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Nebraska...Our Towns

DIX -- KIMBALL COUNTY

A curious old map published in 1879 shows a place called "Bennett" -- the first name for what is now Dix. At that time Cheyenne County encompassed half the Panhandle -- the other half was "unsurveyed." Other than army camps and Indian agencies, nearly all of the names listed were stations along the Union Pacific Railroad in Lodge Pole Valley.

Bennett station was nothing more than a section house and depot, which was a railroad car that had been removed from its wheels and set on the ground. The railroad had only one main track, with sidings so slow trains could pull off and let the faster ones go by.

The town came into being when Henry Vogler arrived in 1886 and built a store. The land for the site, located on the north side of the U.P.tracks, was purchased from Margaret Robertson of Dixon, Illinois. The town was to have been called "Dixon" but, since the post office already had a town by that name in Nebraska, they left off the last syllable, making it simply "Dix."

Dix grew rapidly with business and homes being built. Most pioneers were of German, Swedish, and Danish descent. There was a lumber yard, post office, the Dix Mercantile Company, the Farmers Union, and others. The schoolhouse was built in 1887. It served as a general meeting place, school, and for Sunday worship services. Most common medical problems were taken care of at home. The nearest location for major medical needs was Omaha, about 400 miles away.

Dix was considered for the county seat in 1889, but lost to Kimball, located near the middle of the new county. This was a time of great expansion. Many settlers were arriving by train and wagons. They brought milk cows, crated chickens, hogs, plows, harrows, cultivators, and household items. In the 1890s when a drought came, many sold their property and left the area.

Part of Dix remained, and at the turn of the century, the town began to grow again. The town's businesses moved to the south side of the track when Highway 30, known as the Lincoln Highway, came through. Some of the first to build south included a lumber yard, Gus Linn's hardware store, a blacksmith shop, cheese factory, and Halladay Windmill Agency. Sid Torgeson built a gas station, Julius Johnson was an enterprising merchant, Hans Gunderson had a livery stable, William Belmore a hotel, while E.O.Houghtaling had a dance hall and second hand store and later a grocery store. E.E.Goding and John Clausen organized a Farmers Shipping Association in 1914, and in 1918 a group of people voted to organize a Presbyterian Church.

As time went on Dix had two banks (that went broke), billiard hall, two garages, a drug store, millinery, butcher shop, a restaurant or two, meat market, cash store, and a licensed physician (who did not have a Nebraska license). There was a telephone exchange, and it is said, a printing shop, but no copy of a newspaper has been discovered.

In 1919 a bond was let for a new high school and two years later a grammer school was also built south of the tracks. In 1953 a gym was added and in 1960 a new elementary, putting them all under one roof.

In 1935 the first water meters were installed at a cost of $1.35 per installation. New stores included: a Case Machinery dealer, ice dealer, barber shop, land man, battery service, a theater, and the Western Wheat Company. In 1955 an oil well was drilled south of town, so Dix had a producing well for a time. The peak population was in 1960, numbering 420.

Settlers in this area experienced all the hardships borne by others who pioneered into Nebraska...drought, grasshoppers, dust storms, hail, blizzards, and the like. Nevertheless, Dix still remained.

In 1988 the town still has a schoolhouse, two churches, a post office, cafe, lumber yard, gas station, telephone building, Legion Hall, community and fire hall, and a grain elevator.

The current population is less than 300. With the drop in population comes a decline in enrollment of school-age children. So in 1987 the Dix school district merged with the Potter district, as determined by the majority of patrons voting for that option.

Like many small towns, Dix has many retired residents. The towns reflects the needs of its people who enjoy the quiet, pleasant surroundings and friendly neighbors.

 

By Llera Nott, Box 43-A, Dix, NE 69133