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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Leshara -- Saunders County

The Leshara Bank started the day the town was born. The bank building is still in use, as a home [Behler]

Leshara, the youngest town in Saunders County, was platted on June 5, 1905. It is located 18 miles northeast of Wahoo on the Burlington Railroad. The town was named for Pitalesharo, Chief of the Pawnee Indians, who formerly lived in this area. The name indicates that he descended from a Frenchman who had joined the tribe. Pita (man) lesharo (chief) was the "big shot" of his time, and kept his braves in order. He was a peace-loving man, also highly respected by the trappers and explorers who met him. [Note: history records two Pawnee chiefs by this name. The first was most famous, who among other things stopped the Pawnee use of human sacrifice. He died in 1841. Pitalesharo II was chief at the time the Pawnee moved to the reservation at Genoa in the 1850s.]

The Pawnees had one of their principal villages, several hundred inhabitants, near the place where Leshara now stands. They lived in houses constructed of timber with prairie sod for the roof. The village was in existence at the time of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and is mentioned in a report as having been visited by one of their scouting parties. The known-history of the village stretches well over a century. Many Indian relics have been found in the vicinity and, from time to time, still turn up after fields are plowed or the roads graded. A monument to the Pawnee has been erected on the McClean farm.

A post office was established in the home of William Esty in 1889, with Mrs. Esty appointed postmaster. The mail was brought by stage which ran twice a week between Ashland and Linwood. The post office was discontinued in June 1893, after which people were obliged to take the ferry across the Platte River at Fremont to get their mail.

The "Great Northern Railroad" (now Burlington Northern), was responsible for establishing the town soon after the turn of the century. In need of a station at this location, the company purchased property, laid out streets, and gave the town its historic name, spelling it "Leshara." People immediately started setting up shop, building businesses and homes. When the post office was re-established in February 1906, Ray Esty, son of the pioneer postmaster, was named to that position.

Among the first businesses were Gross & Nelson Hardware, W.C. Williams' Meat Market, Rutt & Zaugg Lumberyard, Strain's Drug Store, Feuersteins' Shoe Shop, Barth's Blacksmith Shop, a hotel, two grocery stores, and a tavern. The weekly newspaper, "Leshara Chief," was published by the Fasett Publishing Company. Later, when automobiles came onto the scene, a service station was started. Dr. Stiers practiced medicine and there was also a dentist.

The Leshara State Bank had its beginning on June 5, 1905, the day lots were being sold at auction for $40 to $50. People planning to buy came in their wagons with picnic baskets and had a "fun day" while purchasing their future home sites. John Foster, owner of the bank, purchased a lot and immediately had Henry Barnhardt and Bert Hollenback build a two-story, white frame bank. Although under Foster it nearly went broke, it regained its balance and remained stable thereafter. In 1921 H.P.Haessler became owner. He survived three burglary attempts. The bank, purchased by P.E.Christensen in 1966, was moved to Waterloo in 1971.

Before a church was built, services were held in the depot. A Methodist Church was built and services held on Sunday afternoons when Rev. McAllister arrived from Valley to preach. At the time of the 1913 Easter Sunday tornado that ravaged many towns and cities in eastern Nebraska, services were being held in the new church. It became so dark that everyone went outside to check on the cause, and watched the huge tornado cloud passed over heading, then moved off in a more southerly direction.

Leshara was famous for its very good baseball team. People from miles around came to watch it play on Sunday afternoons. Families brought picnic baskets, all their children, and made a day of it. In January 1940 Norman Stevens, a light heavyweight boxer from Leshara, won a decision over Knowles of Lincoln in the Golden Gloves Contest.

Today, there is only one business, the Longbranch Bar & Grill, and the post office in Leshara. The population is 130 and growing.

Submitted by Dorothy Behler, Box 102, Leshara, NE 68035, from material written by Mary Ann Cernin for the Saunders County History Book.