Horace Greeley, an American journalist and political leader was an outspoken advocate for the abolition of slavery. His influence for the "Union cause" was powerful. When the Civil War was over, he strongly favored amnesty as the course for healing the wounds that had been inflicted during that period of strife. He became a candidate for the Presidency in 1872, hoping to unseat Ulysses S. Grant in his bid for a second term. However, Greeley fell far short of that goal.
In his autobiography, Greeley's advice to American boys was the often quoted phrase, "...go West, young man, go West..." Greeley County, as well as the town of Greeley, were perhaps founded is response to the challenge of this call.
Greeley, whose corporate and railroad name is officially "Greeley Center," began in the spring of 1885 as a post office known as "Spading." This name was not approved since the town of Spalding was located in the same county.
The town was a promotion of Thomas Fox, and was advertised as being located "in the heart of Greeley County." While many years younger than Scotia, the town named as seat of government when the county was formed, Greeley gained strength and on August 12, 1890, successfully challenged that town for the position. Another town of O'Connor, also involved the 1890 election, gradually dwindled and died when the railroad by-passed it in favor of Greeley.
A new courthouse was built in the center of town where it remains today. An attractive building of classic design, it is staffed with efficient and accommodating officials.
The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad extended a branch line through Greeley, with the first train arriving August 15, 1887. The line was to go to Ericson and on to Burwell, with long-range plans to eventually extend the line to the Black Hills. In time, track was laid in a westerly direction to Ord and Burwell, where it terminated. However, no further construction of this line through the Sandhills took place.
The Methodist church was completed in 1888. The Catholics built their church in 1904. These two parishes exist in Greeley today, with an excellent relationship between the denominations.
Having gained the county seat, people and new businesses flocked to Greeley. By 1920 the population was over 900. Because it is predominantly a farming community, there has been an on-going decline in population over the years. Even so, the need for local services and trade in connection with county government gives some stability to the town. It is the location of the Greeley County Historical Society Museum, and has a new, well-staffed nursing home.
The schools, established soon after the town emerged on the scene, are attractive, well-equipped, and provide an excellent education for our young people. The youth of the community have a balanced recreational program all through the year.
Greeley has a present population of nearly 600. It is not a presumptuous town, but on closer scrutiny, one discovers excellent stores and dependable services.
The greatest asset of Greeley is its people. Their friendliness is exceptional, and they are both understanding and supportive. Greeley is a good place to raise children because adults care about their welfare. The youth are outgoing, friendly, and participate with enthusiasm.
By R. Mlinar, Greeley County Historical Society, Greeley, NE 68842