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Nebraska...Our Towns

Prosser

Adams County

Aerial of Prosser, 1940.[Elliott]
Prosser Main Street looking west.
Prosser Volunteer Fire Department, 1988

Prosser was originally a railroad town. It was founded in 1887 when the Missouri Pacific Railroad extended a branch line eight miles west and six miles north of Hastings. Actually, it wasn't ON a line, it was the END OF THE LINE.

The town was named for T.J.Prosser from Kansas, superintendent of the construction crew. He bought a quarter section from George and Onna Uden and located "his town" on 39 acres of it. When he had the town platted, he named each of the avenues for one of his children.

The railroad reached Prosser in 1888. Since it was the end of the line, a roundhouse was built. Soon there was the nucleus of a town; a post office, general store, grocery store, lumber yard, and an elevator. Homes and churches also sprang up and the town started to grow. Prosser served a large trade area with people coming from miles around, bringing produce to ship, or to travel "to the city" on the train.

Soon there were many stores, another elevator, livery stables, two blacksmiths, carpenters, and brick masons, a drayman, veterinarian, barbershop, two hotels, a restaurant, three doctors, a telephone office, a bank, and the stock yards.

Prosser reached its peak in the early 1900s, with a population of over 200 and was officially incorporated in 1907. The town had its ups and down during the Depression and World War II, but because of its railroad connection to the outside world, the town continued to be a viable community, and as such was in a class of its own.

At one time the town had a windmill for every home and business, quite a sight when you think of an estimated 125 homes and at least three dozen businesses. When entering Prosser from any direction, the sky was full of busily-turning windmills. They dubbed Prosser the "Windmill Capital." Each home also had a cistern in which water was stored.

Even with all this water, Prosser had many disastrous fires. The first occurred in 1893 when the elevator and coal sheds burned. Three businesses burned in 1900, two more in 1903, and in 1912, four businesses were destroyed. In 1925 Prosser lost three more businesses to fire. Each time the hard work and cooperation of the town's people, manning bucket brigades, kept the entire village from going up in flames. The town pulled together and helped rebuild better and more substantial buildings.

Prosser got electricity in 1928. In time additional services were added. The town had a men's baseball team and a women's softball team. There was a community band and the local residents put on community plays for entertainment. For many years Prosser had free outdoor movies during the summer months. Ah, there was nothing like munching on popcorn and watching an exciting "flick" out under the stars.

Times change, however. In the 1940s when branch lines were no longer profitable, the railroad discontinued service. The rails were removed in 1944, so it was obvious that they were never going to come back. While there has been a decline in the town's population and many businesses have moved to other locations, Prosser is still a town.

In 1988 Prosser is "home" to 75 people. It still has a post office, and a good volunteer fire department. In addition, Prosser has a moving and construction company, a gas station and repair shop, and a fiber glass firm.

A number of churches served the community. In town, the Methodist church that started in 1887 closed in 1967, and there was a Christian church from 1909 to 1918. A Catholic church six miles east of town was established 1889 and closed in 1969. A Lutheran church, established in 1882 is two miles south, and the Evangelical church, organized six miles northeast of here in 1892, still serve the community.

The school, organized in 1890, had a high school until 1937, then consolidated with Kenesaw in 1980.

Our town is no longer a hub of activity like it was when it was "the end-of-the-line." But the people who still live in and around Prosser get together for community projects, social activities, and just plain neighborliness.

The town of Prosser is still well-known for two big events each year: its huge machinery consignment auction, and the annual turtle races.

By Betty Bockerman, 1204 West 4th, Hastings, NE 68901

Assisted by Sophia Jolly and Catherine Renschler