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Nebraska...Our Towns

REPUBLICAN CITY -- HARLAN COUNTY

Republican City, in south central Nebraska, is the only town by this name in the world. A historical marker down the river in Kansas says "...French traders in the late 1700s named [the Indians] along the river the Republican Pawnee" in the mistaken belief that they had a republic-type government. The Republican River, Republican City, and Republic County and Republic in Kansas, were all named for these Indians.

In 1872 Dr.John McPherson came from Brownville, Nebraska, to look things over. He liked the area, sold his holdings on the Missouri, and brought lumber and material to start building a town. He laid out lots in "Republican" and built several stores plus a flour mill. When the post office was established, it was called "Republican City."

The Burlington Railroad, originally the Kansas City to Denver line, got to Bloomington in 1880, and on beyond Republican City by 1881. This insured its future as "a town with a railroad."

McPherson continued building, establishing a "Normal College" for all grades, including classes in training teachers, in 1884. The college closed in 1891. The first high school graduation was held in Republican City in 1892. The large square brick schoolhouse, built on the hill north of town in 1888, was destroyed by a tornado. Another one was promptly built on the same foundation using the same floor plan. A newer schoolhouse was built in 1917.

Republican City has many "firsts" in Harlan County. It was the first to have a frame house, store, and school; the earliest churches, and the first town to have a bridge over the river.

The oldest known grave is dated 1874. The cemetery, first called Cedar Grove, was laid out in 1874 on land from W.H.Burr. The name was changed to Republican City Cemetery in 1895.

Republican City has two churches. The Methodists organized in 1874 and the Lutherans in 1883. There was also a Presbyterian Church for a time. Their building was used to house pupils while the schoolhouse was being constructed in 1917.

Our town also had many lodges and clubs that included: Masonic and Eastern Star chapters, Odd Fellows, Rebekah, Woodman and Royal Neighbor lodges, W.C.T.U., G.A.R., W.R.C., the American Legion and Auxiliary. The Lla Revo Club was started in 1906, and the I.M.P. Club in 1909.

There were no telephones in the town until after 1900. Finally a group of citizens who wanted phone service got together, bought phones, put up poles and wires, and repaired the lines themselves.

J.S.Gifford had a private bank before 1903 which he sold to Warren's Commercial State Bank. About 1915 Clarence Waldo purchased the bank and built a brick building in 1918.

The "big flood of 1935" hit Republican City with a vengeance. Because of the devastation caused, the Corps of Engineers designed a dam across the valley. The whole town had to be moved to higher ground. Land was purchased two miles north and two miles east of the old town from John Lutjeharms.

In order to use the name "Republican City" for the new town, permission had to be obtained from the federal government. Lou Kammerer was sent to Washington. With the help of Senators Curtis and Hruska, the trip proved successful.

Moving the town took place in 1951-52. Three homes at a time were loaded onto trucks, moved, and unloaded onto foundations in the new town. The large Methodist Church, built in 1931, had to be moved in two pieces. The Mullally Township officers put the money they received from the sale of the auditorium into a gymnasium.

When the Harlan County Dam was dedicated in June 1952, the relocation was nearly completed, although over half of the people had moved from the area. In December 1952 another tragedy occurred. A gas stove in the new shopping area exploded and all businesses that were ready to open were severely damaged.

Our town's highest population was 580 in 1950. Some 38 years later, it stands at 230. The new town is mostly a resort for sportsmen and retired people, with a small but good business district. The school that closed a few years ago is currently being used by the Alma school for some classes.

Republican City celebrated its centennial, and that of the Methodist and Lutheran churches, some time ago.

By Erma Cassell Kammerer, Rte 1 Box 29, Alma, NE 68920