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Nebraska...Our Towns


Dawson County

Farnam from south of the tracks looking north overlooking the stockyard and loading chutes.
Stebbins Brothers Livery Stable early 1900s, Farnam. [McNickle]
"Best Place," largest mercantile and mail order store in 1890 from Holdrege to Burlington, Colorado, burned in 1914.
The Woods Hotel at Farnam, 1888-1906. [McNickle]
Second graduation class, Farnam High School, 1899. Standing: Grace Wood (McNickle), Dan McNickle, Marion Faulkes, and Ethel Kitchen (Faulkes). Seated: Ella Hunt, Supt. Madix, and Ada Kitchen.
Farnam street scene, 1912. [McNickle]
The new Farnam Bank, built 1983. Karl Randecker, current president, purchased the bank from the Parker heirs in 1968. [McNickle]
The Farnam Bank five charter members, Faulkes, Parker, Johnston, Dunham, and Tufts, pictured by the door, 1904. [Tufts] Subsequent presidents include: George Lancomer, Sam Parker, John Rowland, and Ralph Parker.
A train going through the cut made in snow drifts near Farnam following the blizzard of 1913. [McNickle]


The village of Farnam is located in the extreme southwestern corner of Dawson County just north of the Frontier County line and east of Lincoln County. This village was originally named "Keystone" for the home state of the first settlers who were from Pennsylvania, known as the Keystone State.

In April 1883 a group of 11 people arrived at Plum Creek (now Lexington) by train from Bradford, Pennsylvania. From there they looked for land to settle on.

On May 11, 1883, they filed for government homesteads at the North Platte land office. Shortly after this, a town plat was filed, showing eleven blocks, to be located at the center of the section. A post office was established September 5, 1884, and School District 29 was formed in 1886 that included the Keystone settlement.

In March 1884 the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad made a preliminary survey for a rail line through the southwestern part of Dawson County, with work beginning during the winter of 1885. The Lincoln Town Site Company purchased a site from the railroad and platted a new town two and a half miles west of Keystone, named "Farnam," in honor of Henry Farnam a pioneer in railroad construction in New York and the Midwest.

In a short time the people of Keystone moved their homes and businesses to the new town. The first train entered Farnam on July 20, 1886. The post office moved from Keystone and was officially renamed Farnam on December 11, 1886.

From its founding in 1886 the town grew rapidly so that in 1910 the census is said to have been 750. Farnam was a local center of commerce (particularly agricultural) for not only a corner of Dawson County, but also adjoining areas of Frontier and Lincoln Counties.

A bank was organized in 1904 with $5,000 cash. G.D. Faulkers was president, and S.F. Parker, cashier. Parker became president in 1922, and the family operated this institution for many years. Present officers are Karl Randecker, Gerald Thompson, and Donnie Franzen. Many changes have occurred from hand-posted ledgers to the computers of today, with current resources in excess of $8,000,000. The bank was robbed twice. First in 1929 when the vault door was blown off one night, and again in 1975 when a lone gunman netted a small amount in a daylight robbery, but was captured the following day. A new bank was built on main street in 1983, giving the town a more efficient and attractive facility.

The town has three active churches; Catholic, Nazarene, and United Methodist. A large, attractive library provides the newest in literature. The well-kept school consists of a large brick high school with a large gym, a brick grade school with a smaller gym, a small building that houses the music room, and a good sodded football field. Community recreation includes, in addition to school events, a baseball diamond, double tennis court, roping arena, a monthly senior citizen dinner, and a nice park.

A large steel building houses Farnam's two ambulances and equipment for the EMT squad. It also serves as the fire hall, equipped with a kitchen and a large room for community meetings.

Farnam is a very friendly little town. There are many older people who continue to make contributions with their unmatchable lifetime experiences. A low-income, eight-unit apartment project, "Keystone Square Housing Unit," was completed in 1981.

The three-day centennial was celebrated in 1986 with "an alumni & friends reunion" on June 27-29. Activities included centennial parade, a chuck wagon feed, old fashioned melodrama, dance, community church service, old-fashioned basket picnic, and roping club exhibition.

Our town has been successful over the years because its citizens respect each other and work together as friends and neighbors. Although there are only 240 residents now, the town is attractive and a wonderful place to raise a family.

Farnam's appearance may be modest, its entertainment homespun, but for all who live here, it is a great place, and for former residents, it is a great place to come home to.

By Max L. McNickle, Box 25, Farnam, NE 69029, and Doris Bellamy.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "The Farnam Centennial" special edition.