Dodge is a thriving little community of 800 residents located in the extreme northwest corner of the county. Early settlers, many of whom were German, Czech, and Polish immigrants, were encouraged by persistent rumors of a railroad to be built between the Elkhorn and Platte Rivers. Anton Bartosh is said to have had a post office in 1872, but the "Dodge" name was established in May, 1880.
By 1885 plans called for a branch line of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad, between Scribner and Oakdale, to be built along the South Pebble Creek not far from the post office. As work progressed, a town was platted a mile and one-half south. The post office moved to that location.
Even before the plat was filed in August 1886, the land was cleared of cornstalks, and a general store was opened by Charles Hrabak, in partnership with J.O.Milligan of Scribner. Other businesses were in place by fall, and the following spring the Dodge State Bank was founded.
Education, a top priority, started in a brick schoolhouse built in 1887. An addition was needed in 1889. According to a 1891 report, District 46 had 143 students and four teachers. St.Wenceslaus Catholics opened a parochial school in 1911 with 120 pupils, 28 of whom boarded in a dormitory.
In 1912 the present school was built. Several rural districts joined the Dodge school system in 1959. An addition, approved in 1968, provided for a new elementary and a shop. In 1971 a gymnasium was built. There are currently 153 students in the public K-12 school, and 122 in the parochial 1-8. Dodge Schools share a superintendent with Howells.
Early churches include: a Congregational church located at "Glencoe" in 1872, a Catholic church with first services in "Olean" in 1874, and the Immanuel Lutheran congregation organized in 1881. Present churches located in Dodge are St.Wenceslaus Catholic and Immanuel Lutheran.
Disaster struck on September 16, 1895, when fire destroyed the entire business district and one-fourth of the residential area. Rebuilding was soon underway, through financial and material assistance from the large surrounding area. This time, however, buildings were constructed of brick, most of which are still standing today.
A second major disaster occurred on June 11, 1944, after 13 inches of rain fell upstream. A wall of water struck the lower part of town with such force that the homes and many of the Farmers Grain & Lumber Company sheds were swept away.
Even though rail connections are no longer available, grain companies continue to rank high in our economy. Dodge Co-op, organized in 1912, has over one million bushel storage capacity, and the Dodge Division of Howells Elevator, a family-owned business established by John and Mark Wisnieski in 1982, has a 7.2 million bushel capacity. Dodge Dairy Products processes 65,000 pounds of cheese per day from the milk collected by 15 tankers from farms in a 150-mile radius. Owned by the Wadzinski family, it employs 65 people. An additional 20 people are employed by a subsidiary, Doneli Foods, that shred, blend and package mozzarella, provolone, and cheddar cheeses which are shipped nationwide.
In addition to these industries, Parkview Homes, an 80-bed facility, maintains a payroll of 62. A medical clinic built to the east of Parkview is leased to doctors who maintain office hours three days a week. Many retail merchants serve the community, as do some unusual businesses -- a custom tarp shop, woodworking shop, and a racing dog kennels.
Joe Stecher, 1915 world champion wrestler, now in the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame, is the best-known of the many athletes from Dodge. An auditorium and 18-acre park were dedicated in 1939, a grandstand was built in 1941, and acommunity swimming pool in 1959. In 1973 the park was doubled in size and a shelter, playground, and second lighted baseball field added. In 1987 Dodge was proclaimed the "Baseball Capital of Nebraska." A grass infield on the main ball diamond was laid by volunteers in 1988.
Our town, Dodge, with respect for our heritage and history, is looking to the future with confidence.
By Frances Kassmeier, Rte 1 Box 57, Dodge, NE 68633, with the assistance of Ken and Kathy Kauffold of the Dodge Criterion.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of the Elkhorn Valley, Nebraska; Bloom on the Land , Kellogg; Dodge Diamond Days, compiled by local people; and Dodge, Nebraska 1886-1986, A Century of Integrity , by the Dodge Centennial Book Committee.