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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Plymouth -- Jefferson County

The "Rock Island" stopped at the second town of Plymouth, three miles farther down the line on the divide between Cub Creek and Dry Creek, ca. 1910.
Language and music were both part of the strong German heritage which was brought "from the old country." The Plymouth Band played whenever the opportunity arose, ca. 1913.

Plymouth, in the northeast corner of Jefferson County, is located three miles northeast of its original site. "Old Plymouth" was founded in 1872 by several Congregational ministers, one of whom was a land agent for the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad. The first settlers were from the New England area, so they chose to name the new town for Plymouth, Massachusetts, naming the streets after the Pilgrim fathers. Their stated intentions were to found a "Plymouth of the Prairies, a colony of conscience," and asked that ..."no man join us who is not of unblemished morals," and further banned the sale of liquor within the village.

The land for the town site was owned by the B&MR Railroad, who had published its initial plans to extend its line from Beatrice along Cub Creek to near Plymouth. On the strength of these plans, a school and church were built immediately, and a site for a college was selected. However, those plans were abandoned when Doane College was built at neighboring Crete.

Even so, by 1879 the population was 100. A post office (changed from "Cub Creek" in 1872) was located in the drygoods store, and there was a blacksmith shop, and a cheese factory. After the railroad was unable to complete its planned expansion, the population in the fledgling town dropped off. By 1884 the population had dwindled to 25, and by 1890 the village had all but disappeared. The post office was relocated in a nearby farmhouse and later moved to the Lutheran Church parsonage, several miles away.

In 1892 Plymouth was given a second chance when the Rock Island Railroad built its line from Lincoln to Jansen. While it passed right through Old Plymouth, the company refused to put a siding at that site because stopped trains would have to pull uphill in either direction. However, it was agreed to place a siding three miles northeast, on the divide between Dry Creek and Cub Creek, where the grade was downhill in both directions. A new town site was platted by the Plymouth Townsite Company, and by March the post office was again relocated. It took less than a year for the population to reach 200 so that it could incorporate.

In contrast to the original Plymouth, the new town was settled almost exclusively by German-speaking settlers, some directly from Germany and a large number from lower Ontario, Canada. German was the major language spoken until its public usage was banned during World War I. The village grew rapidly and by 1902 the population reached 260, and had 27 businesses. By 1910 the population was 400 with 62 businesses.

As with many rural towns, the advent of the automobile and the building of good roads caused great changes. Residents no longer did all their business in Plymouth, but drove to larger towns to shop and to be entertained. Although growth slowed to a snail's pace, Plymouth was able to escape the deterioration process experienced by many villages. Today Plymouth is a pleasant Midwestern town, home to more than 500 residents. Situated in an area of fertile farmland, it provides many services for the surrounding farmers.

Plymouth's largest business is the Farmers Cooperative Elevator Company, employing 51 men and women, with annual sales of $20 million and marketing 3-5 million bushels of patron grain annually. With a good supply of underground water, some of the weather risks inherit to crop production are now avoided. Plymouth Manufacturing produces livestock handling equipment, and other job opportunities, found in DeWitt and Beatrice, provide employment for many of the residents.

Tri County School District 300 was formed in 1966 when 17 school districts, including Plymouth, consolidated to form a new K-12 district. This school complex, located six miles northeast of our town, is one of the best Class C schools in the state. It has helped Plymouth maintain its population and is the center of many community activities. Long established Peace United Methodist and St.Paul's Lutheran churches both serve the community, the latter of which operates a parochial school.

Plymouth is well known in the area for its annual Veterans' Day Celebration, an all-day event including a morning parade. American Legion Post 243 and the Legion Auxiliary have sponsored this event since 1946. All that remains of the first town site is the Old Plymouth Cemetery. The "New Plymouth," which celebrated its 100th birthday in 1992, is now in its second century.

By Arnold Ruhnke, 308 Rose Street, Plymouth, NE 68424, and daughter, Jane Nider. Photos supplied by Paul Shada.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Plymouth News, June 14, 1956, "Term Paper Deals with Plymouth History"; and The Fairbury Journal News, June 18, 1942. "The Plymouth Colony in Jefferson County, Nebraska, by Edwin Dean; and a new book just completed for Plymouth's centennial, 1992.