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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Ithaca -- Saunders County

This never-before published photo of the Ithaca school and students was taken in 1906 - 1907. [Eichmeier]
Zion Luthern, still active, pictured with confirmation class of 1932.
Aerial view of Ithaca, taken 1969 by Zenith Co. [Eickmeier]

Ithaca, founded in 1866 and named for Ithaca, N.Y., was the "stopping place" for travelers between Ashland and Wahoo. Before the post office was established in 1870 (with Elijah Dech postmaster), there was a "station" at "Milton," a few miles to the south.

William Dech was the first recorded settler on the town site. A blacksmith shop and a water-powered flour mill, built in 1871 along the Wahoo Creek, were the major businesses in the beginning. When the railroad came through in 1886, a steam powered roller mill was built next to the railroad line.

In its early years, Ithaca saw a complete array of shops, businesses, and services. In later years, there was a hybrid seed corn company.

A school was established in the early 1890s with Elijah Dech's daughter, Martha, as the teacher. As more settlers arrived, the school grew. In 1908 four students graduated from the ninth grade. In 1922, a tenth grade was added. In 1948 District 50 built a new K-8 schoolhouse that continues as the location for educating our elementary students.

The Farmer's State Bank was organized in 1902 with G.F. Wagner as president. In 1961, after 59 years of service, it closed its doors while Fred Wagner was president.

A community house was constructed in 1933. It was used for school programs, wedding receptions, family gatherings, parties, basketball games, a polling place, and for many other activities. Due to the mobility of the population, it is no longer utilized as much as it once was.

Wednesday and Saturday nights were busy nights in Ithaca during the 1930s. The Depression took its toll, but on those nights, our town "came alive." Farmers from the surrounding area joined the townspeople, as they brought their eggs and cream to the grocery stores to exchange for groceries and maybe a little money. If there was a nickel or two left, the children made a dash to one of the barber shops, which had an ice cream counter, for a tasty ice cream cone. After dark you would find everybody sitting on plank-benches, watching a free movie.

Until October 1990, in the building where Herman Wolf had his barber shop and confectionery in the early 1900s, you could sit get an ample meal at Elsie's Cafe. It was the busiest place in town, especially at coffee time and noon.

Indian Mound Cemetery is located near the Indian burial ground and camp grounds located between Silver and Wahoo creeks. Ithaca has a rural Lutheran Church, Zion, which was founded in 1886 and is still an important part of the community.

The United Methodist Church building, built in 1951, is the home of three former congregations. The Zion Evangelical Church (1881-1948) and the Ebenezer Evangelical Church (established in 1900) became the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1946. On June 30, 1968, the Methodist Church of Ithaca (organized in 1881) and people from the Evangelical United Brethren Church had an impressive uniting service and they became the United Methodist Church of Ithaca.

Ithaca celebrated its centennial in 1969. The event starting with a pancake breakfast followed with an ecumenical church service, dinner, and parade. It concluded with the crowning of a king and queen, and a dance in the community house.

Ithaca's softball field, "Duck Stadium," got its name because it is usually a pond after a rain. This is the home field of the Ithaca Ducks and the Ithaca Ducklings, well known for their playing in the 1970s.

In 1910 the population of Ithaca hit its peak with 171. The 1980 census listed 130 residents. Electricity arrived in 1925, however a city water and sewer system didn't become a reality until 1988.

Ithaca continues its life-story through the people in town and the surrounding neighborhood taking part in its volunteer fire department, and local businesses. In addition to the post office, there is Hanson Well Co., Hass Trucking, Tomsicek Manufacturing, and Anthony's Heating and Air Conditioning.

By Alice Eichmeier, Ithaca, NE 68033, with the help of Milton Eichmeier, Laura Fick, Russell Bryan, Sherry Treptow, and the Harry Beraneks, George Hagemans, W.E.Gilberts, and Merle Shermans.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: History of Saunders County, Nebraska, 1915 ; and Saunders County History, 1983.