When traveling north on Highway 77, then west on 275 in Dodge County, you enter the "Heart of the Elkhorn Valley." On one side cattle graze on the bluffs, and on the other, an expanse of meadows and croplands stretch over the lowlands. Large grain storage facilities loom in the distance and "the hill," from which the Christmas Star is viewed, provides a place of refuge when high water threatens.
In 1859 a post office was established at "Jalapa" on Maple Creek. Later settlers on the other side of the Elkhorn got mail at the Logan Mill, which also served "Monnich," a settlement located northwest on "the bluffs." When the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad came through in 1871, a station and post office were established and given the name "Hooper."
The village, incorporated in 1876, has had eight annexations to the original six-block plat. The most recent, on the hill (Grandview Heights), provides a panoramic view of the Elkhorn Valley.
Identification of Hooper's historic downtown district created interest in the preservation of our history. Two events contributed to the town's unusually sound construction: 1) the town's two brickyards located between the hills where yellow clay was found, and 2) the 1880's fire that destroyed many buildings and prompted a subsequent ordinance requiring fireproof construction. The Hooper Inn, formerly Wickwire Hotel, presents a nostalgic view of the times with many architectural attributes.
The churches in the area have a legacy of over 100 years. Lutherans established first in 1869, a Swedish Evangelical in 1871, Methodist in 1872, and Catholic in 1885.
Education has always been very important. In 1968 voters in 11 Dodge and one Washington County districts approved the formation of Logan View Junior-Senior High School, which was built five miles northeast of Hooper.
"A strong bank in a strong town" was the slogan for a bank organized in 1886. Reorganized as a private banking house in 1889, it was identified as the State Bank of Hooper until 1900, when it obtained a national charter. It weathered the moratorium of 1933 and today provides modern services for depositors from 25 states.
In 1941 Northern Natural Gas built a substation south of town. Closing in 1975, the company donated its 75,000-gallon water cooling tower to the city. The wartime construction of the Scribner Air Base in 1942, southwest of Hooper, brought change and "orderly confusion" as farmers displaced from the 2,000 acres had to relocate. The base was turned over to the State of Nebraska in 1945, and in 1957 a communications facility was installed to serve as SAC's alternative command post.
Floods have been the main hardship endured in the area. A drainage district, organized in 1907, provided a new channel for the Logan to eliminate miles of waterflow. The Blomendahl Ditch group, organized in 1919, was designed to lower the water level west of town. Devastating floods in 1944, 1960, and 1962, necessitated the construction of a dike. With the help of the Corp.of Engineers, city bonds to acquire the easement rights, and county funds to build a bridge over the dike, the project was completed in 1965.
After the 1944 flood, several community facilities were unified in a memorial park. Hooper's 75th anniversary, observed in 1951, created the slogan, "Searching in our past to determine our future." Hooper boosters organized the Elkhorn Valley Golf Club and its nine-hole grass greens course. A saddle club provides trail rides in the area.
Traditionally, young people from Hooper have followed in the footsteps of their parents. Pride in their heritage is evident and many families have retained ownership of "the ole home place."
Time-honored observances bring folks "home" in search of their roots. Visitors returning via the Fremont & Elkhorn Valley tourism train note three new buildings: a medical clinic, new fire hall, and Locomotive 1702's headquarters. Home folks visiting with total strangers may discover a distant cousin. However, a true test of affiliation is the right pronunciation of the town's name...its HUper, not HOOper.
By Irwin & Alice Osterloh, 300 E. Elk Street, Hooper, NE 68031
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Hooper's Historic District ; Centennial History of Hooper.