Funk is the last village of Phelps County to celebrate its centennial during this decade. However, it does not want to be forgotten and wishes to take its place among the surrounding towns of Atlanta, Loomis, Bertrand, and Holdrege. It is a village on the Divide -- not the Continental Divide -- but the Divide between the Republican and Platte watersheds. This is choice land, preferred by many early settlers. As early as 1880 the population of Divide Township (a larger geographical area than the present precinct) was 601, as compared to the population of Industry Twp (379), Prairie Twp (313), and Lake Twp(339). No doubt this was also due to its proximity to the trading center at Kearney. It is still possible for you to settle on "the Divide" in 1988, for Funk has its "Divide Street."
The town is named after Phillip C. Funk, who was instrumental in convincing the Nebraska & Colorado Railway, later to become the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad, to establish a railway station about halfway between Holdrege and Axtell. Mr. Funk and Johnson, trustees of the town site committee consisting of seven additional men, bought 60 acres of land from August Anderson in 1887. That same year five blocks were platted and Main Street designated, with Lucian Threshly Brooking and his wife becoming the first residents. He was also the initial business man, as manager and owner of an elevator built in 1887-88. L.T., as all knew him, had the honor of being the first postmaster and was editor of the "Funk Enterprise," a weekly newspaper, in 1898. He is remembered as a "top-notch" checker player and a man having a "way with words." He was the author of "Small Town Stuff," an editorial appearing in over a dozen central Nebraska weekly newspapers for 25 years.
In 1909 Funk had a bank, three elevators, hardware store, drug store, meat market, grocery store, brickyard, hotel, department store, blacksmith shop, millinery store, and two barbers. Funk became an incorporated village in 1913. Devastating fires of 1913, 1915, and 1936 nearly destroyed the town, but could not quench the spirit and determination of the residents. Hope was dawning on the horizon for the farmers in the community that would affect the well-being of the village and its grain business. The Tri-County irrigation project had been signed by President Roosevelt in 1935, and by 1938 the first Tri-County water was turned into the Phelps County main canal which runs past the northern edge of the village. The farming area around Funk is very productive and the village is completely circled by waving fields of corn.
So the town's first business, the grain elevator begun in 1887, continues to be the mainstay of Funk. Many of the residents are employed by the Farmer Co-op Grain and Supply Company, which also owns and manages a service station and a cafe. Other businesses include an implement dealer, several mechanic shops and garages, an antique and craft shop (the Funk Emporium), and a finance company.
As early as 1903 a telephone company was established. Later, Funk had the first dial phone system installed in the area. It might be said that Funk is the center of communication between Kearney and Phelps Counties in that the Funk phone system allows local service between Holdrege, Axtell, and Wilcox. This has been a contributing factor in uniting educational and cultural affairs in the area. The Funk Telephone Company voted to merge with the Glenwood Telephone Membership Corporation in 1982.
The Fridhem Lutheran Church building and parsonage were moved into the village in 1910. There is another church, Emmaus Evangelical Free Church, five miles northwest of town.
Three generations of the P.C. Funk family visited the village in 1981. Wharton Funk, the founder's grandson, attended the Centennial celebration in August of 1987.
In 1980 the population was 190 and it remains about the same. If you wish to live on Easy Street, be divided on Divide Street, dream on Lake Street, and live in peace near the "Home of Peace" (Fridhem), move to Funk.
By Agnes Erickson, Funk, NE 68940
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of the State of Nebraska , published by the Western Historical Company in 1882.