Plainview is a farming community whose ancestry is predominantly Danish and German. Prospects of free land brought settlers in the early 1870s by way of Wisconsin and Illinois. Arrangements were made at the land office at Niobrara, after which homesteaders walked or rode on horseback to the land they had chosen.
Severe winters brought unbelievable hardships, and summers saw the scourge of grasshoppers destroy crops, gardens, and the last bit of hope that remained. Some returned to more settled regions, only to return a few years later to try again to master the hazards of the Nebraska plains.
Railroads, wanting to expand their business, were pushing to get towns located and settled. In 1880 the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad was completed from Norfolk to Plainview. Representatives of that company came to lay out the blocks and streets of our town. Two men, working in that capacity, gave their names to one of the additions near the depot. Incorporation papers were filed on April 5, 1886.
The Pacific Short Line from Sioux City to O'Neill was built in 1890. Now owned by Burlington Northern, it is the only line still serving Plainview. Local and outside trucking companies have replaced rail service for most items, so the primary rail traffic now is the moving of grain to markets.
The rural population has dwindled over the years. Young farmers, replacing those who retired, are using larger machinery and farming more land. Where there was once a large farm family and a set of buildings to house livestock and machinery on each 160 acres, there is now only one farmer on 640 acres or more. Corn, beans, alfalfa, and oats are the main crops. Cattle and hogs are raised and fed on some farms, and there are several commercial feed lots in the area. There is a great deal of grain storage available.
The shifting population has effected the town, recording an all-time high of nearly 1,500 in 1980. Several rural churches have closed. Some rural folk joined existing churches, while others moved their buildings to town, or have built new sanctuaries. At the present time Plainview has six churches, with Lutheran and Methodist being the largest denominations.
Schools have also changed to reflect the current trends. Plainview has a K-12 school system. Children above the sixth grade from the neighboring town of Brunswick are brought to Plainview by bus. There are tentative plans for sharing teachers and facilities with other towns to lessen the cost, and improve the quality of education available. The high school graduated 50 seniors in May 1989.
There has been a creamery in Plainview for many years, which processes the milk from the dairy farmers into butter. Recently the creamery up-dated the facilities, and continues to be a receiving station for milk. The town helped to improve the creamery location by razing the old building and preparing the site for the new one.
The City of Plainview had a slow but steady growth until the last few years. Business people and citizens are concerned about the empty buildings on Main Street. While these problems are common to many small towns in Nebraska, the town is trying to cling to the good things that are here and enhance them with new ideas.
The community -- both town and rural people -- have organized for that purpose. The results have been very encouraging. Some businesses have expanded, and a pizza shop opened not long ago. People who left Plainview mid-century to work in cities have shown an interest in returning for retirement in the quieter, safer, home-town atmosphere of Plainview.
An annual three-day festival, "Klown Days," is held early in June to thank the people in the trade area and to honor special rural and town citizens. In 1986 the 100th anniversary of the founding of Plainview was noted with a week-long celebration.
We are especially excited about tourism opportunities. Our town...Plainview is near the future Ash Fall Fossil Park, and not far from Grove Lake, and the Missouri and Niobrara rivers, all easily accessible via U.S. Highway 20 and Nebraska 13 and 14.
By Margaret Bonge, Box 15, Plainview, NE 68769, and Leone Roe.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Plainview Centennial History Book, 1886-1986 , a 400-page history of the town and its people. Copies available at the Plainview Public Library and Nebraska State Historical Society Library.