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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Lebanon -- Red Willow County

Lebanon's depot and the morning passenger train to somewhere...
The west side of main street following the 1939 fire. Businesses did not rebuild so Lebanon never recovered from this loss.
June 13, 1983, 12 inches of water fell on Beaver Creek valley, flooding Lebanon for the first time in its history.

Lebanon, located in the southeast corner of Red Willow County, officially received its name and first post office September 12, 1873, due to the efforts of the B.F. Bradbury family.

Bradbury built a small dugout home and stocked it as a trading post. Located on Beaver Creek, just north of the present town site, he applied for a post office named for the Biblical "cedars of Lebanon." His son-in-law Nelson S. West was appointed postmaster. A small desk with pigeon holes and compartments to hold the mail was installed in the Bradbury dugout and Lebanon was born.

In 1877 the post office was moved to the dugout home of Henry Galusha, west of the present site. The next year Mrs. Harvey (Marcia) Burgess was appointed postmaster and the office was moved to their dugout home two and one-half miles east. They also established a trading post.

In the spring of 1887 the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad built a branch line up the Beaver Creek valley from Orleans. On July 28, 1887, a town was platted and organized near the railroad line, several miles west of the Burgess' Lebanon post office. So they moved to the new location, putting up a frame post office building on the west side of Center Avenue and adding a "lean to" on the back for their living quarters. Finally, Lebanon had put down her roots and in a short time became a thriving, bustling frontier town with many businesses. It was incorporated in 1906.

On July 1, 1894, the first of three major fires struck, destroying the full block of business places on the west side of Center Avenue. The hardy pioneers soon rebuilt and again Lebanon was thriving, only to see the same thing happen in 1904. Undaunted, the citizens built it back up and the city flourished anew. On September 7, 1939, the village of 260 inhabitants awakened to a blazing sky, again on the west side. This time five brick buildings were destroyed. The Bank of Lebanon on the south end was spared because it was separated by a vacant lot, and a vacant building on the north end was saved when the wind suddenly shifted. This time the businesses were not rebuilt and the once-thriving Lebanon never recovered.

School District No.6 was organized in 1874. The first classes were held in a dugout just west of town, to be followed by other dugouts, log, and frame structures, and finally in 1930, by a new brick building. Because of dwindling enrollments, Danbury merged with Lebanon in 1958 and Wilsonville in 1986, forming the Beaver Valley School.

At one time Lebanon had two churches. However, the Methodist Church closed its doors in the 1940's, leaving the Presbyterian Church which now has an association with the Wilsonville Methodist Church, both sharing the same minister.

Agriculture has always been the hub of Lebanon's economy. At one time three elevators served the large farming community. One of them burned to the ground. The second was bought out by the third and today one elevator, with its extended storage, serves the area.

Other current businesses are a service station, garage, combination grocery store and cafe, recreation parlor, two beauty salons, a post office, and the school. There is a park with a shelter house and a town hall where the city council meets. City water was installed in 1957, with the system revamped and meters installed in 1986. A rural fire department was organized in 1970.

Present active organizations are the Lion's Club, Gun Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Ladies Auxiliary, Royal Neighbors, Ladies Association, Bible Study Group, 4-H Club, Jolly Home Makers Extension Club, and the Alumni Association. Former graduates from far and wide gather at the school each Memorial Day eve for a banquet and reminiscing.

Indicative of the spirit of its people, Lebanon's 118 residents celebrated its centennial in 1973 by entertaining an estimated 2,500 visitors who flocked into their little town.

Though plagued by fire and the resulting loss of business places, the lure of larger shopping centers, and a fluctuating farm economy, Lebanon has fought back, refusing to give up those roots put down so many years ago.

By Betty McCashland Orvis, Lebanon, NE 69036

Typing, Carol Severson. Photography: Raymond Parker, Greg Macy, Frankie Lou Nicholson. Pictures: Neva North Mamie Millard, Alfred Haag, Byron Morris, Rosemary Catt, Francis Peterson, Betty Orvis

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Lebanon, Nebraska, Centennial 1873-1973 by Centennial Book Committee; Pioneer Stories of Furnas County, Nebraska, Claflin Printing Co, 1914. The story about Bradbury's founding Lebanon, pg 177-185.