Humphrey, located between the Platte and Elkhorn valleys near the intersection of Highways 81 and 91, is surrounded by rich and fertile farm land. The land in the area was "railroad land," priced low for rapid settlement of the little town.
In 1868 early settlers -- most of whom were Catholic immigrants from Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, Poland, and Ireland -- took up claims in Tracy Valley. A post office was established on the L.D. Leach farm three miles north of the present town site. His wife, Nancy, the first postmaster, named the office after the town from which she came, Humphrey, New York.
In 1879 the Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills Railroad Company began construction on a line that ran from the Union Pacific main line at Duncan to Norfolk. The following year the Humphrey post office, which was served by stage coach, and had moved several times from one farm to another, was finally placed next to the depot. On November 25, 1880, James North, the Platte County surveyor, platted lots and drew up a town plan. Humphrey immediately began to grow, "as if it had sprung up out of the prairie."
One of the original buildings still serves as a store room for the City Meat Market. A November 2, 1888, advertisement in the "Humphrey Democrat" for that market reads: "Fresh fish on Fridays, cash paid for hides." The Democrat, still the town's weekly newspaper, was established in 1886. The doctors of those days also promised, "calls will be answered night or day."
Another item noted in that edition of the newspaper was an ad placed by William Duesman for "furniture, coffins, and shrouds." Today, Paul Duesman carries on the family tradition at Duesman Furniture and Funeral Home, the oldest continuous business in Humphrey dating from 1882.
Paul Duesman is currently Humphrey's mayor. In addition to a mayor, Humphrey is governed by a four-member village council. Its fires are put out by a large volunteer fire department, whose 30-some members also serve as trained paramedic rescue volunteers.
The citizens of Humphrey, population 800-900, are very proud of the appearance of their little town, and work hard to keep it clean and neat. They have a bowling alley, a veterinary clinic, a flying service, and "Sunrise Acres," a nine-hole golf course. The sports complex, dedicated to Ed Foltz for his long and faithful support of Humphrey athletic programs, has football, baseball, softball, and tennis facilities.
In the park, along with children't play equipment, there is an area for picnics, a dance hall, a shelter, and a swimming pool. The new, modern Humphrey Library is about three years old. The two-year-old Humphrey Medical Clinic has greatly enhanced the town's medical facilities. Another fairly new addition to the town is a convenience store, RB's Food.
The St. Francis parochial and public school systems, established in 1884 and 1889 respectively, educate about 250 children per year, and are using many cooperative classes -- band, art, industrial arts, and others.
Visit Humphrey. You'll like the relaxed atmosphere, mixed equally with town spirit, and optimism toward the future.
By Irene O'Brien, 2702 8th Street, Apt 2, Columbus, NE 68601.