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Nebraska...Our Towns

MONROE -- PLATTE COUNTY

The town of Monroe developed out of a settlement known as the "old town of Monroe," situated about two miles northeast of the present town site in what was then Monroe County. It was established by Leander Gerrard and his brother in 1857, and consisted of a log dwelling that was designated as a post office. It was about this time that the Mormon settlement at Genoa was established.

The town of Monroe, designated as a county seat and located near the old Indian trail and also on the route used by the Mormons, should have been insured its place in posterity. Had a ferry or bridge been established across the Loup, it would have greatly benefited the colony, but money was scarce and an attempt to create interest in such a venture failed.

Two years later, Monroe had only four buildings. There were foundations for 14 others, but they were never completed. When a crossing was established near Columbus, it immediately worked to the advantage of that community. Monroe lost further identity when the area merged with Platte County, and its rival, Columbus, was named as the seat-of-government for the enlarged county.

The Joseph Gerrard homestead became the site of the town of Monroe in 1859, when he was made postmaster. His log house had a large cellar, which was used as both kitchen and dining room. For many years it remained a stopping place for those who happened along the trail between the Indian Agency and Missouri Valley. On dark nights, the Gerrards kept a light burning in the window, guiding many a weary wayfarer to a safe resting place.

The Omaha Indians often camped near the settlement when on their way to visit the Pawnee. One night in 1864, while 19 people slept in the lower room of the Gerrard home, a rider brought news of "a Sioux outbreak." While the alarm was somewhat vague and lacking in detail, a close watch was begun. Nearby settlers gathered at the house and a stockade, consisting of poles set side-by-side and banked with sod, was constructed in a semi-circle between the schoolhouse and the dwelling. Although all the horses were later driven off by what was thought to be hostile Indians, there was no fight.

James Gleason, who homesteaded during the 1880s a few miles northwest of the present town, dreamed of Monroe becoming a metropolis. This would be possible if a railroad siding could be established for the town along the UP branch line from Oconee to Albion. Gleason made repeated trips to Omaha, trying to convince the railroad officers of the wisdom of his cause. A delegation of settlers was organized to journey with him and help lobby for the project. They included E.H.Gerrard, Peter Ericson, Wilson Hollingshead, and my grandfather, R.B.Sutton. In the fall of 1881 a grain elevator was constructed. Even before a siding was established, much grain was shipped from Monroe.

Finally "passes" were issued by the railroad to "the Village of Monroe." Returning home in December 1889, the delegation of men had trouble getting the conductor to stop at their destination. But, when the train was brought to a stop, the men got off and a great celebration was held. As the story goes, the town was officially "christened" by sprinkling whiskey upon the ground.

Since, however, the town was already laid out, the citizens of Monroe were obliged to bear the cost of building the siding. The sum of $900, a huge amount at that time, was raised in just two days, with Edward Gerrard picking up half the amount. Gerrard, who had lived in Columbus since 1871, returned to the homestead in 1889 and built a little frame structure which housed a printing press for "The Looking Glass," the newspaper he founded and operated.

Even though Monroe is one of the oldest settlement in Platte County, it was not platted until January 1889, when surveyor John Truman established the lines for streets, and named them. The village was incorporated on December 22, 1899.

Monroe, now a town of 300, is located 12 miles west of Columbus. In addition to employment opportunities in that city, the principal industries are farming and livestock. The business center consists of a number of one-story buildings that house a general store, a tavern, a post office, a bank, and several other small businesses, in addition to a filling station, and a large shipping elevator. A Methodist Church and large consolidated school also serve the citizens of the community.

By Edna M. Schmidt, Rte 2 Box 2, Monroe, NE. 68647