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Nebraska...Our Towns


Butler County

Dwight, first called "Lone Star," is in the southeast corner of Butler County. The town developed after the FE&MVR went through. Photo taken from the top of the public school looking north in about 1915. [Novacek]
Main street in 1985, looking north from city hall. [Novacek]
Dwight's main street looking north, 1910.
Dwight's CNW Depot Museum. [Novacek]

The town of Dwight had its beginning when the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad arrived in 1887. However, the earliest settler, Clinton Lattin, arrived nearly two decades earlier in 1866. The Richardson, Dunlap, and Davis families homesteaded between 1868-70. By 1870 there were enough families in the area to organize a school district.

In 1871 J.P.Dunlap, a direct descendent of Daniel Boone, established a post office, and gave it the name "Lone Star." Dunlap also established a sizable nursery and orchard. An apple tree that he developed still bears his name.

Later, when a new postmaster was appointed and the office moved, it was renamed "Dwight," because so many early settlers came from Dwight, IL. In the early years, there were several very large ranch holdings east and west of town. These were later divided into smaller parcels and sold.

In the mid 1880s, with the anticipated arrival of the railroad, Dunlap and Davis sold 70 and 80 acres, respectively, to the town site company. As soon as the lots were platted, all kinds of businesses sprang up and the town grew quickly.

In the 1890s, a wave of Czechoslovakian immigrants came to America, many of them settling with friends and relatives who came to this part of Nebraska in the 1870-80s. In a short while the town took on quite a different look as new shop owners exhibited their talents and wares. The Assumption Catholic Parish had its beginnings in 1896.

When Dwight incorporated in 1904, Joseph Kalina was elected mayor, and the village clerk was Frank Maixner. In 1905 telephones were installed. A fire in 1911 gutted a large portion of the business district. When shops rebuilt, they were of brick and stone. Electricity became available in 1917.

A beautiful, yellow-brick, Gothic-style church was built in 1915, its bell tower reaching high above the treetops. In 1921, as the town continued to grow, the parishioners of Assumption established a parochial school. Dwight's streets were graveled in 1926, and a grotto near the church was added in the 1930s.

A volunteer fire department was organized in 1933 and, at its insistence, a waterworks system was installed in 1938. However, the following year, 1939, a second big fire destroyed a large part of the business district before it could be stopped.

The population of Dwight peaked in 1930 at 323 residents. Through the 1940s, when the demands of the war caused a population-shift to fill essential jobs, and in the 1950s, as larger equipment brought the consolidation of smaller farms, Dwight saw many changes. In 1953 the public high school closed, and in 1961 the parochial school had to close its doors, leaving only an elementary school in the village. In 1957 Dwight's only doctor, J.J.Srb, passed away.

Just as the railroad (Chicago & North Western) abandoned its line in 1962, a hard-surfaced road was completed into town. Dwight, centrally located between two larger cities and only 30 miles from the capital city of Lincoln, offers its residents a more rural atmosphere, while being close enough to enjoy employment opportunities and other big-city advantages.

With a current population of 229, Dwight is one of Nebraska's growing towns, showing a four-percent increase from 1980. Because families are now smaller, there are actually twice as many homes as there were in the 1930s.

A brand new K-8 school building was opened in 1975, and the parochial school has been remodeled into apartments. Dwight has a full line of business establishments, a library, and a good park with a tennis court, a baseball and a football field. The town also has good lighting, sewage treatment, and many armor coated streets.

In addition to all this, Dwight hosts an annual Czech Festival in July to preserve the heritage of the community. The Dwight depot, first building constructed in our town, is now a museum. In addition to nearly all the original depot fixtures, the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, also holds many community artifacts.

Local patronage of businesses and activities, and the school are important for our small towns to exist. Dwight is a lively town and it will be around for a long time.

By Alfred Novacek, Box 44, Dwight, NE 68635

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Campbell Clan , 1938, and Three Cheers for the Pioneers, 1954, both written by Christina (Dunlap) Dugger; and Dwight's First Hundred Years of Memories , 1987, written for the Centennial, includes a history of the town and many personal biographies.