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Nebraska...Our Towns

Greenwood

Cass County

The old depot and a modern elevator tower mark the location of Greenwood, said to be named for its first resident, an Indian trapper. [Cass County Historical Society]

Greenwood is located at the west most end of Cass County, just four miles south of the Saunders County line and one mile from the Lancaster line. The first resident of this area was Silas Greenwood, an Indian trapper and hunter who lived with his white wife and family in a dugout along Salt Creek in the early 1860s. The village was named for him.

In 1869, when the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad built its line from Plattsmouth to Lincoln, a station was needed in this area. Farmers residing nearby purchased land from Smith C. Bethel, and donated it to the B&MR with the promise that $10,000 worth of improvements would be invested. "The land was subsequently transferred to the South Platte Land Company who [in 1882] still hold it and have not been sold to individual residents..."

Bethel built a store near the rock-grade and was named postmaster of "Greenwood" in 1870. With the tracks completed, the depot opened for business in July of that year. By 1880 the population had reached 200. The town was incorporated in 1883 and by 1885 the population had reached 840.

The Congregational Church organized and a church built in 1873, followed by the Christian Church in 1874. There are three churches today: Methodist, Christian, and Catholic.

The first school was a mile or more south of town. In 1878 a school with a "seating capacity of 100" was built. The first class to graduate was in 1890, and a new schoolhouse was built in 1907. The town continued to grow, so that in 1920 the elementary students were housed in the Methodist Church until more space was added. In 1957, when the graduating class consisted of only one student, the high school merged with Ashland's school district, and later the elementary was also moved to Ashland.

Two things happened in the 1920s that not only halted the growth of Greenwood, but hastened its decline. Two devastating fires wiped out much of the early business district, and the D.L.D. (Detroit-Lincoln-Denver) Highway was built. People bought cars and could drive to Lincoln to shop. Then in the 1930s, after Highway 6 was paved, a number of businesses closed and jobs became hard to find, so people moved on. Recently the community, located only two miles west of the interstate between Lincoln and Omaha, has begun to grow again. It recorded 587 residents in 1989, and has nearly that many in 1990.

In 1880 Greenwood had three elevators. In 1919 the Farmers Union Cooperative Association was incorporated with Emmett Landon as manager. Now, in the 1990s, it is the largest business in town. Big concrete and steel drying sheds have been built. Darly Erickson is the present manager.

The Greenwood Woman's Club was organized in 1929. Their motto "We Aim to Serve" has been well-practiced, providing such things as food baskets to the needy, and recently a scholarship for a Greenwood senior. Unity Lodge A.F. and A.M., chartered in 1887, recently joined the Lincoln lodge. Order of the Eastern Star was chartered in 1925. A Boy Scout troop, organized in 1951, is still very active. An American Legion post was organized shortly after World War I, and in 1934 an auxiliary post was added. A volunteer fire and rescue department was organized in 1949 and in 1972 new equipment was purchased. In 1970 the village board purchased E.L. McDonald's building, which had been the grocery store for over 50 years, for use as a community center. An area was set aside in the southeast corner for a public library. Organized in 1975, it is still very active.

During the nation's bicentennial year, 1976, the Greenwood Historical Society was organized. A big celebration included a parade, the crowning of Miss Greenwood, and a speech by Lt. Gov. McGinley. The Burlington Northern donated its old depot to the Greenwood Historical Society, which had raised money to move it from track-side to the Greenwood Park. Many memberships, fund raisers, generous donations, and lots of volunteer work made the move possible, and Green Thumb workers did much of the repairs. Today our curator, Irene Thimgaw, has many visitors during the summer hours.

In addition to our big elevator, we have a candy factory, and the old high school is the home-business for "Verna Mae Collectibles" -- dolls, bears, etc. -- which are sold all over the nation and around the world. In addition to a small business district, we have a nice park, a tennis court, and a good ball field. Greenwood is a small town, but we are far from dead.

By Arnetta Carpenter, Box 11, Greenwood, NE 68366