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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Daykin -- Jefferson County

The mural created for Daykin's centennial featured a windmill -- our town's "trademark." [Schweer]
A 1900 sketch of Daykin includes the windmill along a muddy main street. There is an obvious lack of trees.

If Daykin has a claim to fame, it is its windmills. A large wooden tower with a 15-foot diameter wooden wheel was built by the Kansas City & Omaha Railroad before Daykin was a town. Soon thereafter, a large wooden tank was built to provide water for steam locomotives and the stockyards. As the village became settled, nearly every family had a windmill for their own use, and we became known as the "Town of Windmills." In the 1930s Daykin was featured in "Ripley's Believe It or Not," as having more windmills per capita than any other town in Nebraska.

One windmill, complete with hand pump and watering tank, was for public use. This stood right in the middle of the street, on the eastern part of the business district. The drayman and visitors to town watered their horses at the tank. People without a windmill carried their water for cooking, bathing, clothes washing, and other household tasks from the town pump -- a bucketful at a time.

Daykin, with 210 residents of German and Czech descent, lies in the northwest corner of the county, right in the middle of fine farming country with rich, dark loam soil. Records show that before settlers had arrived, many cattle trailed over the site on their way to railroads shipping points along the Platte.

Daykin was named for John N. Daykin, a railroad man from Cleveland, Ohio, who purchased the land in 1869. The original town (about 61 acres) was platted on June 8, 1887. On the same day, the railroad received about nine acres for a right-of-way and station. A load of lumber was hauled in from Western to build the first business -- a bank -- which has been in continuous operation for over 100 years, surviving the crash of the 1930s.

The August 1887 edition of "The Fairbury Gazette" states, "...eighteen teams of horses moved dirt, a section house was built, a side track of 2,000 feet was completed, and the railroad is running." Daykin was booming as 250 people arrived to celebrate the day.

In October the "Gazette" reported: "We visited Daykin this week and were agreeably surprised at the appearance of the place. It is finely located and surrounded by good country, settled by prosperous farmers. Thirty carpenters are at work and every business will be represented by the close of the month."

By August 1888 there were many homes, plus a German Lutheran, and a Methodist church. In 1988 both churches celebrated their centennials.

Starting in a conventional one-room school, Daykin's school district grew, becoming a 12-grade system in 1926. In 1935 a modern two-story brick building with gymnasium was erected. In 1967 the Daykin, Alexandria, and Tobias schools merged to form Meridian School District 303. A new school was built two miles west of Daykin on Highway 4. A library and community room are now housed in the former school. Plans are being formulated to renovate and refurbish the building to make it even more useful to the community.

Irrigation, which began in the early 1950s, was a God-send to farmers and merchants alike. Farming practices have changed unbelievably in 100 years, from a one-horse walking plow to the air-conditioned tractor with a 12-bottomed plow -- or the preferred "chisel." Visitors who attended the centennial on June 13-14, 1987, commented much like the "Gazette's" editor, George Cross, did 100 years earlier, "...the lush green crops of the farmland are a beautiful sight, and it is clearly visible that the town has prospered and is doing well."

Daykin's first census, taken in 1900, showed 189 residents. The highest population was in 1910 with 220. The population has remained much the same throughout the first 100 years, with 210 residents in 1987, Daykin's centennial year. Credit for this should be given to energetic, hard working farmers who cared about the town's survival, supporting local organizations, and the ambitious, sometimes shrewd, but always community-spirited businessmen. This is what makes Daykin the progressive little town it is today.

In 1949, a water tower was built. It replaced all but one windmill, which now stands on the lawn in front of the Daykin Community Building, telling the world "this is still Windmill Town." When we celebrated our 100th birthday, not only was the windmill our main symbol, the large birthday cake was topped with -- you guessed it -- a windmill!

By Florence Strothman Schweer, Box 31, Daykin, 68338.

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Daykin centennial book "A Century of Progress 1887-1987."