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Nebraska...Our Towns

Comstock

Custer County

A sod home, windmill, and a beautiful field of corn in Custer County. 1888 [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Described as "an ordinary main street in Comstock...Queen of the Valley." n.d. [CCHS]
View of Comstock looking west, with hitching posts, but an increasing number of brick buildings. n.d. [CCHS]
A quiet town on a Sunday afternoon. [Harris]
The old Citizens State Bank of Comstock is now a cafe & bar.

The village of Comstock, the youngest town in Custer County, was platted in fall of 1899 on the east bank of the Middle Loup River. The railroad line coming up that valley established a water stop between Arcadia and Sargent, so W.H.Comstock moved his grocery store building from the community of Wescott and located near the right-of-way. With that, the town began.

Named for its founder, Comstock sprang up almost overnight. With a railroad station and grocery store at the start, other businesses were quick to set up shop in the "new town." A lumber and coal company, blacksmith shop, general hardware, an implement dealer, and two stockyards opened in the month of October. On November 19, 1899, the post office opened. A hotel also opened, but was soon found to be too small to accommodate the traveling public. In December a barber shop, a draying business, and a feed and sale stable were added to the list of businesses.

In January 1900 the town added a harness store, a repair shop, and a second implement company. Wescott and Gibbons moved their general merchandise store from Wescott, on the west side of the river, across on the ice to Comstock. A school was also built, but it was later destroyed by fire.

By 1901 a new blacksmith and wagon repair began business. A millinery and dressmaking shop opened in February, and in March the Modern Woodmen built a two-story building, with the ground floor to be used as a drugstore, bank, and meat market. The upper floor was used for lodge meetings and as a public meeting place.

For the next few years Comstock continued to grow and prosper. It supported three churches, and added more stores, another bank and hotel, a restaurant, theatre, opera house, print shop, and professional offices for a doctor, dentist, and several lawyers. Business was so good that the town needed four coal yards, and as many cream stations.

Comstock was incorporated as a village on March 14, 1906. It seemed to be in just the right place to command a large trade area, so its growth continued into the 1930s to a population of nearly 500.

The Depression and drought put a strain on the community, but as long as everything was in balance, people were able to "make things come out even." However, the blizzards in the mid-1930s were, for many, the point of no return. Many roads were closed by huge drifts in early winter, and some did not opened until April. Consequently, farmers could not get to town with their produce or to do their trading. When townfolk had to buy eggs and milk somewhere else, and store owners sales declined, it destroyed the balance.

By spring stores closed, never to open again, and many farmers were forced to leave the land in search of jobs. During the war years that followed, more families left Comstock to take jobs in defense plants and factories. Subsequent changes in agriculture meant that fewer people were needed to work the land, limiting the trade area and volume.

Following graduation in 1965, Comstock schools merged with the Ord district. A K-3 grade school in Comstock currently has five students enrolled.

The past decade has been very difficult for the small farming communities such as Comstock. With the loss of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1985, the town also lost other businesses. Young people have moved to larger communities to find jobs.

The town of Comstock, however, continues to serve the needs of its citizens. It supports "The Den," a senior citizens nutrition site, where many gather for meals, a game of cards, or a quilting bee. Morning coffee is also a good time to get together for a friendly conversation.

The Community Club, two churches, and various support groups work together to keep the town active. There are things going on all through the year, but the highlight is the annual Fourth of July parade, barbecue, ball games, and fireworks.

The people of Comstock, all 170 of them, have a lot of pride in their town. The best way to sum it up could be with the town's motto: "Comstock -- a little town with a BIG heart!"

By Deb Kallhoff, HCR 68 Box 60, Comstock, NE 68828