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Nebraska...Our Towns

BAYARD -- MORRILL COUNTY

It started when a group of men met at Tom Winter's homestead in the north quarter of section 27, township 21, range 52, of what was then Cheyenne County. The closest railroad was 60 miles southeast at Sidney. Many homesteads were already established, and one had a mail stop and a small schoolhouse. M.E. Stearn wanted to start a town on his land. William Peters, however, donated 40 acres of his land. The Senteney family, living west of the town site, wanted the new town named for their hometown in Iowa -- Bayard -- so that name was adopted. Robert Senteney was named postmaster on April 21, 1888.

The first building was a store, two stories high. The top floor was used for public gatherings, the bottom floor for a grocery store. The next building was for the newspaper, "The Bayard Transcript," which is still published weekly.

Served by circuit riders who traveled on horse back, a Methodist church was the first denomination to build in the area and continues to serves the town.

The bridge across the North Platte River was built in 1895 to help get supplies in from the east. Most of the material was brought from over the hills south of the river. This area, known as the Wild Cat Hills, was covered with timber. Many fellows picked up a little money by cutting posts and hauling them to Sidney to sell. Material for houses -- both log and sod -- was brought from the hills.

In 1900 the Burlington Railroad built a line up the north side of the river and erected a depot a mile southeast of Bayard. So the town picked up and moved down there and called it "South Bayard" for a time.

Bayard started to boom when a sugar factory was built in 1916. Its business peak came in 1920, when there were three banks, lumber yards, hardware stores, coal dealers, cream stations, and hotels. In addition, there were twelve grocery stores, five restaurants, and several meat markets, dairies, theaters, garages, filling stations, lawyers, doctors, dentists, drug stores, two schools, and a grain elevator, livery barn, dray line and other services.

The Chimney Public Power District (REA) established their headquarters in Bayard and helped to bring a better life to farms with modern electrical service. The light and water systems are owned by the city, which has a policy of keeping the income in town rather than sending it to some far-away place.

Bayard has a good fire department and police force. Thirteen churches take care of the spiritual needs of the community. Fraternal organizations include: the Masons (organized in 1918), Eastern Star, Odd Fellows, Royal Neighbors, Rebeccas, and the Lions club (active since 1921). The town also has an American Legion Post.

Bayard's school system is of the finest quality, with a large enrollment of K-12 students.

As we take stock of the first 100 years, we find the town of Bayard is still a nice clean, friendly small town of just under 1,500 population. There are several nice parks, a good swimming pool, an excellent library, a comfortable rest home, and a modern low-rent housing unit. The sugar factory is the largest industry, but there are also two large dry bean plants that ship world-wide, which help to broaden the economic base.

The newspaper, celebrating 100 years of continuous publication, was started by F.O.Wisner, father of Ray and Harry Wisner. Ray took over "The Transcript" and ran it for many years. Harry was connected with the "Scottsbluff Star Herald."

Bayard still has a good business district with many shops and services to serve the community. Looking back on what we once had, one could bemoan the fact that we no longer have a drug store, dentist, clothing store, implement dealer, elevator, dairy, picture show theater, or bowling alley, but these are available via good roads to the east and west.

All in all, Bayard is a very nice place to live.

By Ralph E. Townsend, 1118 Avenue A Box 342, Bayard, NE 69334