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Nebraska...Our Towns

Murray

Cass County

Murray's Main Street, looking west. N.D. [CCHS]
Attractive new municipal building houses Murray's city office, 1992. [Harris]

Murray, population 418, is located on Nebraska Highway 1 about 25 miles south of Omaha. In the spring of 1872 a young bachelor, Joe Burton, occupied the only dwelling in the area. This was a one-room cabin in a grove of trees four miles west and one mile south of "Rock Bluffs," a flourishing steamboat town along the Missouri River.

In 1878 the Presbyterian church at Rock Bluffs was loaded up and moved on wagons to the crossroads of what was hoped would become the town of "Fairview." The church and schoolhouse were placed on land donated by James Walker.

It was not until September 22, 1884, that a post office was established in the blacksmith shop of William Loughridge. The Fairview name was rejected as "confused with other towns," so a new name was needed. Some residents favored "Walker," but the town's founder did not fancy the idea and proposed instead that it be named "Murray" in honor of Reverend George Reed Murray, the first resident pastor of the church. This name was approved by all.

At that time Murray included only the church, the school, a blacksmith shop, and the homes of Lee Oldham and Samuel Latta. Nearly everyone in the area was engaged in farming, so Murray soon became an important distribution center -- a connecting link to the rest of the county and the markets of more heavily populated areas.

In 1891 there was a flutter of excitement. Walker and Latta employed D. M. Lewis to survey the town. Streets were named, blocks numbered, and a plat was filed. Later that year the Missouri Pacific Railroad connected Union, Murray, and Plattsmouth to the growing city of Omaha. Murray, in a fertile agricultural setting, looked forward to many years of progress.

The Christian Church traces its origins to Rock Bluffs, where James Connoran, a preacher from Iowa, organized a church in 1862. The congregation met in schoolhouses at Rock Bluffs and Rock Creek until 1892, when a building was constructed on the main street in Murray. In 1975 a new building was dedicated in the Christian Heights addition, and the old church was torn down. The United Presbyterian Church, completed on the south side of Main in 1897, remains active at that location.

School district 56, which served this area for a number of years, was established in 1872. A high school was built in 1914, but destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, 1932. A brick structure replaced it the following year. Committees named to reorganize area schools in 1972 resulted in the building of Conestoga Junior-Senior High two miles west of Murray and seven miles north of Nehawka. The new building was dedicated in 1980. Children in grades K-3 attend school in Murray, and students in grades 4-6 are housed in Nehawka.

The worst disaster in Murray was a fire that took place on June 9, 1927. Half of the town's businesses went up in flames: Nelson Hardware, Earl Lancaster's store, Nailor Soda Drink Parlor, the meat market, the community hall, and the post office. The Murray Volunteer Fire Department was established soon after the town incorporated in 1935. A rural fire district was organized in 1962 and the village joined that district in 1981.

During 1984, Murray's centennial year, the town could point with pride to 31 business enterprises. One of them, Livingston Lumberyard, could trace its origin back to 1894 when James Root and Tapley Fought established the business. The Shed Restaurant, known far and wide for its good food and friendly service, is another important business. The John Collins family opened it in 1977 on the site of the "old tin shed," which had housed a collection of odds and ends including old shelves, egg crates, and pop cases.

Murray boasts two fine parks: the Dr. Tyson Park north of Main Street, and Young Memorial Park on the northwest edge of town. For nearly a decade (1923-32) the Frank Mrasek family operated a swimming pool at the east edge of Murray.

Today Murray enjoys its small-town identity but also a "metropolitan" appearance. Beaver Lake is a sizable housing development east of town along the Missouri River. Highway 73 & 75 corridor north of Murray links our town, Murray, ever-closer to Bellevue and Omaha.

By Don Hill, Cass County Historical Society, 646 Main Street, Plattsmouth, NE. 68048.

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Centennial history of Murray, 1984, and Cass County History, 1989.