The settlers who came to northeast Nebraska spread out, building homes and farming the land. In the early 1880s the big "Butterfield Ranch" was located in the Elkhorn River Valley about two miles to the west. After many smaller homesteads were staked, there was a need for a school. It was built half a mile from what was to become our town of Magnet.
In 1893, when track was being laid for the Chicago, St.Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad, B.E. Smith platted a town. He named it "Magnet," hoping that the name would "attract people to the town," which it surely did! In addition to the depot and stockyards, Adkins built a hotel and the Blinkiron brothers started a lumber yard. Soon there were many stores, a couple of doctors, "shovel houses" where grain was shoveled out of wagons and later into box cars, a printing office called "The Magnet Mail," and of course a post office. As the town grew, many more businesses were added, and wooden buildings were replaced with brick ones.
In 1902 the telephone company came to town, and several new buildings were added. There was an opera house, bank, cafe, barber shop, pool hall, the light plant, and a creamery.
The schoolhouse had been moved into town and by 1903, a larger one was needed. A two-story building was constructed and the old building was purchased by the Christian Church. A Methodist Church was also built at that time.
The very first truck in town was a wood-wheeled Maxwell, used to haul freight from the depot. A gas station was started in 1929. Later a "really big truck" was purchased, with an eight-foot box.
Magnet has had its share of disasters. In February 1925 a fire took an entire block of main street. The bank closed during the Depression. More buildings were lost to fire in 1930 and 1931, and the elevator burned in 1967. A tornado in 1937 and an even bigger one on May 6, 1975, struck our town. Many homes and several businesses were destroyed each time, but fortunately no lives were lost.
We also have our leaders. Floyd Dawson, a baseball player himself, coached ball for many years and helped other youngsters by organizing a kids' baseball league. Lois Bloomquist and Doris Greeno started 4-H for girls, and Dawson, Floyd Puntney, and Ellis Tilton organized a saddle club. The kids learned to take care of their horses, went on trail rides, and showed their horses at fairs and at Magnet's "Play Day" once a year.
In 1976, the year of the Bicentennial, we celebrate our country's birthday in a big way. As a "Bicentennial City," we had an old-fashioned box-social, home-made ice cream and cake, a parade complete with kings and queens, plus a religious heritage day.
On May 8, 1976, Magnet residents also expressed their gratitude to all the people who helped clean up following the tornado the previous year by inviting all who had helped in any way to a pork barbecue.
There have been many changes in our little town. Some businesses have been handed down from father to son, or changed hands, bringing new people to town. Several buildings, no longer financially feasible as businesses, were turned into comfortable homes.
Magnet has experienced an out-migration of people, as have many small towns. With a drop of enrollment, the high school closed in 1956, with students going to Wausa or Randolph. The old buildings, after extensive remodeling in which the top floor was removed and new restrooms were installed, continued as a K-8. In 1974, however, people voted to send grades seven and eight to Wausa and two years later, decided to close the school permanently. At this time 16 children ride the bus to Wausa.
Magnet, with a population of 78, has the support and encouragement of a large rural area. The senior citizens enjoy dinner and card playing. There is an active Woman's Society, and volunteer fire department. They head up the big barbecue and tractor pull the first part of June, as well as other promotional activities. Magnet marked its 95th birthday in 1988, and we hope to live up to our motto..."a town too tough to die."
By Shirley Dawson, Box 67, Magnet, NE 68749