The village of Platte Center was platted on January 22, 1880, by the Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills Railroad Company. Like many railroad towns, people from a variety of backgrounds and talents arrived, set up shop, built homes, and established schools and churches. Located near the center of Platte County, it was incorporated September 28, 1885.
One of the unique things about the town is the fact Elm Creek crosses the center of main street. Many times the merchants on either side of the creek found it necessary to sandbag store fronts following heavy rains up stream from the town. At times water still entered some of the stores. In recent years, work has been done to straighten the creek bed and in 1987 a wider bridge was erected over main street. These measures were still not enough to prevent serious flooding again in 1990.
One of the first businesses in the new town was a saloon operated by George Scheidel and Frank Stracke. Soon thereafter Dr. Edwards moved his drug store and practice from Silver Creek, and William Bloedorn moved his blacksmith shop into town from his farm six miles away. He also erected one of the first residences.
At one time there were three hotels in Platte Center. John A.Kehoe, a prominent business man, operated both a drug store and grain buying business. Following his death in 1905, his widow carried on both businesses.
A Mr. Bruckner and a Mr. Greisen opened a general mercantile store in 1887. Bruckner later bought out the business, and in the 1980s, third and fourth generations of the Bruckner family own and operate the store.
The Platte Center Water Works was established in 1901, and in 1913 the first electric lighting system was installed. The power plant was owned by the Siems brothers.
The Platte County Bank was organized in 1879, and the Farmers State Bank in 1910. Both closed following the crash of 1929. In 1935 the Platte County Bank was reorganized as a cooperative. In 1945 it became a regular bank, known as Platte Center Bank.
The area was settled primarily by Germans and lrish immigrants of deep religious faith. St.Joseph Catholic church was erected in 1884. The first church quickly became too small, and the second church, erected soon thereafter, burned. In 1924 a third building was dedicated and stands proud on a hill in the east part of town. In 1988 there were about 230 families in the parish.
A few blocks down the street, the Grace Lutheran Church ministering to approximately 60 families. A Baptist Church that served the area for many years closed in 1968 due to declining membership. That building has since then been remodeled into a private home.
At one time there were two schools -- a public and parochial -- in Platte Center. For many years St.Joseph's operated a 1-12 school. Gradually the secondary grades were dropped and in 1968 the elementary school also closed its doors. District 24's first building was erected in 1886. In 1969 the district reorganized, and a Class VI high school district was formed. Located between Platte Center and Columbus, it is known as Lakeview High. The town continues to operate a K-8 elementary school. On July 5, 1976, the cornerstone for the most recent District 24 building was laid during ceremonies of dedication.
The most famous person to come from Platte Center is Alfred N. Gruenther. Born here in 1899, he graduated from St.Joseph Catholic High School in 1913. A career soldier, he advanced to the rank of Major General, and served as Chief of NATO Forces in Paris, France. After retirement from the service, he served as president of the American Red Cross.
Platte Center's population reached its peak of just over 500 in 1930. Located about 12 miles from Columbus, our town currently has a growing population of nearly 400. The town supports a bank, general merchandise store, several automotive repair shops, service stations, and bars, in addition to a bowling alley, a grain elevator, a building contractor with lumber yard combined, an irrigation pipe business, the Farmer Co-op business with fertilizer, and numerous small shops.
By Mrs. Arno E. Mark, Rte 1, Box 127, Platte Center, NE 68653
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: "The Franciscans in Nebraska," by Rev.Eugene Hagedorn, O.F.M. Some information gathered from the recollections of a descendant of George Scheidel, and conversations with other local residents.