The land on which Elkhorn is located was pre-empted by William Janney, who along with his brother-in-law, George Crawford, built homes in 1865. When the Union Pacific Railroad completed its survey in 1866, it chose a route along the prairie slough on the west branch of Papillion Creek, then west across the Elkhorn River. The railroad purchased a 40-acre tract from Janney and called the site "Elkhorn Station."
The next ten years saw tremendous growth. Even before Crawford and H.O. Jones platted the town in 1867, there was a post office, livery stable, hotel, general store, saloon, blacksmith shop, and depot. At that time the town site was called "Chicago" for the precinct that bears that name. Confusion with Chicago, IL, caused the post office to change the name to "Douglas," which also caused problems. It was finally changed back to Elkhorn, and the town of Elkhorn City, just six miles north, was changed to "Elk City."
A school was started in the early 1850s southwest of town, long before Elkhorn was platted. When the combination school-community building was destroyed by fire in 1869, a one-room schoolhouse was built south of the tracks. A two-story school served the community from 1886 to 1930, at which time a K-12 brick building was erected in the northwest corner of town.
School enrollment has mushroomed in the last 20 years. Currently Elkhorn has three elementary buildings: Westridge, Hillrise, and Skyline. The junior-senior high school, built in 1966, is now the 6-8 middle school, and a new senior high was built in 1980 on the old Robert's Dairy Farm southeast of town.
A Catholic Church, established in 1868, built a new structure in 1982. A Methodist Society owned a building on Main Street until 1925 when it disbanded and the building was sold to the Lutherans. A new Lutheran Church was dedicated in 1955. A monastery for Benedictine monks, founded on the bluffs north of town in 1956, is now called Mount Michael Abbey and High School. A Baptist Church was built in 1982, and a new Methodist congregation was established in 1984.
The volunteer fire and rescue department has a long history. Started in 1891, it was not able to keep the entire west side of main street from burning in 1895. Fire hydrants and water pressure were installed by 1909, and later two tubular wells were drilled on Center Street. A new city hall, fire station, and library complex was dedicated in 1966. As the population grew, a larger firebarn was built on the north edge of town near the water tower in 1978.
The main factor for the growth of Elkhorn is, simply, LOCATION. The lay of the land was important when selecting the best place to cross the Elkhorn River. The community, with far-sighted leaders, such as Julius Schuldt, drew the attention of the Lincoln Highway Association, the first transcontinental road at its inception in 1913.
Elkhorn's image has changed from a small-town in a rural setting to that of a growing suburb of Nebraska's largest city, Omaha. In 1962 Winterburn Heights was the first addition. Dodge Street's Skyline Ranches and Chapel Hill proved to be popular locations. East along Blondo Street is the Fair Meadow Addition, with Greenbrier and Ramblewood on the western edge of town. Hillrise Addition has a shopping center as well as homes and condominiums. Antler Country borders on the north side of town, just off Maple Street.
Elkhorn, with a current population of 1,344 and growing, has proven to be a good location for small businesses. Brum-ko, a computer-related business, provides employment, as does the Omaha Public Power District Service Center. The Bank of Elkhorn, chartered in 1915, is still a vital part of a growing city. Elkhorn Manor provides care for the elderly with a small-town atmosphere, while supplying jobs for a number of townspeople. Metro-Tech Community College has an Elkhorn campus on West Dodge Road, and offices for Northwestern Bell Telephone Company are located near the shopping center.
Traveling the streets of Elkhorn, you can see a lively community of first-rate citizens. This is reflected in their families, homes, churches, schools, businesses, and city officials.
By Patsy A. Schmidt, P.O. Box 187, Elkhorn, NE 68022. Pictures by Leonard & Florence Peterson, Maxine Peterson Lenhart, and Ella Deerson. Research by Lilly Koch Rolfs and Caroline Hess Holling of the Elkhorn Woman's Club.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The First Century of Progress (18;67-1967) Elkhorn, NE , by Caroline Hess Holling.