Yutan -- Saunders County
A 16-block village was platted in 1876, when the Omaha & Republican Valley Railroad extended its line from Valley to Lincoln. The town was first called "Clear Creek." The name was changed in 1884 to honor Chief Ietan (pronounced "Yutan") of the Oto-Missouri Indian tribe, who had an encampment a short distance southeast of the town site from the early 1800s to 1835.
Six or seven houses were built in that first year. John Peters built a house and a store, Frederick Milek built a home and blacksmith shop, and Reverend Frederick Hullhorst built a home next to the two lots which the railroad had donated for a church. A post office was also established, so we assume that a post office and dwelling for the postmaster were built.
The earliest settlers to this area, arriving in the 1860s, were primarily from Germany and Switzerland. In addition to farming, most families also planted about five acres in fruit trees. The people were intelligent, honest, hard-working, and conservative. These qualities seem to have carried over to their descendants, who still live in this vicinity.
In 1898 the Union Pacific Railroad acquired the O&RV Railroad, and in 1905-06 the Burlington Railroad's line from Ashland to Sioux City was built through Yutan. After years of dwindling traffic, Burlington motor car passenger service was discontinued in 1950 and the UP closed its depot in 1958. Freight trains still operate on both lines.
A one-room schoolhouse was built in 1877. A second room was added in 1890, and another room in 1900 when the ninth grade was added. From 1910-16 enrollment increased so rapidly that space was rented downtown for classes until the new building was completed. This brick structure housed the first 12-grade school. Following consolidation in the 1960s, a large addition was built, and big yellow buses started conveying students to and from school. In 1976 a new junior-senior high school was dedicated. School enrollment currently is 500-600, and both the high school and the elementary building are very modern.
There are two churches in town; St.Peter's United Church of Christ, organized in 1873, and St.John's Lutheran Church, organized in 1901. Both churches were rebuilt after a devastating tornado on March 23, 1913. St. Peter's Church was again destroyed by an explosion in 1986 and was rebuilt. St.John's also rebuilt after outgrowing its facilities.
The early day shops, mills, livery stables, and general merchandise stores have ceased to exist, but filling stations and other businesses now flourish. The Bank of Yutan, organized in 1888, built a new structure in 1980. The grocery store includes lockers and a laundry. Yutan also has two restaurants, a bar, three beauty shops, a barber, a variety store, a real estate office, and a feed store.
The Yutan Community Club, started in 1926, is the oldest organization in town. This group established "Itan Park" and sponsors "Yutan Daze" each year. The Yutan Country Club is also a very active organization. Its building, south of town, is a popular meeting place. The Yutan Senior Citizens' Club meets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at the community building for dinner and a variety of activities. Both Boy and Girl Scout groups are well supported in the community.
The Yutan American Legion Post 262 was chartered in 1952 and the auxiliary unit was organized in 1956. The Yutan Fire Department has always had an important role in the community. The Rescue Squad is now a part of this organization. Training keeps the personnel up to date. The department is now manned by 30 members, which includes several women.
The population of Yutan was about 400 until two housing developments, one in the 1960s and another in the 1970s, increasing it to about 1,000. Located not far from the metro-area on highways 77 & 92, Yutan's future is assured.
By Neva L. Peters, 155 East 8th, Wahoo, NE 68066. Pictures collected by Lester Zwiebel and Emily Mumm, of Yutan, 68073.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Yutan Centennial History , published in 1976, and Saunders County,1983 , SCHS publication.