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Nebraska...Our Towns

TALMAGE -- OTOE COUNTY

The first address for the community which later became our town, was "Morrallton," said to be "a port on the Missouri." Its post office was established on July 15, 1854. On November 1, 1864, when John Patrick became postmaster, the office was renamed "Grant" and moved to a farm in Nemaha County, where he had a small general store. It remained at that location for nearly two decades. Not until the 1880s, when a railroad was being built through this area, did the town, "Talmage," come into being.

Early in 1881 plans for a station were announced, some distance to the north of this location. A committee of citizens headed by Clark Puffer, a prominent farmer and cattle feeder, asked the railroad to build the station on a hill several miles to the south of its proposed site. The officials agreed to "consider the proposal."

To help influence its decision, Puffer offered to donate the land the railroad would need. Since the land had been planted to corn, neighbors -- wanting the station nearby -- helped cut down the knee-high corn so that the grade and a town site could be surveyed immediately. (It is said that evidence of old corn stalks are still found under several early houses.) Puffer, who declined to have the town called "Pufferville," asked that it be named for Archibald Talmage, the railroad's superintendent. Honored by the request, Talmage consented, and agreed to establish the station at this location.

Water-use system came early, established more for fire protection than for private or commercial use. Fire, which had ravaged the business district in 1891 and again in 1894, resulted in strong support for a bond issue. By 1896, when the 100-foot standpipe was in place, Talmage had organized a "fire company." That system served until 1954, when a larger tank was built. The present volunteer fire department consists of 21 well-trained members, representing farmers and business people.

A "subscription school" was started in 1881 in Gregory Hall and a district had organized by 1882. The town grew so fast that by the time the first schoolhouse was ready for use in 1883, it was outgrown, so some classes continued to be held in the hall. The first graduation was held in 1896 in Cash's Opera House. Early in 1900 several additions were made to accommodate a K-12 system. A brick structure was built in 1935, with vocational classes added in 1951. As enrollment declined, Talmage and Cook merged to form the Nemaha Valley Schools in 1967.

Our first church was Charter Oak Christian Church, established in 1868 about one mile south near the Grant post office in Nemaha County. A cemetery was established and a larger church built at that location in 1884. When that building was destroyed by fire in 1949, its members accepted an invitation to meet at the Methodist church in Talmage, and later merged under the Charter Oak name. Several Lutheran families that arrived as early as 1858, organized a church by 1868, and second Lutheran congregation formed in 1906. In 1972 the two Lutheran congregations merged and built a new church in Talmage. A Church of Christ was organized with its first services held on Christmas Eve 1884.

A creamery, established in the north part of Talmage in 1888, purchased cream from local farmers that was made into butter. Ice was cut and stored from "Creamery Pond," for use during the summer. The pond also provided recreation -- boating and fishing during the summer, and ice skating during the winter.

When ice was no longer needed, the pond was allowed to deteriorate. When the Talmage businessmen organized a chamber of commerce in 1927, initial projects included outdoor picture shows during the summer, and treats for children at Christmas. In 1956, when George Stanley was elected president, his project was to restore the old pond to its original beauty. Renamed for Dr. C. T. Gritzka, it is again enjoyed by fishermen. By 1960, with renewed purpose and leadership, the chamber sponsored a drive to build a community building and a medical facility. Annual events now include a pancake supper, Easter egg hunt, and Christmas party for all.

During Talmage's centennial, May 29-31, 1982, a caboose and an historical marker were dedicated. Several descendants of the town's founder, Clark Puffer, were in attendance for that occasion.

By Jane Graff from material found in the Otoe County History Book, 1983; Andreas' History of Nebraska ; and Perkey's Nebraska Place Names.