Elmwood, located on a hill in the southwest part of the county, was founded in 1868 when a post office was established near a grove of Elm trees. Because of these trees, Postmaster David McCaig, a Civil War veteran, chose the name "Elmwood." McCaig's cabin was actually on Stove Creek several miles north of the present town. Later he moved to a store about a mile to the east, where mail arrived by horse and buggy.
By 1886 the town, containing just over 200 people, was large enough to incorporate. A successful effort brought a branch line of the Missouri Pacific Railroad from Union through Elmwood, to provide transportation for people wanting to go to either Lincoln or Omaha. For many years there were as many as eight trains daily. The line was discontinued in 1986, thus ending 100 years of service.
In 1886 a Mr. Mayfield established the "Elmwood Echo." In 1891 the "Elmwood Leader," published by Burt Clements, was born. The two newspapers consolidated in 1896, after which they were known as the "Elmwood Leader-Echo." The paper continued until 1952.
The Elmwood Exchange Bank was instituted in 1889 with T.E. Stevens as president. The bank has been in continual operation under the later management of Dwight Clements.
The first drug store was owned by James Greene, who came to Elmwood from Syracuse in 1886, building a store on West Main. The store continued as a family business in the same building until 1961, when Ralph Greene, son of the founder, sold to the present owner, Jerry Patton.
L.F. Langhorst came to Elmwood in 1886 to work for J.H. Ahrends. In 1907 he built the Langhorst Mercantile, whose upper story was an opera house. It was the scene of many memorable activities, meetings, and a wide variety of entertainment.
Elmwood had continual medical services starting with Dr. Hobbs until recently. At present we have a doctor from Syracuse three days a week.
The churches are an important part in the growth of the town. A Catholic Mission was established in 1862 by Rev. Emmanuel Hartig, stationed in Nebraska City, who visited the community regularly on horseback. Methodist services were first held in the schoolhouse in 1871, whenever the "Circuit Rider" came through. They continue as the United Methodist. Cyrus Alton, an itinerant preacher, established a Christian Church in the early 1880s. In 1886 the present church was built and is still in use. The Lutheran church was organized by Wm. Schick in 1891, with services held in his home until a church was built in 1892. That congregation disbanded in 1920.
Since a good many of the pioneers were Civil War veterans, a G.A.R. Post was established and a hall built in 1886. This building, a meeting place for all civic and cultural groups, is now the home of the Elmwood American Legion.
The education of the children has long been of the utmost importance in Elmwood. We see the results of this training in the noted people graduating from the school, which include a good many lawyers, ministers, authors, and doctors, one of which (Dr. Walter Bornemeier) was president of the American Medical Association. A foundation has been established to provide for an expanded high school curriculum for the Elmwood-Murdock system.
Our most famous resident, Bess Streeter Aldrich, came from Iowa with her husband, who worked at American Exchange Bank. A writing of short stories prior to 1925, she began writing in earnest after the sudden death of her husband. Her books, which include "A Lantern in Her Hand", "White Bird Flying", "Rim of the Prairie," and others, have been translated into many languages. She was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1971. With an initial gift by Charles and Esther Miller, a foundation provided funds for the Bess Streeter Aldrich Library & Museum, which was dedicated in 1991.
Elmwood's population, which was 645 in 1910, currently stands at 598. After the new bank building was completed, a "Senior Diner" was established in the old building, which serves dinners every day of the week and provides space for large family gatherings. Recently a roller-rink and a new convenience store has been opened. An active volunteer fire department and rescue squad also serve the community.
Elmwood has many lovely new homes. Our founders would be proud, as we continue to improve the community and keep their dream of an active town alive well into its second century.
By Mary McCaig Linhardt, 6721 L Street, Apartment 102, Lincoln, NE 68510
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "A Village Portrait", 1967; The Elmwood Centennial Book, 1968; excerpts from newspapers (The Leader & Echo); and background information from Doris Greene Lamb.