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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Danbury -- Red Willow County

The Nelson Buck Massacre memorial on Hwy 89, west of Danbury. At the request of a Cub Scout troop from Marion (a small unincorporated town), a monument was established by the American Society of Civil Engineers, 1961.
The Danbury station, as pictured in The High Plains Route , by Richard Kistler, edited by James Reisdorff, South Platte Press.

As soon as Nebraska Territory was created in 1854, the legislature took steps to organize county units. Crews were hired to survey the land and place stakes in the ground so settlers could record the property they claimed.

Starting in the area along the Missouri River, eastern counties were soon ready for settlement. Farther west, the job was not quite so easy. In south central Nebraska, along Beaver Creek and the Republican River valley, surveying was more than difficult. It was dangerous.

Nelson Buck and his team of surveyors began measuring and charting the lands in Red Willow County in 1869. They, however, did not live to complete the task. While working near Beaver Creek, not far from the Kansas border, the men were attacked by a band of Sioux Indians. In the running battle that followed, all seven were killed.

Since there is no survivors, no authentic chronicle of the massacre could be made. Likewise, events following the incident are lacking, so not much information is available about this part of Nebraska until 1871. This is when Royal Buck and ten men outfitted at Nebraska City and started west, reportedly to look over the land with a view toward settlement in the Republican River valley. After choosing their claims, they were forced by severe weather to return to civilization for the winter. The following spring Royal Buck was among the first settlers in the county.

A settlement was established on Beaver Creek early in the 1870s during the days of the great rush of white settlement into the area. A post office was established December 24, 1873. Postmaster George Gilbert named it "Danbury" for his former home in Connecticut. The earliest settler in the town is reported to have been Joel B. Dolph.

An Indian campground was located on the high grounds overlooking Beaver Valley. This area was the buffalo hunting grounds for the Pawnee Indians, who spent nearly half the year hunting and preserving food for the winter.

During the early years, there was a brief gold rush four miles north of Danbury. Stock was sold and a lot of gravel was dug from the mine. It caused a great stir, but little gold was found.

During the period of branch line railroad expansion, tracks were laid through the region and a station was established at Danbury. A two-story depot was built in 1888. It served not only as a freight and passenger terminal, but also as living quarters for the railroad agent and his family.

An attempt to change the town name to "Danbury Station" was made in January 1888, but it was changed back to Danbury in April that year.

Dr.W. DeMay came to town and built an office on Main Street in 1889. One of the first doctors, he is the one best-remembered by all.

The village of Danbury was incorporated in 1898. It continued to grow, reaching its peak population of 321 in the 1930 census.

Originally known as "the short grass country," this area has developed into a prime farming region in which the principal crops are corn, wheat, alfalfa, barley, potatoes, and livestock. More recently, grain sorghum and sugar beets have been added to the list.

Red Willow County celebrated its centennial in 1973. Since Danbury was also established the same year, it was a double celebration. Merle Snyder, local chairman, said: "Danbury's population is normally about 120, but that day it was over 3,000." The town put on a fine festival with 139 floats in the parade.

Although rumered in 1979, word was confirmed in 1983 that the old Danbury depot was to be torn down. Many people were upset by the news. Young Scott Cumming, a 17-year-old high school senior, agreed to chair a committee to save the building. A drive to raise money was organized by historian Patsy Lee Redfern and Vera Cumming, with the aid of the Danbury high school alumni. In 1981 two lots were procured through the Danbury town board and a gift from Mrs.Redfern, and the old depot was moved to Main Street.

The building has now been restored and contains a small local museum. The old brick platform was also moved by Dale Redding so the restoration of this landmark has been completed.

Danbury's population was listed as 143 in the 1980 census.

Compiled from material submitted by Patsy Lee Redfern, 503 Seminole Dr. McCook, NE 69001

Additional information in the "Red Willow County Centennial Review, 1973."