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Nebraska...Our Towns

Glenvil

Clay County

Claycounty's wide open landscape before the railroad and people appeared. [Petr]
Sunday picnics on the banks of Sandy Creek or a dip in the cool water made the hot summers bearable. [Petr]
View of a corn field after a hail storm in 1886. Drought and 'hoppers' also took turns at the crops. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Then & Now: The main street of Glenville looking west, 1900.[Henrichs]
Downtown Glenville today. The "G" between Fairfield and Hastings. [Asmus]

In July 1872 the St.Joseph & Denver City Railroad was completed to "Station G." The railroad, later the St.Joseph & Western and now owned by the Union Pacific, built a depot and section house on the town site. The name "Glenville" was given in conformity with the railroad's alphabetical system of naming its stations.

Three pre-emption claimants, Winters, Fitch, and Thompson, built sod houses on the site, which was located in the middle of the section near the western edge of Clay County in Section 8, Range 8W, Township 6N. Besides these, the only other signs of life prior to that date was the home of I.D. Newell, off to the northwest.

A school district was formed in 1872, and a contract was let to W.D. Young in the amount of $3,500 (plus 10% interest) to build a schoolhouse. The records show that Young then sublet the contract "to Ramsey for $1,200."

Early in 1873 a storehouse was built and the first stock of goods was for sale. That fall, the village was surveyed, a post office was opened, and the town was "a solid fact."

By 1879 the town boasted at least four stores, a grain elevator, coal and lumber yards, a blacksmith, and a hotel. By the late 1880s the village claimed a population of 300, which included a doctor, a druggist, an implement dealer as well as several churches. The first newspaper was published in Glenville on April 18, 1895. The town was incorporated on May 1, 1899, the same day that the Bank of Glenville opened its doors for business.

There was a well-rounded array of businesses and was a thriving agricultural center. The post office changed the spelling of the name to "Glenvil," due to the fact that there were at least 10 other towns named "Glenville" in the United States, causing many letters to be miss-directed. This change, however, affected only the name of the post office until 1984, when the Community Improvement Association circulated petitions to change the incorporation papers, making that spelling of the town's name official.

Most early settlers were of German descent. Some came directly from Germany, while others settled in Illinois first, then moved further west onto the "free land" in Nebraska. Many acquired farms as tree claims, planting 10 acres of trees and maintaining them for a minimum of eight years.

During the 1930s Glenvil was affected -- as were most agricultural towns in the Midwest -- by the Depression and the drought. Just as the village was starting to recover from many years of stress, it was learned that a military installation was being planned nearby. No one realized, at the onset, what far-reaching effects this would have.

In 1942, soon after the start of World War II, farmers within a 76 square-mile area were notified that the federal government was buying their land for an ammunition depot for the U.S.Navy. Over 48,700 acres of choice farmland was purchased at a cost of approximately $2,800,000. While the NAD was a chief source of employment for people in and around Glenvil during the 1940-50s, it also reduced the town's trade area by one-half.

Needless to say, not everyone was happy about the changes, especially when two major explosions occurred in 1944, causing broken windows, cracks in walls, and other damage to homes, businesses, and buildings. Then, when the NAD closed in the 1960s, the population dropped, causing a number of businesses to close their doors.

Today Glenvil, with a population of about 300 residents, has a service station, a grocery, a cafe, a credit union, a post office, and an American Legion post located on its main street. The town still has a grade school, with secondary students attending the consolidated high school, "Sandy Creek."

Thanks to the pioneers who established and energetically worked for the good of the community, Glenvil has had a rich and rewarding history for nearly 120 years. During 1972, the town celebrated the first 100 years, honoring the people who helped to build our town, Glenvil.

 

By Jo Ann Asmus, Rte 1 Box 209, Glenvil, NE 68941, with the help of Jane Hinrichs, Kathy Colburn, and Lucille Fitzke.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "Glenvil Centennial Book" available at Clay County Historical Society, the Hastings Library, and Adams County Historical Society.