This area was settled as early as 1869. Alvo, in the western part of Cass County, became a town when the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad was built from Omaha to Lincoln, 1888-91. At first there were only a few shacks where the railroad men slept and ate. The name "Alvo" is unique, and is the only community in the United States known by this name. The first child born in the town, which began to form near the siding, was the daughter of the "roadmaster." Her parents gave her the name Alvo, which was subsequently chosen as the name for the station.
The first building erected was the depot. Salem Church, which was built in 1890 near the Hedge Corner School north and west of the present town, was moved to Alvo after the town site was laid out. In 1892 it became known as the Alvo Methodist Episcopal Church. A school was built in 1892 for grades 1-10. It served until 1916, when a large brick building was constructed for K-12. Said to be one of the earliest consolidated systems in the state, the Alvo Consolidated School served the community until 1960 when, because of declining enrollment, the school merged with Eagle, six miles away. In 1966 it merged again, this time with the Waverly district, and the building was torn down.
In the early years, Alvo was a thriving community with a wide variety of businesses. In 1909 Alvo's population was 225. In addition to a telephone office and a doctor, there was an agent for broom corn, two elevators, and more than a dozen shops and businesses. The Farmers & Merchants Bank was organized in 1901. Simon Boyles, who became its president in 1902, served in that capacity for 40 years. In 1932 J.B. Elliott and Edgar Edwards bought the hardware store in Alvo from Roy Coatman and John Skinner. In addition to selling hardware, they started selling John Deere implements at a time when tractors were just coming into use. Since farming was mostly done with horses, J.B. would trade tractors for horses.
Amos Tefft arrived in Nebraska from Illinois in the spring of 1857 and bought land in this part of Cass County. By September, when his family joined him, Jeremiah Carr had obtained a post office, and in October, a "paper town" was registered by George Vickroy and Masten Redin. The proprietors laid out wide streets, a public square, and called their town "Avoca." By 1860 there were 18 families living in the area. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, many joined a regiment "to defend the Union," or served in the Nebraska Militia, which formed in 1862. When the war was over, the area filled with settlers, many of German descent.
News about a railroad began circulating in 1881. The branch line of the Missouri Pacific followed the precinct line between land owned by the Tefft family and John Carter. In 1882, after Orlando Tefft successfully negotiated for a station, a town was surveyed and a new plat was filed using the name "Avoca." Tefft, east of the tracks, and Carter on the west, competed to see who could sell the most lots. Tefft got the school, post office, and many businesses, while Carter had the elevator and depot.
By 1884, more than 150 people lived in Avoca, and later that year incorporation papers were completed.
Early in the 1890s the population is said to have reached 300. A diphtheria epidemic that took many lives, along with the drought and money panic, caused the population to drop to 255 by 1900. Electricity was installed in 1918. Disaster struck the town in the 1920s. A terrible windstorm hit Avoca and the surrounding area on September 6, 1921. Described as "more cyclonic than tornadic in nature," the school and much of the town were damaged. A second disaster occurred on February 26, 1924, when nine businesses were destroyed in a fire. Avoca observed its centennial with a three-day celebration in July 1982.
Established in 1886. During the early 1900s Eagle could boast numerous businesses, including three general stores, three hardware stores, two dray wagons, two barber shops, two saloons, a lumberyard, a carpenter shop, a livery barn, a harness shop, a hotel, a rooming house, a bakery, a drug store, a print shop, a photograph studio, and a pool hall. There was also a flour mill, two grain elevators, a stockyards, and a creamery.
Located straight east of Lincoln on Highway 34 ("O" Street), village streets were graded and graveled in 1925, when that stretch of road was being improved. It was paved in 1934. Streets were blacktopped in Eagle during the 1960s. Two new housing developments were built in the 1970s: Eagle Heights west of town, and Eagle Lake to the southwest.
Elmwood was founded in 1868 when a post office was established near a grove of Elm trees. Because of these trees, Postmaster David McCaig, a Civil War veteran, chose the name "Elmwood." McCaig's cabin was actually on Stove Creek several miles north of the present town. By 1886 the town, containing just over 200 people, was large enough to incorporate. A successful effort brought a branch line of the Missouri Pacific Railroad from Union through Elmwood, to provide transportation for people wanting to go to either Lincoln or Omaha.
