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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Utica -- Seward County

The Utica Home Guard, 1917-18, marching along "Front Street," as described by Betty Sampson in the SEWARD COUNTY SUPPLEMENT 1983.
Utica's main street going north, originally called "Wall Street," early 1900s. [SCHS]
Utica's main street, facing the Burlington Northern mainline, is a modern railroad-town, with huge grain silos neard the tracks, 1991.

Utica, just one mile from the county line, was created by the Burlington & Missouri Valley Railroad. Located about halfway between Seward and York, the name originated from "Chief Utica," a noted Mohawk Indian during colonial times. This is one of many towns by that name across the nation.

Utica, advertized as "the garden spot of the nation" in early brochures, still is. Our fertile soil and level terrain produces a wide variety of farm crops, especially now that we have so much irrigation -- using both pipes and pivots. Utica is not only maintaining its population, but is one of Nebraska's growing towns with a 1990 population of 725.

Education is offered at the Centennial school complex south of town, a reorganized K-12 system that emerged during the state's centennial year. It includes about 300 square miles of farmland in Seward and York counties, and the neighboring towns of Beaver Crossing, Waco, and Gresham. In the process of merging, the Utica "Tigers" became the Centennial "Broncos." During the 1989-90 school year, 609 students were enrolled. St.Paul Lutheran school also offers a very good educational program for an additional 90 students.

Religious facilities include Lutheran, Catholic, and United Methodist churches. The old Presbyterian Church became the Masonic Temple in 1983.

The Utica Medical Clinic was built with stockholders funds and much volunteer labor in 1955. It provides care and services under the direction of Dr. Roger Meyer. Here since 1964, he replaced Drs. Will & Coll Kamprath, who left to serve in the Peace Corps. Utica also has a Bethesda nursing facility.

Utica has an active volunteer fire department, with up-to-date equipment -- fire trucks, water wagon, two rescue units, and EMT services. Volunteers now wear "pagers" for speedy response to calls. These were made possible by a community fund-raising effort that included a pancake feed and radio-thon in 1990.

The Utica Co-op Elevator is a pivot for the community, which offers good services and modern equipment for drying and storage of grain. Across the street is the Farmers' Co-op gas and oil, serving a wide area with fuel oil and propane. At the fuel pumps, patrons are able to serve themselves with the latest "card-trol."

Utica's classic bank building, constructed in 1884, was badly damaged in the 1985 tornado that touched down in the middle of town and moved northeasterly across the residential area in a hit-and-miss fashion. It has been replaced by a new building on that site.

Utica's main street, facing the mainline of the Burlington Northern, has a drug store, plus Zumwinkel's grocery store with a good meat and fresh produce section (built in 1903). Utica has been able to maintain a good number of its businesses -- four good eating establishments, three garages, four beauty shops, a mortuary, a bowling alley, and a number of contractors. Unique businesses include Houchen's book bindery, Fehlhafer's salvage and auto repair, the Flying V's airport, with a large dance pavilion and special catering.

One of our own, Doug Bereuter, born and raised in Utica, is the first Seward County native to serve in the U.S. Congress. He completed four years in the Nebraska Unicameral prior to elected by the citizens of the 1st District in 1978 to the national position. He currently serves as a member of the House of Representatives.

Athletics has a long tradition in this part of Nebraska. In addition to high school activities, a new ball park with two playing fields, lights, electric scoreboards, and a lunch stand gets lots of use from both boys and girls teams. There is a much-used, well-maintained swimming pool, and two tennis courts with lights and basketball goals at each end -- also very popular.

The Utica Cemetery, located along Highway 34, was established in 1879. It has a center-square of trees, 20 pines planted in 1904, with a speaker's stand in the center. The American Legion flies a most impressive "Avenue of Flags" each Memorial Day, in memory of the 105 individuals who gave their lives in the service of their country.

After months of preparation, Utica celebrated its centennial in 1977 with a grand and glorious four-day bash.

By Eudece Jones, 360 1st Street Box 368, Utica, NE 68456

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: On A Bend of the River, 1967, Graff; Burlington Red 1977, Sampson; Utica Centennial Souvenir Program Book , 1977; and The Broncos Annual, 1990.