HILDRETH -- FRANKLIN COUNTY
Franklin County had many gifted men in its early days. Among them was Carson Hildreth, for whom the town is named. Born in Michigan in 1857, he came as a young man with his family to Nebraska and settled near Naponee just prior to one of the worst blizzards in history to hit the area -- the Easter storm of 1873. He later established a number of businesses in Bloomington, Franklin, and Hildreth.
In 1886 Hildreth, Black, and Sheppard bought an interest in Salem township to develop a town in anticipation of the railroad's arrival later that year. Just why the town was given Hildreth's name is not clear, but it is a happy choice for its 390 residents.
A traveling reporter wrote: "Hildreth is growing fast. There are now about 25 buildings of all descriptions. Farmers down there are happy for they think they can haul their grain to Hildreth [as] the railroad line will soon be finished."
In 1907 the population was 633 and looking toward the 1,000 mark by 1910. A promotion was being made for a railroad from Beloit, Kansas, to Kearney and north, to connect ports on the Gulf of Mexico with Canada. Carson Hildreth was one of its primary campaigners. Although the ambitious rail line never materialized, nor did Hildreth ever reach 1,000, the town continued to prosper as "the enterprising and rapid growing town."
Hildreth had fire protection early in 1900 and in 1903 two rural mail routes were established. In the hot, dry summer of 1905 when dust blew in the streets, the city ordered 500 trees to be planted in a city park and citizens were encouraged to plant trees and shrubs in their yards. An opera house, built in 1909, brought entertainment to the community. The Chautauqua was also held in Hildreth. Both boys and girls basketball teams were part of the school athletic program in 1920, and by 1924, the Gilmore Auditorium was a big drawing card with roller skating, dancing, and other community events bringing people from a wide area.
A sod house, located in the southeast part of town, was school for 34 students in 1879. A wooden structure was built in 1890, and in 1918 a two-story brick school was constructed. Ten years later, after it was destroyed by fire, it was replaced with a new building that is still part of the educational facilities for the 131 K-12 students.
Proud of their school teams, Hildreth has many first place trophies from state tournaments as early as 1940. You are likely to find the whole town of Hildreth in Lincoln as many loyal fans cheer their boys and girls basketball and volley ball teams on to victory.
Today, main street is much the same as it was 100 years ago, with businesses "proud to share space" with the 33 others merchants, cooperatively serving the needs of the people in and around the town. Of course, there have been a few changes! f No longer do you see hitching posts, a blacksmith shop, hotel, creamery, or depot. There is no roller mill, opera house, skating rink, doctor or pharmacy, or an operator to say, "number please." All these are things of the past for most small towns.
The community "pulls together" in many events. The Lions, organized in 1948, worked to provide a community building and sponsor an annual, nationally-sanctioned tractor pull. This event draws a crowd of 10,000 each August. Hildreth is also proud of the Lioness Club organized early in the 1980's.
The town has three very active Lutheran churches; St. Paul's, St. Peter's and Emmanuel.
One of the first towns between Denver and Omaha to have a community swimming pool (1921), the town presently sports a new city hall, fire house and city library, all built in 1982. Hildreth's city park, one the most beautiful in south central Nebraska, has a new pool (l978), lighted tennis courts, and baseball diamond. Paved streets make the town nice and clean in appearance.
Hildreth's centennial (1986) started with a benefit kick off, home-made carnival, road rally, and barbecue. In April the town presented a play "Fireman's Flame." A three-day celebration in June featured a church service, Chautauqua, art in the park, style show, kiddie parade, contests, and old time games.
Located near the northern edge of Franklin County in south central Nebraska, you will find Hildreth a good place to live.
By Barb Casper, Box 295, Hildreth, Ne 68947
ADITIONAL MATERIAL: Hildreth Centennial History Book, 1986
Special editions of "Hildreth Telescope," 1986, 1976.