Endicott -- Jefferson County
Situated along the Little Blue River in southern Jefferson County is the village of Endicott, population 200. Because of the fertile land along the valleys of the Blue and its tributaries, and its proximity to the Oregon Trail a few miles north, this was a prime area of settlement in the 1850-60s. In 1856 a way station and toll bridge were built at "Rock Creek Crossing" a few miles northeast of here. David McCanles, whose home was near what is now Endicott, was shot and killed by Wild Bill Hickok at the station on July 12, 1861.
Within a few years a large influx of settlers arrived to take homesteads. One was Edward Hawkes, who built his cabin in 1864. A journal which he kept in 1876-77 is a valuable source of information about those early years.
In 1871-72 the St. Joe & Denver City Railroad laid tracks through the Little Blue valley, which brought further settlement. When word came that a new railroad (the Burlington & Missouri River) was going to intersect with the SJ&DC at the foot of the hill near Hawkes' land, he saw the possibility of a town developing. Railway officials chose the name, in honor of William Endicott of Massachusetts, Secretary of War under President Cleveland. A post office was established in October 1880.
A hotel, "The Dooley House," was built by the railroad in 1881. This building still stands on Endicott's main street, 111 years later. The trains, now Union Pacific and Burlington Northern, no longer stop for passengers, but both lines still haul freight through here, the UP with 30-40 trains each day, and BN about once a day.
On February 12, 1881, the "Fairbury Gazette" reported, "...trains run regularly to Endicott. Ed Hawkes has a large interest in the new town and we hope he will make a good thing out of town lots and become a millionaire."
In March 1881 it was reported, "Endicott now has a population of 105, two groceries, two hotels, a livery stable, a saloon, a land office, a schoolhouse, a depot, and 12 dwellings." Early promoters, J. H. and J. L. Tait, were agents for the Lincoln Land Company, served as attorneys, published a newspaper, and one served as postmaster. The "Tait Mansion," built during the 1880s, is still in use as a residence.
A bitter fight developed when Endicott challenged Fairbury, five miles northwest, for the county seat. Endicott lost by only a small margin, after which the population went from 700 in 1884 to only 250 in 1890. Hawkes, who had used much of his wealth in promoting his town, died in 1902, sadly by taking his own life.
The area's first school was built by David McCanles in 1860, with District 7 established in 1868. The two-story building erected in 1885 was destroyed by fire in 1904. The school (built on that site to replace it), still used for elementary grades, merged with Fairbury at the end of the 1991-92 school year. Although the high school closed in 1966, an active alumni continues to hold a reunion and banquet each spring.
A Presbyterian Church was built in 1882. After some sharing of the facilities, it was purchased by the Methodist congregation in 1899. A brick structure was built in 1922. The "Lord's Acre Festival," celebrated each October, has wide community participation.
Deposits of fine clay were discovered along Rock Creek in the 1880s. The pit, managed by Henry Jones, shipped train loads of clay to Beatrice, where it was made into bricks. In 1920 Herman, Captain, and Robert Fairchild, who found clay deposits on their land near Rose Creek, built a factory. Through the depression and drought, employment at Fairchild Clay Products Company was vital to the economy of Endicott and its trade area. Today, owned by Roger and Stanley Judd, it has expanded many times and is known as "Endicott Clay Products Co." The 250 employees produce 100 million bricks annually, which are shipped throughout the nation and world.
Endicott was host to the first Jefferson County Old Settlers' Picnic in 1893. This was a five-day affair held in Hawkes' 90-acre grove. Any person who settled here prior to 1876 was eligible for membership. Hundreds were in attendance.
Present-day Endicott has a post office, four businesses, and a remodeled town hall which is used for many activities. With the cooperation of organizations and individuals, a replica of Hawkes' old pioneer cabin was built on main street in 1986.
Our quiet little village of Endicott remembers its past as it looks forward to the future.
By Mary Gill Peregrine, Box 52, Endicott, NE 68350
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Pioneer Tales of the Oregon Trail & Jefferson County, 1912, by Charles Dawson; "Diaries of a Nebraska Farmer" 1876-77 by Edward Hawkes, edited by Clarence Paine, 1948; and noted from the "Fairbury Gazette" issues 1880-82.