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Nebraska...Our Towns


Started as a virtual "after thought," this Lancaster County town did not arrive on the scene until 1888. Centerville, located in the precinct with that name, established a post office on October 8, 1865. That settlement, however, did not develop to a sustainable level.

When the Missouri Pacific Railroad laid out its line south and west of Lincoln to Crete, a station was established in the southeast corner of Section 28. The town was platted and given the name "Sprague" for an early homesteader. The Rock Island Railroad established a station in the opposite corner of that section in 1894 which it named "Martell." It was platted, but never incorporated.

The first school was held in a log building at the Centerville location. The one-room school, which later housed Salt Valley Grange 413 at the "Centerville Corner," became a community school. Much later a school, given the name Sprague-Martel High School, was built about one mile south of the old Centerville location. In its final year, Sprague-Martell boys won the state basketball tournament in their class. This victory is long remembered and often recalled! In 1967, this area merged with the Crete school district.

A German Methodist congregation established a church on the northeast corner of Section 21 in 1869. In the 1880s it was replaced by a larger structure, but later was abandoned and torn down. In 1874 German Lutherans built a church on the southeast quarter of Section 35. Presbyterians built in Sprague in 1891, and in 1900 the English Methodists organized and used the schoolhouse in District 85 for services. A community church presently serves the town.

Very early in Sprague's history there was a saw mill in the west part of town. The Greenleaf Grain & Lumber Company, managed by J. W. Taylor, was also an early business. The postmaster, A. J. McClain, also ran the billiard parlor, and H. C. Rader had a general store on the northwest corner of the main intersection. W. H. Findley ran a drug store, and Dr. Ferguson had his office in the west end of that building. D. W. Lamb, who later moved to Lincoln, once practiced medicine in the Sprague area. The Sprague Bank, which closed in 1929, occupied the corner where Manfield's tavern is now.

Sprague incorporated in 1913, when it was no longer required that there be a minimum of 200 residents. There were 135 residents in 1920, compared to 119 in 1970. The development of Blue Stem Conservation Dam in Section 30, two and one-half miles west of Sprague, has changed the climate of settlement in the vicinity. While still primarily agricultural, numerous retirement and recreational homes now dot the landscape, and business outlets reflect the current clientele.

Sprague, with a current population of 168, still has a post office, and there is an antique shop, a garage and service station, a bait shop, and a beauty parlor. The Missouri Pacific Railroad, which later became part of the Union Pacific, eventually abandoned its line to Sprague. Good roads link the town to Lincoln and Beatrice. There are many well-kept homes, some of them as old as the village itself and others quite new. It is a pleasant village in which to live, just 13 miles south of Nebraska's capital city.

By Jane Graff from material provided by Elinor Brown, from Lancaster County, Then & Now , 1972.