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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Ord -- Valley County

Homesteaders entering Loup Valley, 1880s, planted wind breaks and established homes in Valley County. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Valley County Courthouse, at Ord.

As travelers drive along the beautiful North Loup River as it winds through the valley in north central Nebraska, they view scenes of breath-taking beauty. The trees, remnants of the early pioneer plantings, provide wind breaks, and the short grasslands on the rougher terrain provide forage for grazing cattle. The wide valleys, formerly areas of native grass, are now carefully measured fields of alfalfa, corn, wheat, and milo. Farm buildings and homes are neatly painted and well-kept. The trails made by migrating Indians are now our paved roads such as state highways 11 and 70 through Ord.

The town was laid out in 1874 on land purchased from the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company. General E.O.C. Ord, in command of the military along the Platte, had made a trip up the North Loup Valley to select a site for a fort, so the new town was named "Ord," in his honor. The only other place in the United States with this name is Fort Ord, California, named for the same man.

A military establishment was needed in the area that became Valley County because of fear of Indian attacks. Construction began on Fort Hartsuff in 1874, the year that grasshoppers had eaten all the crops. Building the compound was a God-send, as the settlers were eager to find work, so they could buy food and supplies to survive the winter. The fort served the area until 1881 when the problem with Indians had subsided, and much of the land had been homesteaded. Some time ago, Dr.Glen Auble, interested in historic preservation, purchased the abandoned fort and in 1961, donated it to the State of Nebraska. It has now been restored with appropriate 1870s furnishings. As a state park it is open to the public, and also has a beautiful picnic area.

Ord was named Valley County seat by its first 100 settlers. Within the first year a post office was established, a schoolhouse built, and the first courthouse was erected. Ord soon had all the necessary businesses to take care of the needs of the fledgling community. Water provided by the year-round flow of the North Loup River was an added benefit.

In 1880 about 35 structures were built, over half of them business houses. By the end of the year the population had increased to 250. In 1881 the entire town was threatened by a devastating fire, and the following year a defective flue caused another serious fire on the south side of the public square. Before it could be stopped, several more buildings were completely destroyed.

In 1882 the "Ord Quiz" newspaper was established.

By 1888 Ord had two railroad lines -- the Burlington and the Union Pacific -- transporting both freight and passengers. Barley, rye, and potatoes were sold locally and shipped out. Corn was raised for feeding livestock -- sheep, cattle, and hogs. The year 1888 also saw the establishment of the Ord Volunteer Fire Department.

Ord continued to grow. Churches of many denominations, new and larger schools, service clubs and organizations, parks, and recreational facilities were added to the community. As a result, Ord earned the "All Nebraska Community" five-year award in 1981, and the Community Improvement Award in its population category four times. Ord has also been awarded the title "Tree City USA."

Ord played host to the Nebraska State Air Show in 1973 and celebrated its centennial in 1981. The town celebrates its past, present, and future each year in June during "ExtraORDinary Days" at which time there is a carnival, ethnic foods, and many special activities.

The students in the Ord area attend a AA accredited high school and excel in academics, sports, and fine arts.

Centrally located between the Calamus and Sherman Lakes, Ord is one of the most progressive cities of its size in the state. In addition to seeking out the unique history found in Valley County, tourists can enjoy hunting, fishing, skiing, swimming, boating, camping, and picnicking. Boasting a population of 2,700 in 1989, the town has an active business district to serve its citizens and people who stop by on their way to any of the recreational activities in the area.

By Gladys Weckbach, for Ord Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Hehrke, Box 69, Ord, 68862, coordinator.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: A History of Ord 1982; "Who's Who in Ord" Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Book, 1956; and the "Ord Quiz."