Duncan wasn't always Duncan. The first post office was established in 1869, "...in the fertile valley of the Platte River, six miles west of Columbus," and according to ledgend, called "Cherry Hill," for the wild cherries found in the Sandhills. The first postmaster was Alonzo Shepard.
In 1871 the Union Pacific platted a town at this location which it called "Jackson." However, since that name was already taken by a town in Dakota County, the railroad was obliged to choose another. Finally, in 1880, the name was changed to "Duncan," for a favorite conductor on the UP.
The Village of Duncan was incorporated on March 7, 1913. Newspaper accounts noted, "it is located 100 miles west of Omaha, and is quite a stirring little business center."
"The farms between Columbus and Jackson," a history books recall, "are all highly improved, with first class dwellings and barns." In 1878 John Ernst had a ten-acre grove of trees on his farm, which had been planted in 1868, and reported to be, "furnishing more wood than he could use."
Headlines in the "Columbus Journal," on November 20, 1878, claimed, "INDIANS STOLE THEM." Apparently, twelve horses reported stolen from the North Brothers Ranch on the Loup, (not far from Duncan) was thought to be the work of Sioux Indians. It was reported, "The Indians passed the camp of some neighboring ranchmen on the Dismal the following morning, [and] three of the horses they had stolen were with them. But the [white] men were armed to the teeth and were not attacked." The report also mentioned that no attempt was made to recover the horses.
In 1881 a Baptist Church was organized, and in 1883 St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church was established. St.Stanislaus Catholic Church, organized in 1886, is the only church that has survived the years.
Today, for many townsfolk, early Mass is where their day begins. Then it is a stop at the post office to pick up the mail and on to "My Place" for morning coffee and a roll. At the end of the day, many of the same people again meet at the post office to pick up the paper, and stop, this time for a cold beer or pop. Duncan has two taverns, "My Place" and "Coke's Pub." Both are located on the main street of town -- you can't miss them.
Businesses in this town of just over 400 inhabitants include: Klaus's General Store, a couple of beauty shops, an oil company, a service station, Tasty Toppings, A J's C Store, and ASAR Auto Sales. Liss Manufacturing Inc. is nearby, as is Jerry's Home & Farm Repair, and Tiaden Construction & Roofing. Duncan has a village hall, a fire house, an elementary school, and there is, of course, a grain elevator.
When you visit the fascinating village of Duncan, be sure to take the time to drive south across the Platte River, and east to Duncan Lakes. The road along the lakes wind around and around, truly one of Nebraska's "scenic views." In season, you'll see swimmers, picnickers, water skiers, and fishermen.
Duncan is small, however, this unique town is worth a Sunday afternoon drive to enjoy its friendliness, and see a bit of Americana located along route 30.
By Irene O'Brien, 2702 8th Street, Apt 2, Columbus, NE 68601.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Franciscians of Nebraska , by Rev. Eugene Hagedorn; Platte County of Nebraska, by Margaret Curry; and Past & Present of Platte County, by Phillips.