Broadwater, Nebraska, in Morrill county began April 22, 1909. The four Smith Brothers, Morton, Ed, Lloyd, and Fritz, who owned a ranch just to the east, gave some land and sold some for a town site. It was very poor land, swampy and no good for anything else.
The first building, built by Martin Wehn from back east, was an 18 x 20 foot grocery store using lumber hauled from Lisco and Bridgeport. There were many homesteaders and Kinkaiders here at that time.
Soon many friends of Wehn's came, and business and building was on the increase. The first post office was opened in 1909, while the first bank (14 x 16 foot) was built in 1911. A lumber yard was first opened in 1910 by Foster Lumber Yard Company, with the Broadwater lumber yard built in 1918, later sold to Foster and operated until 1958.
Jess Minshall came in 1909 and built a hardware store. The next year Harry Shull opened the first drug store. The first school also opened in 1910.
The first newspaper was published in 1911, subscriptions $1.50 per year. After many different owners it closed in 1958.
What started all this commotion? The railroad came through! The depot was built in 1909 and from then on houses and business sprung up and Broadwater became a thriving town.
Our first barber, Anson Bennett, had his shop from 1910 to 1948. Our second barber was A.M. Hartman, who opened in 1913 and barbered until 1963.
The Hub, a big two story building, was built in 1910. The second story was a dance hall, and the bottom floor, a furniture store. It later burned to the ground. The grand Metropolitan Hotel was built in 1914 and still stands but is not usable.
The only jeweler Broadwater ever had was Charles Rudisil, who opened in 1910. He was also an optometrist. 1912 saw two dentists here, but didn't stay long. Haver Bruner came in 1909 and his brother, Virgil, in 1911. They opened a grocery store and mercantile store which they operated many years.
The beet dump was built in 1913 and the first load of beets went out that fall. A Farmers' Elevator was built in 1916, and a second elevator in 1948. The old one was torn down in 1960.
Fred Spencer built a big two-story affair in 1916. The top floor was a dance hall, where a dance was held almost every Saturday night and other activities, too. Generally there was at least one good fight every dance, and bootlegging was quite prominent. The lower floor was a pool hall and beer parlor.
City services started with the first electric light system in 1916, a water system in 1921, gas line in 1931, and sewer disposal in 1935.
Dr. Pass came to town in 1917 and remained until he died in 1948. Dr. Gray came in 1918 and stayed until his death in 1958.
In 1917, Browning Bros. built a brick building and opened a hardware store and harness shop. That same year, the Isis Theatre was built by V.O. Bruner and Dallas Kepler. Silent movies were first and then "talkies." Many functions, plays, graduation, and such were held there.
Broadwater had two banks, Union State and Broadwater, that were located in two fine brick buildings across the street from each other. The Broadwater Bank went broke in the late 1920s and Union State sold to Bridgeport Bank in 1942.
The bridge over the North Platte River was opened in 1925. The Moynahan Hotel was torn down and W.P.A. used the material to build a community hall that is still standing.
School enrollment in 1927 was 211 -- up through 12th grade. Two fine brick buildings and a frame building were in use.
During the 1930s, Broadwater's population was about 600 and boasted of many businesses and three churches. At the present time the population is 165, and a lot of buildings are empty, with most homes occupied by senior citizens.
Broadwater still has three active churches, a school, the elevator, two cafes, a filling station, motel, library, and a beauty shop. We have lots of activities, American Legion and Legion Auxiliary, Community Hall, and Fire Hall with active volunteer firemen and ambulance service, and a new post office.
The trains still go by, but they tore the depot down in 1973. We just wave and let them get to where they're going.
By Ruth Rice and Curly Abel, Rte 2 Box 64, Broadwater, NE 69125.