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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Beaver Crossing -- Seward County

The town of Beaver Crossing is said to be built on what was an ancient lake-bed. Truck farming developed in this fertile valley, with an abundance of free-flowing water. Strawberry pickers pause for a photograph at Pettijohn's field southeast of town. Pictured at the far left are Vera and Wyle Long, Hugh Pettijohn, Etta Long, and Marie Schloesser. Fielding Pettijohn stands in the center with several "hired pickers" on either side. Mrs. Pettijohn, Mrs. Long, and Mrs. Krasser are at the far right.
The railroad did not make a metropolis of Beaver Crossing, but initiated a new era of commerce and "tourism."

There are many Indian legends as to the origin of the unique, fertile valley not far from where Beaver Creek enters the west fork of the Big Blue River. Old "Injun-John" impressed a young freighter, John Huffman, with his tale of the beautiful lake placed there by the Great Chief when He created the earth. "When the people forgot about their Creator, He sent a great flood that swept the lake away, leaving only a memory and a wide valley in the place where it once was." Our town is now located in this valley.

An early "feeder trail" from Fort Leavenworth to the Oregon Trail, and later the freight cut-off and the great "Steam Wagon Road" from Nebraska City followed along the river through Seward County. Then (staying on level ground) went several miles to the north around "the hole in the ground," said to be the old lake-bed. Where the trail forded Beaver Creek, John Leonard built a ranch in about 1862. John Fouse, who built nearby in 1863, told of getting enormous profits from selling hay and grain to the travelers. In 1868 Roland Reed was named postmaster at "the crossing on Beaver Creek," called "Beaver Crossing" for short.

In 1871 Ross Nichols built a flour mill near Millspaw's Ranch on the West Fork. Soon settlers filled the valley where the soil was especially good, to be closer to the mill. T.H. Tisdale, postmaster at Beaver Crossing at that time, moved his store to the new location, about four miles from the crossing, taking the post office and its name with him. As a town started to develop, a plat was surveyed by G.A. Kilpatrick and filed by Ross and Mary Nichols in 1875.

The hope that a railroad would be built along the old trail in the early 1870s were dashed (some felt) because so much of the right-of-way was "already occupied." Instead, it was built across Saline County, leaving this area with only the old Steam Wagon Road and travelers on foot or in covered wagons.

In 1887 news was heard of a branch line being built from Fremont to Superior that would come right through Beaver Crossing! The "Bugle," one of two newspapers, touting the "new metropolis," started an "excited rush." Building went wild as two brickyards worked round the clock making material for future skyscrapers. John Waterman, editor of another paper, wrote, "The racket of the saw and hammer were so loud that no one noticed, when the train stopped at the depot, very few people got off." Within a year many buildings stood empty and the business-boom collapsed under its own weight.

About that time Earl Eager, digging a well in the basement of his enlarged mercantile building, found "free flowing water." More artesian wells were dug, and soon truck farming became a leading occupation. Canning factories supplied seasonal employment for a large number of people. Beaver Crossing's large, natural "swimming hole" became famous through the southeastern part of the state. Swimmers on a Sunday afternoon numbered from 500-900.

Another well-known feature was Smiley's Water Gardens, where he raised many varieties of water lilies and trout. This unique exhibit was a casualty of World War II, when all available manpower went to the war effort. With the coming of deep-well irrigation in the 1940-50s, most of the artesian wells stopped flowing. Truck-farming disappeared, and a heated swimming pool was built in the city park. The population, said to be 900 in the 1910, now stands at about 450.

Beaver Crossing's school provided a good education for the community's young people for many years. In 1967 the Centennial School District was formed, encompassing the large rural area in Seward and York counties. In 1976 the elementary school was moved to the Centennial site, and the old schoolhouse, built in 1928, became the Faith Christian Mennonite School.

Churches have numbered as high as seven. At this time there is a Catholic, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Faith Christian Fellowship, and Beaver Crossing Fellowship.

As with many small towns, Beaver Crossing struggles to keep the status quo. Businesses, an active Chamber, Grange, Legion and auxilary, the firemen, busy 4-H clubs, and the garden club do their bit. Tree plantings renew the park and camping area, and a large flower bed beautifies the entrance to the town, a present-day version of the old water gardens. Everyone in our town pulls together to make Beaver Crossing one of the best little towns in the state.

 

By Alta Krasser, Rte 1, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Seward County History, 1888, Cox; General History of Seward County, 1915, Waterman; Community History of Beaver Crossing, 1872-1932; Beaver Crossing History , 1875-1975; Seward County Nebraska, 1982; and Seward County Supplement, 1983.