The historical marker located just north of Battle Creek on Highway 121 reveals how the city derived its name. In July 1859 numerous reports arrived at the territorial capitol of Omaha about items being plundered or stolen from Elkhorn Valley settlers by Indians. It was decided, "...if the Pawnee were to be punished, immediate action was necessary." Citizens of Omaha also signed the petition, so the Nebraska Territorial Militia was immediately sent out. The force totaling 300 men, under the joint command of General Thayer and Lieutenant Robertson, prepared to attack a large Pawnee camp. Alerted, the Pawnee immediately surrendered and the "Pawnee War of 1859" ended without bloodshed.
Though no battle occurred, the stream at that location became known as "Battle Creek." When a town was started nearby in 1867, it took the same name.
In "Centennial Reminiscing," C. C. Zimmerman related the history of the early settlers and incorporation of the original town of Battle Creek in 1873. Exemplifying the enthusiasm of the town, Zimmerman, then in his 70s, did an outstanding job in capturing the flavor of the era, preserving this part of our history for posterity.
In spite of problems with the Indians, depressions, droughts, and other adversities, Battle Creek flourished in its youth and is still growing. Community involvement and community pride has always been, and still is, the key to its success and growth.
The population has increased steadily since 1867. When the 1980 census revealed a population of 948, the transition was made from a village to that of second-class city. Previously, the city had been governed by a board of trustees under the village form of government.
Much of the growth of the city has occurred during the past two decades. The valuation of the city in its centennial year of 1967 was $2,752,000 (including personal property); in 1987 it had increased to $16,273,500. This can be attributed to continued residential and economic growth, inflationary conditions, and general improvements of the city.
Battle Creek proudly boasts of two fine school systems. The school district originated in 1870. A 1,100-capacity auditorium/gymnasium and additional classrooms have been added to the elementary school constructed in 1962. A bond issue recently added two more classrooms to the facility, along with an outdoor track and field complex. Complementing the public school system is St. John's Elementary, a parochial school which had its beginning in 1882. Two classroom additions were added in 1968 and 1986 to buildings built in 1915 and 1954, respectively.
In 1971, when the last surviving brother of the Trapp family passed away, the city became the beneficiary of a large estate. From these funds a municipal swimming pool was built, and the remaining money was matched by a Nebraska Game and Parks Grant for major improvements to the 55-acre park. Lighted ball diamonds, playground equipment, restrooms, picnic shelters, and tables were added.
The Battle Creek Public Library was the recipient of a Nebraska Library Commission grant in 1984. The overcrowded library underwent an extensive remodeling project and addition, doubling its size.
Back when the town was first settled, each homeowner provided his own water. In 1911 voters approved a $10,000 bond issue for a municipal water system. The 25,000-gallon tank arrived by rail. After it was rolled up the street, it was installed and a building constructed over it. It isn't clear what the building was used for then, but today the city offices and council chambers occupy the space. In 1986 the old tank was replaced by a 212,000-gallon glass-lined tank at a cost of $179,000.
Construction of a 68-bed intermediate/residential care facility, Community Pride Care Center, began in 1987. This $1.5 million project, the culmination of extensive research and dedication, officially opened on April 5, 1989.
At a time when many small towns are struggling to maintain an existence, Battle Creek is still building. The tenacious "pioneer spirit" of yesterday has never died out, it just passes from generation to generation.
By Dianne S. Werner, Battle Creek Municipal Clerk, 101 East Main Street, Battle Creek, NE 68715
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Centennial Reminiscing , 1967, by C.C.Zimmerman. Village and city records.