Many of the first settlers, who arrived in 1865, came from Wisconsin making the journey in covered wagons drawn by ox teams. The first homes were dugouts and log cabins, since lumber had to be hauled from Fremont. A post office was established in 1868 which they called "Lakeview."
The grasshoppers that invaded the area for three successive years in the 1870s came in great cloud-like hordes, giving a hazy appearance to the sky. They destroyed not only crops and gardens, but also ate clothing from the line, mosquito netting from the windows, and gnawed at hoe handles and fences. The early winters were severe, as terrible blizzards swept across the treeless hills bringing mountains of snow and ice. In summer, prairie fires swept through the country on either side of the river, and were an ever-present danger to life and property.
A town was platted July 22, 1871, in anticipation of the coming of the railroad. Named for Judge Samuel Wisner, vice-president of the Sioux City & Pacific Railway, lots sold at auction for an average of $129 each. The town incorporated on May 14, 1873. The name of the post office was not changed until July 1876.
From the time the first train arrived in August 1871 until the line was extended in 1879, a stage line conveyed mail and passengers on to O'Neill and intermediate points. Early trains carried both passengers and freight but offered no Sunday service.
As a typical railroad town, Wisner sprang to life. The "Wisner Times" was first printed in 1875, which provides a record of weekly activities. The water supply was a pump in the hotel square. In 1884 bonds were issued to construct a city waterworks, thought to be one of the earlier system in the state.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1872. The following year a larger school was needed, and there were two additions made prior to the construction of a brick building in 1888. Pupils were taught the three R's and courses to "awaken their interest in literature and history."
The Scandinavian Lutheran Church was organized in 1872, the Methodist in 1874, the Catholic Church in 1879, and the Congregational Church in 1880. Today there are four local and two rural congregations.
In 1909 the village had become a Second Class City. By 1926, with its paved streets, splendid lighting, fine water system, good schools, churches, and modern homes, Wisner was a good place to live -- the result of the thrift, energy, and strong moral fiber of the founding fathers. While Wisner never had an overnight boom in population, it has enjoyed a near-constant level of about 1,350 since 1930.
The Wisner school system completed a new junior-senior high school in 1969, and a fine arts theater in 1982. The athletic complex includes a lighted football field and an asphalt track.
Wisner has an active downtown business center. There is a library, two full-time policemen, a volunteer fire department and rescue unit, and several doctors that serve the community at the Wisner Medical Clinic. Woodland Circle allows the elderly to enjoy independent living, and Wisner Manor, a 64-bed intermediate care unit, is also available. Weekday meals, prepared at the senior citizen's center, may be enjoyed there or delivered to residents not able to get out.
Recreation includes an olympic-size, heated swimming pool, an auditorium, sports center, and three parks complete with camper pads, tennis and volleyball courts, soft ball and baseball fields.
Numerous clubs and organizations sponsor betterment activities for the town. Harvestfest in September features German food, festivities, and dancing, and St.Patrick's Day is celebrated in typical Irish fashion in March. While Wisner is predominately of German heritage, both events are enjoyed by the entire community.
The stock show held in July allows 4-H participants to display their projects. Known as "The Beef Center of Nebraska," many cattle and hog feeding operations are concentrated near Wisner, making this one of the larger feeding areas in the state.
Wisner is known as a friendly community and anytime is a good time to visit our town!
By Helen Schmitt, City of Wisner, Box 367, Wisner, NE 68791