A small farming community, nestled in the Frenchman River valley, has the distinction of having been located at two different sites. In 1879 Samuel L. True built a store near Bobtail Creek which joins the Frenchman River. He named it "Palisade" partly for the bluffs around the area, and also because of the remains of an old palisade or stockade built by the army near the site. True was named postmaster in 1880 even though the town consisted of only a two-room sod house, a 12-by-14-foot frame store, and his family of five.
During the next few years Palisade grew, adding many stores and shop. Anticipating the arrival of a branch line of the Burlington Railroad, True purchased some land that he hoped would place his town on the right-of-way, allowing him to sell at a profit. When it was surveyed, the rail line missed True's property by half a mile. The Lincoln Land Company purchased land from Ira Potter and Charles Parker for $2,000 each, and platted a town they called "New Palisade."
By mid-summer 1887 with still only flags marking the location of a future railroad, all but one of the buildings from the original site had been moved to the new town. When the plat was completed, it was found to be in both Hitchcock and Hayes counties. The deed was filed, and streets and alleys dedicated. By this time there were more businesses, a newspaper, and a bank.
After the boom of the 1880s came the panic of the 1890s and it was announced that all work on the railroad was "temporarily discontinued." This put a damper on things, causing all progress to halt until the rails were laid in December 1891.
Fortunately for all, the huge Frenchman Valley irrigation project began in 1892-93, bringing further development to Palisade by providing irrigation for valley farmers. With a railroad in place and a guaranteed water supply for crops, Palisade continued to grow.
F.C. Krotter installed two turbines generators on a diversion dam on the Frenchman in 1911. This brought electricity to Palisade.
The hey-day of Palisade's businesses was during the 1920s with a full array of shops and services, and five churches. The stock market crash and dust bowl of the '30s brought hard times to everyone. The strongest survived and continued onward.
In 1931 with the financial help of F.C. Krotter, a 12 acre park was developed. When completed the area had lighted ball fields, a tennis court, picnic area, and a 110-by-230-foot swimming pool which held over a million gallons of water. For years it was one of the largest pools in the state. Recently that magnificent structure had to be replaced with a newer, smaller pool, which brought the park up to current standards.
Palisade was the location of a prisoner of war camp for a year or so during the 1940s. The prisoners, mostly German, helped with corn picking and were remembered for their singing as they worked.
In 1945 an electrical company, now known as Southwest Public Power, was formed and established its headquarters in Palisade. It is currently the largest source of employment in town, serving 5,105 meters, 17 substations, and 2,237 miles of line.
The town's population reached its highest point in 1950 when the census recorded a total of 800 residents. The discovery of oil in the area contributed to the financial outlook in the late '60s. Since then many factors have contributed to bring a decline in population, making our town the quiet community of 400 citizens that it is today.
Palisade still has an accredited K-12 school, as well as the original five churches. Businesses include: a grocery store, restaurant, grain elevator, service station, several repair shops, other small businesses, and the post office.
Some time ago, "Palisade Pioneer Days" was established. Held on the second weekend in June, it is enjoyed by a large crowd every year. The emphasis is on the alumni from Palisade High School, with a current mailing list of over 800.
The year 1987 saw Pioneer Days and the town's centennial celebration combined, with over 1,500 attending the three-day extravaganza.
Our community was saddened when the doors of the 101-year-old Frenchman Valley Bank were closed in 1988. In the economic crisis that swept the area, the community agonized as friends and neighbors were forced into bankruptcy. The community was gravely shaken but did not despair.
Life goes on, and so did the annual celebration. We all just worked a little harder, marching ahead with eyes front, looking to the future as did our forbearers.
By JoAnn Ward, Rte 1 Box 74, Palisade, NE 69040
"The Palisade Times," 1921, 1924, and 1937 editions
Excerpts from the files of Paul Riley, library copies
Village of Palisade files, courtesy of Betty Hunt, clerk