Prior to 1866 the place where our town is now located was open prairie in what was then Clay County. The few families who lived here had a difficult time of it, since the closest market for selling things and purchasing supplies and lumber was Nebraska City. One of the early settlers, Rev. C. H. Heckman, lived near Salt Creek. As time went on, he purchased the adjoining 80 acres. This later became our town.
A post office, established in 1868 south of the present city, was given the name "South Pass." When the Atchison & Nebraska Railroad built its line from Rulo to Lincoln, Rev. Heckman was successful in procuring a station. The post office was moved to its present location, and the name changed to correspond with that approved for the new town, "Heckman." A plat was filed by Heckman and Samuel Egger in Lancaster. However, in recording the procedures, the spelling of the name was recorded as "Hickman." It has remained so to this day.
Hickman was incorporated in 1885. There was a thriving business district, which included a bank, a furniture store, an elevator, a blacksmith, and a newspaper, "The Hickman Enterprise." A school was built, as well as several churches.
Soon after the turn of the century a hotel was built. There was also a harness shop, a saloon, a pool hall, a grocery store, a barber shop, a mercantile, and both a doctor and a dentist. The Hickman Telephone Company also was in business. The population in 1910 was 478.
Hickman, located near Salt Creek, has had many floods. A severe one was recorded in 1908. A flood in 1947, followed closely by a bigger one in 1950, did great damage to the town. Another in 1858 prompted serious consideration of two watershed dams. Completed by 1980, the dams helped the flooding problem, but did not control all the water that fell in 1982. Other perilous storms included a tornado that did considerable damage in 1967. In times of need, the community pulls together to repair the damage.
The Southern Lancaster County Fair was held in Hickman Park in 1894. The first Old Settlers' Picnic was held on August 8, 1899. The community has maintained the tradition of this celebration each summer since.
In the 1930s a water tower was erected, and a fire department organized. During that decade a new school was dedicated, as was the Legion Hall, and a library. In 1968 a new firebarn was needed downtown. The department quickly outgrew that location so that in 1987 a larger station was built on 68th and Hickman Road.
One of the biggest changes in our town took place in 1964, when schools from several communities reorganized to become Norris School District 160. A new school complex was built south of Hickman in 1969. It has expanded several times since then, presently housing over 1,200 students.
The 1970 census lists Hickman's population at 470. In 1972 a sanitary district was established and an improvement project added approximately 40 new homes to the east side of town, called the Wagon Train Addition. In 1987 the Village of Hickman annexed the homes in this area, which increased the population of the town to over 1,000. At this time, we became a city!
A celebration was held. Attorney General Robert Spire officiated at the special ceremony in the park. A special election was held as we changed over to a mayor-city council form of government, and the new members were sworn into office in June 1988.
The Hickman of today is very different from the settlement that was established in 1871, however, it still has a congenial community spirit. While many of our residents are descendants of original homesteaders, there are also many new people who have discovered our town. Many of them are employed in Lincoln, but enjoy the small-town atmosphere we have to offer. New homes are being built every year, and young families are happy to find older, affordable homes in which to raise their families. This makes the future look as interesting and vital as the past for our town, Hickman.
By Linda Bryant of "The Voice", and Nancy Votta, Hickman, NE 68372.