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Nebraska...Our Towns

Holbrook's picturesque railroad depot, early 1900s.
Isaac Burton's Trading Post, established in the 1870s, pictured some years later. In addition to the post office, Burton traded in dried buffalo meat, staples, hay, and guns. Standing for many years in the wooded area where Deer Creek joins the Republican River, it was swept away in the 1935 flood.

HOLBROOK -- FURNAS COUNTY

In the year 1862 Isaac Burton, upon leaving Fort McPherson where he had been a saddler for the cavalry, was on an exploration trip. He was impressed with the area where Deer Creek joins a bend of the Republican River and vowed to return one day and settle there. He returned eight years later in 1870. Along with a partner named H. Dice, he opened a trading post in a log cabin they built. They traded primarily in dried buffalo meat, sugar, flour, hay and corn, as well as guns and ammunition. This first permanent settlement became known as "Burton's Bend." A post office by that name was established in August 1872.

Furnas County was organized and its boundaries defined in February 1873. Apparently, the county seat didn't interest Burton or Dice, so the voting was between the neighboring towns of Arapahoe and Beaver City, more nearly in the center of the new county. Beaver City won.

The railroad came right through the area in the late 1870s. A village sprang up near the old trading post and quickly grew into a town, with all the traffic of the westward movement of settlers and hunting expeditions. The town's name was changed to "Holbrook" in 1881 in honor of a Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad official.

Burton and Dice continued in business until 1883, by which time the town was well established. Their abandoned building stood in that quiet wooded area for many years until the great Republican River flood of 1935 swept it away.

By 1895 the local businesses numbered more than 20. A fire on April 24, 1907, that started in the livery barn and spread rapidly throughout the town, wiped out most of the business section of Holbrook. The loss was estimated to be in excess of $10,000, which in those days was a lot of money. Some merchants gave up and left, but many stayed and rebuilt their businesses.

As with most Nebraska's rural communities, the town's population fluctuated -- some saying as high as 1,000 at one time. However, Perkey's Nebraska Places Names lists a peak population at 488 in 1930.

Holbrook was adversely effected by the Depression, drought, and the devastating Republican River flood in 1935. The town suffered even more during the 1940s when economics and World War II changed the entire life style of America.

Holbrook was once known as the "City of Beautiful Elms" but even that was not to endure when dutch elm disease ravaged the thousands of magnificent elm trees in Nebraska in the 1970s.

Our current population is recorded as 300 persons. Like many small towns, Holbrook is fighting to hold on. The town has survived many adversities and has hope for the future.

By Eleanor Shepherd, Box 155, Holbrook, NE 68948