In June 1886 the newly-incorporated Northwestern Nebraska Railroad Company announced it would be running a line from Wayne to Niobrara, "...with a principal town 21 miles out of Wayne." Thus, our town was born!
In the whirl of activity centered around this new rail line, there was great excitement. On October 8, 1886, Frank Peavey, president of the Nebraska Land and Improvement Company, officiated at the dedication of the town he named "Randolph" for Lord Randolph Churchill, an English statesman.
Randolph was located on the "raw prairie" without even a road in sight. Even before streets were completed, an excursion train brought people from Sioux City to the end-of-the-line, then by wagon the last ten miles of the trip to the proposed town site. The "Coleridge Sentinal" reported, "...a visit to Randolph [that day] developed the rather strong theory that there are many people yet who desire to speculate." Nearly 300 persons from all directions purchased lots from $50 to $226, totaling $8,000 in sales. At the time, the town consisted of two squatters with some rough sheds made of boards, one serving as a hotel, and another as a livery stable.
In the spring of 1886, Zachariah Boughn traded his property in Illinois for 2,200 acres of land in Cedar County. Located several miles east of Randolph, his ranch ran 1,500 head of cattle. Boughn purchased 20 acres adjoining the town and in the fall of 1887, he moved to Randolph where he built a hotel and opera house. This was just the beginning of the important role he played in Randolph's development.
Settlers were predominantly American-born from New York, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, or emigrants, chiefly German and Irish. An early ad advertised the services of a local auctioneer "who speaks both German and English," showing the strong German heritage.
Ten years from its origin, Randolph was an enterprising city of 1,200 people. It boasted a large number of brick structures, a water-works, and two railroads. This growth was particularly remarkable since it was during the "money panic" of the early 1890s. The Great Depression of the 1930s was perhaps felt more deeply since it was coupled with the drought. Since crops did not grow and livestock also perished, former survival-techniques were not possible. The community was also affected by the wars.
Randolph, using the 75th anniversary as a theme, put together a very big celebration. The "Times" editor noted, "...the anniversary was undoubtedly a fitting time for the people of the community to display such a fine community spirit and willingness to work together for a common cause. If, as a result of the event, we have all learned a lesson in good fellowship, then the many thousands of hours of work put forth by all, in behalf of the observance, will have been worthwhile..."
Randolph knew it was "in step with the times" when it was announced that Joe Huwaldt had won the championship in the Ak-Sar-Ben Micro Computer National Exposition in Omaha in September 1985.
As the community worked on plans for a celebration of its first 100 years in 1986, it was experiencing the worst agricultural crisis since the 1930s. It affected not only the rural people, but the town as well. Historians recorded, "...We will survive these difficult times only if we have the same determination, courage, cooperation, and hard work that our forefathers exhibited. We will leave it to the next generation of Randolph historians to judge how successful we are."
Randolph is still here. The years beyond our centennial find the community not only surviving, but continuing to work hard and meeting the challenges of the times. The Randolph Development Corporation, comprised of many local and rural residents, is continually providing activities that promote our community and look for opportunities that will help in the development of the Randolph area.
Cinda Jones, Clerk, 123 E. Broadway, Randolph, NE 68771
Excerpts and quotes from the Randolph History, Randolph Century Days of "86."