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Nebraska...Our Towns

Obert

Cedar County

The Obert Town Band, 1912, dressed in their Sunday Best. Back row: (l-r) Alfred Tesdall, Albert Bengston, John Pearson, Emanuel Stolpe, Oscar Berg, and Millard Wiegor. Second row: Howard Tesdall, George Jensen, Julius Peterson, Lewis Nedergaard, Clifford Carlson, and Andrew Carlson (leader). Sitting: Willie Peterson and Willard Guy.
Empty Buildings. A sad reminder of a once-bustling town. [Harris]

Obert, the smallest incorporated village in Cedar County, began its existence as "Oberton." The name was shortened because of confusion with Overton in Dawson County.

The town was founded in 1907, soon after the Chicago, St.Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad was completed from Newcastle to Wynot. At first only switch tracks and a stockyard were built, with freight shipments billed at the Farmers State Bank. This was very inconvenient, so one day a group of farmers flagged down the train and insisted on "...a proper depot." Their request was granted. Agent John Beckley, and his family, had to live in the depot until a house was available.

J.L. Grantham, Christian Satorius, and Nels Nelson formed a local town site company and purchased 40 acres from Fredrick and Agusta Miller. Lots were auctioned and they built a large corner brick building, which they operated as a cooperative. Shares of stock were sold and a complete line of merchandise was carried. Many other businesses sprang up.

Obert proved to be a valuable shipping point, with two trains each direction every day. Farmers could ride free in the boxcar with their livestock, market them in Sioux City, and return home on the evening train.

Albert Johnson was Obert's first postmaster in 1908. No other business here has had a more colorful history. The office has moved up, down, and across Main Street at the wishes of whomever was postmaster.

Obert had telephone service from the beginning, with the Johnsons as the first operators. It went from private switch board and "hello girls" to a modern dial system in 1959.

In 1915 when war was declared, four young men enlisted in the army. World War II saw 40 young men and women from Obert in the armed services, and in later conflicts, many others also served their country with honor. In time of war, the Red Cross met weekly to sew hospital garments and roll bandages.

Armistice Day 1917 was a day to remember. When news flashed over the wires, operator, Lena Olson, gave a general-ring and announced, "The war is over!!" People flocked into town. Church bells rang, the flag was hoisted, and a spontaneous emotional tumult erupted. Rejoicing continued until sundown. When the flag was lowered, a dozen men formed a ring around the flagpole as "Ole Glory" was carefully caught in their waiting arms, amid shouts and cheers. For years an annual Armistice Day Bazaar was held, with a speaker and music in the evening.

A town band was organized by Andrew Carlson in 1910. Under the leadership of Lewis Tesdal and George Jensen, it played concerts on Saturday nights, at festival days, the big July 4th celebration in 1912, the dedication ceremonies of the Yankton Bridge, the Wiseman Memorial Monument, and at the Cedar County Fair. Their uniforms consisted of new overalls, white shirts, and band caps with gold braid and buttons.

Obert also had winning ball teams. The people were ardent fans, so no other summer entertainment was needed. In the winter, lyceum courses were offered. The town hall was where dances were held, home-talent plays given, and traveling shows performed. Later there were weekly movies.

Obert, incorporated in 1913, never exceeded 112 people. The Depression of the 1930s closed the banks. The railroad discontinued service in 1933 and the tracks were torn up. In time the churches left, the schools merged with Maskell in 1954, and dissolved in 1969. Empty buildings were a sad reminder of a once-bustling town.

The old Baptist Church, however, has been converted into the Oberton Hilltop Museum, and a well-kept park, where the meat market once stood, now greets people who drive by on Highway 12. The bank building was moved and currently serves as the Village Hall for town meetings on designated nights. On week-day mornings this building becomes a coffee shop where townfolk and neighboring farm people meet. After an hour or so of coffee and conversation, people leave a small donation (to buy more "makings"), pick up their mail from Postmaster Marie Bobenmoyer, and go on about their business.

Main Street may be quiet, but every house is occupied. In 1989 the Village of Obert's population is 47.

By Diane Pinkelman, Box 36, and Dorothy Olsen, Box 38, Obert, NE 68762

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "History of Obert, Nebraska," available at the Village office.