Our town came into being as a direct result of railroad expansion across Cedar County. People from St. James were unable to persuade the officials of the Chicago, St.Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad Company to build its line to their town because it would have required them to cross Bow Creek twice. The company chose instead to establish a new town.
T.N.Jones and J.S.Emerson formed the St. Paul Townsite Company and purchased some land from a German settler across the creek and one mile west. Many businesses rushed to get in on the ground floor by working out of St. James until the rails were in place. The early banks, for instance, established themselves there until they could move into their new quarters across the creek. Alex Schulte's drug store, one of the first to open, was in a building he moved from St. Helena. Others moved buildings or put up something new.
Starting a town from scratch took ingenuity. J.J. Cable traded a team of big horses to the Sweet Lumber Company for the material to build a hotel. Until it was completed, the people in St. James opened their homes to the railroad men and laborers. Even after the hotel opened and the headquarters were established at the new location, lodging was still short, with every bed filled, and people sleeping on cots or blankets on the floor.
In selecting a name, it is said that when one struck the fancy of the elderly gentleman from whom the land was purchased, he responded "Ja,vy not? Wahrumnicht?" The brogue sounded strange to one of the listeners, who laughingly remarked, "...why not, Wynot?" And so that name was chosen.
The incorporation of Wynot was ordered on May 4, 1907. The first train arrived in October of that year. Wynot was, by then, a substantial community with businesses and shops teeming with trade, and a number of commodious homes. That fall the first child born in Wynot was given a lot by the town site company.
The post office, with Emerson as postmaster, was established in January 1908. By spring, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches had moved from St. James. The Wynot Commercial Club was organized and the first Fourth of July celebration was held in the grove just east of town. The annual "Old Settlers Association of Cedar County" held its picnic there in September.
School was held in the small schoolhouse and rooms secured in Dr. Jones' building (the Woodman Hall which had been moved over from St. James). Soon agitation for a new school was started, but since St. James was in the same district, residents there opposed it. The district divided in 1909 and Wynot promptly built a new school. With an addition in 1924, it still serves the K-12 accredited school and a veterans' farm training program.
It was said that Wynot was the youngest town in the state to have electric lights. Power was first furnished by Bow Valley Mills. In 1913 a bond election was passed 49-2 to erect a municipal light and power plant. It was sold to the Interstate Power Company in 1930, with the change-over made in 1932.
Two trains a day served Wynot for 26 years. Then, with the Depression and several years of drought, the line was abandoned. The last train left Wynot on April 19, 1933. However, with a well-established community, business went on as usual. Mail was delivered from Sioux City, Yankton, and Hartington, so residents were able to read their morning newspaper almost as soon as the city folks.
Located in the midst of a fertile farming community on Highway 12, Wynot's peak population of 416 was recorded in 1940. A beautiful drive through the woods leads to the historic site that marks the site of the Wiseman massacre. The gray marble monument in the center of a small park was dedicated in 1926. The story of the torture and murder of the four Wiseman children in 1863 graphically illustrates the reasons for fear and acts of revenge toward Indians for many years.
The 1980 population of Wynot was 222. Industry includes a farm product plant and a ready-mix cement plant. Wynot has a legion post, a good volunteer fire department, and a church. Recently the baseball lights were replaced, and two tennis courts were added. On Memorial Day 1989 an Avenue of Flags was dedicated, honoring Wynot's war dead.
From material submitted by Gus Heimes, Board Chairman, Box 221, Wynot, NE 68792
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "A History of Wynot" by Irene Lenzen; "Early History of Cedar County and the Northwest" as told at the Henson Wiseman Memorial unveiling, by Addison E.Sheldon.