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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Verdon -- Richardson County

Verdon's main street with gaslight and pump in the main intersection. [Larson]

A plat for "Springfield" was filed in 1856, but it never developed. Then, in 1882, "Verdon" was platted on land owned by John and Julia Hall. The village, near the geographic center of Richardson County, was founded at the foot of a long hill at the intersection of two railroads -- the Missouri Pacific and the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy.

Within a short time Verdon had a complete array of services, and two of many. Since we had two depots, there were two feed and cream stations, coal sheds, and shovel houses. Verdon incorporated in its first year -- 1882.

Life was different back then. There were doctors to care for the people, and veterinarians who doctored the livestock. "Saloons" quenched the men's thirst in what is known as a "tavern." The ice man, driving a "covered wagon," delivered chunks of river-ice twice a week to keep the icebox in the pantry. The butcher shop cut meat to order from freshly slaughtered animals, while the bakery turned out all sorts of fresh baked goods -- ready to go. Milk was delivered to the door in glass bottles, and the grocer traded his items for eggs, cream, butter, and poultry that farmers brought to town on Saturday nights.

Youngsters could see a movie for a dime on the second floor of the Ben Schober Building, about midway on the east side of Main Street. A piano player provided background music while the pictures flickered on the screen. Everyone attended the movies -- young and old. When the Depression hit in the 1930s, free movies were shown on a huge, wooden screen, which had been built on a vacant lot, and everyone sat on planks or on the ground. "Talkies" were just coming in when World War II started, and free shows were discontinued.

Dances were held in a vacant building, with the band paid with a free-will offering. More often than not, the band consisted of local talent -- people who liked to play for the fun and enjoyment of making music.

A good many activities revolved around the school. There was the junior and a senior class play, grade school operettas, and programs at Christmas and Easter, in addition to athletics -- basketball, football, and baseball.

During the long, hot summer, band concerts were well attended, and often held twice a week -- on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Church gatherings, lodge activities, clubs, and excursions offered an opportunity for young people in the community to get acquainted. With Verdon in the center of the county, big events were often scheduled here.

Verdon had an impressive opera house, which was used for special social affairs. High school graduation, traveling shows, and other large gatherings were held here. Known as the "John Hall Opera House," it was located above the Hall Bank and the grocery store. To reach it, people ascended an ornate black-iron steps at the rear of the building, to a landing enclosed by a railing. (Its still there, but because it is considered to be too dangerous, it is closed off.) The walls were impressively decorated: beautiful wall paper in Early Victorian design, tall windows, a grand piano, and a large stage with heavy drapes which drew to the side.

Every town needed a good, secure jail. Ours was located across the alley south of the lumberyard. Made of heavy stones, it was a single room with a small window. Heavy, flat-iron "bars" embedded in the structure prevented anyone from escaping. No longer used, it was torn down several years ago.

In 1910 Verdon's population reached 406. Life has changed for the present 278 residents. The school district is now Dawson-Verdon, which serves about 160 students, K-12. Main Street businesses are different, and nobody gets ice or milk delivered to the door. Both depots are gone, but the Union Pacific (former Missouri Pacific) still moves tons of freight on its line.

People enjoy fishing at Verdon's man-made lake, built in the 1930s. A good fire hall was built in the 1970s, and a mini park was built on an empty, cluttered lot in 1976. Santa Claus and his helpers show up at the town hall on schedule, and everyone turns out for a parade.

Our town, Verdon, is a nice place to live.

By Florence W. Richardson, RFD 1 Box 26, Verdon, NE 68457.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Atlas of Richardson County , 1924; History of Richardson County, Nebraska, 1917; History of Pawnee, Richardson, Johnson, and Nemaha Counties, 1969; Standard Atlas of Richardson County, Nebraska, 1913; and personal interviews with Ione Bloom, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Bowers, Jane Cook Herbster, Mildred Jorn, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Larson, Rolland Owens, Jess Richardson, and Mr. and Mrs. Orval Voiles.