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Burt County

The first land in this area was purchased by Civil War veterans using "college scrip." Others also found the Bell Creek valley to be the place they wanted to settle. Perkey says the town was named for William Stewart Craig, while local historians claim that it was named for his brother, Thomas. Both came from Cadiz, Ohio. Pictured is the John Stork log house built in the 1860s in Burt County. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
"Unloading hand-picked corn near Craig, Nebraska, 1938." Photo loaned by Donald Johnson of Craig. [Nebraska State Historical Society]

The Village of Craig, Nebraska, has strong ties with Cadiz, Ohio. In 1867 Thompson Craig, the town's founder, his brother William, several members of the Clark family and others who had served together in the Union Army arrived directly from that city. They are said to have used "college scrip" to purchase farm land in Burt County.

James McMullin, of Pennsylvania, homesteaded here in the late 1860s. His home, built on "high ground" where on a clear day he could see Lyons to the northwest, was said to be the first in this area.

Another early settler, P.S.Gibbs and his family, also arrived in 1867 from Cape Cod. He first saw this area in the 1850s then he was going overland to the west. Taking a route along the Missouri, they camped overnight on the west bank of the river. Gibbs recalls being awakened by the sound of a saw mill in operation, and found a crew of men cutting logs for the newly-established town of Tekamah. After looking over the land, he decided that Bell Creek Valley was where he wanted to live. Instead of continuing his journey west, he returned home, where he settled his affairs and made arrangements for moving his family to Nebraska. Gibbs' home was the center of many of the early activities: the first school was held in his front room, as well as political meetings, and church services.

In addition to settlers from Ohio and other eastern states, many immigrants arrived from Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.

A settlement was started by Robinson, Brown, and Cox, and it is said that incorporation papers were filed in 1867. A post office was established in the home of William Clark in 1874, who served as postmaster until 1881. A further clue to the settlement's name comes from the church organized in Gibbs' home, which was "The First Presbyterian Church of Clark."

When the Chicago, St.Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad came through Burt County in the 1880s, the opportunity existed to establish a station at this location. William Craig stepped forward to help get it located, donating the land for the village, establishing a lumberyard, and building a new house. This was the beginning of the town, according to Perkey's Nebraska Place Names, when a post office was established in 1881, named in honor of William Stewart Craig. (It is also noted that a town called "Clarks" in Merrick County was established in 1880, perhaps requiring the change.) Andreas History of Nebraska, however, does not mention either Clark or Craig in its 1882 accounts of Burt County.

An article published in 1893, notes that a larger schoolhouse was built in 1883, and that three churches, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Christian, had been established. Craig had a fine cornet band, and also a bicycle club with 20 members who had "a well kept track."

The "money panic" of the 1890s was lessened by the efforts of an early settler, J.A. McLaughlin. Active in civic affairs, he helped organize the Craig Grain, Lumber & Implement Company. In 1896 the corn crop had been excellent, but bids were for only eight cents a bushel. McLaughlin went to Chicago and secured a contract from Norton & Worthington to buy 100,000 bushels of corn. Building cribs to handle the corn gave employment to many men at $1-a-day. (In hard times, this was big money.) Farmers delivering corn -- some from more than 20 miles distant -- would bring their own lunch and feed for their teams, since none could pay the 25 cents charged for meals and for a stall at the livery barn.

A centennial booklet, published in 1967, provides short family sketches and excerpts of from "A Sketch from Craig and Burt County," published in 1893, and news accounts from "The Craig News." A brick schoolhouse was built in 1915 with an auditorium built in 1950, and a home economics room, a library, and other rooms added since then.

A peak population of 452 was recorded for Craig in 1930, with a present count of just under 240.

By Jane Graff from material submitted by Cliff Nelson, Craig, NE 68019 and other sources mentioned.