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Nebraska...Our Towns

MALCOLM -- LANCASTER COUNTY

Located in Section 21 of Elk Precinct, about 12 miles northwest of Lincoln, the town of Malcolm was established when the Midland Pacific Railroad (forerunner to the Burlington) extended its line west of Lincoln. Land for the right-of-way was purchased from Malcolm and Emma Showers.

Since the route across the high glacial ridge along the eastern edge of Seward County, a station was needed between Woodlawn and "the long Germantown hill," which required an extra engine on heavy trains to make the grade. When the siding and depot were established, it was given the name "Malcolm" by the railroad. The line was completed as far as Seward in 1873. Ira Bishop was postmaster of the office approved on November 19, 1874.

If a plat was surveyed for the town at that time, it was not filed until October 13, 1877. The only mention of the town in Lancaster's history, recorded in 1882, is "...Crounse, Olive Branch, Panama, Prairie Home, Centerville, Holland, Malcolm, Woodlawn, Emerald, Denton, Highland, and Cheney are post-offices, the last six being located on railroads."

A school was established by Malcolm Showers, who was also the minister of the Methodist Church. This congregation, now of United Methodist affiliation, is still active. A Lutheran congregation was organized northwest of Malcolm. In 1922, after the church was destroyed by fire, a new church was built nearer to Malcolm, on the south side of the railroad in what was known as "the old ball diamond." A schoolhouse and teacherage were added later. The congregation remained small, but dedicated. After the lean-years of the 1930s and the decline of the '40s and '50s, they joined to form a dual-parish with the Pleasant Dale congregation in 1962.

Over the years Malcolm's main street looked like many other railroad towns of that era. Charles Wheeler had a butcher shop, and there was a hotel with a dining room. There was a livery stable, a grain dealer, a barber shop, a lumberyard, a hardware store, a bank, and a grocery store. Mr. Nietzel ran a creamery and there was a newspaper called the "Malcolm Messenger."

Walter Heitbrink worked at the Malcolm Cooperative Mercantile Company for four years, then purchased the business. A fire destroyed the store and the town hall on April 5, 1931, but they were rebuilt. After 48 years in the business, Heitbrink sold it to Charles Rohe in 1970. The old bank building is now the post office. Leonard Willman, who also has a small hardware business, is postmaster. Malcolm incorporated on June 16, 1915, with village board members L. E. Cozad, Fred Schmieding, R. L. Mahan, Al Otterman, and F. S. Davey.

During the war years of the 1940s, Malcolm's location near the Lincoln Air Base changed its primary function from a rural town to a bedroom community. When the school burned in 1945, it was immediately rebuilt. Then in 1949 a consolidated district formed (39, 64, 67, 80, 99, 102, 148, and part of 47), providing the area with a good K-12 system.

As the capital city's job market continued to increase, the Prairie Hills Addition was developed by Lincoln Securities in the 1960s. By the early 1970s the town had grown again to nearly 150. Some streets were paved, and city water, a sewage system, electricity, and a good volunteer fire department were added.

The Salt Valley Watershed District was organized to provide for a land-treatment program and the construction of dams to keep water from inundating the low-lands in and around Lincoln. The largest of these dams was on Branched Oak Creek northwest of Malcolm. The lake is now a popular recreation area for boating, swimming, and fishing. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission maintains a large wildlife reserve and an area for camping, hiking, hunting, dog training, and the state field trial grounds. Current businesses in Malcolm reflect the new opportunities that have opened up: bait shops, service stations, and a large dining facility -- Branched Oak Lodge.

Malcolm continues to grow, with a current population of 355, in addition to many homes on acreages in the surrounding rural area. While the railroad that brought Malcolm into being has been abandoned and removed, the town has evolved into a life of its own.

By Jane Graff from material found in Elinor Brown's Lancaster County, Then & Now , Perkey's Nebraska Place Names , and the LNM Directory.