Stamford, just seven miles north of the Kansas border in Harlan County, could very well have been called "Carrisbrook," and located two miles west of its present location in Furnas County. This was the name given a post office (for the Carrisbrook Estate in England) the former home of one James Lumley. However this was not to be the case, and the present town site and name "Stamford" prevailed.
Established in 1887 on a branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad that put in a line up the Sappa Valley from Orleans, a town site in the wide valley was laid out. According to the "Stamford Enterprise," April 1884,"...the beautiful Sappa Valley is one of Nebraska's brightest gems."
The earliest business, also established in 1887, was George Zulauf's flour and feed mill on the north bank of Sappa Creek. The dam had a rock-bottom, with a ten-foot drop, and the mill made a fine grade of flour and breakfast foods that sold locally and in near-by towns. Zulauf operated the mill until 1919 when he sold to Gilchrist Bros. of McCook. It burned to the ground the next year. The land was sold in 1921 in hopes that someone would build a new mill, but this never happened.
Stamford incorporated as a village in 1907 with a census listing 66 taxpayers. By then cement sidewalks had replaced boardwalks and the village streets were "smooth."
By 1915 there were 37 businesses in town along with a doctor, two dentists, a "good" bank, high school, opera house, and a telephone exchange. The Stamford Bank will observe its 100th year of continuous service in 1990.
The village was not without hardships. Fire took its toll on the young town. In addition to homes that burned and were replaced, all the businesses on the east side of Main Street burned in 1901 with only a lumber yard being rebuilt. In 1907 the depot burned but was immediately replaced. Then on a Saturday evening in 1909, the town's first hotel/livery barn, built by John Goudie in 1887, went up in flames. The worst fire was in 1913 when 11 buildings on the west side of Main were reduced to ashes in just two hours. Only half of the loss was covered by insurance.
Floods also tormented the community. At one time in 1947, Stamford was inundated with flood damage in excess of $152,000. As a result of the repeated flooding, a watershed district was formed in 1963. A new channel was cut for Sappa Creek which has greatly alleviated the water problem.
No one knows how many churches have been in the Stamford area, but in every community these groups play an important part in the spiritual and social development of the people. Most churches evolved as a result of the language of the settlers, which in Stamford's case included Swedish, German, and Belgian-French in addition to English.
The first class to graduate from the new Stamford High School did so in 1901 when five students finished the tenth grade. The last class to graduate was in 1976, the year of the nation's Bicentennial, when 13 young people received their diplomas. This represented the end of an era for the Stamford community. Currently our students are bused to Orleans, Alma, Oxford, and Beaver City for their education.
With a recent population count of 200, the town has not grown in numbers, nor have many of the early businesses survived. Even though the town started over 100 years ago, the spirit of those early settlers is still present in the current residents.
Today Stamford's business district includes a lumber yard, market, cafe, an upholstery and knick-knack shop, the "Cardroom" and newsletter, a co-op and tank wagon station, beauty shop, repair shop, elevator, insurance agency, and the bank.
By Barbara Lans, Box 181, Stamford, NE 68977. Story by Marilyn Siebels
History of the Stamford Nebraska Community by Lois Tams
Stamford, Nebraska 1887-1987 edited by Barbara Lans and Diana Lambson
"Stamford Star" on microfilm at the Nebraska State Historical Society