Hamlet, located in southwest Nebraska, is in a valley along the Frenchman River 35 miles northwest of McCook. In the late 1870s the settlement was called "Hudson." This name however, is not found on maps of Hayes County in 1885 and '88, perhaps because the post office was not officially established until 1890.
William and Eliza Hudson came from Illinois in 1873. Their two sons, Noah and Joe, and nephew Billy Hagerman, age 17, walked most of the way behind the covered wagon. The family homesteaded a mile west of where the town is now located. The men trapped along the Frenchman, Willow, and Stinking Water streams for several winters.
With the influx of homesteaders moving into the valley, the free range disappeared and towns sprang up. Hudson was first laid out in the northwest corner of the township, but was later moved further south to accommodate the railroad when it came through. It is said that Eliza Hudson received mail at her home and was called the postmaster, but official records state that William True was the first postmaster of Hudson in 1890. It is also thought that the Hudson home may have been a trail station, as west of there was the mouth of Trail Canyon where the Texas Trail crossed over the Frenchman River to Ogallala.
The change in the town's name came in 1904. James Hagerman, postmaster at that time, received a box of gold intended for delivery at Hudson, Colorado, to pay a crew of miners. Hagerman notified the authorities, then guarded the gold all night and the next day until two men finally arrived to take it to its intended destination. Because of this incident, the citizens decided the name of the town should be changed. So they called it "Hamlet" to signify a "small town."
The railroad played a big role in the community's early years. Cattle companies and ranchers drove cattle from many miles away to the Hamlet stockyards to be shipped to market. This business brought two banks to Hamlet. The State Bank building still stands on Main Street, but is used as a home.
The depot was built in the early 1920's. An interesting story is told of a flood in 1928 when a train was stranded at Hamlet. Passengers were taken off and floated to safety in horse tanks borrowed from the lumber yard. The depot has long since been removed.
Hamlet's Union Church was built in 1921. William Rutherfor gave the land with the understanding that anyone could hold services in the building,..."except Catholics." In the late 1930s the church affiliated with the Missionary Alliance and continues to play an important part in the community with many activities for young and old among its large congregation.
Primarily an agricultural community, Hamlet was once a thriving town with many businesses. During and after World War II, the population declined. The population peak was in 1940 with 240 residents and currently is listed at 74.
Hamlet's brick schoolhouse, built in 1928, held its first graduation in 1930. The school merged with Wauneta in 1968. The old buildings were sold and torn down in 1988.
The town has one major event each year following Memorial Day services at our well-kept cemetery. A community pot luck is held at the town hall. On this day we also honor alumni classes from Hamlet High School.
By Marilyn J. Walker, Hamlet, NE 69031