Many skeletons and buffalo skulls were found strewn on the ground near an ancient Pawnee village when the first settlers arrived in the northeast corner of Butler County. It is for this reason that the stream was given the name "Skull Creek." People from the Waverly Townsite Company of Plattsmouth made the first attempt to settle in 1857. They built the first house in Butler County on the banks of that creek, about one-half mile from present-day Linwood.
Recorded as the first permanent settlers were Joshia Brown, who built a grist mill on the east bank of Skull Creek, S.B. Crawford, James McBride, and Fred Johnson. In 1865 Johnson's wife Sarah taught the first school session in her home near the mill. The first public buildings were built in the summer of 1867 when school districts 1 and 3 were organized.
Fred Johnson was appointed postmaster at "Skull Creek" in 1868, one of the earlier post offices in the county. Sarah Johnson was not particularly happy with that name, and through her efforts, was able to get the name officially changed to "Linwood." The presence of many linden trees in the area is said to be the reason for that selection. Sarah also pushed to have a mail route established between Ashland and Linwood.
The Congregational Church built its first church on the knoll west of town in 1873. It was later moved into town, where it remains today. A cemetery, organized on a hilltop south of town by the Bohemian people, was named "Linwood Hill Cemetery." A Catholic Church was not established until just after the turn of the century.
In 1887 the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad built a line across the county, and Linwood went from a small settlement to a booming town. Fred Johnson donated his farm for the town site. A petition, signed by Johnson and 102 others, was immediately started to incorporate the village.
On January 4, 1888, when the request was granted, the population had grown to 300, and the "Linwood Advertiser," published weekly, listed 28 businesses. By 1890 the railroad had an engine house and coaling station. The schoolhouse was "a fine building" that cost $5,000. The Farmers & Merchants Bank had capital of $10,500. The Linwood Hotel stood at the east end of town, and a ZCBJ Hall (a Czech Lodge) was used for a meeting place by all.
By 1912 Linwood was a very busy community with a population of 360. That year, the Fourth of July celebration attracted a huge crowd from the surrounding towns. The event included a parade with several bands, floats, and fireworks. A dance in the large pavilion completed the day.
All was not sunshine and roses for Linwood, however, in the years that followed. The hotel burned in a fire. During the Depression and drought of the 1930s, many people had to give up and throw in the towel. The bank moved to Schuyler, and the railroad, by then owned by the Chicago & North Western, took out its rails between Linwood and Hastings. Later the branch line between Seward and Linwood was also removed, leaving the town without a railroad.
A flood in 1963 devastated Linwood. Many homes and businesses were inundated and sustained great damage. Rather than rebuild the people left, most of them moving to Schuyler.
The result of a sizable out-migration of residents was predictable. St. Mary's Catholic Church was discontinued in 1969 and the building sold and dismantled. Local parishioners are now affiliated with the Abie parish. Main street has also made many changes.
Today, the town has a population of 95. The "meeting place" for the town-folks is "The Sand Bar" run by Joan and Clanton West. In addition to a taxidermy shop, owned by Gerald Jakub, the town has a community post office, with a new building which opened June 1, 1991. Linwood, part of a Class VI district, our elementary school has two teachers with an enrollment of 25 students, and the secondary students attend classes in Schuyler.
Residents are proud of their volunteer fire department with several trucks and 30 firemen. The fire department purchased the old Czech hall, remodeled it, and use it for social gatherings and their dances. An active community club also works for the betterment of Linwood, raising funds for specific projects.
By Theresa Jakub, Linwood, NE 68036. Photos by Stan Shavilk, Charles Stava, Rhonda Cerny, and Gerald Jakub.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: A History of the Linwood Community , 1971, Alfred Tichacek; and Butler County History , 1982.