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Custer County

The Callaway mill, powered by the electricity made by a unique set of turbines, was important to the town, processing grain into flour and cereal.
Callaway, an early celebration. n.d.
Very fancy hotel built about 1890 when Callaway was "the end of the line." First steam-heated building in Custer County.
Downtown Callaway, in the 1930s. Cars parked diagonally in the middle of the street so that people could fill their gas tanks that were set out along the curbs.
Callaway's Main Street, 1988. [Harris]
DLog cabin and marker in a beautiful shady park. [Harris]

Callaway, Queen of the Seven Valleys, celebrated its 100th birthday in 1985. The town was the dream of one man, J. Woods Smith, who envisioned a large railroad center at the junction of two railroads, that were "in the making." One materialized in 1890, the other never did, but the railroad was still the most vital factor in the early development and growth of Callaway. Even though the railroad is now gone, the village it created has enjoyed good times and bad -- and has survived.

The town was named for Samuel Callaway, vice president and general manager of the Union Pacific Railroad. The location of the railroad station settled a bitter feud between an old and a new Callaway settlement, each battling for supremacy. A compromise was reached by moving both factions to "the new railroad addition." The town board then named the streets for prominent railroad personnel and the avenues for early homesteaders.

In its beginning, Callaway had four newspapers, but by 1914 only one had survived, the "Loup Valley Queen." Sold in 1965, the village was without a newspaper until Dr. M.L. Chaloupka and his wife, Rhoda, revived the business in 1968, establishing the "Callaway Courier." The present editor is Bob Jensen.

In its youth, Callaway was strengthened by Civil War veterans who contributed much to the growth of the Seven Valley area. The area showed its patriotism again when four percent of its small population volunteered at the start of the First World War and the "home guard" did their job well on the home front. Many were also called and served during World War II. Callaway is especially proud of its Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Robert Booker. An armory in Omaha and the local Legion Post are named in his honor.

Homesteader ministers and circuit riders developed a strong religious atmosphere in the Seven Valleys area, with services held in homes and schools. As the town developed, several churches were built. They have been maintained through the years and are still active, providing spiritual guidance and helping to promote good morals.

Even though education has changed from many rural schools to one K-12 district, it has always been of utmost importance to the town -- and the heart of the community. Just as pioneers made the schoolhouse the center of their cultural life, citizens enjoy the concerts, programs, and athletic events at our school.

Callaway has exceptional safety and health facilities in its new district hospital and lab, with two active physicians, physician's assistants, and a fine nursing staff. The "Right Drug Store" provides for the pharmaceutical needs of the community, just as it has since the early 1900s. Callaway also has a well-trained volunteer EMT team to help in emergencies. In conjunction with the Volunteer Fire Department, it is supported by a large fire district. A 24-unit, low-income housing facility is available, and a modern 45-bed care home provide for elderly citizens who no longer can live alone.

In 1987 the Seven Valleys State Bank celebrated its 100th anniversary. As the oldest business still in operation, it survived droughts, depressions, good times and bad, and served the area until January 1, 1989, when it became a branch of the Lexington State Bank.

Morgan Park is the center of Callaway's recreation area, providing a tennis court, basketball court, and swimming pool complete with playground equipment. Custer County's first court house and accompanying historical marker add a bit of early history to the locale. Moved in from the Young Ranch in 1933, its dedication was held during the First Pioneer Picnic celebration. The town has sponsored a "Pioneer Picnic" almost every year since. The Alumni, Rodeo Club, and other local groups have joined together to make it a memorable occasion.

The Seven Valleys Museum has been gathering and preserving the local history since its opening in 1970. Artifacts from every period of time are tastefully displayed, and found to be of interest to young and old alike.

The citizens of Callaway strive to face present-day problems, with the same courage as their forefathers, in an effort to preserve the heritage and the "good life" for their descendants.


By Lorraine E. Smith, Rte 1 Box 45, Callaway, NE 68825.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Saga of the Seven Valleys, 1967; Settling the Seven Valleys, 1982.