The town of Giltner, while always being at this location, had a difficult time in finding a suitable name.
In 1886 the Lincoln Land Company, whose business was developing towns along the railroad lines, bought land in Union Township. On May 25, 1886, a town was platted and named "Huntington" by an employee on the railroad for his home town in Pennsylvania. There were great festivities when the first train arrived in September. Promoters claimed that Huntington was "the new pearl on the line and sure to become the best of them all."
In February 1887, however, the name of the town was changed to "Bromfield" at the request of the post office, because mail was getting mixed up with that going to Hartington in Cedar County. The origin of this name is not known.
By 1890 Bromfield had a large array of stores and services. Bromfield House was owned by William Chisholm, the Commercial House was run by John Smith. There was a newspaper called "The Bromfield Bulletin" which Samuel Figge owned. George Pierce and H.S. Frymire were implement dealers. Frank Malone was a barber, Brock and Simmons were insurance agents, Ehlebracht had a harness shop, and Farrand and Walters were the town's blacksmiths. The livery stables were operated by Sam Gibbons, Charles Hite, and J.W. Petrea. The drugstore was run by Mrs. Myers and George Moore, the general stores were run by Trobee, and another by Leinbergers. Mrs. Trobee and Mrs. Ehlebracht were milliners, and Sue Harrod had a dressmaker's shop. The billiard hall was run by Orendorff, and the saloon by John Goos. Charles Harrod and Charles Jewett had butcher shops, and hardware stores were run by Mather and the Wheeler Brothers. Dr. Brown and Dr. Case had offices, and Bell Williams, L.C. Genoways, and Alberet Ehlebracht were carpenters. In addition there was a bank, a lumberyard, two elevators, a school and a church. The population was just under 200.
The name of the town still did not suit the postal service, because of the town of Bloomfield in Knox County. There was constant havoc with the mail, but since their post office had not opened until 1890, there was considerable debate as to which one should yield and chose another name.
In order to move the community ahead, Rev. H.M. Giltner, the minister who founded the Presbyterian Church in 1893, was honored by having the town re-named for him. The name "Giltner" became official on September 14, 1895.
The public school, started in 1885, also had to change its name. A new brick school building was erected in 1917. A major addition was made in 1956 and a gymnasium and classrooms were added in 1981 when the 1917 building was removed. The largest graduating class was 34 members in 1941. In recent years it has decreased to an average of six to eight students. However, classes are still offered for K-12 students.
Giltner's population reached its peak, 550, in 1910. The current population is 360, down slightly from recent years. A population decline was experienced in the 1930-40s, as people moved to larger cities in search of work. The number of businesses also declined as people sought greater selection of goods and lower prices in Hastings and Grand Island.
In the 1940s Giltner had four churches: Catholic, Christian, Presbyterian, and Methodist. The shift in population also caused two of these to close. Currently Giltner has the United Methodist Church and St.Joseph's Catholic Church.
In the late 1970s the town built a new city park with picnic shelters, tennis court, lighted ball field, and restrooms. A monument was built, listing the names of all the servicemen in the area who served in the armed forces from World War I through the Vietnam conflict. Many community events are held in the park or at the school. The town hall, which was the opera house of early years and later the movie theatre, is also used.
Giltner, just three miles south of I-80, has a number of small businesses in addition to the two large grain elevators. The current trend for families to locate in smaller towns places Giltner on the list of stable Nebraska communities, happy with its location and its name.
By Gerald E. Sherard, 429 South Moore Street, Lakewood, CO, 80226.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "The Giltner Gazette;" The Sun Directory, 1890 & 1897; Adams, Clay, Hall, & Hamilton Counties Memoirs, 1890; Atlas & Plat Book, 1888, 1916, 1903, 1923. Hamilton Co: The Garden Spot of the State , C.L. Hall, 1887; History of Hamilton :& Clay Counties, Stough, 1921; History of Hamilton County, HSHS, 1936; Centennial History of Hamilton Co., B.G. Bremer, 1967; Hamilton County Nebraska Indexes , G.E.Sherard, 1985; Chief - A Collection of Early Giltner Stories , 1984, L.C.Haymart; Historical Sketches of Giltner, Nebraska, 1985, Gerald Sherard; and the Centennial Newspaper, September 19-21, 1986, sent by Donna Tobler.