In 1886 a Mr. Mayfield established the "Elmwood Echo." In 1891 the "Elmwood Leader," published by Burt Clements, was born. The two newspapers consolidated in 1896, after which they were known as the "Elmwood Leader-Echo." The paper continued until 1952. L.F. Langhorst came to Elmwood in 1886 and in 1907 he built the Langhorst Mercantile, whose upper story was an opera house. It was the scene of many memorable activities, meetings, and a wide variety of entertainment.
Since a good many of the pioneers were Civil War veterans, a G.A.R. Post was established and a hall built in 1886. This building, a meeting place for all civic and cultural groups, is now the home of the Elmwood American Legion.
Our most famous resident, Bess Streeter Aldrich, came from Iowa with her husband, who worked at American Exchange Bank. A writing of short stories prior to 1925, she began writing in earnest after the sudden death of her husband. Her books, which include "A Lantern in Her Hand", "White Bird Flying", "Rim of the Prairie," and others, have been translated into many languages. She was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1971. With an initial gift by Charles and Esther Miller, a foundation provided funds for the Bess Streeter Aldrich Library & Museum, which was dedicated in 1991.
Manley, first known as "Summit" for the breathtaking view in all directions. In early days there were three ranchers in the vicinity by the name of Manley, and the town was probably named for one of them. In 1880 German-born August F. Wendt gained ownership of the land on which present-day Manley is located. Three years later, on April 27th, Wendt was asked to survey and name the town. A post office was established on June 4, 1883. However, as a town, it was a "late bloomer!" The first steps toward organization were taken in 1945, with incorporation not completed until 1954, exactly 100 years after the Territory was opened for settlement.
Manley's main street developed much as other railroad towns. Although electricity came to Manley in 1927, street lights were not installed until November 11, 1954. As the railroad era started to fade, Manley's location one mile east of Highway 50 placed it at a disadvantage. Work on a spur road from the highway into downtown began in 1961, and the streets were blacktopped in 1970.
A number of famous people claim Manley as their home, including Glen Fleischmann (1909-85), artist and author, born and raised in Manley. He graduated from Louisville High in 1926, and became a prominent illustrator for national magazines including Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Collier's, and Woman's Home Companion. Fleischmann wrote While Rivers Flow in 1963, The Cherokee Removal in 1971, and The Artist: His Markets and World in 1971. Sophus Keith Winther (1893-1983) a noted writer, was born in Denmark, but grew up and attended schools in Manley and Weeping Water. He was Professor of History at the University of Washington and the author of the trilogy: Take All to Nebraska, Mortgage Your Heart, and This Passion Never Dies. Oscar Winther, a younger brother, also attended school at Manley. He became Professor of History at Stanford University and Associate Dean of Students at Indiana University. Oscar was the author of many history books and edited a number of journals. A special landmark in the area is the beautiful Schliefert Iris Gardens one mile northwest of Manley, started by Arnold and Esther Schliefert in 1935.
When the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad built a line from Omaha to Colorado in December 1890, and needed a "water station" at this location, so our town was born, named for a railroad official. The population quickly grew to 200 people, most of whom were first or second generation Germans. As a result of a split in the Evangelical Church, a number of people from Ackley, Iowa, heard about the new town and came to establish businesses. Eugene Tool and his son Harold built the lumberyard. Another son, Arthur, had a hardware and harness shop. A nephew operated a mercantile store and later became the banker. The Gillespies ran a hotel and livery barn. Arthur Rikli had a furniture store and funeral parlor. Murdock had two elevators. Farmers later organized themselves into a Farmers Union, which was the beginning of the strong cooperative which exists today.
In the German Evangelical church, built in 1905, the pastors preached in German (except for a brief time during World War I, when foreign languages were against the law), so it prospered. Lutherans drove to Trinity Lutheran, two miles north of town.
