The village of Ayr, situated about ten miles south and two miles west of Hastings near the Little Blue River, was established in September 1878. The town was named for a Dr. Ayr of Iowa, a directors of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company.
It has been said, although verification is not available, that there was a settlement just over a mile north called "Gibson" that was platted, lots sold, and a mill built at that location on the Blue River. The site was apparently abandoned and the post office moved even though it was located at the junction of east-west and north-south railroad lines referred to as "Ayr Junction."
When the rail line was completed, the railroad representative agreed to locate a station at the site where the owners of the land would donate every-other lot (one-half of the town site) to the railroad company. According to early accounts, the site where Ayr is located was owned by John Radcliffe, Ayers Goble, A.C. Moore, and a Prof. Meyer. The terms were agreed upon by these gentlemen. "Ayr" received a depot and became a town.
The first school was taught in the Jasper Woodworth home north of town. Woodworth had come to the area in 1871 and built a 16-by-24 foot two-room dugout. School was held in what they called their "best room."
According to "Past and Present of Adams County," the first dwelling on the town site was a small frame house built in October 1878 by O.D. Barras. Next came a two-story frame hotel built by R.C. Fleming. By 1879 Ayr boasted a grain elevator, two dry goods, two grocery stores, a drug store, livery stable, blacksmith shop, lumber yard and hardware, saloon and dance hall, plus an agricultural equipment store, and coal yard. A post office was established and the Methodist Episcopal Church organized in 1879.
It appears that the population of Ayr peaked at over 200 in the 1880s. A newspaper called the "Ayr Times" was established in January 1882. Published by the Watkins Brothers, it was Republican in politics. Later a publication called "The Ayr Gun" was put out by V.F. Robinson and H.H. Pease in conjunction with the "Blue Hill Leader." A 1901 issue lists subscription rates as 25 cents per year.
The village was incorporated on May 1, 1883, with the town site embracing parts of sections 33 and 34 in Ayr Township, and 3 and 4 of Zero Township, of Adams County.
Although Ayr's growth seemed promising at first, the proximity to Hastings caused the population to decline to about 130, where it remains today. With improved roads, cars, and trucks, local businesses found it difficult to compete with big-city outlets. As time went on, most services either closed or moved to the city.
With declining enrollment in the school, Ayr High School closed in 1948. By the mid-1960s the restaurant closed its doors; and in the 1970s the town saw the end of the service station, grocery store, and the tavern. All that remains today, in addition to the homes of residents, is the post office with Peg French, postmaster, the grain elevator, and elementary school.
Ayr is a quiet little community. Crystal Lake State Recreation Area, located one mile north, brings countless visitors through the village. Many of them stop to use the camper dump station provided by the Ayr Volunteer Fire Department.
By Dale W. Gartner, Rte 1 Box 74, Ayr, NE 68925