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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Guide Rock -- Webster County

Ely Grain Company of Guide Rock, 1920s.
The interior of the grain company's office, taken in 1905, L.W. Ely by the scales, and a "well equipped office" -- a counter and desk, an oil lamp, feather duster, telephone, bucket of water, wash pan and a tin cup.
Guide Rock's main street before 1900.
A remarkably clear photo of the interior of Lewis Watt's Hotel.
A parade of goat carts, and donkeys advertizes the Chautauqua, in front of the Hodges Store, downtown Guide Rock.
Main Street on a quiet Sunday morning. The stately two-story building on the right with the arches was first brick structure in Webster County.

Guide Rock, the only town in America with that name, is located in Webster County, on the north bank of the Republican River. It is two miles northwest of Pa-Hur, "the rock that guides," from which the name was derived. Trappers and Indians (Pawnee) used this vast rocky bluff as a guide when crossing the prairie.

The first settlement at this site was the Rankin colony who selected a tract of land along the river in 1870. After building a dugout as an immediate shelter, four of the group remained to build homes and await the arrival of their families. Only Emanuel Peters and Donald McCallum remained permanently.

Among the firsts recorded are:

--first homestead filed: Samuel Giger at the Beatrice land office on May 30, 1870.

--first log house built: Joseph Garber on his land along Soap Creek. The "Lower Stockade" was also built on Garber's land.

--first post office: 1870 at the Talbot home on Minnie Creek.

first school: May 1, 1871, Mary Kingsley, teacher. Her wages were $12 a month.

--first sermon: Rev. Kennedy, with service held at the school in 1872.

--first sawmill: built by Columbia and Stratton.

--first road: to Guide Rock was from the east, but the railroad (Burlington & Missouri River) came from the west in 1878-80. The earliest link by rail was from Lester northward to Hastings. It was at this time that Guide Rock moved to its present town site.

The town was first surveyed and platted by Donald McCallum and recorded in 1873, then moved to accommodate the railroad. The village was incorporated in 1883, the same year that a weekly paper was established, "The Guide Rock Signal." Two churches organized in the community, Baptist and Methodist, and we had a fine two-story schoolhouse.

Our population fluctuates as does the farm economy. During the "Dust Bowl Days", because of the 1935 flood, and during the war years, it went down. Many people who had to leave for various reasons have chosen to return to Guide Rock for their retirement years to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Grain companies rank high in our economy. Ely's Incorporated, a family owned business, was purchased by L.W. Ely in 1896. His son assumed leadership in 1955, and as of 1986, the business was operated by his grandson. The Farmers' Union Co-op formed in 1915 with Keith Hartman as its manager. In addition to purchasing the propane company, they recently added two new 50,000 bushel storage bins.

The Auld-Doudna Library was a gift to the community by a former banker, Wm. Auld, in memory of Nathan Doudna. Among its 9,500 books are many for historical and genealogical research.

The Guide Rock State Bank, owned and operated by the Vogler family since it was reopened in 1931, has recently been enlarged and modernized. The town has the usual businesses: a lumber and supply, grocery-general merchandise store, T.V., antique dealer, two auctioneers, two bars, welding shop, a couple of garages, a new medical clinic, a wellworks man, two service stations, an appliance dealer, and four cosmetologists. In addition we have some unusual ones: bee keepers, and racing dog kennels.

In 1984 city water came to our town. A 100,000-gallon stand pipe was built to give us pure water.

There are 115 students in our K-12 school, our business people maintain up-to-date stock, and the Christian organizations have remained active. Guide Rock has a nutrition site for senior citizens, serving about 35 per day, and prepares the meals for 45-80 citizens at Red Cloud.

The town maintains an 18-man volunteer fire department. The American Legion sponsored Legion Days for many years, bringing large crowds to town for the parade, horse show, suppers, and dances. Recently, the V.F.W. and firemen organized "Pa-Hur Day", with games for children, a quilt show, art and craft exhibit, a parade, food stands, beer garden, bed races, and a free barbecue followed by a dance at the Veterans Hall.

Among the famous people who have called Guide Rock their home include: Silas Garber, an early governor of Nebraska; Murray Rickard, serving five terms in the legislature; Rear Admiral Kendall Moranville, presently commander of the Sixth Fleet; and Lew Hunter, the renown television producer.

Guide Rock currently has a population of 344. We take pride in our town, our school, our churches, and our citizens.

By Bonnie Ohmstede, Auld-Doudna Library, Guide Rock, NE 68942

Pictures by Rodney & Emeline Ely and Shirley Simpson

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "How Guide Rock Derived Its Name," by Harry Vaughan; Early History of Webster County, by Emanuel Peters; Guide Rock, by Grace Russell; 8o Years in Webster County, by Dr. Thomas; Guide Rock in the Early Days, by John Crary; "Samuel Giger Family Tree," by Wilbert Giger; Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Nebraska