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Nebraska...Our Towns

Alvo

Cass County

The Rock Island depot, first building in Alvo, put the town on the map when the railroad came through.

The Alvo Consolidated School, 1917, with horse-drawn "buses."

This area was settled as early as 1869. People established post offices, schools, and a number of small towns. When the railroad was built across the raw prairie, some of them vanished. Because trains were the primary means of transportation, towns without a railroad usually did not survive. Alvo, in the western part of Cass County, became a town when the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad was built from Omaha to Lincoln, 1888-91. At first there were only a few shacks where the railroad men slept and ate.

The name "Alvo" is unique, and is the only community in the United States known by this name. The first child born in the town, which began to form near the siding, was the daughter of the "roadmaster." Her parents gave her the name Alvo, which was subsequently chosen as the name for the station.

The first building erected was the depot. Salem Church, which was built in 1890 near the Hedge Corner School north and west of the present town, was moved to Alvo after the town site was laid out. In 1892 it became known as the Alvo Methodist Episcopal Church. This building is still in use for Christ today.

A school was built in 1892 for grades 1-10. It served until 1916, when a large brick building was constructed for K-12. Said to be one of the earliest consolidated systems in the state, the Alvo Consolidated School served the community until 1960 when, because of declining enrollment, the school merged with Eagle, six miles away. In 1966 it merged again, this time with the Waverly district, and the building was torn down.

In the early years, Alvo was a thriving community with a wide variety of businesses. In 1909 Alvo's population was 225. In addition to a telephone office and a doctor, there was an agent for broom corn, two elevators, and more than a dozen shops and businesses.

The Farmers & Merchants Bank was organized in 1901. Simon Boyles, who became its president in 1902, served in that capacity for 40 years. In 1942, during World War II, when cashier Carl Ganz was called into the service, Boyles sold his interest in the bank to the Eagle Bank.

In 1932 J.B. Elliott and Edgar Edwards bought the hardware store in Alvo from Roy Coatman and John Skinner. In addition to selling hardware, they started selling John Deere implements at a time when tractors were just coming into use. As time went on, Elliott bought his partner out. Since farming was mostly done with horses, J.B. would trade tractors for horses. Then once a year, he had a big sale, where he auctioned off horses and old machinery. Those were "big days" for Alvo. People came from all over the Midwest for the sale. Lyle DeMoss, well-known announcer for Radio Station WOW, often came to Alvo and broadcast the sale over the air. After J.B.'s death in 1948, two nephews, Lee and Don Elliott, bought the business and continued until 1977.

Our little town has seen many changes down through the years, as people, businesses, and buildings have come and gone. Yet in one way the community is much the same. There is a lot of personal commitment to the community and people who volunteer their time for whatever needs to be done.

The decline in the town came gradually, and many outside events effected it. After the war, the railroad discontinued passenger trains. The depot was torn down in 1957. When young families moved to larger cities for jobs, the enrollment in our school dropped, resulting in the need for consolidation. The cafe closed in 1970 and when the barber died in 1976, that shop closed. Elliotts' Garage closed in 1977, and soon the grocery store also closed its doors. The railroad tracks, no longer used, were removed in 1985.

Alvo is currently a village of 140 friends and neighbors who love this community. We still have a post office, the elevators, and several small businesses in homes. A mini-mart that carries groceries was recently opened. In 1990 the P.I.A. (People Involved in Alvo) spearheaded the centennial celebration. The Alvo Oriole, symbol of our school during its glory-days, flew high, wide, and handsome. There was a special centennial postal cancellation, and a barbecue that drew over 250 for the event.

The church building, now over 100 years old, remains. We have many wonderful memories of when Alvo was a growing town. It is still the place we like to live.

 

Patricia Umland, Box 57, Alvo, NE 68304

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "Alvo Alumni Memories..." 1983; Remembering Yesterdays...Alvo and Its People, 1987; and Alvo Centennial 1890-1990, by Patricia Umland.