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Nebraska...Our Towns


Clay County

Very early scene on Trumbull's main street.
Bird's eye view of main street in the 1920s.
Downtown Trumbull in 1908, before most of the buildings burned in fires of undetermined origin.
Trumbull's school ca. 1912. The school "bus" was a wagon.

In the spring of 1873 the Sleuman brothers, George and Sewell, homesteaded in northwest Clay County. The Upton Holderman family arrived that fall, and the Gabriel Huffs and Murry Pattons followed. Out of a need for an education for their children, a school was built near Sleuman's sod house. Mary Huff taught the classes that fall. In winter there were also "literary meetings" for adults and quilting bees for the ladies.

It was near this farm that the Ludlow post office was established. Beginning on January 2, 1880, the mail was dispersed twice weekly by postmaster Gabriel Huff.

By 1883 there were 15 homes in the vicinity. Many families attended the Salem Baptist Church in the southwest corner of Hamilton County, organized by an itinerant pastor, Albert Trumbull, in 1875. Others attended Methodist services held in the Sleuman schoolhouse, organized by Rev. Relm in 1879. Meetings of the Christian Church were first recorded in 1892.

When the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad extended its tracks from Aurora to Hastings, it was obvious that a station would be needed along the way. E.J. Parker and a Mr. Lamb anticipated that it would be established at the half-way point, and proceeded to build a store at that location. The railroad officials, however, decided on two stations, so the little store was moved several miles south to become the first business in Trumbull. The Lincoln Land Company platted the town in 1886. By the time the first train arrived in September, the town had a grain elevator, a lumberyard, and several houses. It has been said that the town was named "Trumbull" for an official on the railroad, but in reality it was to honor the minister who established the first church in the area.

Clay County District 48, approximately three square-miles, was organized in 1875. School was held in a sod house on Ed Eller's place (located on what is now the Merlyn Rader farm). Miss Ollie Campbell, the first teacher, lived with the Ellers. After a term in the soddy, classes were moved to a new schoolhouse about one-half mile east of what became the town.

The Ferguson Elevator had the first telephone in 1897. By 1903 there were nine phone patrons among the local businesses. The Hamilton County Telephone Company organized in 1904 and built an office to house the equipment and switchboard. The manager lived in the house to provide 24-hour service. This equipment was used until 1955, when a dial system was installed. Another switchboard was located in the McCoy farmhouse to connect users with Giltner-area subscribers.

In 1912 a new schoolhouse was built. State laws passed in 1914 provided for consolidation of small districts, and required each county to provide for secondary classes for all who wanted it. In 1915 Nella Hart, Mrs. J.M. Combs, and Gertrude Boggs were instrumental in initiating a vote for consolidation, setting school district "101" apart to be used as an example for other counties in the state.

By 1914 Trumbull was a bustling community of over 250 people. The two banks had combined assets of $22,000, with local business houses providing for all the needs and wants of the town. In the period from 1912-20, about 24 buildings in Trumbull burned due to fires of "undetermined origin." No one was ever apprehended, but the early development of brick buildings provided a progressive look to the town it might not have had otherwise.

The Warren Peony Gardens, located south of Trumbull, attracted many visitors at Memorial Day time. Herbert Warren was recognized by horticulturists across the nation for developing many new varieties of the peony. The industry peaked in the late 1920-30s.

World War II created great changes due to the town's close proximity to the Harvard Air Base and Hastings Naval Ammunitions Depot. The population of Trumbull mushroomed as the community conducted scrap metal drives, raised victory gardens, and donated food for the North Platte Canteen.

Trumbull's present population, 225, includes many third and fourth-generation families. Few businesses remain, but with modern day transportation, we are just 20 minutes away from shopping centers, and the people who live here think that rural life is still the greatest!!


By Beth Askey and Fran Kreutz, 1603 Highland Drive, Hastings, NE 68901

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of Hamilton & Clay Counties, Clark Publishing Co, 1921; Adams County: A Story of the Great Plains, by Dorothy Creigh; "Centennial Sketch of Clay County" 1967; and Trumbull Centennial Book , 1986.