Settlers began coming west as early as 1884, but the construction of the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad through the area in the 1900s was what established a town. Founded in 1913, it was named for the railroad superintendent, Fred R. Gurley, on land given by the Rihn, Ruhter, and Nelson families.
One of the first businesses was a lumber company run by S.J.Flora, who also built the first house in Gurley. At that time, the railroad station was actually three bunk cars -- 1) the office; 2) storage for freight; 3) living quarters for the agent and his family. A depot was built in 1919.
The general store and post office were operated by F.W.Busse. His building also housed a pharmacy and doctor's office. Dr.Hart (the town's first doctor) also had the first telephone switchboard in Gurley. Later, Dr.Larson and Dr.Blackstone served the community. Christ Weyerts built a garage just to the west. The upstairs, used as a dance hall, would handle huge crowds. These buildings all burned in 1921.
A grain elevator, first built in 1914, had a number of owners before it burned in 1941. The Co-op built an elevator in 1916 and eventually bought the other one out.
A fire department was organized in 1917 and consisted of a cart and 500 feet of hose. A firehouse and an 890 pound bell, used as an alarm, was added in 1920. In '28 Charles Gabriel gave his old Buick car which they converted to carry some water and equipment. Currently Gurley has 35 volunteer firemen, 23 rescue members and a full range of modern equipment.
The first schoolhouse to be built in Gurley was in 1916. In 1925 a high school was built, and a gymnasium added in 1940. In the early 50s a new school was built on the east side of town. Faced with declining enrollments in the 70s, a study was made to determine the feasibility of a merger between Gurley and Dalton districts. The resulting school, named "Leyton," opened in 1979 with K-8 classes held in Gurley and high school at Dalton.
Gurley has had three churches over the years. Two are still active, Grace Lutheran and Salem Lutheran. Gurley's Methodist combined with Sidney's in the 1960s and the building is now used as a community hall.
The Egging Company, now employing many people, started in the "dirty thirties" when Ted Egging borrowed money to buy a welder so he could repair his machinery and some for his neighbors. During WW II, when it was impossible to buy new equipment or parts, the business branched out. Ted was installing diesel engines in gasoline powered tractors when Charles Bode asked him to modify a tractor cab to fit the one he owned. One thing led to another and soon it was a full fledged corporation, designing and building not only tractor cabs, but ski lift equipment, beet harvesters, bale haulers, utility truck boxes, transformer brackets, custom-made light fixtures, tree harvesters, and parts for Caterpillar. The company is family owned, with Ted, John, and Mary Egging primary officers.
At one time Gurley had its own newspaper. For many years the town had a baseball team which provided much enjoyment for the community. Many businesses and buildings have undergone a variety of changes over the years. As the need for services diminished, other businesses were established in the available space. In 1977 when the town was in danger of losing its cafe, a building was purchased and turned into a corporation with 24 people buying shares, an event that received national news coverage.
A new water tower was built in 1954, a pumphouse added in 1973, and a new well put down in 1983. A city park on the west side of the railroad is well maintained. It is a nice place for community gatherings and for children to play. Several new homes have been built in the west area.
Gurley was designated as a Bicentennial community in 1976. A parade and celebration was held to commemorate our American heritage. The school alumni have a reunion every three years. A good crowd is always in attendance, and it is enjoyed by all.
There is a closeness and a friendliness in a small town that is not found in most urban areas. This is an added bonus for those of us who live in Gurley.
By Local coordinator: Betty Kurth, Box 14, Gurley, NE 69141
Compiled by: Eula McRoberts and Jana Mickler