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Nebraska...Our Towns

CROFTON -- KNOX COUNTY

The resent construction of a nine-hole golf course is typical of the determination of the predominantly-German people who settled here in 1892. Nearly 10,000 volunteer work-hours went into the construction of the project, located seven miles north of town in full view of Lewis & Clark Lake. It adds to the pleasure of Crofton's citizens and the recreational facilities available on Nebraska's "North Coast."

Pioneers were lured to the area by the prospect of a railroad connecting Yankton to Norfolk, promoted by an Englishman, J.T.M.Pearce, and financed by some of his countrymen. The name "Crofton," drawn from a hat full of suggestions, honors Pearce's home in England, Crofton Courts.

Ed O'Donnel and Charles Korth, saloon owners, had the first two buildings in town. A bank owned by William Miller, on whose land Crofton was built, and a lumberyard were next.

In 1894 the railroad venture went bankrupt, and Pearce disappeared (reportedly going to South America) when his dealings were found to be fraudulent. Crofton was left at a virtual standstill, and many businesses closed or moved. However, a post office was acquired in 1896, the year that the first doctor, J.M.Talcott, opened his office.

A new railroad was proposed in 1906, extending to Hartington. This brought Crofton back to life, and within a year the village was incorporated. The first locomotive chugged into Crofton over the Chicago, St.Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha tracks in December.

Crofton Public Schools also opened that year, and by 1909 they had built a brick school facility. More classrooms and a gymnasium were added in 1961, and later a vocational agriculture classroom and shop were built, as well as a track and football field north of town.

In 1911 parishioners of the St.Rose of Lima Catholic Church established an elementary and junior high school in Crofton. New buildings were added to their complex in 1964.

Five denominations serve the community. The Catholic Church in 1907; Congregational (United Church of Christ) in 1908; Methodist in 1908, later merging with a rural congregation; Lutheran in 1931; and a Community Bible Church west on Highway 12.

Baseball has been the "All-Crofton sport" since the first ball field was built in 1907. The town hosts three amateur men's teams, in addition to a high school, midget, youth programs, and several softball leagues. A lighted softball complex was built in the early 1980s.

The greatest event was the completion of Gavins Point Dam in 1955 that formed Nebraska's second largest reservoir, 30,000 surface acres of water. A visitor's center, built on Calumet Bluff, the site where Lewis and Clark held council with Indian leaders in 1804, was built in 1976 eight miles north of Crofton.

The Devil's Nest project along the lake west of Crofton developed downhill ski slopes, an equestrian center, air landing pad, and a yacht club, before the project ran into financial difficulties. The area remains a beautiful residential area, and the water treatment plant, operated by the NRD, provides rural water throughout northern Knox and Cedar Counties.

Two city parks provide picnic and camping facilities, a swimming pool, tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts. A senior center and Cottonwood Villa, housing for the elderly built in the 1970s, offer fellowship and good meals for the area's older residents. The population, 670 in 1970, increased to 950 by 1980, making this one of the fastest growing communities in the state.

Crofton, built on a railroad that was abandoned in 1976, relies on agriculture and recreation for its livelihood. The town's biggest employers are the Case-IH dealer and the famous Bogner's Steakhouse.

The ag crisis in the 1980s, the 1987 bank closing (reopened as a branch of Bloomfield), and the retirement of several long-time business people, played havoc with Crofton's mainstreet climate. However, the golf course project, expansion of People's Grocery, and a satellite eye clinic, as well as the Lewis & Clark Tri-state Dairy Expo, and homecoming festivities, have helped instill new confidence in the community.

Known as "the friendliest town by a dam site," Crofton is currently preparing to lay out the welcome mat to visitors attending the town's centennial in 1992. Please consider this your invitation.

By Curt Arens, Rte 2 Box 90, Crofton, NE 68730

ADDITIONAL MATEREIAL: "My Pop," 1986, by Eleanor Arens Nelson; "Crofton Diamond Jubilee Book," 1967, by Dorothy Brown; and Crofton Visitor's Brochure, Chamber of Commerce.