Perry Vanado Lewis and his brother Van Buren arrived from New York in 1868. Perry homesteaded and established a timber claim, planting a large grove of cottonwood trees in 1873.
When the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad came through in 1879 it established a station which it named "Meadow Grove," because of the meadow to the west and the cottonwood grove to the south. Prior to this, George Rouse had run the Deer Creek Post Office about two miles east, with the mail brought in by buckboard or stage.
Lewis built a grist mill on Buffalo Creek, southwest of the present town, in 1883, where his son-in-law, Joseph Beech, set up a grocery store and post office. Since Lewis could see the need of a better location, he offered land on the timber claim as a town site. It was platted in 1886, and the store from the mill site was moved to the new town. A lean-to added for the post office, with J. W. White as postmaster. (This building has been restored as a museum.) Other stores were needed, so Lewis gave lots to those who would start new businesses.
F. J. Hale Warehouse Co. handled grain, coal, lumber, and general merchandise. It was managed by J. W. Warrick, Sr. until 1894, when he and his brother Emmet went into business. The Warrick Lumber & Grain is still in business with the grandsons, Robert and John Warrick III, as operators and owners.
A hotel was built, David Ames had a blacksmith shop, and William Hopkins operated a mercantile store in 1888. The Meadow Grove State Bank was incorporated in 1890 and the Security Bank established in 1905. Both closed in 1929, and we presently have the Meadow Grove Credit Union. Peter O'Shea had the first drug store. Later, Fred Evans bought the business and moved it to a new location where he operated a drug store until 1968. This building is now used as the community center.
A Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1872. It was followed by the Latter Day Saints in 1896 and St. Matthew Lutheran Church in 1910. Currently we have three churches: a Methodist, Christian Missionary Alliance, and Lutheran.
A school was built in 1888. When a new brick school was built in 1912, the old school was moved down town and used as a city hall. The Meadow Grove and Tilden districts merged in 1967, and are now called "Elkhorn Valley Schools."
The "Meadow Grove News," started by A.T.Evans, is currently published by descendants, Jim Evans and family.
Dr. Kindred, the typical country doctor, came to Meadow Grove in 1893 and continued to minister to the sick until his death in 1945. He delivered over 3,000 babies.
In the early days, the opera house was the town's entertainment center. It was used for church services, dances, plays, wrestling matches, and movies. Lawrence Welk played for dances at Meadow Grove on several occasions. Large celebrations such as the 4th of July, reunions, and mission festival were held in the cottonwood grove.
Meadow Grove claims to be the first town in the United States to show free outdoor movies. It is said that it often brought crowds of over 2,000 to town.
The "Yellow Banks Park," a large recreation resort, opened in 1928 northeast of town along the Elkhorn River. An estimated 15,000 people attended the opening day celebration. It had the world's longest billboard, three-fourths of a mile long. It was a small town in itself, with cottages, a dance hall, restaurant, and other businesses. In 1937, during the Depression, the park closed.
The town celebrated its centennial in 1986 with one of the highlights being a "Hike to History" tour to the site where the old mill, grocery store, and post office were located.
Meadow Grove, the population peaking at 500 in 1904, is holding its own with the current tally nearly 400. The number of businesses declined when automobiles made it possible for people to drive to larger towns to do their buying. The town's only grocery story closed in 1988.
Meadow Grove, with a good number of the original trees remaining, still has its cottonwood grove. Many former residents have returned to the peace and quiet they remember, retiring in Meadow Grove.
By Lenore Kuchar, Rte 2 Box 8, Meadow Grove, NE 68752
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: They Called It Meadow Grove, by Lenora and Gary Kuchar, 1979; and Do You Remember, by Lenora Kuchar, 1986.