The original land transfer from the USA to Solomon Tifft, was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on April 10, 1861. Forty acres of that land is where Richland now stands.
An act of Congress created the Union Pacific Railroad in 1862, with rails laid through this area in 1866. Some early settlers included: Jacob Moural, Henry Binder, Dennis Sullivan from Ireland, John Stibal and a Mr. Kovarik from Bohemia, John Trofholz, Gustav Kluck, and William Yonkie from Germany, and P.T. Hughes. All land making up Richland Precinct was conveyed to Martin Spitley of Springfield, IL, in 1875.
An effort was made to establish a town in 1877, which, for a time, had three names. A post office, two-miles south on the Mormon Trail called El Dorado, was moved to the depot and given the name "Richland." However since the railroad had a town by that name in Kansas, they used the name "Benton." The people called their village "Spitley," for the man who owned the land and filed a plat in that name in 1878. Eventually the postal-name won out.
School District 12, first recorded in 1874 with an enrollment of 15 pupils, was located north of Richland. A larger building was needed in the late 1880s and moved into town around 1900. That building become the village hall when a new schoolhouse was built in 1912. When county schools reorganized in 1967, Richland became part of the Schuyler Class VI Central High School District, and grade school children attend a rural school two miles from town.
The last school now serves as the village hall and park. It is used for many community affairs and gatherings. A small mail station, built in front of the hall in 1986, is where mail is left and picked up.
Richland's first grocery store was opened by John Stibal in 1879, with a larger one built in 1888. A second store, opened by John Blake, was known as the Holub & Nash Store for 32 years. William Saalfeld's cream station added a grocery line for a time but it closed in 1943. Albros' were the last to own the Blake building, operating a grocery and cafe until 1973 when they retired. The Village Inn now houses a bar, cafe, and small line of groceries. This is where people gather for breakfast, morning coffee klatch, lunch or dinner, and cards anytime.
Richland residents got their first glimpse of an automobile in 1902. A garage, built by Clarence Brockelsby in 1914, sold and serviced Brisco, Pontiac, Oakland, and Plymouth cars. He also had the first radio shop in the village. A body shop opened in 1972.
A bank was organized in 1906, with George Shonka, president. It was robbed in the early 1920s, and closed in the 1930s, but all depositors were paid 100 percent of their holdings
Richland did not incorporate until 1908. Its highest population of 174 was recorded in 1930. Presently the population is about 90.
A Methodist Church first stood north of Richland was moved to town around 1900. A fire department was organized in 1917, and electricity came to the village in 1923. When the Depression hit, the church closed and was torn down, and a number of businesses failed. In the 1950s Highway 30, once on Richland's Front Street, was rerouted a mile north of town, and the rural fire department out of Schuyler began to serve the Richland area. The UP Railroad still goes by, but agency service was discontinued in 1966 and the depot torn down in 1970.
Richland, a bicentennial community, held a celebration in 1976. On July 30, 1978, the village observed its 100th birthday. A large crowd was present to honor our town and celebrate this milestone with the proud and happy residents.
Recently, Richland's five-member village board was instrumental in helping a nearby manufacturing plant through a crisis by applying for a HUD grant. The payback schedule, beginning in 1990-91, will be used to improve Richland streets, and perhaps provide for a new sewer/water system. It is hoped that cross arms will be added to the dangerous railroad crossing at the entrance to town. "We are a busy village," said a Richland resident, "and that's good!"
By Elsie M. Brockelsby, Rte 5 Box 158, Richland, NE 68657.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Richland Centennial Book, and Hardee's Salutes Richland by Irene O'Brien.