Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

  • Virtual Nebraska Logo

Virtual Nebraska

Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Garland -- Seward County

An early Garland "town-team" pose on the hotel's front porch, 1902.
Germantown's main street with old bank building on the corner.
Garland today, looking east from where the tracks once were. [Harris]

Our town was a creation of the railroad. In 1872, when officials of Midland Pacific wanted to extend a line west from Lincoln, the people in and around Milford (who had just lost the election for county seat) voted against the bonds. As a result, the railroad turned to the people in the northeast part of the Seward County, promising that the route would benefit them by coming "as far up into the hills as possible."

"Oak Grove," the largest settlement in this corner of the county, was in "A" Precinct. When the line was built, it went northwest through Malcolm, up a long, steep grade and into the glacier hills. Choosing a level spot for its station near the top of "H" Precinct a depot was built and given the name "Germantown," because most residents were from Germany. A post office was established in March 1873 with John Westerhoff as postmaster.

Germantown was platted by Hilard Frazier and the town sprang up almost overnight, with the residents of Oak Grove leading the way. Main Street soon had two grocery stores, a lumberyard, a blacksmith and harness shop, a furniture store, a barber shop, a drug store, a fine hotel, several eating establishments, two pool halls, a saloon or two, and a theatre. There were also two large grain elevators, a school, and Methodist, Congregational, and Lutheran churches.

In addition to hauling freight, the railroad was the main passenger route from Lincoln to Seward. The tracks from Germantown descended quite rapidly into the Blue River Valley at Seward, and it is said that the engineers had to brake all the way or the ladies would slide off their seats into the aisles as the trains rounded the sharp curves.

This part of Seward County was predominantly a dairy region, so a very successful industry, the Germantown Creamery, emerged. Business was so good that soon after incorporating in 1892, the owners purchased "the best equipment for the processing of butter and cheese." In 1918 a second company, the Germantown Condensed Milk Company, incorporated with a capital of $100,000. This company bought and sold milk products, eggs, poultry, and canned farm and garden products. The plant, built on the west side of town, also did laundry.

Dr. Joe Morrow set up his medical practice in 1892, the same year that Germantown incorporated. The Bank of Germantown, established in 1904, constructed an impressive stone building in 1917. The four huge pillars arrived on two flatcars and were hauled to main street by several teams of horses. The bank closed when the Depression hit in the 1930s, but the bank building is still a landmark of the community.

When war broke out with Germany in 1917, the people of Germantown were particularly sensitive about its name. The town council decided they would change the name to that of the first soldier from the town "to die during the war." Raymond Garland died of pneumonia on his way to France and several others were killed in action. The wording of the resolution did not specify the manner of death, so the name was officially changed to "Garland" on November 11, 1918.

A volunteer fire department was organized in 1919. In 1925, after many successful years, the milk company sold out to Beatrice Foods, which closed the Garland facility. The town built a water tower in 1928, when the new, brick high school was built. A gym, classrooms, and a kitchen were added in 1964. In 1960 Garland was Class D State Basketball champion, and for many years was atop contender for that crown. It still has a "town team."

There has also been a Garland baseball team nearly every year since 1902. The ball park, located for many years on land owned by Westerhoffs, was improved with lights and dedicated as the Westerhoff Athletic Field in 1964. An all-electric score board was installed in 1990 in memory of Jerry Schaefer, a star athlete from the area.

The train no longer runs through Garland, but there is still an elevator, half a dozen businesses, the Zion Lutheran Church, and the post office. Now part of the Seward School District, K-4 classes are here with 5-12 students bussed to Seward. Most people who live here work in Lincoln, 18 miles away, or in Seward, 10 miles over the hills.

By Mary Lue Gahm, Box 51, Garland, NE 68360. Photos by Joe Pankoke, and Ida Mathes.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: History of Seward County , Cox; Early Days in Seward County , Smith; An Afterglow of Yesterday , Koenig; and On A Bend of the River , Graff.