A two-story frame school was built in 1892 for grades 1-8, with grades 9-10 added later. The first 12th grade graduates were in 1922, with a brick school completed in 1924. A new school was built in the 1970s. Murdock wasn't a big manufacturing town although Harold Tool did get a patent on cob boxes. George Utt raised broom corn and made brooms. Farmers brought in wagon loads of apples, packed them into barrels, and shipped them out by train.
Murdock's population has remained a stable 200-250 throughout the years. Life centers around the agricultural interests with its co-op elevator, seed farm, bank, and good array of shops and businesses.
In the spring of 1872 a young bachelor, Joe Burton, occupied the only dwelling in the area. This was a one-room cabin in a grove of trees four miles west and one mile south of "Rock Bluffs," a flourishing steamboat town along the Missouri River. In 1878 the Presbyterian church at Rock Bluffs was loaded up and moved on wagons to the crossroads of what was hoped would become the town of "Fairview." It was not until September 22, 1884, that a post office was established in the blacksmith shop of William Loughridge. The Fairview name was rejected as "confused with other towns," so a new name was needed. Some residents favored "Walker," but the town's founder did not fancy the idea and proposed instead that it be named "Murray" in honor of Reverend George Reed Murray, the first resident pastor of the church.
In 1891 there was a flutter of excitement. Walker and Latta employed D. M. Lewis to survey the town. Streets were named, blocks numbered, and a plat was filed. Later that year the Missouri Pacific Railroad connected Union, Murray, and Plattsmouth to the growing city of Omaha.
The Christian Church traces its origins to Rock Bluffs, until 1892, when a building was constructed on the main street in Murray. In 1975 a new building was dedicated in the Christian Heights addition, and the old church was torn down. The United Presbyterian Church, completed on the south side of Main in 1897, remains active at that location.
School district 56, which served this area for a number of years, was established in 1872. A high school was built in 1914, but destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, 1932. A brick structure replaced it the following year. Committees named to reorganize area schools in 1972 resulted in the building of Conestoga Junior-Senior High two miles west of Murray and seven miles north of Nehawka. The new building was dedicated in 1980. Children in grades K-3 attend school in Murray, and students in grades 4-6 are housed in Nehawka.
The worst disaster in Murray was a fire that took place on June 9, 1927. Half of the town's businesses went up in flames: Nelson Hardware, Earl Lancaster's store, Nailor Soda Drink Parlor, the meat market, the community hall, and the post office. The Murray Volunteer Fire Department was established soon after the town incorporated in 1935. A rural fire district was organized in 1962 and the village joined that district in 1981.
On June 18, 1855, Samuel Kirkpatrick came from Iowa to stake his claim in Cass County, where Nehawka, is today. That fall he built the first saw mill in the area on the north banks of the Weeping Water Creek. The following year John Knabe, J.C. Hansen, Andrew Sturm, Larson Sheldon, Isaac Pollard, William Rose and their families moved to the area. That same year a town named "Cassville" was laid out just over two miles north of Kirkpatrick's land, and the following year yet another town in this area called "Mt. Pleasant."
In 1857 Isaac Pollard, an experienced surveyor remembered as the man who planted many trees in Cass County, laid out a town called "Waterville." Later, when no sales were recorded, the plat -- actually part of Nehawka -- was abandoned. A settlement about three miles southeast called "Factoryville" was becoming quite a town about that time. On a trip back east in 1874 Pollard stopped in Washington D.C. to obtain a post office for the settlers in this area. Because the name "Weeping Water" had already been chosen by a settlement upstream (and neither Pollard or his brother, Levi, could pronounce the Indian word for weeping water) they chose the name "Nehawka," meaning "rustling water." A postal address was approved for that name on January 8, 1875.
In the late 1880s, with rumors circulating about a railroad that would run from Weeping Water to Auburn via Nebraska City, when people began to see the possibility of a real town. They began selling and -- in some cases -- giving land to the railroad. As a result, they were successful in getting a station at this location. The line was completed in 1887.
The growth of the town continued with more than 30 businesses operating by the town's first birthday. By 1893 the population was 200. There were two churches, several general stores, livery stables, hotels, another meat market, a hardware and furniture store, a drug store, a bank, a barber shop, a millinery shop, a billiard hall, and the weekly newspaper, "The Nehawka Register." There was also a three-story brick ice-house, with space for fruit storage, a stone quarry, and a two-story brick school.
