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Nebraska...Our Towns

Murdock

Cass County

Memories of earlier days are recalled by the descendants of pioneers to the town of Murdock. The centennial, celebrated in 1990, was enjoyed by over 2,000. [Harris]

A lot of living had occurred in this area before the town of Murdock was founded. Both the Ox-Bow Trail and the Mullen Ranch had come and gone. Farms were acquired either through homesteading or purchase from the railroad. Interestingly, 91 per cent of the land in the 43 sections in this area is owned by families who have been here over 100 years.

When the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad built a line from Omaha to Colorado in December 1890, and needed a "water station" at this location, so our town was born.

What was the station to be named? Louis Eickhoff had sold the land to the Kansas Land & Townsite Company. The Rev. Louis Neitzel and several ministers, looking for "another line of work," bought the first lot on which he established a hardware store. After both Eickhoff and Neitzel declined the honor, it was decided to name the town "Murdock," for a railroad official.

The population quickly grew to 200 people, most of whom were first or second generation Germans. As a result of a split in the Evangelical Church, a number of people from Ackley, Iowa, heard about the new town and came to establish businesses. Eugene Tool and his son Harold built the lumberyard. Another son, Arthur, had a hardware and harness shop. A nephew, Henry Tool, operated a mercantile store and later became the banker. The Gillespies ran a hotel and livery barn. Arthur Rikli had a furniture store and funeral parlor. (When asked what his father knew about undertaking, his son replied, "Oh, nothing. He just washed and dressed them, and laid them out nice.")

H. V. McDonald came to town as a licensed druggist. (He had "read" with a druggist at Elsie, prior to taking his state pharmacy exams.) Doc Jones pulled teeth as well as doctored. He owned one of the first cars in town, a "Brush."

Miss Goodale and later Nora Eveland had millinery shops. They trimmed hats with feathers and flowers for the ladies. The general stores sold shoes, stockings, and dress material. The Mercantile handled men's suits, so it was unnecessary to go outside the village to shop.

Murdock had two elevators. There was a blind horse that went round and round on a turn-table to elevate the grain. Farmers later organized themselves into a Farmers Union, which was the beginning of the strong cooperative which exists today.

The first agent, Elmer Weis, lived in the depot with his family. The baggage room served as a spare bedroom when there were guests. After Weis left to go into show business in Kansas City, Id Hornbeck served as depot agent for many years.

The depot also served as a church for a time. Olga Neitzel recalled dropping a dime, meant for collection, between the floor boards of the waiting room. In 1903 an English-speaking Evangelical church was built, but it didn't last long. A Methodist church, built about this time, also shared the same fate. In the German Evangelical church, built in 1905, the pastors preached in German (except for a brief time during World War I, when foreign languages were against the law), so it prospered. Lutherans drove to Trinity Lutheran, two miles north of town.

A two-story frame school was built in 1892 for grades 1-8, with grades 9-10 added later. The first 12th grade graduates were in 1922, with a brick school completed in 1924. When the basketball team played in the Lions Club Hall, spectators stood "glued to the walls" to stay out of the way. A new school was built in the 1970s.

Murdock wasn't a big manufacturing town although Harold Tool did get a patent on cob boxes. George Utt raised broom corn and made brooms. Farmers brought in wagon loads of apples, packed them into barrels, and shipped them out by train.

Murdock's population has remained a stable 200-250 throughout the years. Life centers around the agricultural interests with its co-op elevator, seed farm, bank, and good array of shops and businesses. The German Evangelical Church merged with two rural churches to form a United Methodist Church in the village.

The villagers joyfully celebrate the Fourth of July each year, reminiscent of the "Old Ford Days" of the early 1920s. Over 2,000 people helped celebrate Murdock's centennial in 1990 with life-size replicas of stores, an early home, and artifacts found at the Mullen Ranch were displayed. On Sunday morning, home-made rolls were served, made from bread-started brought from Germany 120 years earlier. Church services commemorated the faith of the early settlers. This faith lives on today in our town, Murdock.

By Maxine E. Cline, Rte 1 Box 165, Greenwood, NE 68366.