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Nebraska...Our Towns

Louisville

Cass County

Louisville was "on the map" in 1857, even before the rich deposits of limestone, sand, and clay were found. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Louisville's main street in the 1890s. [Mueller]
Main Street, 1987, looking north. [Mueller]

Louisville is nestled in the tree-lined hills in north-central Cass County bordered by the Platte River. In addition to good croplands and an abundance of wildlife, the area is rich in limestone, sand and clay.

Gardner Powers first settled here in 1857, building a log cabin on Mill Creek just south of what is now 3rd Street. He registered a plat for the town of "Louisville" in February of that year, which was incorporated under a special act of the territorial legislature. By August 18, 1857, papers were filed by 13 original stockholders in the "Town Association of Louisville." Although the vision never materialized beyond the paper it was written on, the action did provide for some later advantages.

Among the settlers in the area in 1863 was John T.A. Hoover, a German by birth, who came from Ohio after serving in the Union Army, sustaining serious wounds in the Battle of Shiloh. Hoover purchased 320 acres of land on which was discovered some of the finest white clay in the region, used in the making of terra cotta stoneware. He established Louisville pottery, and in 1865 was elected to the territorial legislature. Hoover, who wrote eloquently in German, English, and French, was instrumental in getting a free-school policy in Nebraska law. He also promoted the building of several schoolhouses, one being on lot 771 in "the town of Louisville," known as Urwin School. In 1867 he was appointed postmaster of Louisville.

In 1869, when the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad arrived in Cass County, Hoover used his influence and a great deal of his personal resources to get it routed through Louisville. With the foresight of what the railway would do for the town -- a means of transporting raw materials and manufactured goods to markets around the world -- he capitalized on the opportunity. The B&MRR arrived in Louisville in 1870, by which time he had laid out a new plat, giving two-thirds of it to the railroad. Hoover built a store in which he put the post office, and Louisville immediately began to grow.

The town, resurveyed by M. Willsey, was officially recorded March 1, 1872, and a public dedication was held in 1872 honoring Capt. and Mrs. Hoover as "Founders of Louisville." Incorporation under state laws was not accomplished until August 1882 which, unfortunately, had retarded the development of certain civic activities and a "town school."

For many years the Platte could only be crossed in flatboats, except in winter, or when the water level was low. The Missouri Pacific Railroad bridged the Platte in 1881 between Omaha and Louisville. In 1890 the first road-bridge was constructing using 20-foot spans and oak planking. Nearly 600-foot washed out in 1903. When it washed out again in 1905, it was not repaired. A toll bridge, built in 1909, was paid off and given to the state in 1926, only to be ruled as unsafe in 1929. A steel bridge was built in 1930, which also required a toll until 1939. The fourth and present bridge, completed in 1973, has a 42-foot roadway for two-lane traffic.

A "cyclone" in 1908 caused great destruction, injury and death in Louisville, as did a flood entering the town as a wall-of-water on Mill Creek in 1923. Water swept away homes and whole families in its path, and was classified as "the greatest calamity in the history of the town." Telephone operators Marjorie Twiss and Lydia Pautsch were given "Vail Medals" for remaining at their posts all night trying to help people in need.

The importance of Louisville's limestone deposits are obvious. The quarries employed as many as 500 men in the 1880s for the building of bridges, foundations, and buildings. Later, gravel and crushed rock were widely used in building roads.

In addition to Hoover's pottery, Lyman-Richey Sand, National Stone Quarries, Patrick Stone, Kahler Pottery, and Hugh Murphy Construction companies have all helped to make Louisville grow. In 1927 the Ash Grove Cement Company established a plant on land that had been quarried out. Ash Grove has expanded many times and reports that it still have over 100-years of limestone to quarry from its deposits.

Because of our proximity to Omaha and Lincoln, we will always be in competition for business. However, with the development of recreation and the Platte River State Park, Louisville, with a population of 1,022, brings people from the city to enjoy our small-town cafes, and many antique shops.

 

 

 

By Jean Mueller, Box 182, Louisville, NE 68037

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Andrea's History of Nebraska, 1882; Olson's History of Nebraska; "Nebraska Gazetteer"; "World-Herald"; "Louisville Weekly Courier" (and other names it held); "Plattsmouth Evening News", the Nebraska Blue Book, 1980-81; and 1967 Cass County Fair Book.