A post office named "Riverdale" was established in 1883 in the home of August Raymond. The village had its start in the fall of 1890 when businesses began springing up at that location when the Kearney & Black Hills Railroad went up the Wood River Valley. The railroad had purchased land for the branch line in 1886, with the grade built the following year. It then laid idle until 1890.
Rails were laid as far as Callaway, and a freight train with passenger coach was put on the line. In 1905 Motorcar No.1 was added to carry passengers and light freight, with track completed to Stapleton in 1912. The motor operated until 1955. After 1985 the track west of Riverdale was closed and removed.
A school had been organized in 1873 at the home of J.R. King, and a schoolhouse erected southeast of town, at a cost of $1,200. There were 17 students for which the district received an apportionment from the state of $37.29. In 1911 the school was enlarged to house three teachers for grades K-10. A new school was built in 1918 with the first four-year high school students graduated in 1922, the last in 1958. The present brick building was constructed in 1938.
Both churches, Christian and Methodist, began services at the school building in the 1880s with Sunday school and occasional preaching. The Christian Church was organized by Johanna Prascher, Charles and Karen Larsen, and O.G. Knox in 1893, with a sanctuary built the following year. Both churches shared the use of this building. Methodist pastor, B.F.Peck, lived at the Haven's Chapel parsonage and served four charges including Star, Amherst, and Riverdale. In 1908 the Methodist's built their own church, where services continued until 1978.
August Raymond built the first store north of the railroad station. It later constituted part of the Hill brothers general store for 40 years. Later, it was operated by Allen Stover and Rollo Wild, and finally by the Don Nelsons until closing in 1977. Many other businesses have come and gone over the years.
In 1876 Christian and Frederick Jacobson bought 1,500 acres west of town. Their son Carl pioneered irrigation from the Wood River. The reservoir created by the dam was the scene of cutting ice for the Riverdale community for many years, at a price of 50 cents a ton.
The Riverdale Cemetery Association bought a tract of land from Frederica Frederich for $75 in 1899. The Riverdale IOOF Lodge organized in 1910 and is still active. The town also had a Woodmen Lodge.
Fred Bargmann and W.H. Swartsley, along with A.T. Reynolds and Dr.R.L. Hart, founded the State Bank of Riverdale in 1907. Charles Pratt, after high school and business college in Kearney, and working in the Buffalo County treasurers office, was employed by them. He was with the bank for nearly 70 years. The bank is now being served by his son, LaVerne, and family.
At one time there were two elevators. The Riverdale Co-op was built about 1910, with John Bolin an early manager. Ray Elliot managed it for about 50 years before selling to Scoular, the present owner. The Riverdale Service Station, bought by M.L. Cudaback in the 1930s, and rebuilt in the 60s, has been operated by the family for 50 years.
In the 1920s the village built electric power lines and a distribution system. Later they contracted for power from the CPPD. More recently, leasing of the lines to the public power districts has provided much of the town's income, enabling the tax rate to be kept low.
In 1935 the state surveyed and purchased ground for Highway 40 to parallel the railroad. The bridges were built and grading and gravel was completed by November 1936. In 1956 re-grading done, and paving completed in 1958.
It is said that Riverdale had one of the best baseball teams around when the Langs, Pratts, Cudabacks, and Swartsleys were young men. The town band played regularly at the bandstand north of the service station, and supported a home guard during World War I.
Named for its location in the fertile Wood River Valley and the beautiful view of the peaceful Platte Valley, Riverdale never became a metropolis, but continues to provide a pleasant alternative to big-city life. Census records show that the town had 204 citizens in 1980.
By Glenn Underhill, Mayor, Riverdale, NE 68870