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Nebraska...Our Towns

BELGRADE -- NANCE COUNTY

There are a number of legends about the naming of our town:

-- the postmaster, a Mr.Hayford, changed the name of the "Myra" post office to that of his hometown, Belgrade, Maine, in 1883. (Not verifiable, however.)

-- another story claims that when the railroad was laid out and the grade for the rails was being built, the man in charge of construction was named Bell, so people referred to it as "Bell's grade." The name was revised to "Belgrade" by the post office. (A neat story, but probably not factual.)

-- Perkey's Nebraska Place Names says the town was named by James Main for Belgrade, Serbia, since it is located on a hill, much like a Serbian city by that name that overlooks the Danube and Sava Rivers." (Locally this version is thought to be highly questionable.)

-- and lastly, Daniel Strout, who purchased land from Robert Baxter in 1888, had a Mr.Hayford survey the town site, which he then named for his home in Maine -- Belgrade. (This version, found in a booklet printed in 1900, is most likely to be true.)

In any case, the Union Pacific Railroad authorized the construction of a station, which was given the name "Belgrade," on its branch line that ran from Oconee, through Genoa and Fullerton, then on to Cedar Rapids in 1889. The town immediately started taking shape. By 1900 incorporation papers were filed, at which time it stated that "the town contained over 200 actual residents."

There have been three school buildings over the years. The last class to graduate from Belgrade High School was 1967. Currently there is a K-8 school, with secondary students attending an accredited high school in the area.

In 1900 there were three town and several rural churches. The United Methodist, built in Belgrade in 1898 and Peace Lutheran, built west of town in 1907, are still in existence.

A telephone line was built from Fullerton to Belgrade in 1896. The town had its first electric lights in 1906. Water pressure was available when the 60 foot water standpipe was built in 1910. It is still in use today.

The population reached its peak of 493 in 1920. Belgrade was then a thriving town with a Main Street filled with activity. The 1980 census recorded 195 residents, but the 1990 count will be down from that number.

This poem, written by C.N.Philbrick, describes Belgrade during its hey-day.

We used to have two lumberyards,

and blacksmith shops galore.

A place for pool and playing cards,

and grocers -- at least four.

There was, of course, a good hotel,

and rooming house so neat,

As well as two or three cafes

where you could sit and eat.

There was a bank, or were two?

Three barber shops compete,

Where they would always welcome you.

Two drug stores down the street.

Implement and other stores

A ladies "ready-made"

Besides the splendid picture shows

Made up the town..."Belgrade."

Using the date identified in the first legend, Belgrade celebrated its 80th anniversary in 1963. The two-day event was a big success, complete with old-time attire, kangaroo court, parade, and a barbecue.

Twenty years later, 1983, a centennial celebration was held. This time events were held on holiday weekends throughout the year. The grand finale was held Fourth of July weekend with a parade, a barbecue, dancing, and a community worship service in the park.

Belgrade, like many Nebraska towns, began to diminish in the "terrible 30s" and many of the businesses, once the main-stay for every community, have simply faded away. Modern transportation has done much to alter the life-styles and the needs of the people.

 

As time passed by and changes made,

our town is not the same.

But friendly people that have stayed,

still call you by your name.

From material submitted by the Belgrade historian.