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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Stanton -- Stanton County

A post card collage, ca. 1912, contains photos of Stanton's depot, school, courthouse, downtown, and several churches.
Nebraska Avenue in downtown Stanton, 1990s.
Our town, Stanton, in 1990.

This area along the Elkhorn River was a choice Indian hunting grounds -- according to legend -- the site of a great battle between the Omaha and Ponca Indian tribes in the 1840s, involving 1,500 warriors and 4,000 women and children. A survivor, Two Crow, Chief of the Ponca, told the story to Dr.W.L.Bowman, an early settler to the region, however, archaeologists now dispute the claim.

The first white settlers arrived in 1865 from Indiana and Wisconsin. They "took a liking to the area," so they registered their claims and made it their home. A post office established in 1867 at the Botorff farm was named "Pleasant Run." The first school held classes in the fall in W.D. Whalen's granary. A town was platted in 1870 by Lehman, Holman, and Graves.

In 1875 a tri-weekly mail and stage line was making regular runs through the area. With the anticipation of the arrival of a railroad, more than two-dozen businesses sprang up, and two churches were organized. In 1877 the name of the settlement was changed to "Stanton," by the man who platted the town as the county seat. The Chicago & North Western Railroad arrived in August 1879, making Stanton a prime shipping point for grain and livestock. Soon after, townspeople acquired such amenities as water, brick sidewalks, etc. Stanton acquired incorporation status in 1881, and became a city of second class in 1893.

The residents of Stanton depended on trains for transportation until the early 1900s when the first automobiles were seen. Bus service was established in 1924, with three routes going both east and west. Now both systems have left the scene: rail service was discontinued in 1982, and bus service is on an "on-call" basis only.

In 1900 arc vapor gas lights were installed, which needed to be lit each night. In 1903 a light company was formed to make electricity available.

Stanton's schools continued to grow. In 1884 Ira Lamb, later Dean of Nebraska Schoolmen, was principal. George Eberly, a member of the first high school graduating class in 1888, later served as Nebraska Supreme Court Justice. Current enrollment in the accredited K-12 system is 400.

Many public-spirited organizations have led the way in the cultural and economic advancement of the community. Literary and cultural clubs pushed for a library, established in 1886, and the Carnegie building was erected in 1914.

The building of a high school and auditorium, and a new bank during the 1950s, did not stem the population loss, which was critical. Census records for 1960 indicate that Stanton was down to 1,300 residents. A new plan was needed.

Stanton became one of the early towns to consider a Community Improvement Program. Through the combined efforts of the Woman's Club and 65 other organizations, Stanton was named one of the top ten in National competition in 1964 and 1966. New construction included a county community building, government housing, a nursing home, rescue unit, elementary school, V.F.W. building, and new buildings for four of Stanton's seven churches, in addition to many new homes and businesses.

Stanton has had exceptional recreational facilities which included the Germania Hall, a roller skating rink and dance hall over Lambs store, and the Raabe Opera House, all before the turn of the century. The Gem and Rialto movie houses ran only "carefully chosen films." There was a golf course, and a swimming pool built as a W.P.A. project. A band shell, used for weekly band concerts, was enjoyed by people who would listen from parked cars and honk their horns to applaud.

Now three parks, plus a 15-acre wooded area, serve the community. They provide basketball courts for pre-teens, lighted tennis courts, ball diamonds, and swimming pool. A new golf course was carved from a wooded area in 1976, and a gun club finds upland game and deer plentiful. Nearby Maskentine Dam Recreation Area also provides fishing, boating, and swimming.

Our town, Stanton, looks and feels like a progressive community, serving the needs of a growing population of just over 1,600.

By Ruth Ann Vogel, 500 20th St., Stanton, NE 68779