W. H. Hill from Iowa and T. W. Fountain from Connecticut crossed the Missouri River at Plattsmouth in late 1856 on a flatboat. They traveled west together until they arrived at a creek they could not cross. Here they set about to build their homes, becoming the first white settlers on the "south bend" of the Platte. Previous to this, the Nebraska Culture of the prehistoric Woodland Indians, and much later the Pawnee and Otoe, lived in this area.
It is here that the Platte River makes a sweeping turn to the northeast. In April, 1857, the town of "South Bend" was platted. Henry Keyes is said to have built the first house on the town site in 1860, and George Mattison built a cabin to the west in 1865, but little else developed.
A second plat for South Bend was filed in 1870 by D. N. Smith, in anticipation of the arrival of the railroad. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad constructed a line from Plattsmouth to Lincoln in 1872, at which time C.H. Pinkham built a store. He was promptly commissioned postmaster, and used a corner of his establishment for a post office. This time a town started to take shape.
District 57's first school was built in 1874. A second building was added in 1881 when there was a reported enrollment of 100 students. Later a third building was added in the west part of the district, called the Klondike school.
A third plat was surveyed for the town of South Bend by P.T. Barr and filed for the South Platte Land Company in 1875, and a joint-venture stock company raised money in 1879 to build a wagon bridge across the Platte, making South Bend accessible to persons living in Sarpy County. It was a great convenience, but in only a short time, an ice jam destroyed part of the bridge and it was then damaged by a fire, so it was used only until 1881.
For many years, two railroads served the community with freight and passenger service. Employees of each added to the town's economy and population. The Rock Island line was abandoned in 1980, and the Burlington depot, no longer in use, was sold to Esther Kuhn in 1962, and was moved to her property on Pine Street.
On December 2, 1885, when South Bend's population was nearly 300, the town was incorporated. A town hall was built by the Woodman and Royal Neighbors lodges and presented to the village. It has been the center of community activities ever since. This is where village board meetings are held, and where people vote. Over the years it has been the place where school programs, dances, card parties, showers, a senior citizens' center, and family get-togethers of all kinds have been held.
South Bend's cemetery, site of T.W. Fountain's burial, is located south of Fountain Creek. It was donated to the community by the Henry Standard family, and is maintained by volunteer labor and cash donations.
The CB&Q Quarry, Kerfords' Limestone Quarry, and Western Sand & Gravel Company all played major roles in the growth of South Bend. The sandpit was in full production from 1920 to 1990. From the 1930s until World War II in the 1940s, there was a large public resort area, which included a cafe-lounge, dance hall, and concessions. The swimming area was complete with life guards, a beautiful sandy beach, bath house, boat rentals, bass fishing, motor boat shows and races, and picnic facilities. The area also included many privately owned cabins. Now this is a rapidly growing housing development known as North Lake and Middle Island. There are upwards of 175 residences, which are major contributors to the town's economy.
Businesses in the 1990s include the original general store now owned by the Rosencrans, Brooks Round-the-Bend cafe/bar, and Wally's Gun Shop. The Ruhges recently built a convenience store, and there are a number of home-based enterprises.
Long-established recreation facilities near South Bend include Lincoln's YMCA Camp Kitaki, Platte River State Park, and Camp Carol Joy Holling, operated by the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries. The Mahoney State Park now provides space and activities for thousands each year.
The years have seen many changes in South Bend. The prospects for the next 100 years are bright and promising as it continues to be a viable, quiet place to live a good life.
By Marie Dill, Box 274, South Bend, NE 68058, typed by Janice Ruhge and Jill McCormick. Photographs by Bernard Dill and William Rosencrans.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Plat Book of Cass County, 1905; Early History of Cass County, 1967, by Alice Pollock Perry and Marie Dill; History of Cass County Nebraska, 1989; Plattsmouth Journal, Mary Skalak, coordinator; Nebraska Place Names, 1960, Lilian L. Fitzpatrick; and Origin of Place Names, by J. T. Links. Journalists, Alice Graham, of the Ashland Gazette, and Tom Allan, Omaha World-Herald.