The northeast precinct of Pierce County, which now contains the Village of McLean, was annexed from neighboring Cedar County. When Pierce County was organized, some county officials went to Lincoln to request the change. When Cedar County's people learned of the "theft," they attempted to have the matter reversed, but to no avail. A state law was enacted, however, prohibiting such shenanigans in the future.
In 1889 School District 43 was organized and a schoolhouse built on Joseph Rohdes' land. Nine year later, in 1898, a man named Marrow learned that a railroad was to go through the area. He bought the land on which to build a town and named it "Marrowville." The old school was sold, and a new school building was constructed.
The Pacific Short Line from Sioux City to O'Neill was built in 1890. When E.O.Sharron built an elevator along the railroad right-of-way, he and his friends thought the town should be called "Sharron." After much bickering, it was decided to name it for the section foreman who installed the side tracks for the town, Donald McLean.
With the money-panic in 1893, a town did not immediately spring up out of the cornfield. A lumberyard was built in 1899 by Edwards and Bradford. In 1900 a grocery store was built, a saloon was established by Henry Eickman, and a hotel/restaurant was built by Schuyler Fox. A second elevator, the Atlas Company, still in use, was built early in the 1900s.
Another period of growth occurred in 1904 when an implement store was opened by McConnel & Sweet, and Mr. Ackerman built his blacksmith shop. Art McConnel started the first bank in 1905. The meat market and a livery stable were built in 1907, and stockyards in 1911 by Webb Kellogg. Dr. Austin practiced medicine in the early 1900s, and James Watson established a drug store. Many of these businesses changed hands as people moved on to other businesses or other towns.
The Methodists, who previously held services in the schoolhouse, built a church in 1912. The following year a Lutheran Church was built.
A larger brick schoolhouse was needed in 1913 to handle the increased enrollment. A number of businesses upgraded their establishments to a second-generation facade of brick or block. The newspaper, the "McLean Herald," was being published in 1915 by Miller and Whitton, and sidewalks were laid, replacing the boardwalks.
A city hall and jail was built next to the city well, and in 1919 the Colonial Theatre was built by John Wupper. A larger auditorium was owned by John Volk, and used for movies, dances, and social events. At this time McLean had a very active community club, with as many as 150 persons attending meetings.
For several years the Sharron Elevator furnished electricity to McLean from its small power plant that was shut off at ten p.m. In 1923 a power line was installed to the town.
The worst tornado in Pierce County history hit the area north of McLean on June 17, 1937. The farmsteads of Strathman, Kraemaer, Petersen, Rohlfs, Munson, and Bloomquist were hit the hardest.
In 1937, during the Depression and drought, free outdoor movies were started. They continued on a weekly basis during the summer months, except for a couple of years during World War II, until 1957.
A water system was installed in 1949.
In 1954 McLean's Schomberg Elevator had the distinction of having collected over 2,200 tons of corn cobs. They were shipped by rail to a processing plant in Omaha.
The high school, established in 1921, had 134 graduates in the 30 or so years it operated. The elementary school voted to close in 1978, and District 43 was dissolved in 1980.
McLean has seen many businesses consolidate or close, and a number of its buildings torn down. A new fire hall was built in 1968.
The 1980 population was listed at 81. A reunion of high school graduates in 1988 brought many alums back for a day of reminiscing.
From material submitted by Caryl Chrisman, McLean, NE 68747.