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Nebraska...Our Towns

DENTON -- LANCASTER COUNTY

Daniel M. Denton joined Ellis Shane and Hamilton Queen as the first settlers in this area. Serving as assessor for several years and as a school official, this precinct bears Denton's name. Long before there was a town, "Denton" was a "designated station" on the railroad, which was being proposed from Lincoln to Fort Kearney. It is found on both the 1864 Thielsen survey (through Seward County) and a survey through Saline County charted by Ainsworth in 1869.

From the mid 1860s until the railroad was built to Lincoln, Texas cattle were driven up through this area to the Union Pacific stockyards at Schuyler. When James Abbott arrived in 1871, herds moved in a steady stream northward. Abbott bought steers and broke them to yoke, which he then sold to people going West. The early freight cut-off -- Nebraska City to Fort Kearny Trail -- was two miles south of where Denton developed, so there was a ready market for oxen. When the Steam Wagon Road was commissioned, it took a route several miles to the north.

Construction finally started on the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad in 1871. By August 1, a plat was filed for a town -- Denton -- by D. N. and Sophia Smith, and lots were sold. The post office was not established until May 1, 1877, when J. R. C. Miller was appointed postmaster. Soon thereafter, several stores and two elevators were established.

The Shane school, first in the area, was southwest of town. The Hudson school (now known as District 69) was northeast. The first school in Denton was taught by Jennie Denton in the basement of her home. A schoolhouse was built in 1881. Consolidation occurred in 1962 and again in 1975. Denton is now part of the Crete school district. Students living outside the village attend either public or private schools in Lincoln, Malcolm, Milford, or Crete.

The Methodist Church was part of the circuit which included Hickman, Princeton, Jamaica, Roca, and Wesley Chapel, with a minister coming to Denton every two weeks. A Sunday school was held at Shane or Hudson school from 1876-81. Ladies Aid organized in 1892, and following a successful fund-raising, a church was built. The entire neighborhood cooperated in support of the new church, which was dedicated in 1893. Still in use, it celebrates its 100th anniversary in 1993.

For many years Catholic parishioners in the Denton area were known as "Sullivan's Settlement Mission." The first mass was held in 1884 in the Lockwood home, and later a church was built on land donated by Eugene Sullivan. In 1911 Denton became a separate parish and a church was built. On May 10, 1961, both the church and rectory were destroyed by fire. It was replaced by a beautiful six-sided brick building, with the first mass celebrated on Christmas Eve 1963. St. Mary's was the first parish in the Lincoln Diocese to enter the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program, whereby lay women of the parish are trained to teach religion to the children.

Much of the area around Denton is still lush farmland. One farm, the M/B Ranch, is well-known for its quarter horse breeding and training operation, and was the home of stallion, Jessie James Leo, named World Championship Cutting Horse in 1970. Now, interspersed among the farms, are many homes on small acreages.

On July 31, 1971, Denton celebrated its centennial with a parade, exhibits, and concessions. Today Denton boasts paved streets and a renewed civic pride, as evidenced by the renovation of several older homes and main street buildings, a new community building, and plans for a cooperative general store. Denton Dollars for Scholars, formed in 1991, was the first Nebraska chapter of the Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America to award scholarships for full-time higher education. The Town Talk serves the Denton area as a monthly newsletter, and over the past seven years a village park was developed by the Denton Community Activities Committee (DCAC).

Located about 12 miles from both Lincoln and Crete, Denton is somewhat of a bedroom community, enjoyed by people who work in one city or the other, but find this a great place to live and raise a family away from the hubbub. Two state recreation areas -- Yankee Hill and Conestoga lakes -- are enjoyed by thousands throughout the year. The population of the village, currently 172, increases three-fold on weekends when people flock to one of the three steakhouses where they enjoy Nebraska beef at its best.

From material submitted by Elinor Brown, Ceresco, and Pat Norris, Denton Village Clerk, P. O. Box 132, Denton, NE 68339.