its shops in the early 1950ís.  Since the celebration of its centennial in 1957, Falls City has seen the beginnings and ends of many businesses and industries. The start of KTNC radio station, the change in publication of the Falls City Journal, from 6 times a week, to 5 times, to the present (2000) of 2 times a week.  The creation of a Mini Park, where fire destroyed buildings on Stone Street, the expansion of the Community Hospital into the Community Medical Center and the expansion of Brenner Field, the cityís airport.  However, a lot of the store fronts in the downtown district become vacant by the early 1990's.

Humboldt - 2000 Census = 941                                      Top of Page

Located in northwest Richardson County, Humboldt was not incorporated until 1871, although there were families in the area as early as 1855.  The post office was established in 1861.  In 1880 the population was 917 and peaked at 1455 in 1930. School District 37, a Community Hospital, city owned Colonial Acres nursing home and the Bruun Memorial Library are sources of pride for this community.  The Hospital closed in 2002, reopened for a short time in 2003 and then closed again.

Middleburg (Past Town)

The post office was established on the South Nemaha River in July, 1858 and discontinued in March, 1901.  It was presided over for many years by "Uncle" Jacob Frey, a pioneer.  Citizens of Speiser Township received their mail here.

Miles Ranch (Past Town)

This post office was located four miles southwest of Dawson in northern Nemaha Township.  It was named in honor of Stephen Miles, settler and mail contractor of stage lines from Independence, Mo to Salt Lake City, UT.  It was established July, 1858.  In 1867, the name was changed to Wells Mills and moved further southwest to Middleburg.  Miles Ranch was also a place where hundreds of horses and mules used in mail and stage lines were recuperated.  A large house and a barn built with hand-hewn walnut timbers are still used on the ranch. 

Nims City (Past Town)

Nims City was platted in 1903, several miles south of Dawson in Nemaha Township, by Betsy U. Nims.  It was at its height in 1906-1908, when there was a church, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop, a large public hall or opera house hotel and several stores.  Today, only two houses are at this site.

Nohart (Past Town)

The post office at Nohart was established October, 1860, near the Kansas Line in southeast Rulo Township.  It was named for a chief of the Iowa Indian Tribe and discontinued in 1888.

Preston - 2000 Census = ?? Less than 50 ??

Preston dates from January 31, 1881, when Philip R. Shelly purchased 40 acres, had the land surveyed, streets and lots staked and began building.  Earlier the post office was known as Sac and the railroad station as Blufton. 

The town of the 1890ís had two each of hotels, barber shops, livery stables, blacksmith shops, drug stores, and harness shops (one employed 6 girls to help manufacture fly nets for horses.)  Also there were 3 general stores and a two-story bank.  Preston was a center for farmers to market their produce.  Entertainment was found at second story dance halls, debates, an occasional medicine show and most often at programs at the school.  A railroad serviced the village with fare to Falls City costing 17 cents.  The cyclone of 1896 caused extensive damage.

After 1900, hotel and bank buildings were torn down and moved to Falls City.  The automobile made it possible for residents to travel farther to merchants and Preston continued to decline. 

Although the population was only 149 in 1900 and 122 in 1910, the families there were large. (10-14 children each)  The population in 1990 had reduced to about 40.

Rulo - 2000 Census = 226

Rulo was laid out in 1856 on lands belonging to the wife of Charles Rouleau and her sister, Mrs. Eli Bedard, under the Prairie du Chien Treaty of 1830.  It is currently (2001) the site of the only Missouri River Bridge for vehicles to enter Richardson County from Missouri. 

In 1858, the first newspaper in Richardson County was started there and through the years, until 1936, several newspapers appeared and vanished there.  It was an important town on the Missouri River before the advent of the railroad.  Peak population was 877 in 1900.  In 1903 Rulo had its own telephone company, in 1913 electricity was obtained, in 1926 many dirt streets were paved, in 1934 free movies sponsored by merchants began and continued into the Ď50ís.  In 1939 a W.P.A. limestone auditorium was built and in 1971 the community began restoration of the same.  Students currently attend school in Falls City.  There are presently two churches, a library, the auditorium, the post office, two taverns and a restaurant/bar that was noted for its special fish dinners in the 60's & 70's.

