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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Tobias -- Saline County

The "Globe Mill" at Tobias was built in 1891 by a Mr. Hunt of Haddam, KS. The head miller was Thomas Taylor who operated it until his death in 1904, after which his son ran it for a time. The business was then sold to William and Elmer McFarland of Ohiowa. It burned on May 22, 1907, and was not rebuilt.
The west side of Main Street in 1891, just prior to the fire that destroyed 22 buildings, including Lippincott's drug store, Uldrich's saloon, White's hotel, Bamer's building which housed the post office, Krisl's blackshmith shop, and Larson's bank. The fire started in the hotel, about the middle building in this photo.
April 9, the day after the fire, only the depot and bank were left on the west side of the street, and Tyson's livery barn one block west of Main.

The Village of Tobias was platted in 1884 by the Lincoln Land Company as the town of "Castor" on the new rail line west of DeWitt. It came into being because officials of the Burlington Railroad believed there was a need for "greater convenience" to the settlers. The closest railroad was approximately 18 miles away, and those producing the cattle and hogs were having "a difficult time marketing them."

In establishing the route, the small hamlet known as "Atlanta," that had been a post office address since 1871, was bypassed. A new town was platted a short distance away and given the name "Castor" by the right-of-way official for the railroad, Tobias Castor. Postal authorities, however, turned down

the name because they felt it would be too easily confused with the Custer post office in Custer County.

Undaunted by the refusal, Castor submitted his Christian name, "Tobias," which was approved on March 17, 1884. Not only was it the only town by that name in Nebraska, it is still the only Tobias listed in the official postal directory. The first postmaster was Jennie Bamer.

The town grew so quickly that it was very-nearly incorporated before its name was approved. Incorporation papers filed "in early spring" 1884. Early shops and businesses lined two blocks of Main Street by the close of 1886 with up to 60 "going business ventures." By 1887 Tobias had a population of 500. The official peak in population was in 1900 with 672 residents recorded.

In 1891 a major fire destroyed 22 buildings, which drastically changed the face of the community. The shops that rebuilt used fire-proof construction, which greatly improved the town's appearance. But, some businesses waited before rebuilding. By 1893 times were hard, and people struggled just to survive as a drought and money panic gripped the nation for several years.

The first Tobias schoolhouse was the District 81 building, moved in 1884 from its location one mile west of town. A four-room school was built in 1887. Because of crowded conditions in this building, another two-room school was built nearby in 1908. Three students were in 1891 graduating class: Anna Ainsworth, Mary Lippincott, and Ralph Jones. A brick high school with grades K-12 was built in 1914. The district continued until 1967 when Tobias consolidated with the Daykin and Alexandria School District #303. A new brick building was constructed in 1977, seven miles south of town, on Nebraska Highway 4.

The early settlers were of German, Czech, Irish, and English descent. Today the citizens are mainly of German heritage with a smaller percentage of Czech and English. The role of the small railroad town began to change after automobiles and trucks became popular. During the Depression years, Tobias lost many businesses, including its two banks. Since then there has been a continual decline to its present population of about 140.

A State Historical Marker, honoring Sgt. Leodegar Schnyder, who served in the Army 53 years (longest of any non-commissioned officer), is located near Tobias. Schnyder, who enlisted in 1837, first saw action in the Seminole War. In 1849 he was transferred to Fort Laramie, which was at that time an isolated outpost on the overland trails. After he retired in 1886 he settled on a farm north of Tobias. He died in 1896 and is buried at the old Atlanta Cemetery. The Tobias Community Historical Society, instrumental in documenting this story, assisted in the dedication that took place on October 1, 1973.

A volunteer fire department was organized in 1905 with 30 members. In recent years modern equipment and a fire truck were purchased, plus a rescue unit in 1976.

At this time our town has a grocery store, two garages, two beauty shops, a cafe and bar, a lumberyard, an elevator, a post office, a library, and a museum. A feed store is located on the edge of town. The citizens of Tobias are proud of their boulevard, decorated with flowers and pine trees which are cared for by volunteers from the community. The "twin flag poles" were dedicated on June 14, 1974, in honor of the nation's bicentennial, and now proudly fly the "fifty star" and Nebraska flags.

Tourists and townspeople alike enjoy the tree-shaded park which has playground equipment and a shelter with picnic tables. Tobias, located in the southwest corner of Saline County on Highway 74, is our town, and we invite you to stop by for a visit.

 

By Helen Kottas, P.O. Box 45, Tobias, NE 68453, with the help of Marie Francis. Photographs courtesy of the Tobias Community Historical Society.

`ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Saline County Nebraska History , by J.W.Kaura, 1962; Centennial History of Tobias, Nebraska, compiled by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 311, published in 1964, and updated in 1984.