Box Butte County
Hemingford Abbot (England) and HemmingFord (Quebec, Canada) are ancestors of the town by that name in western Nebraska. The first settlers that came in 1885 included a group from Canada who wanted the new town named for their former home. Today the town is truly a melting pot of America, with people of all nationalities among its residents.
Hemingford was incorporated in 1886. The first known pictures in 1887 show 12 buildings. Since this was a treeless area, many buildings were made of sod.
The railroad has been important in the history of Hemingford. The surveying crew arrived in Box Butte Country in 1886 (the area then a part of Dawes County until its separation the following year.) The Burlington Railroad reached Hemingford in 1889, missing the county seat of Nonpareil by about four miles. Hemingford was the second county seat in Box Butte, winning an 1890 election, only to lose it to Alliance nine years later. The incident gained national attention when the large two-story courthouse was moved by train to Alliance.
Starting as an agricultural town, Hemingford has remained so through the years. A skimming station set the record of handling the greatest volume of milk and cream of any place in Nebraska, and it was thought also in the nation. The Farmers' Creamery made and shipped butter to Chicago in 1913-15. The population then was about 1,000, the same as it is in 1987. In 1929 Hemingford had the largest shipping record for carlot agricultural shipments of any town on the Burlington Railroad.
There were four passenger trains stopping in Hemingford each day in 1919; two west and two east. By 1960 passenger business decreased due to the numbers of motor vehicles available. The postal service also transferred from the railroad to air and highway carriers. The town again gained national attention when Burlington passenger #41 was abruptly discontinued on August 14, 1969, stranding its 35 passengers at Hemingford. A supreme court judge then issued an order reinstating service for 10 days, allowing for a more orderly termination. By 1980 the Burlington Northern Railroad was hauling coal from Wyoming with trains over a mile in length. In 1987 approximately 25 trains pass through town every 24 hours. Depot service ceased after a train derailment destroyed the building in 1983.
Throughout the years, wheat and other small grains have been important crops. Coming into Hemingford from the south, the view of the massive grain elevators with a capacity of 2,594,000 bushels meets the eye. Since pump irrigation was introduced, corn, sugar beets, potatoes, edible beans, and alfalfa have become important crops. White and pinto beans are grown on both dryland and irrigated farms. There is a large amount of grazing land in the area, so livestock is also big business. The availability of feed grains and forage has brought about the locating of several feed lots near Hemingford.
In 1969 Hemingford became the first town in the western panhandle to consolidate the surrounding rural schools into its K-12 school district. Four buses travel routes totaling 209 miles twice a day. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church operates a parochial grammer school.
There are five churches in Hemingford. The Christmas diorama is a Christmas story of pictorial and wooden figures of people, angels, and animals in sixteen scenes covering a distance of two and a half football fields. The display is at the west side of town and in place from the last part of November until after New Years each year.
Box Butte Reservoir nine miles north of town provides an area for camping, fishing, and recreation. The County Fair, third largest in the state, is held at Hemingford.
Highway 2 passes through town from the south and becomes highway 2 and 71 twelve miles west of town. Highway 87 leaves No. 385 east of town and becomes No. 2 at Hemingford.
Hemingford is, and has always been, known for being a community of friendly and caring people.
By Edna Clark, Box 391, Hemingford, NE 69348