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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Swanton -- Saline County

Harvesting wheat in Saline County using a "modern" binder, 1900. [Ourecky]
Swan City, named county seat in 1867, was about six miles east of Swanton. Also located on Swan Creek, the post office and most of that settlement moved to DeWitt when the county seat went to Pleasant Hill, in the north-central part of the county in 1871. On September 18, 1877, after a heated battle, Wilber was named county seat over Crete. [Badman]

A hamlet called "Loudon City" was founded in the early 1860s, about two miles west of the present town of Swanton. It had a church, a post office, a school, a store, and several homes. When the Nebraska-Colorado Railroad Company constructed a line between DeWitt and Tobias in 1883, a new town was established in Section 22, and this hamlet disappeared.

The Lincoln Land Company purchased land from Charles Caldwell, J.C. Deweese, Albert Cornish, and C. Shepherd. Streets and alleys were laid out, and it was given the name "Morris." The postal authorities turned the name down, having just approved the town of "Norris" in Cedar County. (Later a town by that name was approved in Hayes County.) The name "Swanton" was agreed upon, presumably because of its location on Swan Creek. The post office was officially established on May 29, 1884. Mail was delivered by rail until the late 1930s when a Star truck route was established.

A school was also organized in 1884, and soon consisted of three frame buildings adjoining each other. A brick school was built in 1909, and by 1913 there were classes for K-12 students. An auditorium was added in 1954, but by 1961 enrollment had dropped so that the high school classes were discontinue. In 1966 the Swanton District joined with schools in Jefferson and Gage counties to form the Tri-County School District.

At one time seven churches served the Swanton area. The United Methodist Church is the only survivor. It was organized in 1884, holding services in the schoolhouse until its church was dedicated in 1891. A United Brethren church was built shortly afterwards, but rejoined the Methodists in 1922. The Catholic Church faded from the Swanton community in the 1950s. The East Zion congregation, organized in Section 24 in 1871, voted to disband in 1981. An Evangelical church, built in 1885, was torn down in the 1950s. The South Fork German congregation building in Section 30 in 1874 is said to be the first Methodist church in Saline County. This church merged with the North Fork congregation in 1921, building a new church in the town of Western.

The Swanton Cemetery, organized in 1885, is located south of town in Section 34. Plummer Branch Cemetery was established in conjunction with the East Zion congregation east of Swanton. The South Fork Cemetery, located in Section 19, west of town, contains the oldest marked burial, that of O.D. Omstead on November 20, 1860, which is believed to be the oldest in Saline County.

The first telephone exchange was privately owned by several members of the community who had "shares" in the business. They later sold out to the Lincoln telephone system. A dial system was installed in the 1950s.

The library was organized as early as 1890, moving into its own building in 1904.

The Swanton Electric Company, headed by S.C. Caldwell and Louis Ellermeier, was formed in 1917. It used diesel-powered generators, and served the town until 1931 when the town board voted to purchase electricity from a large power company.

After a very destructive fire on Main Street in 1914, a fire company was formed. The present volunteer fire department was established on October 23, 1936. A rural department was organized in 1955, and in the 1970s the old Ford garage was purchased and converted into a three-stall fire hall and meeting rooms.

A water system became a reality in 1936 when the water tower was built. A sewer system and lagoon was put in during the mid 1960s.

The Bank of Swanton was one of the few small-town banks in the state that survived the Depression of the 1930s. This bank still serves the community.

An unusual business, the Fairmont Cream Separator, was in Swanton for many years. Milk was collected or brought in by farmers, then separated using steam-operated equipment. The skim milk was returned to the farms for livestock consumption and the cream was made into butter.

Swanton celebrated its centennial in 1984 on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the post office. A 68-page history book was published at that time.


By Rose Marie Hulse, Rte 2 Box 28, Exeter, NE 68351

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Swanton Centennial History Book , 1984.