Around 1872 early pioneers in south central Nebraska established the community of Bainbridge, complete with a general store, church, cemetery, and post office. Prairie life was hard and the young community rejoiced when plans were made for the railroad to extend track into the town. When the time came for the actual construction, a long descending grade southward made locating the railroad station at Bainbridge impossible. Thus a new town site and depot were located just south of the Bainbridge area in the bottomland adjacent to Turkey Creek. The new town was named, not surprisingly, for a Kansas City & Omaha Railroad official by the name of "Huntley." It is interesting to note that legal records make no mention of anyone by that name.
The small town continued to flourish. By 1902 Huntley shipped out more grain than any other town in Harlan County. The telephone system had been established and more businesses and buildings were being erected. A "Salem News" correspondent praised Huntley by writing..."if any of your readers have anything to trade, just step up to Huntley and they will accommodate you, from a jack knife to a steam engine."
Huntley has had two churches. The first, completed in 1900, was destroyed when it was stuck by lightning in 1922. The second, a brick structure used today, was completed in 1929. Huntley's schools have numbered four: a soddy, a one-room frame house, a two-story wooden building, and the two-story brick structure still in use today.
Social activities popular with the people of Huntley were baseball, box suppers, picnics, visiting, and during the 1920s, the pool hall was "the gathering place" for men. (Each of the pool halls mysteriously burned down.) In fact, fire has plagued the community since its conception. The first depot burned within a few years after it was built. Several times fire has damaged or destroyed more than one business establishment on the main street of town.
Time has brought about many changes. Electricity replaced the oil and kerosene lamps in 1922. Television brought about the decline of the opera house productions and town movies. Doctor Massey, Huntley's only physician, died in 1924 after being severely injured by one of his mules. He had served the community for almost 20 years.
With the advent of cars, the horse and buggy became an obsolete mode of travel. Tractors also took over the work on the farms. Large trucks easily obtained fuel and could go anywhere. With the advent of better highways for transportation, the railroad industry was severely crippled. In 1982 rail service to Huntley was discontinued.
However, the spirit of Huntley has survived and remained strong. On May 28-29, 1988, Huntley observed its 100th anniversary with two days of down-home activities. Incorporated in 1913 with a population of 200, it now officially claims 60 residents.
Planners, anticipating 600 participants for the centennial Memorial Day weekend, were pleased when 1,500 people from 22 different states showed up. It was a real testimony to the phrase..."you can always come home to Huntley!" Special activities included a commemorative stamp cancellation and demonstrations of old-time farming. Nearly 300 people packed the school gym for the annual alumni banquet on Saturday night. An early morning service was held at the Bainbridge Cemetery and Bishop J.Woodrow Hearn spoke at the church service.
The centennial was a time to renew friendships and memories for many, and served as a unique way to learn Huntley's history by following the signs marking the locations of former businesses. Dr. Robert Manley, orator for the day, truly brought history to life as he "sold" lots and property in 1880's style. Following a parade of more than 100 entries, the celebration culminated with a barbecue served, complete with birthday cake, to more than 800 people.
The citizens of Huntley, past and present, will remember this birthday party for a long, long time.
By Marlene Decker, Box 4, Huntley, NE 68951
Huntley Centennial book, 1988.
Individual remembrances, school projects, etc., found in the local library.