The town began as a railroad siding on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy line. Aaron Johnson, an early pioneer, raised and traded in broom corn. He thought direct rail transportation would help him market his crop, so he ask to have a siding at this location. The request was granted, and history has it that "Loomis" remained nameless for about ten years.
Johnson, as well as the majority of other settlers, came to this area in 1876-80 from Sweden. Some had spent a few years in northern or eastern states, then migrated to Nebraska. Many were not farmers prior to coming, so this was a new adventure. They had come from lands where water and timber were plentiful. Both were scarce in this area. Only a vast sea of native grasses were to be found. The Timber Culture Act encouraged settlers to plant trees, which they did.
After digging wells, building sod homes, and breaking the sod into plowed fields for crops, their thoughts turned to schools and churches. Loomis' centennial year, 1986, was shared with three other celebrants: the Loomis Evangelical Free Church, Loomis Public School, and the First State Bank.
When a post office was to be established in 1886, it had to have a name. The honor went to N.H. Loomis, prominent lawyer for the railroad. John Jackson was named postmaster and Axel Veegert was the first rural mail carrier. The present postmaster is Roy Rodenbaugh.
Loomis got off to a good start. There were ups and downs, but the tightly-knit community worked its way through the droughts, grasshoppers, wars, and bank failures. Some people became discouraged and moved away, but the majority banded together, fought back, and stayed on.
From information in the 1929 "Loomis Sentinel Newspaper," people who recognized their salvation and well-being were bound in "cooperation." Loomis claims to have been the first town in Nebraska to organize a cooperative elevator, oil company, and cream station.
The "Sentinel" also reported the success of the Loomis Livestock Sale Barn, which shipped many carloads of hogs and cattle, both to be bought and sold for such high prices as $8.50 to $10.70 cwt. for yearlings and $9.00 to $9.40 cwt. for hogs. In 1933 prices had tumbled -- wheat was $.33 per bushel, yellow corn only $.14, eggs $.09 a dozen, and chickens $.25 each. In 1940 an egg co-op was formed.
One more notation in the story of Loomis' cooperation: the Co-op elevator is still in business and in 1987 celebrated its 70th anniversary. Storage capacity for grain is about two million bushels, with the latest million-bushel facility constructed in 1985. The Co-op oil company is also still operating.
In 1941 the Tri-County Irrigation system was under construction encompassing 121,808 acres in Lincoln, Gosper, Phelps, and Kearney Counties. Lake McConaughy is a million-plus-acre-feet storage reservoir which feeds the laterals. Johnson Lake at Elwood was added to the supplemental water storage for the "E65" system in 1976.
Loomis is a very progressive town, so the 447 residents enjoy the good life with all the modern conveniences. The successful centennial celebration, June 8-15, 1986, proved that the ambition and pride of the people is alive and well 101 years after the little shanty by the railroad siding was given a name.
By Pearl Urbom, Box 204, Loomis, NE 68958. Typist, Almetta Schmidt.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Phelps County History, 1873-80 ; Life During Our First 100 Years, Loomis, NE 1886-1986 ; "Loomis Sentinel" 1929 issues
"Holdrege Daily Citizen," March 13, 1933; "The Beacon Observer", Norm Taylor