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Nebraska...Our Towns

DuBois -- Pawnee County

The town barber shop, a classic version. [Reynolds estate photo, PCHS]

The town of DuBois was platted in 1886 by Captain Charles J. DuBois, chief engineer for the Rock Island Railroad then being built through Pawnee County. John Mallory and G. W. Miner are said to have given the right-of-way for the line.

The original "main street" was a block west of the current one, but businesses were on both. The new railroad town grew rapidly, especially with the addition of the small frame dwellings and stores which were moved from "Cincinnati" about a mile south. There was plenty of room for the two-dozen shops.

That community, located just inside the state line, had a grist mill, a good iron bridge over the Nemaha, and a population of about 75 people in 1882. All of that vanished when the railroad arrived -- several miles away.

On January 1, 1887, a large crowd watched as the construction crew laid the rails, across the road on the north edge of town. This was an exciting event. Regular trains didn't run until several months later. For many years freight and passengers along this line were sufficient to warrant eight trains a day. The depot furnished shelter for waiting passengers, who listened for the whistle as a train came up along the Nemaha Valley, shrieking a warning at each mile crossing.

The post office was established on December 16, 1887. For many years a small push cart was used to take the sacks of mail from the train over to the office. Rural delivery started on February 1, 1904. Early carriers drove buggies made with "pigeon holes" to keep patrons' mail sorted.

School was first held in the early 1860s in a small log cabin just south of town. Several frame buildings served the district before the present brick school was built in 1921 for students K-12. DuBois became known state-wide for a wide range of athletic accomplishments in 1924. The last high school graduation was held in 1954.

Through the early years a number of churches were established, but of course not all survived. The United Brethren In Christ congregation built a church with beautiful Gothic windows in 1887. Methodism, which was started by circuit riders who held services in log cabins belonging to pioneers Shellhorn and Bobst, built a church north of the tracks in 1889. It was moved to the present location in 1905 and a basement was added in 1929. These two churches merged in 1945.

The State Bank of DuBois was one of the first businesses established, incorporating on September 1, 1886. The present building was completed in 1906.

The first elevator was a simple affair, using a horse on a turnstile for power. It was replaced in 1890 by the one still being used. Since business was good, a second elevator was built to the east in about 1900, but that one burned in 1941 and was not replaced.

The first telephone in town was a long-distance affair in 1901. An organized telephone company was established in 1903. A volunteer fire department -- with carts and buckets -- was also established in 1903. A water system was not established until 1925. By that time there had been several fires and there was a growing fear that any more fires might destroy the entire town. The volunteer fire unit continues to provide an on-going service to the community.

Electric lights arrived in 1915, replacing the gas lights which had been at street corners. While DuBois claimed the most grain and livestock shipped for a "small town" on the line, its population peaked at 339 in 1910.

DuBois has remained a small town. An American Legion post was chartered in 1931 with 15 members. As of 1992 we had 66 members. The auxiliary unit, which organized in 1932 with 18 members, now has 98 members.

In 1993 DuBois has a bank, a grocery store, a cafe, a tavern, a service station, the elevator, a beauty shop, a post office, several repair shops, a laundromat and car wash, a feed store, and a 1990 population of 119.

By Art and Ann Lang, Rt 1 Box 40, DuBois, NE 68345.


ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: A booklet was written about DeBois in 1954 by the historical society. An updated version by Art and Ann Lang was published in 1986 and is still available.