Stella -- Richardson County
The town of Stella was platted in November 1881 when the Missouri Pacific Railroad, connecting Omaha to Atchison, Kansas, reached this part of Richardson County. J. W. Clark, who lived in Covington, Kentucky, donated 40 acres of land "in consideration of the establishment of a station upon it." He named the new town for his daughter, Stella. The Dorrington post office, established less than a mile away early in 1880 was obliged to yield to the railroad's "Stella Station" on January 9, 1882.
Arriving as it did in the 1880s, Stella's future ranking among the cities in the area was noted at the time Andreas was completing his large History of Nebraska . It was pointed out, "...the land in a radius of seven miles is principally occupied by well-to-do farmers who make a specialty of stock-breeding." With a railroad to facilitate shipping, "...their operations can enlarge to the sensible advantage of the town."
Homes and businesses immediately burst upon the scene. By September 1882 there were 25 business firms up and running in the new town. The "Stella Tribune" was established in August 1882. Under the name "Stella Press," it continued for more than 70 years. Eunice and Clyde Haskins were the editors for the last 50 years of its existence.
The State Bank of Stella was founded in January 1886, with J.R. Cain serving as the first president. Richard McMullen was chief officer for 50 years, with John Morehead of Falls City its current owner. Another institution, the Farmers State Bank, fell victim to the Depression in the 1930s.
Around the turn of the century, Stella had four churches to serve the 500 residents. These included Methodist, Christian, Lutheran, and Baptist churches. Because of the coal shortage during World War I, the Baptist, Christian, and Methodist congregations joined together to conserve fuel. Many people liked this arrangement. As a result, the Community Church was formed. Services were held in the opera house, for a time. In 1923 construction was started on a new church. Services were held in the basement until the church was finally completed in 1953. Today this is Stella's only church.
The "N.F.W.C. Research Club" (affiliated with the GFWC) was organized March 10, 1896. Established as a cultural study club, only married women asked to join until 1911. Through the years the club has promoted many civic projects and activities. It started the library, promoted parks, conducted art contests, and sponsored "Stella Day," a fun-day for all ages, held annually in August. The club currently has 38 members.
The Masonic Lodge was established in 1883 and the Order of the Eastern Star was chartered May 12, 1926. The Masons, with the assistance of the O.E.S., hold an annual fish fry in March, which draws a big crowd from neighboring communities.
In 1913 a modern brick school was built at the north end of Main Street to replace the large wooden structure that stood on a hill east of town. In 1930 a gymnasium was added. The present school, Southeast Nebraska Consolidated School (District RN-1), was built in Stella in 1967. This included the former districts of Stella, Shubert, Bratton Union, Nemaha, and Higgins (a rural district). Bratton Union had been a rural consolidated school, among the first such districts in Nebraska. In 1979 the old Stella high school building was torn down and the location became the site for a new bus barn.
With a 1990 population recorded at 289, Stella continues to be a lively community. Businesses presently operating are: State Bank of Stella; McMullen Insurance Agency; Bunge Corporation Grain Elevator; Stella Soil Service; Anderson One Stop Shop; Darnell Beauty Shop; Darnell Glass Company; Casey-Witzenburg Mortuary; Mehlin Plumbing, Heating and Electrical; Ramer's Service Station; Anderson Tavern; Lockard's Service Station; Ketner Electronics (StellaVision); Vice Propane Company; Stella Animal Clinic; Milke's Maintenance Shop; Joey's Repair; Porter's Body Shop; and the Siding Peddler.
While Stella's depot closed years ago, the Union Pacific's rails still provide our community with good freight connections to Omaha and Kansas City.
By Camilla Banks, Box 133, Stella, NE 68442. Old photos from the Clayton Morris collection, current photos by Debra Haveman, and manuscript typed by Jana Anderson.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The History of Richardson County , published by Taylor Publishing Co., 1985; and History of Richardson County Nebraska, by Lewis C. Edwards, 1917.