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Nebraska...Our Towns

Kenesaw

Adams County

The pulsating rhythm of the steam locomotive and the melodic whistle announce the arrival of the morning train. Kenesaw, the "K" on the Burlington line, is alive and well in the early 1900s. [Olsen]
Kenesaw's Cottage Hotel, circa 1909.
Smith Avenue, Kenesaw's south main street, 1987.
Smith Avenue, Kenesaw's south main street, 1987.
Water, water everywhere. Kenesaw's worst flood, June 14, 1967. [Olsen]
South Main Street, 1900
South Main Street, and as it looks in 1987. Note beautifully restored home on right. [Olsen]

As the Burlington Railroad extended westward, towns along the line out of Lincoln were initially named alphabetically, from "A" up through "K," Kenesaw. The name was taken from the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain in Georgia in 1864. The town site was platted in 1871 near the Oregon Trail as it crosses into Adams County between the Little Blue River and the Platte River valley.

The first permanent settler, Dr.A.D.Williams, became the first postmaster in December 1872. His sister, Mrs.M.S.Norton, was assistant and kept mail in her sewing machine drawers. There have been 18 postmasters since, with Joyce Clark the present one.

A store was built by Josiah Hodges in 1873. His child, Jessie, was the first death recorded in the new town. The Kenesaw Exchange in 1883 and the Bank of Kenesaw in 1886 were the first banks. Others followed. The Prosser State Bank and State Bank of Juniata combined to form the Adams County Bank in Kenesaw in 1934 and it is the one we have today.

There were two hotels, the Cottage, across from the depot, and the Commerce, later renamed the Metropolitan.

Two flour mills were built. The Kenesaw Elevator sold Primrose Flour, while the other sold Meadow Gold Flour.

Two veterinarians have served the town, Dr.Hines and Dr.Wertz, and plus one dentist, Dr.C.H.Hartwig, from 1910-57. Kenesaw had 12 physicians from 1898 to 1964. Dr. Latta had a small hospital upstairs over his office in 1914. However, we have no doctor now.

Kenesaw had many newspapers, from the "Kenesaw Times: in 1875 to the present paper, the "Kenesaw Clarion," published by Kathy Utter.

Three schoolhouses were used in Kenesaw from 1873 to the present. From 1914 to 1950 Kenesaw was the only Adams County school to teach "Normal Training," which allowed a graduate to teach a rural school with no further education.

Mrs.M.A.Brass organized Adams County's first Women Suffrage group in Kenesaw in 1882. With D.D.Norton as president, it was active until 1920.

Kenesaw has owned and operated its own light plant and water works since 1911. In 1936, during the W.P.A. days, the town put in a sewer system and built an auditorium.

There have been as many as seven churches in town. Currently there are four: United Methodist, Sacred Heart Catholic, St.Paul's Lutheran, and First Presbyterian.

In 1902 a telegraphy school was taught in the depot by A.A.Armitage. One of the graduates, Edwin Johnson, became a Colorado governor.

The first American Legion Post was organized in 1946 with 32 members. J.O.Budd was first Commander, Kenneth Yost the first Adjutant. Memorial Day services are held each year at the cemetery. This group also sponsors the Boy Scouts and the baseball programs. Yost and Jacques Smith were District 10 Commanders, and Yost was also a State Commander. A Legion Auxiliary was also organized in 1946 with 46 charter members.

Kenesaw has had its share of disasters: fires, the worst in 1911 destroying most of the businesses south of the tracks; storms, most devastating were in 1873, 1888, 1949, and 1960; and floods in 1873, 1912, but the biggest in 1967.

Kenesaw has had all the usual businesses at one time or another: restaurants, blacksmiths, hardware and merchandise, millinery and dress shops, an ice plant, bowling alley, and furniture store. There was an opera house and a movie theatre, last owned by Walt Schultz who manufactured Walt's Disc Talking Equipment. He had patent problems but did sell to buyers in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Today Kenesaw is a thriving town of over 800 persons. It has an accredited K-12 school, a nice park, grocery store, bank, post office, insurance offices, motor sales, flower and gift shop, two taverns, garage and gas station, funeral home, machine shop, newspaper, two beauty shops, volunteer fire department, modern nursing home, and Cuprem Feed Manufacturing plant. The town is keeping up with the times with a new swimming pool, athletic fields, including football, baseball, and a new track.

Kenesaw celebrated their centennial in 1972 and had a "Centennial plus 10" event in 1982.

By Marie Olsen, HC 69 Box 154, Heartwell, NE 68945

Others helping include: Mr.and Mrs.Leonard Osler, Vernon Hunt, Florence Schneider, Lloyd Ernst, Pat and Marie Olsen. Photographers were Kathy Utter and Eldon Orthman (Hastings)

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL:

Adams County Centennial Book, "The Story"

Kenesaw Centennial Book and several Adams County Historical Newspapers.