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Nebraska...Our Towns

SPALDING -- GREELEY COUNTY

The Village of Spalding was originally established as "Halifax" in 1875. The name was changed to "Spaulding" in 1881 in honor of Catholic prelate John Lancaster Spalding of Peoria, IL, with the spelling corrected to "Spalding" in 1894. The town incorporated in 1898, becoming a organized community.

The town is located on the banks of the Cedar River, right in the heart of Cedar Valley. It is in one of the most fertile sections of Greeley County, nestled at the foot of the hills which rise gently to the north. Words seem inadequate to portray the possibilities. As one stands on the heights, there is presented to view one of the grandest scenes of nature. Far to the west can be seen a faint glitter of the Cedar River as it winds its way down the valley. Looking to the east, the stream widens as it hastens on its way.

Catholic colonization began in Greeley County with a few families who settled in the northeast part near the Halifax post office, less than a mile from the present town site.

For several years Halifax was a mission of O'Connor. In 1882 a little church was cut and framed in Chicago, shipped by rail to Albion, then hauled the rest of the way by teams and wagons. The new church was named "St.Michael's" by Bishop O'Connor, to honor Michael Sullivan, who had befriended many weary settlers as they walked from the rail line. At a ceremony in 1986, St.Michael's Church was recognized as being on the National Register of Historical Places.

With so many Catholics, it was natural for them to establish their own school. In 1890 the Sisters of Mercy of Omaha came to teach. This was the beginning of the Spalding Academy. The present building was built in 1912 and the convent added in 1927.

In 1902 the Union Pacific Railroad extended its line to Spalding. This contributed greatly to the town's growth. About 1906 it is said that the population reached nearly 1,000. It is still about 700.

By 1903 enough Protestants were living in the area so that worship services were being held in the schoolhouse. In September the First Presbyterian Church was organized and soon thereafter a church and manse were built.

The Spalding Public School District 55, once a part of District 10, was organized in March 1892. The first school was erected in 1895, another in 1908, with an addition in 1926. In recent years three more buildings have been added to this fully-accredited school system.

Spalding's municipal light plant has a unique history. A race was dug and a mill built in 1889. The original diversion dam across the river was built of logs to a height of four or five feet. This put about six feet of water in the race.

The mill was put in operation in 1890 to manufacture flour and feeds. A flood put the original owner out of business. While it was being rebuilt, Jake Vandenberg of Butte bought the business. Jake had two sons, Lou and George, whose job it was to get up every morning to oil and check equipment by lantern light. Being creative, they came up with the idea to make electricity by belting a direct current generator to the turbine shaft. They wired the mill and then strung wire to their home. Their mother had the first electric washing machine in the county.

In the summer of 1910 lines were built to town and a 75 horsepower diesel built by Metz and Weiss with a 40 kilowatt alternator was installed. The generator was also belted to the turbine. By a clutch and belting arrangement, the mill also could be run by either water or diesel. On February 1, 1911, electricity was officially turned on in the village. Improvements, including a new concrete dam, were made. In 1954 the village purchased the electrical facilities and have continued to add to the equipment as necessary.

Spalding is a thriving little village with many businesses serving a large territory. Improvements are continually being made to the business district. A time capsule was filled with memorabilia and buried in the city park on July 4th, 1976, the nation's bicentennial. It will be opened in 50 years, in 2026.

Spalding celebrated its centennial in 1981.

By Mary Helen Hookstra, Rte 1 Box R, Spalding, Ne 68665

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Early Days of Spalding 1976; Spalding Picture Book, 1981; "St. Michael's Parish", 1986.