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Nebraska...Our Towns

Lewiston -- Pawnee County

Hillers' garage, 1908, with George's cars (l-r) Carter, Model T, Metz, and the Overland. [Shuey]
Downtown Lewiston, looking south, early 1900s.

Lewiston, current population 102, was named for Ford Lewis who came to Nebraska in 1867 from Illinois, and who soon amassed 18,000 acres of land in Gage, Johnson, Pawnee, Otoe, and Lancaster counties. In the 1880s, when the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad built a line across southern Nebraska, he established two towns: Lewiston in the extreme northwestern corner of Pawnee County, and Virginia (named for his daughter) just five miles west in Gage County.

The initial plat for our town was filed by Elizabeth and Ford Lewis in Illinois on November 15, 1886, when construction had just started. Accordingly the site was platted and lots were offered for sale. Records indicate that the men who surveyed the town site received land in the village "in payment for engineering services." A post office was established in August 1887.

Thomas Carmichael, Frank Weiss, James Shuey, Charles Gale, Sherman McClure, and James Harvey built the first homes. Otto and E. W. Jones built a hardware store, Mrs. Carrie Hedgefretter established a shop, David Tallant had a blacksmith shop, and Rudolph Hunzeker constructed a large barn. Lots were donated for the Methodist and the Baptist congregations for their churches and parsonages, and to Lewiston's District 69 for a school.

The village continued to grow with Hunzeker building a lumber yard, and homes built by Wlliam Morris, Anna Richardson, James Morris, and John Forbes. Riley Autle received several lots for "managing the Nielson Hotel" built in 1889.

After the Lewis' daughter, Hannah Virginia, married Dwight Stuart Dalbey in 1907, he managed the extensive interests of his father-in-law, actively promoting the sale of dwelling sites and helping to establish new businesses. In memory of Virginia's parents, the Dalbeys erected the Lewiston Hall. After her death, her husband continued to manage the Ford Lewis estate, providing assistance and guidance for the welfare of these communities. Lewiston's well-rounded business district added to the quality of the life in this attractive small town. As a result, over 50 people purchased building sites and moved to the community from 1900-1920.

Lewiston had a 1-10 grade school system by 1903. Early in 1918, when a modern K-12 school was needed, land for a new school site and a park was provided by the Lewis estate. The patrons in four rural school districts voted to merge with Lewiston, thus forming one of the early consolidated schools. On November 11, 1918, the cornerstone was laid and a great celebration ensued. A huge barbecue pit was prepared. The school children marched to the band stand at the intersection of Main Street where everyone listen to speeches and watched all the activities. By late afternoon of the warm, sunny day, sandwiches were served to the large crowd that had gathered, which was also rejoicing in the signing of the peace treaty which ended World War I. Graduation was held in the new Dalbey Hall in May, and the new school was ready for occupancy that fall.

The 1929 village roster included a full array of services, professional people, and businesses. A bowling alley provided recreation for townsfolk, in addition to the traditional outdoor sports of baseball and school athletics. The population peak was reached in 1930, with 168 residents.

The Lewiston school, which continues to serve a wide area, built a large gymnasium/auditorium in 1955, and added a vocational agricultural building in 1964. Sadly, a fire on April 7, 1967, totally destroyed the 1918 building. Determined to continue the tradition of quality education, patrons immediately set in motion plans for a new building, which was ready for occupancy in February 1968. As other schools merged with Lewiston, the need for more classrooms and a new gym were again felt. A new complex was completed in September 1985 to house the athletic department, music, and art programs. Enrollment continues at a substantial level.

Population shifts in the 1950s resulted in the organization of a Lutheran congregation. In 1957 a lovely old church in DeWitt was purchased and moved to a lot donated by William Bush in Lewiston. By the 1980s, declining membership in both the Lutheran and Methodist churches resulted in the formation of a unified worship service to serve the needs of this unique community.

 

From material supplied by Viola Shuey, Box 89, Lewiston, NE 68380