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Nebraska...Our Towns

Burchard -- Pawnee County

The State Bank of Burchard, built in 1885, still in operation.

The first white settlers arrived at what was called "Plum Creek Community" in about 1860. A post office, "Tip's Branch," named for a nearby creek, was established on April 30, 1868.

In 1880, when the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad extended its line from Table Rock to Wymore, the Lincoln Land Company purchased 40 acres of land from E. Z. May and another 20 acres from Wenzl and Franziska Pepperl along its right-of-way. A town site was platted and filed in 1881, making this the third oldest village in the county. Named for Dr. Burchard, a local minister and a member of the land development company, the town quickly had over 100 residents.

The first store, built by Richard McDonald, was occupied the summer before the railroad was completed. The building was only 12 by 14 feet, but it did a thriving business. Burchard became the center of a growing trade center. In 1884, when the population had increased to 240, the village incorporated. The Masonic Lodge was also organized that year.

In 1885 W. J. Halderman bought an interest in the bank and served as its cashier. Soon he erected one of the finest buildings in the western part of the county. With a "good district school" and six churches, the town continued to grow, recording its highest population, 315, in 1910.

Events which have effected Burchard's history include:

-- The Easter Tornado, March 23, 1913, which took many homes and businesses, the school, and the Catholic Church.

-- The mobilization of the community in World War I, after which an American Legion post was organized, with the auxiliary founded in 1926.

-- A vote of the people in 1933 to allow for the establishment of a tavern.

-- The high school fire in 1938. A new building was dedicated in November 1939.

-- A central water system completed in the early 1940s.

-- The era of the large bin site at the north edge of town -- part of the Roosevelt Administration's Ever Normal Granary.

-- The war years of the 1940s, with many young men serving their country.

-- Post-war advancement: the telephone switchboard closed and dial phones were installed.

-- The Presbyterian church closed in 1951; its building purchased by the Masonic Lodge.

-- A new Catholic church dedicated in 1952.

-- The construction of Burchard Lake in 1958 provided needed recreation for the area and added publicity for the town.

-- The high school closed in 1959, due to a decline in enrollment. An all-weather highway through town made travel easier.

-- The last passenger train passed through town in 1962, and soon thereafter the depot closed. Freight service is still provided by Burlington Northern. The Farmers Co-op operates a modern elevator, as does the Liberty Grain Company.

-- A new city park established in 1967.

-- A state-approved sewer system completed in 1968.

-- When the rural elementary school closed, District 54 increased for a time, but in 1987 it also closed. Children now attend school in Pawnee City or Lewiston. The schoolhouse and its contents were sold at auction.

-- A new post office, built across the street from the bank in 1987, serves the town and two rural routes.

A new community building on main street was completed in 1984, just in time for Burchard's centennial celebration. The year-long event was climaxed during a two-day party in June. "The Flying Conestogas" flew over the 65-unit parade, followed by ball games, a dance, and fireworks.

Burchard is the birthplace of Harold Lloyd, comedian and actor in the silent film era. We also lay claim to Musetta Campbell Gillman, Nebraska Historian and author of "Pump On The Prairie."

For the past 20 years we have held a school/village reunion on Memorial Day weekend. Former citizens come from all across the nation to see old friends and renew acquaintances. In conjunction with this, two former students, Russ Leger and Marvin Pettinger, publish a monthly newspaper, "The Burchard Eagle News," or BEN, for short. Said to be the only paper of its kind, it is filled with news and correspondence from present and former Burchard people.

By Clara Dingwell, Burchard, NE 68323.