Coleridge, in north northeast Nebraska, has the distinction of being the first railroad terminal located in Cedar County. It actually had its beginnings from two other communities, Lawn Ridge, north and east of the present community, and Norris to the east. The railroad missed these towns on its treck to the northwest, and chose instead a route approximately two miles to the west. The new town was named by the railroad superintendent for Lord John Coleridge of England, who was visiting in the United States at the time.
According to writings by J.W. Linkhart, employed by the railroad as right-of-way agent, the Chicago, St.Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha branch line was completed from Wakefield to the center of Cedar County during the fall of 1883. Concord in Dixon County, plus Coleridge and Hartington in Cedar County had also been platted. A real estate office was brought over from Norris to Coleridge, and the first lots were sold on August 14, 1883.
Almost overnight, houses and stores appeared. Hauled or dragged overland from Norris and Lawn Ridge, they were quickly set up and ready for business in the "new railroad town." In addition to the real estate office and a number of homes, there were two general stores, a livery barn, and a blacksmith shop. Within a year, Coleridge had a hotel, lumberyard, grain house, implement and hardware dealer, two drug stores, and a banking firm.
The first school in Coleridge was in the depot, organized by James Busfield, depot agent. Coleridge had its own school district by 1884, which continues to the present day. Over the years there were several buildings, with an impressive high school built in 1909. An elementary building was built in 1958. On February 17, 1959, fire of unknown origin consumed the 1909 high school. After a reorganization of eight neighboring rural districts with Coleridge, a new school was built. It opened in 1961 with an enrollment of 350 students. Although the enrollment has dropped to 230, the school is still progressive, with students excelling academically and in athletics. A majority of graduates pursue educational degrees beyond high school.
In its history Coleridge has had six active churches. In later years the Presbyterian Church and members of the Methodist Church joined the Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ. Congregations at present include the Congregational, Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. Michael's Catholic Church, and New Life Assembly, with ecumenical services held on Thanksgiving and Good Friday.
A variety of businesses and industries have flourished in Coleridge over the years, including a brick yard in 1896. The last building constructed with Coleridge bricks was torn down several years ago.
The railroad that gave Coleridge its beginnings was abandoned by the Chicago & North Western Railroad in 1976. Highway 15 serves as a primary connecting route with neighboring communities.
The largest industry in Coleridge today is the 64-bed Park View Haven Nursing Home. There are also three new industries: High Plains Knitters, D & K Trailer Manufacturing, and Dental Video Systems.
Coleridge's business district includes a weekly newspaper, "The Coleridge Blade" (established in 1888); a national bank (established in 1902); plus 30 or more other businesses, specialty shops, and professions.
A volunteer fire department, organized in 1923, shares equipment with the Coleridge Rural Fire Protection District and fields a 26-man force. The rescue squad added to its equipment with the purchase of a new ambulance in 1988.
Coleridge observed its centennial in 1983 with a year of "gala activities." Now in its second century, the population stands at 680. Coleridge continues to move forward. A large park complex bordering Coleridge on the northeast edge of town is the site of many summer and fall activities.
By Elizabeth N. Yost, Coleridge Blade Editor, Box 8, Coleridge, NE 68727
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Coleridge, Nebraska, Centennial Book, 1883-1983