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Nebraska...Our Towns


Dakota County

Jackson's Main Street, looking west in the early 1900s
St. Catherine's Academy, established in 1893, closed after being inundated by flood waters in 1940. [Harris]
Aerial view of the town in the 1980s [Smith]

"St. John's City," established in 1856, was one of the very early settlement along the Missouri River. The site, however, did not prove to be a good one, as the unruly Missouri was prone to flooding and changing its course every now and then. The river had already cut away some of the land on which the town stood when a tornado came roaring down the valley and destroyed nearly all the buildings in the town.

The people, quite dismayed by their misfortune, moved from the valley. Some took farm land to the east while others established a new town farther south. This became our town of Jackson.

On ground donated by Michael McCormick in 1860, Martin Barrell laid out the streets and lots. First choosing the name "Franklin," they were informed that there was already a post office by that name. So they chose "Jackson," in honor of Andrew Jackson. The town was incorporated in 1865, two years before Gerald Dillon was appointed the first postmaster at that location. There have been two additions to the original plat.

Before cars and trucks became the primary mode of transportation, Jackson had two railroads: the Chicago, St.Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha and the Pacific Shortline.

Jackson had several short-lived newspapers. The "Jackson Herald (1878-79), the "Reporter," and "Citizen" in the years that followed. The "Jackson Criterion" was started in 1885 by James Twohig and William Barrett. The last editor was Mr.Cilley.

A small frame schoolhouse was built in 1860. During Fr. Lawless's pastorship in the 1880s, a brick church was built. A larger brick schoolhouse was built in 1886. St.Catherine's Academy was established in 1893.

St. Patrick's Benevolent Society of Jackson was organized in 1888. The organization did a lot of good, intellectually and socially. Its hall had a stage, with seating for 500 people. For many years the society's "Fife and Drum" band, with Irish and American flags, were enjoyed by all. Jackson had a powerful and competitive baseball team that also had a strong following.

The town experienced steady growth, with almost every type of business represented in the 1900s. The Riley Opera House was a busy place with recitals, concerts, state plays, and other entertainment. There was also two banks, a hotel, saw mill, gristmill, a store, and two doctors.

In July 1906 a semi-centennial of the founding of the Catholic Church in Nebraska by Fr. Trecy was celebrated by Bishop Phillip Gerrigan of Iowa, and Bishop Richard Scannell of Nebraska.

In 1916 a drainage ditch, started 12 years earlier, was completed. It was designed to confine Elk Creek within its banks and channel it into the Missouri River, to prevent flooding on the lowlands. This provided some protection, however, in 1940 there was a devastating flood that enveloped the whole town. The ditch wall gave way, bridges washed out, and businesses were inundated. St.Catherine's Academy was also flooded, which forced it to close its doors. Not all businesses chose to rebuild and the town seemed to be at a stand-still.

The shock of the Japanese bombing at Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought on the need to work for the war effort. The young eligible men and some young women entered the service, and everyone in the community -- young and old -- did what they could to preserve freedom and serve their country.

When the war was over, Jackson paved the streets and added street lights. The town has a good water system, natural gas, and electricity from NPPD. With the completion of Gavins Point Dam in 1955, the "Mighty Mo" was finally brought under control.

In 1960 a centennial celebration was held under the leadership of Fr. Boland. In the year since, a new park, named for Dr. R.F.Magirl, and a shelter house, named for Jake Sullivan were built. Lights have been added to the baseball field to accommodate late night games. A historical marker was erected in 1981 to commemorate 125 years of progress of St.Patrick's Parish.

Our town is growing. New homes have been built and two apartment houses replace the Leahy house. We also have a fast food shop at the edge of town and a new ceramic shop on main street. Located just ten miles from Sioux City, the present population is nearly 300. Jackson keeps forging ahead.


By Alice Smith, Box 151, Jackson, NE 68743


ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Warner's Dakota County History, 1893; and Dakota County, Nebraska History, 1982.