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Nebraska...Our Towns

Brainard

Butler County

The Omaha & Republican Valley Railroad Company placed a station in Section 17 in 1877, thus creating the town of Brainard. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
During WW I, people decorated a hand-car, then traveled on the O&RVR from Valparaiso through Brainard and on to David City selling "War Bonds." [Christiansen]

Brainard is located in southeast Butler County where the rich, clay-loam hills of Oak Creek meet the productive tableland to the west. The Ox Bow Trail passed nearby, evidence of which still is evident in Max Dusatko's pasture north of town.

In 1865 James Brown filed a claim in Section 23, and later opened the post office called "Urban." This was two miles east and one mile south of present-day Brainard near the Loma road. Other settlers along Oak Creek included the families of Fox, Keefe, Showalter, Riggs, and Blair.

The Union Pacific built a line from Valley in 1877, establishing Valparaiso in Saunders County, then across Butler County to David City. The company selected a site in Section 17 for a station. Thomas Logan, considered to be the founder of the town, opened a store and post office that year named "Brainard" a misspelled version of a celebrated Indian missionary, David Brainerd.

The town was laid out in 1878 by the Omaha & Republican Valley Railroad Company. Later additions were platted by J.E. McAlvin. In 1887 "West Brainard" was recorded by Cottrell and Hull, and in December of that year, "North Brainard" was surveyed by McKnight and filed by W.T. Richardson.

Warran Jacobs established a grocery store, and soon nearly all lines of business were represented. Gradually the farms and businesses were mingled with the newly-arrived Czech immigrants. There was a steady migration of early settlers from the eastern part of the United States, and from here to points west. A tragic story involving four Bohemian families from Brainard, occurred in 1885. Deciding to move to Dundy County, three women and six children of the Kavalec, Macek, Lang, and Osmera families were swept away in a flash-flood, as they camped not far from their destination. In 1924 a monument was dedicated by the two surviving children near the mouth of Richardson Canyon in Furnas County.

Early businesses were located on the west side of Lincoln Street until three brick buildings were built on Madison Street. A Methodist Church was organized and a church built in 1885 and a Catholic Church was built in 1888.

Industries once included a grain company, a cigar factory, a soft drink factory, a cheese and ice cream factory, and a cement block factory. Lyle Talbot, born and raised in Brainard in the hotel his family owned, later performed in many movies and the television series, "Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet."

Soon after the commercial club was organized in 1932, "Old Hometown Festival," a weekend of free entertainment was established. The present Brainard Community Club's 153 members are still involved in town betterment through local activities and NCIP competition.

A landing strip on the Prochaska farm provided the passengers and crew of a DC3 enroute to New York with a safe haven in December 1945. Nearly out of gas, and unable to land in Lincoln or Omaha because of heavy fog, it spotted the beacon light not far from Brainard. Sandwiches and hot coffee were provided for these "drop-in guests" until a gasoline transport could refuel the plane.

During the early 1960s, Brainard became one of the sites for the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), providing a link in our national defense during the "cold war period" (1960-85). About 100 workers (many from the Brainard area) excavated tons of dirt and pour over 1,000 truckloads of concrete for the silo that held the missile. When completed, a four-man crew provided round the clock maintenance of the equipment and were there to fire the missile, if necessary. It never was, and this and similar sites in Mead, Arlington, Tecumseh, Seward, York, and Missouri Valley all have been dismantled.

The school in Brainard has evolved from one-room in 1881 into a consolidated district covering 192 square-miles, including the towns of Loma and Dwight. There are currently 320 students in the East Butler District.

Brainard, whose motto is "Working Together to Make a Good Town Better," has experienced an 18 percent population increase during the last decade from 275 to 326. "Visitors and residents know that we are proud of our heritage by the appearance of new homes, improved electrical and water systems, and the overall appearance of the town," comments Sharon Bruner, NCIP scrapbook chairman. "We are alive and well in our town, Brainard."

From material gathered by Jane Graff from NSHS and from Sharon Bruner of Brainard.

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Brainard's First Hundred Years , 1979, Centennial Committee; Butler County History, 1982 ; and three VCR collections of movies of the hometown events from 1932 through June 1991, produced by the Brainard Community Club.