The first homestead in Hamilton County was in the area down along the Blue River near the southern edge of the county. This was also the meeting to officially organize the county, the first school district, and the first religious services. A settlement grew up around the Stone, Starkey & Company Mill that used the river for power. In 1876 a post office, established in the home of Joseph Stockham, was given his name. The original town was located in Section 25 in Orville Precinct, about 12 miles south of Aurora.
Stockham prospered nicely and provided well for its citizens. Then in 1887 the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad established a line from Fremont to Hastings that ran through the Stockham area. "New Stockham" was platted a half mile south of the original town on August 1, 1887. Most of Stockham's businesses and many homes picked up and moved to that location.
With the coming of the railroad the town grew rapidly. Soon there were two banks, three grain elevators, two hotels, a blacksmith, several hardware and grocery stores, a theater, a drug store, and a dozen or more other businesses. By 1920 the population of Stockham was nearly 250.
The town continued to do well until the Depression of the 1930s. After the banks closed, many businesses were also forced to close their doors. In 1941 the railroad pulled out. The rails were torn up and reused at the Hastings munition plant. During the war years, one home after another was moved to one of the surrounding communities to alleviate the need for housing at those locations. The population dwindled to the present population of 80.
Stockham's post office was made a rural station of Aurora in 1968, closing altogether in 1976. The following year the grocery store also closed its doors. Only two businesses remain: Cargill Fertilizer Plant and Kliewer Trucking.
At one time three churches held services in Stockham: a German Lutheran, a Presbyterian, and a Methodist Episcopal. The Methodist congregation reorganized as the Stockham Bible Church and is presently known as the Stockham Community Church. This growing congregation, under the leadership of Pastor Paul Nauman, recently built a new church.
A school, officially designated as District 2, was organized in Joseph Stockham's dugout in 1871. A schoolhouse was built on the hill northeast of the flour mill in 1878 with Ella Brown as its teacher. After the town was moved, a two-story frame schoolhouse was erected. Classes were held in that building until 1920, when it was destroyed by fire. A new masonry building was built, consisting of primary, intermediate, and grammar schools. It was the first school of this style in the county, said to be "completely modern," and included a large gymnasium. Dedicated in 1922, it had three elementary teachers and three high school teachers.
Over the years Stockham High School had a number of exceptional basketball teams, playing in district and state tournaments and winning many trophies. The high school was discontinued in 1949, leaving a K-8 system with two teachers. On October 18, 1972, the Stockham school officially closed its doors.
While there is no longer a school or post office, many organizations help keep the community going. We have a Stockham Booster Club, which holds an annual barbecue, and Stockham Country Cousins Extension Club, the Ewe Joint 4-H Club, and the Stockham Ladies Ministries, (SLM) an outreach organization in connection with our community church.
Stockham celebrated its centennial on August 1-2, 1987. Over 1,000 people attended the all-day event on Saturday that included a horseshoe tournament, a parade, children's games and contests, a quilt show, a picture gallery, a barbecue, and a dance. An Old Settlers' Picnic was held in the city park on Sunday.
Stockham is a quiet little community with a lot of history and pride. The village board and members of this community are in the process of cleaning up and making improvements in the town. We welcome people who come to visit.
By Fay Kliewer, Rte 3, Box 124, Aurora, NE 68818
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of Hamilton County , 1967; and Stockham Nebraska 1887-1987 our centennial book.