St. DeRoin (Past Town) (Now part of Indian Cave State Park)              Top of Page

In 1804, Lewis and Clark recorded that they passed a small trading fort on the Missouri River, located about 23 miles above the mouth of the Big Nemaha River.  On July 15, 1830, 125,000 acres were set aside by the Treaty of Prairie du Chien for the homeless offspring left behind by traders and trappers who married Indian women.  Son of a French man and an Otoe woman, Joseph DeRoin moved onto the tract from the Platte River in the early 1840s.  He set up a trading post, and in 1853 he laid out the village that bears his name.

The son of a French trader, Amable DeRoin, and an Otoe Indian woman, Joseph DeRoin was born about 1819 near Bellevue.  He lived with his parents until 1836, when he moved to the main Otoe village near the mouth of the Platte River.

He married an Omaha Indian woman, Meek-Ka-Ahu-Me, and their only child, Mary, was born about 1841 near Council Bluffs, IA.  In 1842, the family moved to the tract in Nemaha-Richardson counties, created by the Treaty of Prairie du Chien.  They were among the first to claim land on the tract.  Later that year, Joseph took two more wives - sisters Julie and Soula (Su-See) Baskette, the daughters of a Frenchman, Balone Baskette, and an Iowa Indian woman.  He had 8 children by the Baskette sisters.  About 1843, his first wife left to return to the Omaha Reservation.

Although the first record of his trading post was in 1854, he undoubtedly operated one much earlier.  He also ran a trading post at the Otoe Reserve in Gage County from the mid-1850s until his death at the hands of James Beddow, the settler he had quarreled with over the pig.  DeRoin died April 21, 1858.  At the time of his death, he held notes totaling $4,079.06 (quite a sum at that time), including one for $1,500 by 11 Otoe chiefs at the Reserve.  Most of the notes were uncollectible, including that of the Otoe chiefs.

In 1862, Soula and the children moved to the Iowa Reserve in northeast Kansas, and the children attended the Kickapoo Training School at Horton, KS.

In its early days, St. DeRoin had 232 mixed heritage residents, including 50 Iowas, 47 Omahas, 21 Otoes, 3 Sioux and 111 orphans.  The village was one of a chain of small settlements that served as trading and supply posts for Missouri river traffic in the 1870s.  A bustling town of 300 people before the turn of the century, it was doomed by the ever-shifting river channel and an apparent outbreak of cholera.  By the 1920s, St. DeRoin was virtually abandoned except for the one-room school.

However, legends abound about the once thriving village.  Apparently, the "Saint" was attached to the name sometime after it was established, in the hope of attracting more settlers.  Joseph DeRoin himself was evidently a colorful and controversial character.  Described as "overbearing and tyrannical," those traits eventually proved fatal.  DeRoin was determined to collect $6 for a pig from a settler despite a warning to stay off the man's land.  The settler dropped him with one shot and was ultimately acquitted of any crime.  Local tradition holds that DeRoin was buried astride his horse in the town cemetery.

Another "graveyard" legend centers on a fellow named A. J. Ritter, who lost an arm while doing a little "fishing" with dynamite.  His arm was buried west of the town. Later, when Ritter died, he was buried in the St. DeRoin Cemetery.  Some locals say that on certain nights, Ritter still rises to search for his lost arm.  

The original town site is now part of the Indian Cave State Park.  You can learn more about this fascinating area at the interpretive log cabin, located near the original town site.  Although built recently, (in the early 1980's) the cabin was carefully constructed by methods used in the 1850s.  Note the split wood shingles, handmade iron hardware and the fireplace built from limestone found on the park grounds.  The school house has also been reconstructed. 

St. Stephens (Past Town)

The post office name changed from Nemaha to St. Stephens in 1855 and was discontinued in 1868.  This primarily Catholic community honors Stephen Story, the first postmaster.  At its peak in 1860, this Missouri River ferry town had a population of 404 with 2 stores, a blacksmith shop, two saloons and a school, which was also used for a church and general meeting house.

Salem - 2000 Census = 138                                                Top of Page

Salem lies 7 miles west of Falls City and for a short time was the county seat.  It was founded in 1854.  The Post Office was established in January, 1856.  In the early days, Salem was populated by several wealthy families.  In May, 1857, J.C. Lincoln, a founder of the town and 2nd cousin of Abraham Lincoln, opened a store as the first general assortment of goods brought into the county.  Before the course of the Nemaha River was changed by the drainage district, the river passed Salem at the foot of the hill and a mill was located there.  Salem became noted for its Chautauqua and the facilities that went with it.  It had a number of stores, followed by a blacksmith shop, cafes, bank, churches, school, and a grain elevator.  The population of Salem peaked at about 694 in 1860.  Present businesses include a cafe, a tavern, a grain elevator, the post office and a library.  The high school was closed sometime in the late 1880's and the building demolished in 2005.

