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Nebraska...Our Towns

Royal

Antelope County

The section crew that worked on the railroad between Royal and Oakdale. Pictured are Dick Crellin, section boss, Fred Tiedie, Spence McLane, and two other workers.
The once-bustling Royal Schoolhouse. [Harris]
Royal's post office, 1889. [Harris]

The history of the village of Royal began at Hering's Mill, four miles north of the present town. It was first called "Savage" because a doctor from Sioux City had promised to build a school in any town along the Pacific Short Line that would be named for him. After a few years, when he failed to fulfill his promise, the town changed the name to "Royal" in honor of Royal Thayer, who had been instrumental in establishing the post office.

Royal has always been a lively community. A baseball team was organized in 1884. It was dubbed the "Creek Rats" and included the Reefe and Fannon brothers, Ben Bonestell, Otto Punteney, Ed Field, George McLain, and George Forsberg (said to be the best second baseman in the country). This "crack team" had a seven-year winning streak and drew crowds of 500-600 people. Cliff Rundquist managed the team in the 1930-40s.

In the early days, Willie Bligh had a blacksmith shop at his farm, a mile north of Royal. He also had the post office in his home. Cliff and Ollie Rundquist had the general store from 1905-80. They bought chewing tobacco in 100 pound lots and cut it into plugs with a cranky tobacco cutter. They also sold meat, fruit, vegetables, dry goods, hardware, yarn, lots of shoes, and a full line of groceries. Heavy snows in 1986-87 wrecked the building.

Other names remembered from early businesses include Fannon, Charles, Clark, Johnston, Walruth, Sherwood, and Abdalla. The "Royal Post" newspaper was established in 1909 by L.M.Jewitt.

The United Methodist Church was founded in 1890. The first pastor was Rev. G. W. Schick. The Ladies' Aid, organized in the early 1900s, sponsors a bazaar, soup suppers, a cookbook, and other fund-raisers during the year.

A unique link with the past comes in the form of a buggy and wheelwright shop north of Royal. Marlowe Jensen and his son Justin make and restore horse-drawn vehicles. A full-time occupation, the Jensens have made close to 1,000 wheels for people in 10 states.

In addition to an oil station and mini mart, Royal also has a repair shop, bar, post office, an antique and second-hand store, and a primate center, zoo, and museum. Nearby you will find a dairy, a bait shop, several construction companies, plus a popcorn and seed corn dealers.

Three miles north of town is Grove Lake, named for Philo Grove. Created as a diversion dam on Verdigre Creek, it is one of Nebraska's State Recreation Areas, with areas for picnics, boating, and fishing. An annual ice fishing tournament is sponsored by the Royal Volunteer Firemen. Just to the southeast of Grove Lake is the state growing ponds, where trout are raised for this and other lakes in the state of Nebraska.

The population of Royal is 86, down from its peak of 250 in 1910. Although there has been a Royal post office since 1881, the centennial will be celebrated in 1990.

 

By Opal Francis and Earleen Jensen, Box 57, Royal, NE 68773.