The Union Pacific Railroad crossed Nebraska in the 1860s and opened the area to settlement. In 1879, a line which became part of the St. Joseph & Western Railroad was built. It was inevitable that a town should grow between Grand Island and Hastings. That year W.J. Burger, who owned the land along the right-of-way, platted a town site, laid out the first lots, and started building. He named the town "Doniphan" in honor of Colonel John Doniphan, who was an attorney for the railroad. A post office was established in October 1879, with Samuel Beidelman as postmaster.
Doniphan's present school, District 26, was the first school to organize south of the Platte River. It started in 1873. The first schoolhouse in Doniphan was built in 1880. The present schoolhouse was built in several different phases, with completion of the structure in 1982.
The first church services in this area were held by a Methodist circuit rider in 1877, before a town was struck. A Catholic parish had its beginning around 1880, and a Lutheran church was established in Doniphan in 1890, with the St.Paul's Lutheran Church formally organized in 1915. There are presently three churches in Doniphan; Methodist, Catholic, and Lutheran.
On January 9, 1884, a petition of 33 resident taxpayers requested that the village of Doniphan be incorporated. Members of the first Board of Trustees were: Beidelman, Burger, A.M. Sweeney, James Scudder, and D.O. Grice.
On May 3, 1886, the first Bank of Doniphan was established. In November 1911, the Commercial Exchange Bank was formed. During the Depression, the latter bank suffered financially and had to close. The Bank of Doniphan merged with the First National of Grand Island in 1933, and from then until 1965, the town was without a bank. On November 17, 1965, the Bank of Doniphan again opened its doors. It is presently located on the main street of town.
Telephone service arrived in 1904, and electricity was available in 1912. Records were found to show there was an organized "fire team" by 1918.
Although Doniphan's population has fluctuated over the years, it is one of Nebraska's growing towns, with a present population of nearly 700. Proximity to jobs in Hastings and Grand Island, as well as to I-80, makes this a pleasant place to live and raise a family.
An annual community celebration held in Doniphan is the Cedar View Cemetery Fall Festival, once called Cemetery Bazaar Day. The celebration is organized by the Ladies Cedar View Cemetery Association, formed in 1912 for the purpose of raising money to care for the cemetery. It is now held on the first Saturday in October.
If you want to visit Doniphan, this would be a great day to choose, as it brings back many former residents for the day's special activities.
Submitted by Carleen White, Village Clerk, Doniphan, NE 68832.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of Doniphan, Nebraska, by the South Platte Bicentennial Committee.