Shubert - 2000 Census = 252

Henry W. Shubert came to Nebraska Territory in 1865 and in 1869 purchased land in northern Richardson County from Edwin S. Towle.  Railroad officials were eager to establish a town and build a depot in order to provide transportation for incoming supplies, outgoing produce and more settlers.  This railroad line from Nemaha to Salem passed Mr. Shubert's land and in 1883, two days before the first railroad run, he recorded his plat for the village.  The post office was established in 1884.  There have been a number of stores, cafes, taverns, doctors, dentists, an auto dealership, grain elevator, bank, school, and churches located there.  Shubert is now part of the Southeast Consolidated School District.  Businesses today include a retail lumber company, a grain elevator, a photo studio, two taverns and the post office.  The Lumber company closed in 2004, and the tavern located in the center of town closed in 2002.

Stella - 2000 Census = 220

Stella, in north central Richardson County was founded in 1881 at the completion of the Missouri Pacific Railroad line being built from Hiawatha, KS. to Omaha, NE.  The station was completed in 1882 and the town began to grow.  It was named after the deceased daughter of J. W. Clark on whose land Stella was built.  Stella is part of the Southeast Nebraska Consolidated school district and is the location of the school. Besides the school, Stella has churches, a library, a gas station, a tavern, a grocery store, a bank and a grain elevator.

Straussville (Past Town)

Straussville, laid out by Gustave and Savilla Strauss, local land owners, is the youngest village of the county.  It was platted in 1901, about 5 miles northwest of Falls City on the railroad, but was not filed for record until 1912.  There was a post office from 1899 to 1912.  There was also a store, blacksmith shop and grain elevator.  Kentopp Elevator operated there for many years and was sold to a granddaughter of its founders in 1998.  Today it consists of the elevator and 1-house.

Verdon - 2000 Census = 223

Verdon, platted as Springfield in 1856, is in the center of the Richardson County.  Springfield failed to materialize, but from its decayed remains, Verdon took root after a lapse of 26 years.  Peak population was in (1910), at 406.  The town was platted by Mr. and Mrs. John A. Hall and was named by the Missouri Pacific Railroad.  The plat for the land was filed in 1882.  The Post Office was established March 4, 1882.  Many of its first settlers were from Cottage Grove, northeast of Verdon, near old Arago.  The main street once held a bandstand, a flag pole and the town well, which was used for watering animals and fighting numerous fires.  Main street was graveled for the first time in 1926.   Second floor of the grocery store was used for social functions and programs until the 1940ís.  Present businesses include a gas station, a Coop propane and fertilizer business, a heating/air-conditioning business and a craft shop.  Verdon became part of the Dawson-Verdon Consolidated School District in 1960, which has its schools in Dawson.  The Verdon High School closed in the summer of 1959 and the grade school, which shared the same building, followed a year or so later and the building was demolished in 2000.

Williamsville (Past Town)

A post office was established there in 1867 and discontinued in 1879.  It was named for the first county school superintendent.  It was a German community southeast of Barada.  A church still stands at the site.

Winnebago - Yancton (Past Towns)

Other towns which are mentioned occasionally in the early records of the county have long since ceased to exist.  Among them are Yancton and Winnebago, which stood near the river above Rulo, and took their names from the Indians, who were a large part of their inhabitants. On the county records are seen the plats of additions to towns whose very names have passed from common remembrance.

 


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A list of Past and Present Towns / Communities and Post Offices

Arago,  Archer,  Athens

Barada,  Breckenridge

Cottage Grove

Dawson/Noraville,  Dorrington

Falls City,  Fargo,  Flowerdale,  Franklin

Geneva,  Gere,  Gilbraltar

Highland,  Humboldt

Long Branch

Middleburg,  Miles Ranch,  Monterey,  Mount Roy

Nemaha Falls,  Nims City,  Nohart

Peora,  Poteet,  Prairie Union,  Preston/Blufton/Sac

Rulo

St. DeRoin, St. Stephens,  Salem,  Shasta,  Sanktown,  Shubert,  Silver Creek,  Stella,  Straussville

Verdon/Springfield

Wells Mills,  Williamsville,  Winnebago

Yankton


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