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Nebraska...Our Towns

Waterbury

Dixon County

Waterbury got its name from the big spring in Herrick's pasture, said to be "a copious stream, pure, and cold, which winter could not freeze, nor summer warm." The railroad used this excellent supply of water to fill the boilers in their steam engines. Above: Waterbury an emerging town, with the depot at the end of the street.
Waterbury's main street about the turn of the century.
A view of the west side of Main Street, prior to 1914, as a brick building and cement sidewalks start to appear. [Greenough]

The Sioux City & Ogden Shortline Railroad was completed through Dixon County in 1890, and an 80-acre town site in Otter Creek Township was donated to the Pacific Townsite Company by George Herrick. Because of a big spring in Herrick's pasture, the town was named "Waterbury."

The spring was said to be "...a copious stream, pure and cold, which winter cannot freeze nor summer warm." The railroad built a water tower and reservoir from which it filled its steam engines.

Waterbury made Ripley's "Believe It or Not" when one of the section workers, in trying to thaw out the pipes during a very cold spell in the winter, set the tower on fire and burned it to the ground. Because the era of the steam locomotive was ending, it was never rebuilt.

In the early days, the village had about 40 buildings and 125 inhabitants. The railroad made it a number-one market for grain, produce, and livestock. At first there were both passenger and freight trains. About the turn of the century the line, running from O'Neill to Sioux City, was acquired by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. Passenger service was discontinued in 1942, but Burlington Northern freight trains still go through town -- especially long "corn trains" in season.

A Methodist Church was built in 1895. During World War II when ministers were in short supply, the church closed, and the building was rented by a local group of believers and operated in affiliation with the American Sunday School Association. They later purchased the building, incorporated as an independent local fellowship. Now known as the Waterbury Bible Church, under the leadership of Rev. F.Eldon Durant and his wife, Emma, retired foreign missionaries, a sizable addition was recently completed.

A Catholic Church was built in 1905. Twenty families are still active in this parish, now a mission of St.Joseph's in Ponca.

In 1921 two school districts, Waterbury and Marron, consolidated and built a three-story brick building. This was the first time a high school was available for the young people of the community. Students from the neighboring districts of Oakdale, Harmony Hill, and The Way also took advantage of the facilities.

With diminished enrollment, the high school closed in 1961. The elementary grades continued until the spring of 1977 when arrangements were made to educate the children in Ponca or Allen. The school building was sold to the Leiber boys. They have remodeled the facility into 12 beautiful apartments known as the "Bronco Apartments." The big gymnasium, built in 1951, is now owned by the village and continues to be used for many community affairs.

The town of Waterbury, with the help of Federal Home Administration funds, installed a new sewer system in 1979. A deep well was dug and a water tower erected in 1980. We appreciate the good supply of pure water both for our citizens and for fire protection.

In September 1984 a new firehouse was finished. As a total community project, the Lutheran Aid Society installed kitchen cupboards, tiled the floor in the main meeting room, and sodded the yard. Waterbury, currently a village of 100 inhabitants, enjoys this peaceful and beautiful setting we call "our town."

By Rosemary Pape, Waterbury, NE 68785

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Dixon County History