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Nebraska...Our Towns

Lawrence -- Nuckolls County

A "Bird's Eye View" of the small town of Lawrence, Nebraska, ca. 1880s. [Hoelting]
Downtown Lawrence probably photographed in the 1920s. [Collins]
A photo of the same block taken in 1984, with several of the same buildings still in use. [Ostdick]

There was a small settlement in the northwest part of Nuckolls County in the early 1880s, but a town was not platted until 1886. That is when the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad built a line through the area and established stations along its right-of-way. The venture got off to a bad start, however, when the train taking people on the first trip from Edgar to Blue Hill derailed just west of Deweese after hitting a cow, injuring many people and killing seven.

A post office was established in 1887. During the early years, only a few lots were sold and growth was slow. Henry Gilsdorf had a hardware store, and Henry Wielber ran a boarding house. Immigrants coming to the Lawrence area were primarily German and Bohemian, with a thin sprinkling of Irish. By 1890 when the town incorporated, the population had reached 200. A railroad running from Superior to Hastings came through Lawrence.

Our town's peak population of 530 came in 1930. Since then, as a result of the efforts of men like John Deere, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison, many changes have occurred. Farms became larger, fewer, and less diversified. Now in addition to grain farmers, there are large turkey, cattle, hog, and chicken operations.

The needs of the town also changed. Gone are the livery stables, coal dealers, and meat market as well as the art of bartering eggs, butter, and potatoes for coffee, sugar, or salt. Gone also is the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the Methodist and Baptist churches, the doctors, veterinarians, dentists, and many old-time shops.

Now the Nuckolls County health program bus goes to Hastings once a month, and makes weekly trips to Superior for medical appointments, apparel, and other necessities. The bakery, food market, and two taverns provide food and groceries. Meals-on-Wheels are delivered by the Knights of Columbus. Communications are provided by our weekly newspaper, "Lawrence Locomotive", the Glenwood telephone, cable TV corporation in Blue Hill, and the Lawrence Post Office.

The Kent Kailey American Legion Post provides fellowship for its 137 members, community recreation space, and sponsors many worthwhile projects for girls and boys. In addition, an impressive display of flags at St.Stephens, Evergreen, Sacred Heart, Rosemont, and Oak Creek cemeteries, and a parade and gun salute are held each Memorial Day.

Sacred Heart Church and parochial school provides the spiritual leadership for the community. The quilting group, following a 75-year tradition, meets twice a week, accepting quilting assignments from nearly every state in the Union. The Knights of Columbus serve in a variety of special causes and charitable neighborhood needs.

The public school provide a well-rounded academic program in addition to excelling in art, music, and athletics with awards won in all areas. Our Panthers were Class D football state champs in 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1990. The boys took state basketball honors in 1983, and the girls in 1987 and 1989. Our girls were also state volleyball winners in 1985 and 1988. Many students attend post high school programs following graduation.

Volunteerism is a way of life in Lawrence. In 1990 our students assisted in building the facilities in Liberty Cove, part of a flood control area being built by the Little Blue Natural Resources District. The summer recreation includes baseball, swimming, golf, and a sandlot volleyball tournament. The "Keenagers," a senior citizen group, provides activities for our retired people, and there is a square dance group allied with Fairfield, Nelson, and Superior dancers. The big event is the Annual Cow Chip Tournament, with a division for both men and women.

The volunteer fire department, in addition to providing fire and rescue protection, also serves as "spotters" during bad weather. This service was especially appreciated when a tornado struck the town in 1990, doing a great amount of damage to the community. Following that storm, many new homes were built and others have been repaired, reroofed, and repainted. With the debris cleared, yards repaired, and the scars on trees now healing, Lawrence gives the appearance of a thriving village.

The 1990 census lists the Village of Lawrence with 323 inhabitants, many of whom work in Blue Hill, Clay Center, Superior, and Hastings.

 

Betty J. Hoelting, coordinator, P.O. Box 4, Lawrence, NE 68957. Story by Evelyne Collins.