When Grant was platted in 1886, the founding fathers missed the path the railroad would take by half a mile. Consequently the entire town was loaded on skids or wheels and moved down the road in order to relocate beside the tracks.
To watch the trains come in was the high point of the day! People all scurried down to see the iron monster come puffing into town. Maybe there would be friends or relatives arriving, a letter from back home, or a package with new shoes from Montgomery-Ward or Sears-Roebuck.
Perkins County was created from the south half of Keith County in 1887. Named for Charles Perkins, president of the railroad, Grant was one of the towns competing for the county seat. Madrid was also a hot contender. No blood was shed in the election, but there was plenty of name-calling and some minor scuffles. Over 100 years later, some still mutter over "...the opportunity their ancestors missed."
By 1889 a teacher's institute was hosted by Grant educators with lectures, a study of new text books, and examinations for those who planned to become teachers. It was said that the young ladies in town distracted the businessmen, especially the lawyers.
Country schoolhouses also served as a church, for literaries, plays, and sometimes dances. In those years rural high school students stayed in Grant during the week, doing "light housekeeping" to pay for their small room, while returning to their homes on the farm or in the smaller towns on weekends.
Soon Grant had two banks, other shops and businesses, and a newspaper called "Wooly West." There was also a town well. This was a great improvement over hauling water from Wild Horse Spring or the Platte River during dry spells.
Well digging was, in fact, one of the most active businesses in the county. Fred Guildner and Herman Pankonin both were in this line of work. The owner of a good well could sell water for as high as $.50 per barrel, but many shared freely with their friends and neighbors.
Other early families in the Grant area included: Jackman, Erlewine, Stevens, Hoffman, Stephenson, and Meyer. They were beginning to enjoy the fruits of their labors when the drought came, and the years of ruinously-low prices.
It was clear that dryland farming was not going to support the homesteaders and many needed to find jobs off the farm to keep things going. Some men went as far as Montana to cut railroad ties. The women made butter, cheese, and bread to sell. Others did sewing or set up millinery shops to help put food on the table. Hunting provided meat -- prairie chickens, cottontail rabbits, and water fowl.
Today the area near Grant is covered with "irrigation circles" in the hopes that increased yields will spell prosperity. The high cost of operation and the loose, sandy soil make this somewhat chancy. Management seems to be the fine-line between success and failure.
The town of Grant has grown into a busy little city with many notable features that include a youthful business community, outstanding medical facilities, a modern hospital, and four doctors. We have a good school system with top-notch sports and music programs. Grant has churches of many denominations, a pleasant city park with a heated swimming pool, tennis courts, band shell, and picnic area. Grant has a lively historical society-museum which includes a turn-of-the-century home, a 1900-era school, and a large display building.
Downtown, the Perkins County Senior Center is a busy place where a good hot meal, quilting, card parties, and pool tables draw folks from all over the county. Senior transportation is provided by the mini-bus. Comfortable low-rent housing is also available. Real estate people are kept busy with folks moving into town from all over the country. Many are coming home for their retirement years.
County Centennial activities in 1987 included many special programs at the museum, a barbecue, and a flower show at the county fair.
Grant, progressive, prosperous, and pretty, is a nice place to live.
Dorothy Keller, Box 418, Grant, NE 69140.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "Memories of Perkins County," by Morg Stevens; "The Family Ingold," by Mattie Rose; and "Only Yesterday," by Dorothy Keller.