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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Cordova -- Seward County

Cordova's main street, classic small town Nebraska photograph, topped the NEBRASKA...Our Towns posters used to announce this series of books.
Cordova's FE&MV Depot (later C&NW) with agent Beecher and family.
A convoy of autos parked on Cordova's main street as the happy crowd poses for a photograph, ca. 1920. [SCHS]

From the land of waving prairie grasses and wild flowers, broken into fields of rich farmland, emerged a little village called "Cordova." With the coming of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad in 1887, a town was platted by the Pioneer Town Site Company in the southwest corner of Seward County. It was named "Hunkins" for Benjamin Hunkins, whose son Clarence was the first postmaster and store owner. However, the name for the village was not accepted by the postal department, which said it was too similar to "Hoskins" in Wayne County. The name "Cordova" was selected since it was not even close to the name of any other town in Nebraska.

The Cordova community and surrounding area was primarily settled by immigrants from Denmark and Germany. Over the years this has changed to include many nationalities. At its peak in the early 1900s, Cordova is said to have exceeded 300 in population. That number has diminished through the years to about 130 due to the movement to urban areas, but the citizenry in 1990 is stable and progressive.

The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, which supplanted the FE&MV, ended service when floods took out some bridges near Superior. After a gallant attempt to continue it as a private short line known as the Great Plains Railway, the project was abandoned and the line was dismantled in 1976. Replacing that means of transportation is I-80 seven miles north of town and a hardtops road linking Cordova to Highway 6.

Early histories of Cordova mention two newspapers -- the "Gazette" and the "Progress" -- a number of doctors and dentists, a cream station, a saloon, a hotel, a bank, and the usual collection of shops and businesses. In addition to the school, there was also a Christian Church, and three Lutheran churches.

The original Cordova opera house, built in 1888, was destroyed when a fire consumed the businesses on the south side of main street in August 1911. These were immediately replaced by a brick structure, which also included the Fraternal Hall in 1912. That building, financed by $1,000 in donations from local citizens, still stands with three businesses occupying it.

In 1923 a fire destroyed several businesses on the north side of main street, which were again replaced almost immediately.

School District 88 was formed in 1883, and a two-story, wooden structure was built in 1890. From 1918-32, Cordova had a "rural consolidated school," complete with school buses, certainly the first in the county and thought to have been the first in the state. Small numbers of students caused the high school to close in 1954. At that time the old building was torn down and a new brick one was built for elementary students. In 1986 the district voted to dissolve and the patrons joined one of three neighboring districts -- Centennial, Exeter, or Friend. The school now houses a business.

The Nebraska Telephone Company established service in Cordova in 1906, although the railroad had installed a phone several years earlier at the Dorsey Elevator. In 1916 a local newspaper reported "...the (new) electric lights are all glowing in the evening which gives our town a decided city-like appearance." A sewer system was installed in 1962, and a modern water pressure system was installed in 1969. The Cordova windmill, once the communal source of water, now stands as a symbol of pride and personal identity of the town's heritage.

The new community building was built in 1982. Evidence of community growth is seen in the improvements to the village park, a well-equipped volunteer fire department, active community organizations, and several new homes. Two Lutheran churches continue to serve local parishioners and the faithful from several surrounding communities.

Though the declining farm population and the closing of the school have left their mark, Cordova is an active trading center with a bank, a new post office, a large co-op association, a garage, a truck line, a meat processing plant, a grocery store and tavern, a farm supply store, an upholstery shop, a welding and repair shop, an art studio, an auctioneering service, and a photography studio.

Cordova's centennial was celebrated on the last weekend of July, 1987, with parades, a pageant, a barbecue, a dance, a softball tournament, a community worship service, and various other events, which included our town's annual event, "The Great Cordova Pigeon Race."

By the Historical Committee, Norma Johnson, coordinator, Box 155, Cordova, NE 68330.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of Seward, 1915 , Waterman; and Cordova Centennial , 1987, by the Historical Committee.