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Nebraska...Our Towns

Rising City

Butler County

Among the first homesteaders in the area were A.W. and S.W. Rising. When the O&RVR came through the area, the Rising brothers donated some of the land for the original town site. Pictured is the Rising City Depot. n.d. [Ellison]
The Opera Block, built in 1892, was the pride and joy of Rising City. It was lost in a fire in 1923.
The Masonic Hall and Library, on the site of the old Opera Block. [Ellison]
Aerial of Rising City, 1978. [Zenith photo]

Did you know that there is only one post office in the United States by the name "Rising City?" The standard tourists question is often asked, "Is it really rising?"

Actually, the town is named for the Rising family from Michigan. Brothers A.W. and S.W. Rising were among the first homesteaders in the area. Together with A.F.Terpening they gave the land for the town site along the Omaha & Republican Valley Railroad, which was extended across Butler County in 1878.

Rising City has followed the pattern of many rural Nebraska towns in its rise and decline in population and businesses. It was established by the railroad, and developed as the need for goods and services increased in the surrounding agricultural area. As a result, the first two decades saw rapid growth.

By 1880 there were 775 residents, with 25-30 businesses, several doctors, and a lawyer. Two of these pioneer business continued to serve the town for over 50 years: O.A.Wickert, who owned the general store, and W.F.Weber, the barber. Weber was featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not for having shaved one of his patrons every morning for 45 years.

First published in 1879, the local newspaper, "Rising City Independent," continued to come out weekly until the late 1930s.

The pride and joy of the early community was the Opera Block. Built in 1892, this large brick structure housed a bank, a drug store, and a general store on the ground floor. Upstairs there were spacious rooms for lodge meetings, banquets, and dances. This important center was destroyed by a devastating fire in 1923.

Another structure, built in 1892 to house a general store, was later the town movie theater, and then the Odd Fellows and Rebekah Lodge Hall. This building was razed in 1990.

With the advent of the automobile, the need for many local goods and services decreased, or changed with the times. In Rising City's centennial year, 1978, the population was just under 400.

By 1990 businesses include a branch bank, grocery store, the co-op elevator and oil company. There is also a cafe, a filling station, tavern, motorcycle and ATV sales, irrigation sales, local cable TV, a garage, a car wash, a body shop, and a beauty salon. A Rising City/Surprise Development Committee was formed in 1991.

Over the years Rising City has enjoyed a sand-beach swimming pool, a hardwood roller rink, and a good theatre. The citizens take pride in its K-12 school and the successful academic and extra-curricular activities it stimulates. There are three churches, and both service and social organizations. Our young people participate in a summer ball program, 4-H Clubs, and there is Scouting for both boys and girls.

Memorial or "Decoration Day," as it was known, has been an important event through the years. This is still observed at the Circle Mound Cemetery where an Avenue of Flags was added in 1987, through the efforts of the members of the American Legion Auxiliary. The flags are placed at the newly renovated city park on the Fourth of July. "Independence Day" has been observed off and on over the years. Currently it is a day of fun and games, topped off with a community barbecue.

In the 1920s and again in the 1950s, a Fall Festival was held. The Chautauqua had its day in Rising City in the 1920s, when a huge tent was erected in the town park. Nebraska's centennial was observed by the school and the community with a full weekend of activities in June 1967. The nation's bicentennial was also celebrated with appropriate ceremonies and activities in 1976.

What was undoubtedly Rising City's biggest celebration came in May 1978, when the entire community joined in a three-day observation of the town's 100th anniversary. In preparation of the event, civic improvements were made that included the paving of streets and establishing street signs. A 264-page, hard-cover history of Rising City was written and published. During the event, a time capsule was placed in a monument by the school.

Rising City isn't the same town that it was back in 1878, but then neither are the needs of its citizens. We know we must change with the times, and work together to provide a quality community for today, and make plans for the future.

By Ramona Ellison, Box 56, Rising City, 68658.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Reflections of Rising City, A Mirror on the Past, published 1978, Ramona Ellison, editor.