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Nebraska...Our Towns

Ong

Clay County

Established by the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company in 1886, the line reorganized as CB&Q, later becoming Burlington Northern. Above is a CB&Q steam engine of the type used about the turn of the century. [Springer]
The beautiful Gethsemane Church at Ong. [Harris]

Ong is a railroad town through and through. A town site was platted on April 22, 1886, and filed at the county seat in May of that year. It was one of the "designated stations" on the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad being built through the area. According to several sources, the town was named for Judge J.E. Ong, who owned land in the southwest quarter of Section 13 on which the town was surveyed. Located in Logan Township, it is less than a mile from the east border of Clay County.

There were two earlier post offices in that general area. One named "Joong" was established on August 20, 1886. Some time later the name was changed to "Greenberry," and from that to Ong on November 12, 1888. It is not clear as to the exact location of these postal stations.

By the mid-1880s, the pattern of the establishment of railroad towns was pretty well set. A lumber company was quite often among the first on the scene, to sell the material for building the rest of the town. In this case it was the Chicago Lumber Company, managed by L.E. Dewey. The Thomas Cochrane Grain Company, managed by Bert Brown, was the next to build, then a hotel by S.J. Wagar, and a livery barn owned and managed by Herrick & McMillian. The first general store was established by J.C. Paxton, while the Ramsey Brothers, who also ran a store, had the post office. A combined hardware-drug store was managed by Robinson & Merryfield.

The first church in Ong was the Presbyterian Church, built in the spring of 1888. The Gethsemane Church, a beautiful brick edifice built in the early 1900s, is located near the school.

For many years the banking business was transacted in the two general stores as an extension of the bank in one of the larger towns nearby. In 1890 J.F. Walker put up a bank, known as the Exchange Bank of Ong. The village of Ong never did get very big, but in 1902, when the population reached 200, incorporation papers were filed.

Among Ong's early businesses was a saloon. It was abolished years before the state "went dry." Local history claims that during the 1920s the population grew to about 400, but official records list Ong's highest population as 285 in 1910. It is said, in a recent history, that in the 1920s, the people of Ong took pride in the fact that travelers through their town spoke of it as being "one of the neatest and most well-kept towns in this part of Nebraska."

The Burlington Northern Railroad still goes through town, but it does not stop for passengers. Grain is shipped from the towering elevators. During harvest, mountains of multi-colored milo are seen, waiting for hopper-cars to take it to larger markets.

In 1966, when the town's population dipped under 100, the post office was closed. Mail is currently processed through Shickley in Fillmore County, but are still address as "Ong." The population was 102 in 1980, but the 1990 census figure recorded only 80 residents.

By Jane Graff from material gathered at NSHS and Perkey's Nebraska Place Names.