Clearwater, with a population of 410 persons according to Mayor Charles Curtright, is nestled near the Elkhorn River. Farm and ranch land reaches in all directions. With only four blocks listed in 1885 (all south of the railroad), it was officially platted in October 1888 by David Kilbell and Dewitt Clair.
The name "Clearwater" is descriptive in itself, coming from the well-known sparkling, pure, and clear water of the creek that flows south and east of town. The first depot was built in 1881. When it burned in 1933, it was immediately replaced, however, the building was torn down in 1966, ending the railroad station era. The Chicago & North Western still serves the town.
The first house in Clearwater was built north of the railroad by John Anderson with lumber hauled from Niobrara. In 1876, years before the town was platted, Calvin Stevens and Elvira Presser were recorded as the first couple to marry in Clearwater. The Robert Marwoods were the parents of the first child born in the community. The first grocery store was opened by a Dr. Tubbs.
The first sermon was preached in 1871 by a Methodist circuit rider by the name of Rev. Kieth. Clearwater currently supports five churches. The Lutheran (with Pastor D.L.Braunersreuther as minister for the past 32 years), the Catholic, Church of Christ, United Methodist, and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
James Walker Bennie was Clearwater's leading doctor for many years. The old drug store, owned and operated by Frank Krenzien and his wife, lives on in memory. When it was torn down in 1955, E.M. Yaryan built a service station at that location. It is now owned by Dennis Herley.
Clearwater has had many newspapers. The first one, "The Clearwater Headlight," lasted only a short time, being discontinued in 1887. Later the "Clearwater Messenger" came into print. In 1901 "The Clearwater Record" began with F.S. Delanoy, editor. After several owners, it sold to Fred Peterson. The next owner was Loren Fry of Neligh, with Carrol Schneckloth as editor, followed by Donald Russell, then Les Reiss. After Fry's death, Sidney Charf took over with Debra Bauer, Fry's daughter, manager and editor. Esther Herley and Ocea Kirchner are long time employees. The business has operated from the same building since 1945.
In 1902 a telephone system was installed. Electric lights came to Clearwater in 1916, with William McDonald using a gasoline engine for power. In 1925 a better power system was installed, and the city kept right on improving. Natural gas arrived in 1953 and a sewer system in 1961. Direct-dial phones are also now in place.
The barber shop operated for many years by George Meyer and Clyde Payne was always a popular place. Now Clearwater boasts three shops, and customers are both men and women.
There are only memories of the old bandstand that stood in the town square. It served well and Clearwater's band was one of the finest.
Clearwater has one world champion. Anna Kaster held the title of "World Champion Hog Caller" for a number of years.
When Sir Winston Churchill was made an honorary citizen by the President Kennedy in 1963, the people of Clearwater offered to provide him with a house "well stocked with champagne and cigars" in their city. The story, picked up by the media, required a picture, so it was decided to photograph the home of a vacationing businessman, Jack Middleton, who learned of the "gift" in Newsweek . Still claiming the title, "Home of Sir Winston Churchill," memories have been rekindled by Churchill's stand-in who made several visits to Clearwater, the latest in 1986.
Clearwater's annual three-day rodeo gives much pride to the town. It was named "Number One Rodeo" in a three-state area eight years out of nine.
School activities have long been important to the community. The Cardinal basketball team, with Coach Rick Hesse, brought home the state title four years in a row. The girls' team took the state title in 1981.
Our pleasant little village has experienced its share of floods, tornadoes, fires, ice jams, and blizzards, but still stands strong and sturdy. We look forward to many good years ahead.
By Neva Curtright, Clearwater, NE 68726
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of Antelope County , 1868-1985, Antelope County Historical Society; and articles in the "Norfolk Daily News."