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Nebraska...Our Towns

The general merchandise store in Hendley in the early days.
The same building pictured in 1988 by Gene and Phyllis Harris, as they traveled Nebraska, photographing many of the interesting buildings found in "our towns." This picture shows the weathered "formed metal siding" as it looks 80-90 years after it was built.
Overhalser sod home, north of Hendley, ca. 1907. Two cylinder Jackson Car no.2770 also pictured. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Main street in Hendley 1973. [Brakhahn]

HENDLEY -- FURNAS COUNTY

There were herds of buffalo, antelope, deer, elk, and wild turkey roaming the country in 1872 when I.W.Meyers located a short distance west of what is now the town of Hendley. Soon other settlers took up homesteads. Meyers was appointed postmaster of the settlement that he named "Lynden." The little town took root as more people built homes and set up businesses.

When the railroad came through the area in 1887, the station was named "Hendley" for the railroad conductor who wanted a town to be named for him. Although local sentiment was for it to remain Lynden, the railroad had its way, and soon the old name was all but forgotten. By this time the town had eight stores, livery barn, grain and stock market, hotel, two banks, and a drug store. Dr. John Wesley Thompson, who located in the community in 1888, recalled that at that time buffalo grass covered the plains and there were no well-made roads to be found.

The "Hendley Hustler" newspaper reported..."the town is situated on the Pueblo branch of the B&MR Railroad, in the Beaver Valley believed to be the richest and best valley in the state of Nebraska..." After listing the many names and businesses available, the editor added, "...the hardware block includes two store rooms and a capacious hall. The Leach building also contains a good hall where preaching was instituted immediately..." Several churches were organized, with the Methodist Church still active in the community.

The village of Hendley incorporated in 1906. By then it had a full array of businesses, among them the D.M.Perkins General Merchandise Store.

A story of the "American dream come true" is found in Hendley. The Perkins family came to Furnas County in 1893. They survived the drought and hard-times that hit the area then by working many hours at tending crops and a big garden. Mrs.Perkins and the children drove their buggy ten miles to Beaver City every Sunday, selling butter and eggs to cash customers. In 1900 the family traded their farm for a store in Hendley so the children would have better schooling.

Young Edwin Perkins began his entrepreneurial career at age 11 after reading an ad which said, "Be a manufacturer. Mixer's Guide tells how. Write today." Soon he was concocting perfumes, flavorings, and medicines in the family kitchen. Another ad, "Start a print shop in your home -- Make money" added to the production of his products and expanded to include calling cards, sold through magazine ads and student agents. His Nix-O-Tine Tobacco Remedy launched a successful mail order business for Perkins Products. It was here that Perkins developed "Fruit Smack," a liquid fruit drink concentrate that led to the development of "Kool Aid." Perkins and his wife, Kitty, moved to Hastings where he continued to expand his business to include products which were sold under the "Onor Maid" label. In 1931 the business was so large that the family moved to Chicago where Perkins served as its president until 1956, when he sold the company to General Foods.

The village of Hendley is very small, with an assessed valuation of under $260,000. It is served by the Nebraska Public Power District. While services to the community were slow in coming, they are current with most communities at this time.

The population is currently 45, when everybody is home, so Hendley is one of the smaller incorporated towns in Nebraska.

In his 1894 history of Hendley, Calvin Resler concluded, "...now fellow citizens, show us a town of more enterprise and less loafers won't you? But when you look for the latter, put on your glasses, for they are as scarce as toads in England. And may we close by saying that Hendley has a park as good as the best and her morals are as good as any town in the west."

From material supplied by Lelia Lang, Librarian at Wilsonville, Bonnie McClain, Box 488, and Clarabell Brakhahn, Rte 1 Box 3, Hendley, NE 68946.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL:

Hendley Centennial Book

"Adams County Historical Society News," March 1980, by D.Ray Wilson.

1894 Hendley History, by Calvin J.Resler