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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Cedar Bluffs -- Saunders County

Pahuk Hill, a "most sacred place" of the Pawnee, not far from Cedar Bluffs. [Vculek]
View of Main Street, Cedar Bluffs. (not dated), [Nebraska State Historical Society]

Early settlers living in the northern part of Saunders County experienced great hardship. Fremont, the closest town, could be reached only by fording the Platte River. Many loads of grain and supplies were lost while attempting to cross this very treacherous stream. Pawnee Indians are said to have operated a "floating barge" (ferry) for a time that could carry a team and wagon.

"Neapolis," not far from the Platte, was a one of the proposed sites for the capital of Nebraska. Since it was obvious that Omaha could never be the "center of population," everyone wanted the permanent capital site near them, and the people of Saunders County were no exception. Neapolis, however, lost to the people in Lancaster County, but it was an important site during the building of the Union Pacific Railroad. Cedar trees from the surrounding hills were plentiful and used as railroad ties. Several log structures remained for many years. In 1870 a postal route went from Fremont to Ceresco, and a stagecoach went through the settlement twice a week with mail.

When the Lincoln line of the Chicago & North Western Railroad was built in 1886, our town, Cedar Bluffs, came into existence.

The town site was originally the homestead of Joseph Johnson. Mrs.Knapp bought 80 acres from him for "a vehicle and a critter," (actually, a wagon and a heifer). She later sold it to the town site company for $40. Lots were auctioned from the back of a wagon during a heavy downpour. Drenched to the skin, millionaires elbowed with farmers, everyone eager to gain "a select spot" in the new town.

Partially-framed buildings were quickly assembled on lots, and within 24 hours a hardware store was assembled and doing business. A drug store was operating by the next day, and several tent eating-houses were also doing a brisk business. The Bank of Cedar Bluffs was started, but did not put up a building until the following spring.

With a railroad from Fremont to Lincoln, people would drive to Cedar Bluffs, leave their team at the livery stable, and take the train to one city or the other. Grain and livestock were shipped to market, while coal, lumber, and other merchandise was brought in. For many years trains were the primary mode of transportation. After World War II the passenger business diminished and the freight business fell off. The last train through town was in 1981. By 1983 the tracks that served the area for almost 100 years were removed and the sound of trains vanished forever from the area.

At one time there were five churches in or near Cedar Bluffs, none of which were English-speaking. Catholic Mass was given in Michael Malloy's dugout in 1869, with a parish established west of town in 1873. They later built St.Mary's in the village. A rural Lutheran Church was organized in 1878. In 1913 the congregation purchased the Evangelical Church and moved their services to town, having German and English services on alternate Sundays. A new church was completed in 1965. Presbyterians, who first built in 1904, dedicated a new church in 1988.

A two-story schoolhouse, located east of town, was moved to Cedar Bluffs and used until a larger brick building was completed in 1914 -- the third high school in Saunders County. In 1969 an elementary building was completed just west of the high school. A junior-senior high school was built in 1976, complete with gymnasium, music and art departments, and science rooms, in addition to home economics, and industrial arts.

The village of Cedar Bluffs has both social and service organizations. There is an active volunteer fire department and rescue squad, an American Legion Post, auxiliary, and a Sons of the American Legion organization. The Area Merchants Association promotes many activities with the help of a community club and the Jaycees. Cedar Bluffs also has Eastern Star, senior citizens, several extension clubs, and a community ball program.

Our town, Cedar Bluffs, is the home of approximately 680 people. In recent years it has become a commuter town. Other than a few local businesses, most residents drive to Fremont, Schuyler, Wahoo, or Omaha to work.

By Dorothe Peterson, Box 104, Cedar Bluff, NE 68105