The 300 mile-long Elkhorn River Valley became a primary route used by pioneers as they pushed through the northeastern part of Nebraska. The small village of Inman is located in this valley. William H. Inman, his son, two brothers, and a friend, Henry McEvony, left Wisconsin and started for Nebraska on May 23, 1871. They traveled along the Missouri bottoms to Council Bluffs, where the diary, kept by Peter Inman, noted "June 22. There are four railroads running to this place. Will's dog [a big Newfoundland hound] got lost."
On August 5, they started up the Elkhorn and arrived at James Ewing's claim on the 10th. The diary states: "Stopped here, then went above [up the valley] to pick out our claims, which we did...along the Black Hills and Lincoln Freight Trail...and built a cabin on the line between Will's and Casildea's."
More settlers arrived daily, and soon much of the land was claimed. When Holt County was organizing in 1876, Governor Garber appointed Will Inman as special county clerk. The nearby home of H. W. Haines at "Twin Lakes," was selected as the temporary county seat until an election could be held. Later that year the honor went to "Paddock." Twin Lakes was forgotten, but a post office was granted for "Inman's Grove" in 1877.
Ray Stamp arrived from New York State in 1880. He came by rail as far as Neligh, then on by freight wagon. His family had not been in their new home long before two of the children died of typhoid fever. There were no doctors close by, so there was no help or medicine available.
In 1881 the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad was being extended up the valley. A station was needed nine miles northwest of Ewing. When it was established, it was given the name "Inman." There were only a few sod houses and claim shacks then. Pioneers often bunked in the depot until a house could be built.
In those days it was a common sight to see Indian women walking along the valley, gathering herbs and roots for medical remedies, and putting them in the large sacks that they carried on their backs. They would occasionally stop at a homestead to get a drink of water, but would do no harm. There were also small bands of Indians that would "go among the pioneers" and take what they wanted. After an incident near Neligh, men chased some Indians as far west as Inman where a battle ensued. Several Indians and a number of horses were killed, and some of the settlers were wounded by arrows.
Not long thereafter, Will Inman was reportedly killed by Indians. In a letter from his wife, Addie, to his brother (then living in Iowa) she writes: "It is with the saddest heart I write you. Willie died the 26th of October . He went after wood with the team. Minutes after he left the house, he was killed."
In the years that followed, the railroad brought many settlers to the area. Soon a bustling town greeted newcomers. An opera house, built in 1895, was used for a variety of events; dances, road-shows, movies, and all kinds of gatherings. It was later used as a garage, but eventually sold and moved to the Donald Keyes ranch.
In 1913 a two-story IOOF Hall was built, used as the center of many activities. One of the attractions in this building was the hand-painted stage curtain advertising local businesses. The building was moved to the Fox ranch and remodeled into a home.
Over 300 people lived in Inman in 1920. During the Depression, however, many people were forced to leave their farms and businesses and look for jobs elsewhere. Through WPA projects, the town installed "iron culverts" and concrete sidewalks.
The business district has dwindled so that today, in addition to the post office, there are only a few businesses and one grocery store. Inman has two hay companies, two churches, a library, and a class I school.
While the train still goes by, it is no longer the life-line that brings people and goods to the community. Now connected to the outside world by Highways 20 and 275, the town of Inman has a current population of 180.
By Carol L. Keyes, Rte 1 Box 66, Inman, NE 68742
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Footprints on the Prairie , by Sarah Michaelis; and Before Today , by Nellie Yost Snyder.