Back during the beginning of settlement in the new territory, people of different nationalities and religions worked together to build homes, churches, and schools. Where there was a railroad, a station was needed, not only to supply fuel and water for the engine, but to load and deliver freight, passengers, and mail.
In the spring of 1879 the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad started work on the grade to extend its line between Aurora and Central City, thus providing the opportunity for another town along the way. At that time, there was a post office on the section line called "Avon," operated by Nancy Carnahan.
However, early in 1882 the Lincoln Land Company purchased 100 acres from J.W.Marquis, and proceeded to survey and plat a town. It was given the name "Marquette," in honor of the general attorney for the CB&Q Railroad, Thomas Marquette. The land company named the main street "Marquis Avenue" in honor of the original land owner. The post office at Avon was officially moved and renamed on December 2, 1882.
The first store was in a small shack built on Marquette's main street. The inventory amounted to ten dollars worth of goods. Almost every day new buildings were built and more business ventures begun. Times were good, and everyone was confident that the town of Marquette was here to stay.
The early businesses included several general merchandise stores, a drug store, a harness shop, a blacksmith and wagon maker, a lumberyard, an implement store, a flour mill, a creamery which made cheese, three grain elevators, two hotels, a restaurant, a hardware and furniture store, and a saloon. You could even buy a casket at one of the general stores, and O.T.Greer, who ran the tin shop, was the undertaker.
The town also had a newspaper, a doctor, a dentist, and a veterinarian. There were three rural mail routes when that service started July 1, 1902. Now there is only one rural route.
There was a church in this area, served by circuit riders, before the railroad had arrived. Once the town was established, that congregation and two others built churches. The United Methodists have the only church in Marquette at this time. There are two country churches nearby; St.John's Lutheran Church and Mamre Evangelical Church.
The first school, a two-room building, opened in 1884. It was replaced with a brick structure in 1913, providing classes for K-12. There have been two additions since that time. Most activities take place at the school or in the community hall.
The Village of Marquette was incorporated in March 1889. The governing body was, and still is, a board of trustees consisting of five elected officials. Two local citizens have served in the state legislature -- J. J. Farley in 1889, and Charles Anderson in 1903-05.
Fires in 1906 and 1910 destroyed a number of buildings on both sides of the main street. These were replaced with fire-proof brick structures. However, many, if not all, of Marquette's records were destroyed, making the complete record of our town impossible to verify.
Marquette, located one-half mile west of Highway 14 between Aurora and Central City, recorded a peak population of 308 in 1930. The population has fluctuated over the years, particularly during the Depression and the war years. With different modes of transportation and better roads, people left the community to seek jobs with better pay. Many went to California to work in the factories there. Some have now returned to spend their retirement years in Marquette.
It is a nice town to come home to, with a present population of 303. The businesses we currently have include a bank, a post office, and a half dozen others. We also have a 25-member volunteer fire department. The grocery store and cafe closed in 1986.
The trend seems to be for people to live in small towns, and work at jobs in larger cities in the surrounding areas. We are happy to be such a community. When there is a need, neighbors and friends are there to help.
By Nina L. Anderson, Box 154, Marquette, NE 68854
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Hamilton County Atlas , Centennial History of Hamilton County, 1967 ; The History of Marquette, in the Bicentennial history, 1976, and in old newspaper clippings.