Oakland is a Swedish community named for a Norwegian, John Oak.
John and Inger Askwig Oak, who homesteaded near Tekamah in 1855, "moved west" in 1866, and lived in the log cabin built by Aron Arlington in 1857 on Logan Creek. Oak helped many new arrivals to the Logan valley, going with them to the land office in Omaha to register their claims. Some lived with him while they built their sod houses. Early meetings of School District 14 were held in Oak's cabin so John P.Anderson drew up a petition asking the county commissioners to name the settlement "Oakland" in his honor.
The request was honored. A post office was established May 11, 1868, with John Oak, postmaster. Three years later Oak moved to Lodi in Dakota County. Though his stay was brief, his name lives on.
The first school was held in Andrew Morell's sod house from May to August 1868, taught by Lina Clark. Money to run the school was raised by popular subscription, as no tax could be levied for a school until a three-month term had been held.
The town began to grow. The 1870 census recorded 227 citizens in Oakland.
By 1879 it was certain the railroad would come through Oakland. A group of public-spirited men raised money to purchase the present town site. The deed was signed by the governor on October 13, 1879. The town was literally "on the move." Businesses on Commercial Avenue and Water Street were moved "uptown" to Oakland Avenue. A church, built in 1878, also was moved several blocks up the hill.
Railroads were a big factor in Oakland's prosperity. The first railroad, the North Western (C&NW), arrived in 1880, and a second line, the Burlington (CB&Q) now Burlington Northern, was built from Ashland through Oakland and on to Sioux City in 1907.
Oakland was incorporated in 1881. A.E.Wells, banker, philanthropist, and chairman of the first village board, is remembered for the park he developed. Its reputation as a beauty spot of northeastern Nebraska lives on in photos and inspired descriptions. Oakland was declared a Second Class City in 1896.
Churches played an important role in the development of the town. Lutheran and Baptist congregations were organized very early (1869). The Swedish Lutherans were the first to erect a church on the original town site. Other churches were the Methodist, the Covenant Mission, the Free Mission, and an English Lutheran.
A 40-acre park was established in 1921, partially by subscription and later taken over by the city through a bond issue. The swimming pool was built in 1922. The park is adjoined by a nine-hole golf course and the Burt County Fairgrounds.
In 1922 Oakland paved 84 blocks, which was more yards of paving per capita than any other U.S. city at the time. During the 1920s Oakland was one of the larger livestock feeding and shipping points in the United States, with 50,000 pounds of butterfat and 15,000 cases of eggs shipped out annually.
In 1940, when hopes of federal money fell through, the city auditorium was built entirely by subscription. Citizens, calling it "P.W.A." (Privately, Without Aid), raised $35,000. The hospital, opened in 1950, was financed by $164,000 in private gifts, and $82,000 in federal aid.
Oakland's population of around 1,400 has remained relatively stable for many years. A new grade school was built in 1984, a three-physician clinic added to the hospital in 1985, a street-level library opened in 1986, and a wing was added to the locally-owned nursing home in 1987. Many improvements made through the years have been the result of the enthusiasm of Oakland citizens, who have given of their money, their time, and their support.
A Swedish festival is held biennially to celebrate the town's ethnic heritage. A "sister city," Hammenhog, Sweden, was adopted in 1958. The idea was conceived by Bob and Shirley Bogue, editors of the Oakland Independent. Flags were exchanged, and citizens from each city have visited each other on occasion. There was also a student exchange in 1961.
By Millicent Troupe, 608 Davis Avenue, Oakland, NE 68045
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The History of Burt County, 1803-1929 ; Oakland, Past & Present, 1907 ; Oakland Centennial, 1863-1963 ; and special issues of the "Oakland Independent," Jan. 24, 1941, Jan. 12, 1950, and June 20, 1963.