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Nebraska...Our Towns

Valley

Douglas County

Tracks for the Union Pacific Transcontinental Railroad were laid through Valley in the winter of 1865. Some of the men who had pulled the tracks into place through this area of Nebraska, stayed on, buying railroad land or homesteading. Above: "Union Pacific railroad track layers at work." [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Very old photo of Valley's main street, ca. 1880.
Downtown Valley in 1914, two years after one of its "big floods."
Valley's main street in 1964, its centennial year.

In 1863 President Lincoln selected Council Bluffs, Iowa, as the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Transcontinental Railroad. In 1864 our town, Valley, was laid out on part of the land granted to the railroad by Congress. By the winter of 1865, the tracks had reached Valley, establishing the town as an important shipping point. The sand and gravel pits and stock yards, kept 45-50 men working, while many, who had "pulled the tracks into place" with their mules and horses, stayed to farm and raise families.

Research shows that 11 Indian villages were once within a 15 mile radius of Valley. "Rawhide Creek" was so named after a white man was rawhided by Indians on its banks just north of town. Many Indian artifacts are on display in the Valley Historical Museum, housed in the first wooden school house built in 1873. The sandpits still yield the bones of giant mammoths, camels, and bison that roamed our area long ago.

Church services were held in the railroad's section house, and school was held in the back of the general store, erected in 1864 by the first resident, Richard Selsor, the year that a town was established. Initially, 160 acres of land was recorded as a town site called "Platte Valley." A freight tariff referred to the area as "Dimonds," and later "Valley," all in 1868. In 1875 the town plat was reduced to 18 acres but boasted a hotel, a store, a school, and a Methodist church.

Valley has shared its buildings in unique ways. The 1873 school became the Baptist church in 1896 when a brick school was built. In 1919 it became the Catholic church when the Baptist built a stucco structure. It was restored as a museum in 1967 when the Catholics built a new building. In the meantime the Lyons Club took over the Methodist church and the Methodist moved into the Presbyterian church, also used earlier by the Lutherans. The Presbyterians consolidated with the Baptists in 1941, and everyone is happy.

Over the years fire destroyed the Coy Seed House, the Valley Stock Yards twice, the Opera House, and the theater. The stock yards and theater were rebuilt. A tornado southeast of Valley in 1913 inflicted both damage and injuries, but no loss of lives. Floods due to ice jams on the Platte have been the most devastating, with the 1978 flood estimated at over $6,000,000 damage. The dike has been reinforced to help prevent future flooding, but there is still need for further improvements.

Nearly 50 trains passed through Valley every day during the 1930s. The stock yards and hotel are now silent, but shipping continues. Local industries make good use of the rails, several to world-wide markets. The needs of the city of nearly 2,000, however, are met more and more by trucks. Hunt Transfer, based in Valley, is nationally known.

No longer the thriving railroad town of its birth, Valley is still a busy, well-planned community, boasting a strong chamber of commerce, a beautiful park and swimming pool, excellent volunteer fire department, and many fine businesses. Primary employers include Valmont Industries (one of the largest manufacturer of center pivot irrigation systems and power transmission poles), 3M Corporation, Hartford Sand & Gravel, Lyman-Richey Sandpits, Lentell Grain Elevator, and the public school system. Omaha is also a provider of employment and higher education, with a daily commuter-bus to and from that city. Farming is important to the area, and rural schools are still in evidence. Water is abundantly available for all.

Senior Citizen and Valhaven Nursing Homes are evidence of a caring community. In addition, our churches unite for worship at Easter and Thanksgiving, bringing all denominations together in fellowship to praise God, who has provided for the many needs of the community.

Celebrating its centennial in 1964, Valley has attracted new residents, especially in the Ginger Woods and Ginger Cove housing developments. This mixture of new people and ideas with those of the sixth-generation original stock can only add to the strength of this busy, progressive town. Solving problems of flood control, the economy, and school consolidation are the challenges of today.

By Marianne Nielsen, 126 W Charles, Valley, NE 68064.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "Valley Centennial, 1864-1964" available at the Valley Historical Museum.