Construction of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad branch line from Central City to Burwell in 1887 coinsided with the founding of the small town of Cushing. Our history begins with that date.
A post office, located just over a mile south and east from the present town of Cushing, was operated out of a log cabin on the homestead of Horace Seeley. The mail was brought from Fullerton to "Cascade," a name well-remembered by older residents in Greeley and Howard counties.
With the coming of the railroad, everything changed. When the depot was established in 1887, there was a "building boom." By fall there was an elevator, a general store built by William Schinleber, and many homes. The post office was then moved to the new town and located in the hotel built by John Glass and his wife, with Glass as postmaster. Since the village was located on a portion of land secured from W.S.and Sarah Cushing Freeman, the name "Cushing" was chosen, honoring Sarah's family.
The Freeman name is also familiar to historians who recall the stories of their daughter Minnie Freeman, a heroine of the "Blizzard of 1888." It was through her efforts in the school where she was teaching that her pupils were saved. Miss Freeman tied them together with twine and guided them to the nearest settler's house, three-quarters of a mile away.
Cushing became known in this part of the state as "Corn Cob City" when in 1896, due to a bumper corn crop, there were many huge piles of corn cobs. (In those days, a wagon load of cobs sold for $1, and considered by many as "legal tender.")
Early in the history of Cushing, a mill was operated on a farm known as the Peter Thompsen place on Spring Creek. Later the mill was dismantled, the lumber brought to Cushing, and used in the building of the first town hall and livery stable. A few years later August Doll built and operated a mill on the same site. In the 1890s several more businesses were added: a lumber yard, two general stores, a blacksmith shop, and implement shop.
In 1902 the grade school was built, and consolidated elementary and high school in 1922. The last pupil graduated from the high school in 1954. The grade school continued for several years, finally merging with St.Paul. The old frame school building was moved to Main Street to be used as a city hall, and along with several other buildings, was later destroyed by fire.
In 1906 the Lutheran and United Methodist congregations both built churches. That same year the Cushing State Bank was established and added much to the progress of the town. There have been two newspapers during Cushing's existence. W.W. Kerlin was the editor of the first newspaper, "The Courier," while in 1914 the Charles Holm edited the "Cushing Lantern."
In June 1914 the Howard County commissioners met to act on a petition filed with them to incorporate the Village of Cushing. The petition was signed by 35 resident taxpayers and included a certified list of 116 names of all the inhabitants. In 1930 the population was listed at 126. Five persons were appointed as trustees, to hold office "until the election of, and qualification of, their successors according to law." These were: F. Meyers, L. Kennedy, C.W. Holm, Nels Anderson, and Arthur Tuttle.
Cushing was hard-hit by the Depression and drought, referred to as the "Dirty Thirties." Many people were forced to move elsewhere to make their livelihood. The town was in the wrong place to develop any industry or other enterprise. The railroad discontinued service in 1983, and the post office closed in 1986. The present population is about 30, so there really isn't much left of the once-great little town of Cushing.
Time moves on relentlessly. When people who once lived here return, they are saddened. Old landmarks are gone, old friends and loved ones have died or moved away, leaving only memories.
The village board meets on the second Thursday of each month to transact the business at hand, so the town of Cushing is still on the map!
By Wayne & Irene Cook, Rte 1 Box 103, Cushing, % St.Paul, NE 68873