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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Henry -- Scotts Bluff County

Bird-eye view of Henry, Nebraska. 1910.
Main Street in Henry, Nebraska. 1912.

During the railroad expansion up the Platte Valley in the early 1900s, town sites were created every eight to ten miles, since everything was "horse powered" at that time. In 1908 Yorick Nichols and his wife offered to give the Lincoln Land Company half of the town site if they chose their land. The agreement carried the stipulation that the town be named "Henry" for their adopted son who died in a swimming accident. (Mrs. Nichols was a talented woman who wrote stories for the Saturday Evening Post. )

After the town was laid out, a boxcar was moved in from Pratt, Wyoming, seven miles to the west. With the arrival of the "depot," Henry was officially on the railroad map. School was held in a church a mile southeast of town with Nettie Glenn the first teacher.

Financial reasons, not sentimental ones, caused Henry to grow. Cattle could be shipped cheaper in Nebraska than Wyoming. As soon as cars were available, the Swann Land & Cattle Company shipped 7,000 head of cattle from the new town.

Hilsabeck shipped a load of lumber to Henry from Morrill and put up the first building -- a lumber shed 24' x 140'. Water for irrigation was north of Henry in about 1906. The town's survey is dated 1909.

It took the Anderson brothers two days to drive their new Model T from Furnas County to Henry in 1914. H.V.(Herk) and Rudy Anderson started the Anderson General Merchandise in 1916 when they bought out Vic Bryan. The next year, Lee Anderson bought the hardware stock from Mr.Logan and Lewis Glenn. The Anderson name symbolizes 62 years of continuous association between the family and the Henry community.

For years Herk Anderson spent Sunday afternoons at the stockyards weighing in hogs for the farmers to get enough to ship a carload to Denver. When the returns came, he carefully pro-rated the payments according to weight for each farmer.

In 1916 the North Platte Valley Cooperative Turkey Marketing was started. It put Henry on the map as an important shipping point and developed an annual market of $200,000 in turkey and eggs. During the 1939 season, 33 carloads of dressed turkeys -- 45,000 birds valued at $130,000 -- were loaded in Burlington cars and shipped to eastern cities. The plant at Henry was a year-round proposition. It had one of the finest refrigerator systems in the west. The association was a dream-come-true for the Andersons and others who saw the possibility of profits in turkey raising.

Yorick Nichols built an auto garage in 1920 from locally produced blocks. (Three men worked all summer making the blocks beside Spring Creek. After making their quota of blocks, they carefully carried and stacked the two-day-old blocks into the water to cure for several weeks.) The upstairs became an auditorium where dances, basketball games, school plays, etc., were held.

The State Bank of Henry, founded by Gage Holloway and Frank Powers, closed in the 1920s because the prices that had escalated during World War I, suddenly dropped. As banks failed, some farmers lost their places and a few left the country and their debts.

A couple of years after the war, the village voted bonds to bring electricity from Lyman. This required six miles of power lines. A water system, still in use, was dug by hand. The town paid off the bonds and some said the lower cost of insurance paid for both systems.

Henry wasn't always a nice, clean little town -- as it is today. Cowboys would ride their horses right into the pool hall. When someone put a fence up east of the crossing on the main street, some cowboys decided it was in the way. So they tied the barbed wire to a caboose and it was soon in Wyoming.

Henry, like other small towns dependent on agriculture, is struggling to survive. The population is only 125, but is still very much alive. Spiritually, Henry supports two churches: the Methodist and Bible Churches. The Henry post office, threatened with closing a few years ago, is still thriving in a converted garage.

People from Henry started a club known as "The Betterment Group" two years ago. They work with the town council in doing whatever will help keep things going. Henry is not dead yet!

By Betty Garrett, Box 65, Henry, NE 69349