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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Jansen -- Jefferson County

The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific depot at Jansen, built in 1886, pictured in 1910.
A bird's eye view of Jansen taken in the early 1900s.
Another bird's eye view of Jansen, this one taken ca. 1913.

Peter Jansen was a politician, colonizer, farmer, diplomat, traveler, and the founder of a town, which was named in his honor. Born in Berdjansk, South Russia, in 1852, he and his father Cornelius Jansen, came to the United States in the spring of 1874. They selected a site in Jefferson County for a Mennonite settlement, and purchased 1,280 acres.

Soon his fellow-believers (who had previously migrated to Russia from Holland) arrived in this country, where they were free from persecution. The colony worked together to build homes and businesses. Their first church building was completed in January 1879. Now called the Jansen Bible Church, it is still active, and recently completed a new building.

Nebraska never had a bigger booster than Peter Jansen. In 1882 he wrote, "...after nine years in this state, I would not swap my sheep ranch for the Russian Emperor's whole empire."

People of other denominations also settled here. An Evangelical church (now United Church of Christ) was organized four miles to the north in 1882, and is still in operation. A German Methodist Episcopal Church organized in 1889. At the turn of the century there were six Mennonite churches near Jansen. A Nazarene and a Methodist church were organized in 1922, and a Lutheran Church was established in 1929.

In 1886, when the Rock Island Railroad laid its rails across Jefferson County, Jansen purchased land, laid out a town, then deeded it to the "Town of Jansen." Immediately, lots were sold and buildings were established.

It was Jansen's intention that no liquor be sold in the town. When selling lots, a clause was inserted in the transfer: "It is expressly agreed between the parties hereto that intoxicating liquors shall never be manufactured, sold, or given away in any place of public resort as a beverage on said premises; and that in case this condition be broken or violated, this conveyance shall be null and void." In spite of this precautions, it was discovered that one lot had been deeded without the "prohibitive clause." Soon a liquor store was established, after which others set up shop. Legal action was never taken against them.

Within a year there was a post office and the nucleus of a solid business district was in place. The bank, founded by Jansen in 1887, has operated continuously since that time. Within the first decade there were over 30 businesses operating. The population in 1910 was 308.

Peter Jansen purchased 480 acres of land northeast of town. He built a beautiful home with a large front yard, erected barns, planted trees, and had a fine orchard on what was later known as the "Jansen Ranch."

Sheep-raising was one of the early enterprises of the settlers. There were also flocks of geese, ducks, and chickens. The silk industry was another enterprise of the early Jansen community. Large groves of mulberry trees were planted, the leaves of which were to be used as food for the silk worms. Silk production, however, never became a successful venture in Nebraska.

On June 19, 1929, the town of Jansen survived a storm which swept over Jefferson County, but the extent of the damage was widespread. A Mennonite church in the east part of Jansen, which had been purchased by a Lutheran congregation, was badly damaged even before it could be used.

In 1936, Jansen celebrated 50 years of existence. The three-day celebration was sponsored by the American Legion and local businesses. There was a large parade and a display of antiques, many from Germany and from Russia.

After World War II, returning servicemen purchased many of the main street businesses. This brought renewed life to the community of about 220. Located on Highway 136 between Beatrice and Fairbury, it is still "on the map" with just over 200 residents. There is a post office, a fire hall, and nine thriving businesses.

In 1986 Jansen held its centennial celebration. The event started on Sunday, August 17, when the Flying Conestogas from Beatrice flew over. A great parade followed, and Jansen's main street was bustling with people and activities all day long. The centennial rekindled an appreciation for our heritage and a better understanding of the community. Hopefully, our town will still be around to celebrate its bicentennial! Jansen a very nice town in which to live.

By Helen M. Rahe, Box 121, Jansen, NE 68377.