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Nebraska...Our Towns

Clarkson

Colfax County

Birdseye view of Clarkson from a post card mailed from Council Bluffs. The corn in the foreground appears to be terribly streesed.[Nebraska State Historical Society]
Clarkson post office crew, 1908. L-R John Urbanek, Joe Rozmarin, Joseph Krahulik (postmaster), Gus Koza, and Jerry Cerv.[Clarkson Museum collection. Nebraska State Historical Society]

"Old Clarkson," the old timers will tell you, "was located several miles from today's Clarkson." Joseph N. Rudersdorf erected a building, circulated a petition, and was duly appointed postmaster on January 24, 1882. He chose as the name for his post office that of Schuyler's postmaster, T.S. Clarkson, who had helped establish the new town. For a time, Rudersdorf's building -- the only one in sight, served as residence, store, and post office. Later, Henry Renner put up a blacksmith shop.

When the railroaders finally laid down track, both buildings were moved to the present Clarkson site. The Rudersdorf building was remodeled and enlarged to house a hotel, Maple Valley House. In 1884-85, Clarkson recorded a population of 20.

The town was platted in October 1886, just two months before the first train came through in December. Clarkson, with an estimated population of nearly 300, was incorporated in July 1887. By then there were dealers in lumber and grain, hardware and implements, and of course, beer and billiards. There was a feed store, sale stable, and nearly 100 other buildings. The good farmland surrounding the town was settled by people who were primarily of Bohemian descent. Located on a branch line that ran from Scribner to Albion, then on to Oakdale, local elevators were able to provide good transportation for crops and livestock.

Although the Maple Valley House burned in January 1890 and was not rebuilt, the town continued to grow, recording a population of over 900 in 1930. Today, just over 100 years from its beginning, Clarkson is still a viable little town whose last census recorded a headcount of 815.

Over the years, Clarkson's Bluebird Nursery has grown to become the largest producer of bedding plants in Nebraska. Trial gardens and a variety of beautiful blooming vegetation brings busloads of garden club enthusiasts to Clarkson every year. One of the newer attractions to the town is the National Bohemian Garden, complete with trees, prairie buffalo grass, and a picturesque gazebo. The gardens and adjacent cemetery, a legacy of David Vavrina, have perpetual care from local donations and memorials.

Over the past few years, the citizens of Clarkson have planted trees down the main street. In the city park, the swimming pool was updated, and new lights were installed on the two softball diamonds and the football field. A new city well was also dug. Recently, new rodeo grounds were developed and the city sewer system was expanded. A library, in the blueprint stage, will be built this coming year. A newly paved spur from Highway 91 into town is scheduled to be built in the near future.

But the thing that makes Clarkson special is its people. Clarkson folks are proud of their well-kept, low-income housing project, and of Colonial Manor Nursing Home, a facility known far and wide for its superior care of the aged. They are justifiably proud of their volunteer fire department, both men and women, who also serve as members of the rescue squad. To keep abreast of the times, the townsfolk recently purchased a new fire truck and a new rescue unit.

Clarkson has both a public and a parochial grade school, and a high school. Two churches, New Zion Presbyterian and St.Cyril Methodious Catholic, minister to the spiritual needs of the community.

The Village of Clarkson is a vibrant little community, well worth the time to stop and see. A visit during Czech Days, held annually during the summer, also provides an opportunity to enjoy a real Czech festival, exhibiting some of the customs and traditions that have survived for many generations as a part of its beautiful heritage.

By Irene O'Brien, 2702 8th Street, Apt 2, Columbus, NE 68601 from the "Colfax County Press" Centennial Edition, June 18, 1966, and material gathered for Pawnee Scout Hardees' Salutes, "Columbus Telegram."