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Nebraska...Our Towns

LORTON -- OTOE COUNTY

Platted in 1881, our town was given the name "Delta." Its post office was established on June 26, 1882. When the Missouri Pacific Railway built a north-south connecting line from Talmage to Weeping Water, it came right through Delta.

While establishing the right-of-way, however, railroad officials informed the town that its name had to be changed since it had a station by that name in Kansas. While everyone was happy to get a railroad, no one wanted to change the name of the town, so no action was taken. The railroad -- determined in their decision -- chose its own name for the station, calling it "Cio."

For several years, the town had two names. The post office had no problem with the original name, since the other Delta was in another state. Mail was addressed to Delta, but freight had to be directed to Cio. When traveling, passengers also had to remember to identify their destination by its station name -- not that of the town. This was obviously a very confusing situation.

In time, the people decided to find a name that would be acceptable to all. Robert Lorton, a wholesale grocery salesman from Nebraska City who called on local merchants at that time, was well-liked, and since there were no other towns by that name in Nebraska or on the MP line, the people chose the name "Lorton." On November 6, 1894, the name -- approved by both the federal and railroad authorities -- was officially changed.

During its first 25 years, Lorton was a thriving railroad town, with four trains a day. The 1900 census lists the village with a population of 290. There was a Baptist church, an opera house, a hotel, a bank, a doctor's office, a blacksmith shop, two grocery stores (one with general merchandise), a pharmacist, a hardware store, a lumberyard, a livery stable, two taverns, a millinery shop, a dressmaking establishment, a harness shop, two elevators, and a stockyard.

Because of its location away from major east-west routes, Lorton became pretty-much a self contained community. At one time, over 60 children were enrolled in Lorton's school. As roads improved, and the economy of the state and nation changed, the need for the railroad and railroad-towns diminished. A number of businesses that closed during the 1930s and World War II did not reopen. When the 1950 flood washed out the tracks, it ended train service to Lorton and the elevator closed.

Today, Lorton has a population of 45. The post office is located in the grocery store, and we have a garage and repair shop, a tavern, and the Otoe County bridge equipment storage building. The town board, Chairman Ricci Landwehr, and members Judy Teten, David Goeden, Howard Hogankamp, and Lela Goeden, meet regularly at the town hall to provide for the needs of the citizens.

For many years the young people moved away to find employment in larger towns. Recently, younger families with small children have moved to Lorton. Now, as the older citizens move away, new people are purchasing homes and taking an interest in the small-town life.

This is giving new life to our town, and helps Lorton to grow again.

By Norma J. Castle, Village Clerk, Lorton, NE 68382.