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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Diller -- Jefferson County

Diller's depot. A busy place at train time. [Diller Historical Society]
Diller's main street on a cold day in January, about the turn of the century. [DHS]

The Otoe Indians ceded the west half of their reservation to the United States Government in 1876. This was very attractive land and there were many people anxious to buy farms in this area. When settlers living close to the reservation notified their friends in the East that the land was to be put on sale in September 1877, many people rushed to the area. Samuel Diller, who lived just north of where the town developed, enlisted a whole colony of German descent who were living in Pennsylvania.

While the new settlers built homes, they lived in the covered wagons they arrived in. Some of the men worked for the railroad, while the women stayed on their property to "hold down the claim," raising gardens, tending the livestock, and children.

The resulting town, platted and recorded on October 13, 1880, was named for Samuel Diller. Others instrumental in getting the town started were D. R. Kelley, W. H. & John Diller, William Green, A. H. Colman, and Joseph Bixby. During the next four years, nearly every line of business was established. It was not until 1892-93 that Diller's "bloom" took place, when the schoolhouse, the Methodist Church, an opera house, and the Loock Department Store were built.

Concerned for the plight of homeless children, local banker, Andrew Colman, established a foundation for their care. Between 1938 and 1956, when "The Hill" closed, it provided a home for about 80 orphaned boys.

Diller's independence is shown in ownership of its own telephone company, which still serves Diller, Harbine, Virginia, and Odell. An independent cable company, known as Diode Cable, also serves Diller and Odell.

Today the population of Diller is 310. The community is served by a Lutheran Church, and the Church of Christ. An active rural fire department with an ambulance provides a degree of safety for our citizens. There is a community building, a library, and a K-12 school. A dozen businesses are still located in and around the village. The Diller Historical Society, formed in 1984, is located in the former Colman Bank Building, which displays some of the historic artifacts of the town and community.

Once each year, the town increases its population by ten-fold. The annual Diller Picnic, expanded to three days in 1992, marks the 96th consecutive celebration of this event. Activities start on Thursday night when carnival rides are available for young and old who enjoy the swirls and twirls high in the air. On Friday night we have the big parade -- 120-135 entries -- and Saturday is the antique tractor pull. During it all there is an abundance of food to be enjoyed.

The popularity of the picnic attracts many people not only from Nebraska but from neighboring states as well. We invite you to experience the Diller Picnic in July, or just come down in the "off season" and learn more about the rich history of this community.


By Todd D. Brauch, Vice-president, Diller Historical Society, 5901 South Street, Lincoln, NE 68506.