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Nebraska...Our Towns

mullen1jres.jpg (17938 bytes)MULLEN -- HOOKER COUNTY

Mullen, the only town in Hooker County, is strategically located 100 miles west of Broken Bow and 100 miles east of Alliance via Highway 2, or 70 miles south of Valentine and 70 miles north of North Platte on Highway 97. A stable population of 720 makes Mullen the largest community serving this geographical area.

In the fall of 1887 the Grand Island & Wyoming, a subsidiary line of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, laid rails from Broken Bow west to Whitman in Grant County. A little west of Mullen's present location, a man named Trefren operated a trading post with basic supplies he had freighted in by wagon from Broken Bow. The railroad wanted to install switch sidings and a depot at the Trefren location, but was "unable to secure the necessary land." So a siding was built one mile east, a telegraph was hooked up to a box car, and it was named "Mullen," for Charles Mullen, Chief Clerk of the CB&Q.

mullen2jres.jpg (9462 bytes)As a result of this development, Amos Gandy and George Trefren bought land near the "depot" from George W. Vleit for a town site. With organization of the county eminent, Gandy and Trefren laid out the town of Mullen in 1888. They designated block 5 on a hill "...for a courthouse if and when a county be formed." Since there was no government in the area at that time, all the records of the above proceedings were stored in the Thomas County courthouse at Thedford, 25 miles east.

Soon businesses sprang up, working out of shacks or tents until more permanent quarters could be built. The CB&Q started regular rail service to Mullen in 1888, and the first and present newspaper, "The Hooker County Tribune," also started weekly publication.

mullen3jres.jpg (9137 bytes)

Hooker County was formed March 29, 1889. Mullen, the only organized town, became the county seat. A post office was established on April 24, 1889, and a county courthouse and jail were completed on November 15 at the cost of $1,500. In the first census, taken in 1890, Hooker County's population was 432.

mullen4jres.jpg (8498 bytes)Mullen developed into a town in the 1890s. A bank was established with a capital of $6,000. Several stores were started and a livery barn was built. The Methodist Church was organized in 1895. The Mullen trade area, even then, covered approximately 5,000 square miles, which includes most of Hooker County, south central Cherry County, and parts of Thomas, McPherson, and Grant counties.

Mullen took steps to became an incorporated village in 1907. Prior to this, all residents had their own wells and "privies." Streets and roads were powdery sand and of course there was no electricity. By incorporating, the town could levy taxes for improvements. Over the years, Mullen put in water and sewer systems, erected an electric light plant, and surfaced the streets.

Hooker County replaced the two-room frame courthouse in 1912 with a brick building that is presently serving its citizens.

The area around Mullen is good grassland. Although not suited to crops, the area did see a rise in farming in the early 1900s as a result of the Kinkaid Act. Mostly rye and corn were raised. In 1914 L.E. Harding built an elevator at the east edge of town so farmers could ship the grain to market. After the severe drought and depression of the 1930s, most farming operations ceased and the present economy of Mullen is based almost entirely on cattle.

Another siding ten miles west, called Hecla, became a major cattle shipping point for a time, but it did not survive as a town. There was a pool hall, general store, and a couple of homes, but it never had a population of more than a dozen people. Bill and Rebekah Gottlob ran the store and post office. When travelers overflowed the four-bed sleeping quarters, they were put up in the schoolhouse or haymow. Mrs.Gottleb cooked meals for travelers and ranchers who came to purchase supplies or to ship cattle.

mullen6jres.jpg (13245 bytes)In 1952 Hooker County organized all school districts within the county into one K-12. The Mullen School District encompasses not only all of Hooker County, but also east into Thomas County, and north into Cherry County, for an additional area that is nearly the size of Hooker County. The high school was built in 1916, with additions in 1929 and 1963.

 

By Frank Harding, with the help of Judy Ridenour, Box 228, Mullen, NE 69152

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Sandhills Horizons, Earl Monahan; and American West, August, 1988.