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Nebraska...Our Towns

VERDEL -- KNOX COUNTY

Verdel, originally built several miles west of the present location, was moved when Chicago & North Western Railroad officials started their survey through this area in 1901-02. The railroad needed more "trackage space" than the old site afforded so moved to the present site, on Indian land purchased from a Mr. Glick.

The first railroad agent, J.J. Herald, worked out of a railroad car. The last agents were "Grandma" Peters and her son Fred. For many years there were four daily passenger trains and a number of freights through Verdel on their way from Norfolk to Winner, SD. Passenger service ended in the early 1950s and the last freight was in 1978.

In the early years Verdel was a busy place. H.C. Hansen put up a store and restaurant. Robert Walker moved his sorghum mill to town, where he also operated a livery stable and hotel. Charles Benton built the "Grant Hotel." It was later owned by the Montgomery family, but destroyed by fire in 1915. A bank, built very early in the history of the town, was replaced in 1937 by the Cooperative Credit Association. Other businesses were a drug store, doctor's office, and blacksmith shop. There were also some saloons, but since Verdel was built on Indian land, they were located at the edge of town. Women, of course, were not allowed to go in.

Five years after the railroad came through Verdel, the Presbyterian Church was built. Dedicated in 1907 the church, along with the Ladies Fellowship Group, is still active.

In the early 1930s a two-story brick schoolhouse was built. It consisted of grades K-10, with grades 11-12 added later. In 1955, after its last senior high student (LaVon Stiefvater) graduated, the high school closed. Verdel consolidated with Lynch, with elementary classes continuing until the early 1960s. When that building closed, Verdel divided, with part of the town going to Lynch and the other choosing the Niobrara district.

Frank and Agnes Stiefvater managed the telephone system, taking care of the lines and equipment from 1950-56, when their daughter LaVon took over. The following year it became part of the Bell Telephone Company and a dial system was installed.

The present town of Verdel consists of two bar/restaurants, a grain elevator, and the post office. The town, like many others, has had its share of hardship: floods, drought, grasshoppers, and wars -- all taking their toll on the once-bustling community.

The American Legion and its auxiliary are active in many community events. The Auxiliary still sponsors a delegate to Girl's State from either the Niobrara or Lynch school each year, something many larger towns no longer do.

Verdel's population has dwindled to less than 50, but increases by 200 or more when the "kinfolk" of the Stiefvater family hold their two-day family reunion at the Legion Hall.

As a resident of Verdel, I am very proud of our town, its history, and all its endeavors.

By LaVon Stiefvater Hanzlik, Postmaster, Rte 1 Box 32, Verdel, NE 68782.