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Nebraska...Our Towns

MOOREFIELD's baseball team 1908. Almost every town had their baseball team, made up, primarily, of local men and boys, but augmented by a good pitcher and a home run hitter or two. A fellow who could "win games" could earn a good wage working (or at least getting a paycheck) for a local merchant or banker, so he could play on the town team. Having the best team in the area was something every town would strive for. Serious business, this baseball, second only to horse racing for money bet on the outcome.
Main Street, Moorefield, complete with boardwalks and windmill. 1921.
Moorefield Public School District #38, 1928.

MOOREFIELD -- FRONTIER COUNTY

Once upon a time (actually, in the 1870s) several families came to the upper north central part of Frontier County in search of land on which to build homes. Brittingham, Cross, Hammond, and Dempcy preferred ranching, so they staked their claims in the hills and canyons. Others, settling on the flatlands included: Warwick, Walsey, Schultz, Stinnette, Saxon, Folden, Lawrence, Jurgens, Waltemath, Urmson, Border, Pfeiffer, Walther, Stephenson, Welch, Wilsey, and Palmer. Where Moorefield became a town, Ned and Thad Moore homesteaded.

After getting established, the people yearned for mail service, so met at the Moore brothers home and agreed to purchase a small parcel of land for a post office. They named it "Moorefield," and by 1884, they were receiving mail.

In 1886 the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad established a branch line west from Holdrege toward Sterling, Colorado. Moorefield was chosen as a station on this "High Line" and for a time was end of the line. The railroad needed a turntable on which steam locomotives could reverse directions before starting the return trip. This was a big attraction for the people, who would marvel as several engines a day were rotated.

Many people had a part of the making our town:

-- first section foreman on the B&MR was John Kiefer,

-- blacksmith and wheelwright were Bill Anderneck and Joe Take,

-- harness shop was owned by John Brock,

-- McMicheal and Babcock put up a hardware and implement store, and also sold caskets and had a horse-drawn hearse,

-- Vantilberg & LeWey had a drugstore,

-- John Gies and George Strolz sold windmills and well supplies,

-- Gitric Slagel built a two-story hotel with 12 rooms with a saloon downstairs, and a dance hall upstairs.

In addition there were two general merchandise stores, a lumber yard, an elevator, livery barn, and a doctor. The cemetery was half a mile south of town.

A literary society, organized by Matt Walsey, met once a week. There was also a musical assemblage which would come from miles around with their washboards, fiddles, or any type of musical instrument, to play for social affairs.

Christmas programs were always held in the schoolhouse. Often, after meeting there for Sunday school, church, and a picnic dinner, folks would choose up teams and play baseball, run races, and such.

Education was perhaps the biggest priority in the community. A school district was formed in 1886, with Fred Cross teacher. He had 41 students ranging in age from 6 to 21, and received $43.40. During the first 20 years school was held in a small wooden building. In 1907 a red brick building, with nine rooms and a basement, was constructed. Grades were added as enrollment increased. From 1924 to 1945 Moorefield had a full K-12. However, during World War II, small schools that were unable to find teachers began to merge into other high schools.

Moorefield reached its peak between 1925 and 1940. During those years its population was close to 200. There was a nice depot, and "one of the best stockyards for shipping cattle" in the area. The year 1905 saw telephones introduced to the community. In 1928 electricity brightened the streets at night and made kerosene lamps obsolete. In 1931 a large community water tower was completed, so the windmills started fading out.

During these peak years, most of the shopping was done locally on Saturday night. People loaded cream, eggs, and other produce into wagons and drove to town to get the supplies they would need for the week. In the summer, the kids, 50 or more, would gather and choose up sides to play hide-and-seek, or run-sheep-run, as the older folks would catch up on the week's news. In the winter months, merchants would show silent movies or have a free dance. Our town had blossomed into a lively, friendly community where everyone joined in the activities.

Moorefield, like many small communities, is not what it used to be. When people no longer needed to get supplies locally, businesses died out and people move away. The population is currently about 40, with the only business the old elevator now merged with Farmers Co-op. This establishment has grown to be one of the biggest elevators in the area. The three-room brick schoolhouse and gymnasium, built in 1937 through WPA, is owned by the town and available for various community events.

Every other year there is a big community reunion on the Saturday prior to Memorial Day. The event draws between 150 and 200 persons from a wide area who come back to "catch up on the news" and visit about the "good old days."

By Chris Jurgens, Box 539, Curtis, NE 68025

 

[Chris Jurgens, born over 70 years ago a mile west of Moorefield, moved to the town at the age of six, where he lived until he graduated from high school. He lived in California from 1940-1973, at which time he returned to Nebraska, making his home in Curtis just 10 miles west of Moorefield. He stated, "Regardless of the fading of Moorefield, it is the only place I shall ever call HOME. I go there often, stand in the middle of the street where we lived, close my eyes, and many, many memories run back through my mind."]