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Nebraska...Our Towns

burton1jres.jpg (13550 bytes)BURTON -- KEYA PAHA COUNTY

There once were many little towns across the county, with Burton, just six miles south of the South Dakota line, being the largest except for Springview. Settlement began in the 1880s, but it was not platted until 1905. It was situated on land belonging to William Horton and Otto Mutz. Realizing the need for a general store, these men sold shares -- $50 each -- to secure funds to build and stock the store. The post office, named Burton, occupied one end of the store, with Mutz as postmaster. Mail arrived every three days.

Upstairs above the store there was a large public entertainment room. A Christmas program was the first event, then dances, and whatever other entertainment the community provided.

In time Burton became a thriving town. There were two banks, a millinery shop, John O'Neil's livery barn, a harness shop, Clint Barricks ran a creamery, and an addition was made to the original store for hardware. Mutz built a dam across Burton Creek and a hydroelectric plant was installed. It furnished electricity for the town until flood waters washed it out.

Burton's first newspaper, "The Burton Independent," discontinued in late 1919. The "Burton News" started publication in 1925. A blacksmith shop became a garage when the automobile became popular. Mae Clopton had a confectionary where she served homemade ice cream and other goodies. Tom Runyan was the cobbler.

Dr. Marcus Hoops practiced medicine from his farm home with house calls made by horse and buggy. Later Dr. M.B. Sterling, a lady doctor, had an office in Burton. She had a driver for her Model-T Ford. Dr. Bridgeman, Burton's last physician, stayed only a short time.

A Congregational church was built in 1912. Later it became a community church and at present is the Lutheran house of worship. The Stuart Bank building was remodeled and is now the Assembly of God Church.

burton2j.jpg (20685 bytes)An entertainment hall was built in 1918 with dances held on Saturday nights. When silent movies made their appearance, people sat to watch during the winter, clad in overcoats and overshoes. Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd were the big-time stars then. When the reel would break, the audience would wait patiently for R.L. Tuton to repair it. In the summertime, little road shows would stop for a night or two of entertainment.

The most important social event of the season was the Burton reunion, a two-day affair that began with a patriotic program and a big picnic dinner. T.V. Smith, a Civil War veteran playing the fife, led the parade, with Ben Skinner and C.E. Fellows on drums. There were horse races, ball games, and dancing in the evenings.

In 1919 a four-room schoolhouse replaced the old building. Since no transportation was provided to the county high school and times were hard, the school included grades K-10. Starting in 1948, students attend in Springview.

On Saturday afternoons the town came to life! People brought their cream and eggs to town to trade for groceries, visit with friends and neighbors, and to catch up on the latest happenings.

The Burton State Bank reported operating capital of $20,000 in 1925. However, it closed in the crash of 1929, leaving the community in very difficult circumstances. Times were hard in the 30's as farmers lost their land and businesses closed. There were no jobs until the W.P.A. program of the late 30s. Burton gained a little life, only to lose it again when people left for the service and war-jobs during World War II.

Only two original buildings remain today, one being the post office that closed in 1974. The pavilion, built in 1905, still stands and is used for picnics and family reunions. One cannot forget the picnics held here on the last day of school, when the boys wore out the seats of their pants sliding down the steep hill in the park.

Burton, incorporated in 1914, has the distinction of being one of the smallest incorporated villages in Nebraska, with a current population of 12.


By Betty Kurzenberger, HC 82 Box 30, Springview, NE 68778. From material written by Lucy Thiede.