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Nebraska...Our Towns

Auburn -- Nemaha County

View of "Courthouse Avenue" connecting Calvert and Sheridan, early 1880s. [Simon]
Downtown Auburn today, at the intersection of Highways 136 and 75. [Simon]
The same corner back in 1888 -- when it was the intersection of Stage Coach and Goldenrod Road. [Simon]

Described as "a veritable garden spot" up from the flood plains of the Missouri River between the Big and Little Nemaha rivers, this area was admired by Lewis & Clark in 1804, and Maximillian in the 1830s. These explorers noted its "perfect suitability of settlement," with its hard and soft wood trees, nuts, fruits, berries, and rich soil beneath the prairie in the hill-regions.

A treaty in the 1830s set-aside much of this area as the "Half-breed Reservation," for the children of mixed-blood marriages. When the territory was opened to white settlement in 1854, numerous villages sprang up, each with its own post office.

The village of "St. George," established in 1857, nine miles west of the Missouri, ran second to Brownville in the first attempt to move the county seat to a more central location. The town of "Sheridan" marked its beginnings nearby in 1863 on the stage line which followed the Lewis & Clark Trail. Its post office, established in 1869, soon made it the dominant name, when the two communities merged.

In 1881 a third town, "Calvert," was established when the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad built along the King's Trail from Nemaha City. The initial rivalry changed to cooperation in 1882 when -- under the leadership of Church Howe and Charles Nixon -- a plan was conceived to join the towns, and "go after the county seat." To seal the deal, a new name, "Auburn," was proposed and accepted. Still about one mile apart (for a time), the towns were known as "North Auburn" and "South Auburn."

The 1883 election resulted in victory for this location, and a two-story structure was built on "Court House Square," which was placed on the prairie between the two towns. On the angle street of brick where they joined, shops from Calvert quickly moved in -- lock, stock, and barrel. The present courthouse of native white limestone was erected in 1900.

Nixon and Howe donated land for a city park. Later sold to the American Legion, it presently holds the band shell, a swimming pool, playground and picnic area, and a memorial, which now includes an "Avenue of Flags" honoring the county's 540 war-dead.

Auburn is known as "the pacemaker city" because of its growth and development. A comprehensive community plan was established early in the town's history. and it was the first to take advantage of the Industrial Development Act of Nebraska. A tract with rail siding is occupied by Magnolia Metal Corporation, Triangle Pacific, and Bulk Carriers. Nearby is Darling Transfer, Auburn Consolidated Industries, and Auburn Needleworks, which manufactures such brands as Lee and Levis.

The town's central location is appreciated by Agricultural Service Center, a radio station, a semi-weekly newspaper, the Nemaha County Hospital, and a Good Samaritan Center. Educational Service Unit 4, a senior citizen's center, a mental health clinic, and nearly a dozen antique shops augment the healthy number of retail stores. There are 12 churches serving the spiritual needs of the community, and many fraternal and service organizations.

Rotary Island provides outdoor enjoyment, with an adjacent lighted ball diamond, softball fields, modern fairgrounds, community buildings, and a complete recreational center for all ages. It is used for the County Fair, Jaycee Rodeo, and other events. A nine-hole grass-green golf course and club house is located on the southern edge of Auburn.

Cooper Nuclear Station, historic Brownville, and the Meriwether Lewis Museum are all within 10-12 miles. Auburn boasts its own Nemaha Valley and Agricultural Museums, keeping our hotel, motels, and a Bed & Breakfast busy. There is an airport, and the Union Pacific serves the area on the former Mo-Pac line. Further evidence of planning is apparent in all areas of municipal service. A 60-acre housing and commercial subdivision, a new water storage facility, and expansion of distribution lines are evidence of the continuing spirit of Auburn's early leadership, making this progress possible.

Auburn's slogan, "A Grand Past -- a Great Future," is obvious in the old photos of J Street and Central Avenue -- once the stage coach line -- and now the intersection of highways 75 & 136. Our town, Auburn, with a population of nearly 3,500, has an interesting history of change, compromise, and progress.


By Frances Rarick Grant, 703 14th Street, Auburn, NE 68305, with the help of Ruth and Chris Simon.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "Auburn & Southeastern Nebraska," Small Town Institute, Center for Great Plains Studies, UNL; Auburn Centennial , 1982; History of Charles Nixon and Church Howe; Auburn Chamber of Commerce brochures; and "Beauty-Bounty, Nemaha County," 1967.