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Nebraska...Our Towns


Cheyenne County

Early Dalton, taken from the railroad looking east down main street. Note the schoolhouse at the far end, in the middle of the street.
Dalton, 1925, is up and coming, with street lights, wide side walks and some trees. Photo courtesy of Margaret Johnson
This panoramic view of Dalton was taken in May 1919, from the Little White Lutheran Church on the left through the stock yards on the right. The grain elevators have replaced the old "shovel houses," where men first shoveled wheat from wagons into the shovel houses, and at night they shoveled it into railroad cars.
Dalton, May 1986, taken the day the crew was nearing completion of the demolition of the old elevator.

In 1899 the Nebraska, Wyoming, & Western Railroad was certified and surveying crews staked its route through Cheyenne County. Dalton was one of the work stations. In January 1900 the railroad purchased 150' strip of land from the 1867 land grant belonging to the Union Pacific. By fall there was a daily freight and passenger service north to Deadwood and south to Denver. The railroad erected a depot, section house, water tank, and stock pens. The original depot burned and was rebuilt on the east side of the track. In 1961 after service was discontinued, the buildings were sold and made into a home and specialty shop. The depot grounds are now a nice little park.

A 1908 ad reads: "...Dalton, a year old on February 24...there never was another town in the state which made as rapid a growth as this town. Two elevators, hotels, livery barns, churches, and several stores were started in sixteen months. Land is level, having a rich black soil five feet deep with a clay subsoil underneath. There never was a better chance for men to get close to a good town and have better soil than this...the price of land...from $16 to $22.50 per acre..."

Commissioners' minutes in 1909 show that a tract of land five miles square was incorporated into the Village of Dalton. (Our ancestors where not lacking in imagination!) This same year "The Dalton Herald" began a short-lived publication. Starting in 1914 "The Dalton Delegate" published a newspaper every Friday until September 1951.

School was first held in a sod house, a room in another residence, then a small stone building near town. The first school in Dalton was built in the middle of the street, just south of the present school site. New buildings have been added over the years. In 1978 a merger with the town just south was initiated, so K-8 is at Gurley and high school in Dalton

Dalton's longest resident doctor, Dr.Pankau, practiced medicine for 40 years until his death in December 1969. We also had a hospital from 1925 to 1969. Since 1978 a doctor from Bridgeport is available at the clinic on Fridays.

A fire department was organized in 1913 with a cart which was pulled by the firemen. The equipment and facilities have been updated over the years with latest additions a rescue unit in 1955 and an Emergency Medical Technicians in 1978.

Three windmills provided water for residents until 1914 when a 280 foot well was hand-dug and a water tower erected. The city is now supplied by three wells, still utilizing the original tower.

The first telephone lines arrived as early as 1898 and connected Sidney to Water Holes Ranch, Ickes, and Redington Station. The next telephones were farm lines east of Dalton in 1914 which led to the establishment of a phone company in 1917-18.

A light plant was purchased in 1921 using a 100 horsepower motor. It operated at a loss for several years and was finally given to the Western Public Service Company at Scottsbluff. Since 1947 electricity has been supplied by the Wheatbelt Public Power District at Sidney.

Entertainment consisted of movies, dances, and vaudeville acts. From 1916 to 1930 Chautauqua was enjoyed for one week each summer.

Dalton has survived a number disasters. The flu epidemic in 1918 that quarantined the county, and a polio epidemic in 1944, causing the school to close and canceling graduation exercises. The blizzard of 1949 was the worst storm since 1888 and isolated people from even their nearest neighbors for many days.

The first radio program was aired on KSID, Sidney, in 1959. Produced from a room above the bank, volunteer announcers broadcast the news, announcements, and advertizing.

In 1963 the Stramit Company opened making insulated panels from wheat straw compressed into a 2" x 4' x 8' panels covered with paper. The plant, the only one of its kind, was destroyed by fire in 1968 and was not rebuilt.

Dalton's Museum proudly displays a log cabin, steam engines and a wide array of antiques. Located 18 miles north of Sidney, Dalton has a population of 350, is a good town where people have real concern for others and come to their aid in time of trouble.

By Faetta Schreinert, HC 82 Box 100, Dalton, NE 69131