The limestone quarries, Pollard's apple orchards, and Sheldon's concrete mixers were widely known and put Nehawka on the map. In 1937 Nehawka's six-man football team made national news in a November issue of Life magazine. For its size Nehawka has contributed many fine citizens to our state and nation, and has had an unusually high number of political office holders. Lawson Sheldon and Kirkpatrick served in the territorial legislature, and Kirkpatrick was then elected to Nebraska's house of representatives as well as to the 1871 and 1875 constitutional conventions. Fred Nutzman and Micheal Kime served in the legislature. E.M. Pollard served in both the state legislature and U.S. Congress. Nehawka is the birthplace of Nebraska's first native-born governor, George L. Sheldon.
Settlers arrived in southeastern Cass County as early as 1855. The cluster of houses called "Stringtown," located on the east side of Weeping Water Creek in the 1880s, was the forerunner of Union. In 1887, when the Missouri Pacific Railroad began surveying for a rail line from Nebraska City to Lincoln, G. A. Rose saw the potential for business, so built a store. The following year several of the small inland post offices consolidated into one, called "Pleasant Grove" by the residents, was moved to an office at the rail center by Postmaster Robert Frans. In 1890, when the enterprising MP started laying a line northward to Omaha, the village of "Union" was established. It was this junction or "union of the two rail lines" that gave our town its name.
In 1892 the Cass County commissioners approved the organization of a village, with trustees Rose, John Kennedy, Hirum Dubois, R.A. Fleming, and Frank Tenny. By 1893 eight passenger trains passed through Union daily with a round trip ticket to Omaha costing $.80. With easy access and the many daily freight trains, Union became a busy shipping point for area farmers to the larger grain and livestock markets.
Thriving businesses soon lined the kerosene-lighted dirt streets. There were three general stores, a furniture and hardware store (with an undertaking sideline), a stationery and drug store, and a harness shop. The ill and ailing were cared for by Dr. Wallace. A.R. Eikenbary was the cashier of the Union Bank, and Josie Pittman ran the millinery shop that made hand-crafted "lovelies" for the ladies. G.N. LaRue was the village blacksmith, while Leach and Peck Livery Stables cared for the livestock while customers shopped. Two large grain elevators were built, and a lumberyard filled with choice building materials did a thriving business. The first newspaper, "The Union Ledger," was started in 1888 by William Todd. He soon sold his shop, which consisted of an old discarded Civil War army press, to C.L. Graves, who then edited the paper for many years.
The contract for building a schoolhouse was let to D.W. Foster in 1889 at a cost of $2,747. That building burned in 1912 and was replaced with a large brick structure in time for the fall term. Sports were always popular in Union's school. In 1907 the girls basketball team were "state champions." The Union district merged with the Nebraska City school system in 1956. The building now sits sad and lonely for those who remember it "back then."
The Old Settlers Picnic, a big event in the early days, was held for the first time in 1889. There were parades, oratories, and music. Barbecued beef and pork, cooked by William Ellington of Rock Bluff (first sheriff of Cass County) made the day. Union's centennial celebration was held in 1987.
The first white settlers arrived in March 1856. Elam Flower and Darrell Reed build a log house near the falls, which was used at various times as a church, a school, and a stable. In 1857 a post office named "Weeping Water" was established. It was ten years (1867) before a village was platted and a store opened. The town incorporated in 1870 at which time Oakwood Cemetery was platted. The railroad, which arrived in 1883, ensured its continued existence, and by 1888 Weeping Water achieved the status of a second class city.
The quarries provided limestone for many of the town's buildings. One such building, constructed about 1870, was a Congregational church. Becoming an academy for college-bound students in 1885, the building was converted into a library around 1915. The oldest extant Congregational parsonage (built in the 1860s) stands nearby. Purchased by Dr. Jesse Fate in 1893, it served for many years as his home and office. In 1971, another building of native limestone, built in the style of the two older buildings by third-generation builder Byron Baker, was completed. This building and the old parsonage now make up the Weeping Water Valley Historical Museum.