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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Tamora -- Seward County

The town called Tamora was established in 1879. The elevators, first on the scene, are still the primary identity for the town.
Tamora, 1908, a growing community "in the right location."
Tamora's high school, 1912. (Back row) Louis Bouchard, Marie Bouchard, Cora Marler, Orval Booth. (Middle) Merl Hamilton, Edna Diven, Vivian Kinkade, Chester Tilly, Willard Kinnamon. (Front) Mabel Moore, Velma Kinkade, Ruth Moulton, Lena Wenciker, George Abble.

The county's smallest town is located six miles west of Seward. "Tamora" was created when the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad extended its line from Seward to York in 1876. When the rails crossed Township 11, Range 2 East, four men each donated ten acres so that the railroad would build a siding and station.

Choosing a name for the town was not easy. The popular belief is that each donor (Beadle, Scott, Chapman, and Russell) wanted the town named for himself. Since no one could get a "majority vote," they would simply agree to "talk about it tomorrow." Finally a play-on-words was chosen, using a frontier pronunciation, "ta'MORa."

Lafayette Weldon had the first post office in the area, in a corner of his dugout. When the town was established, the post office was moved and the name changed from Lafayette to "Tamora." Phillip Tyler, who built the first house, was named postmaster.

The first business was a small grain elevator built by J.W. Scott in 1879. The Morissey brothers built one in 1881, and T.W. Lowrey another in 1882, all three on the south side of the tracks. A farmers elevator company was organized in 1915, and bought one of the elevators the following year. In 1962 a modern elevator was built north of the tracks, and in 1964 a feed-mill was added, replacing one that had burned. An even larger elevator was built in 1978, said to be the largest single-slip elevator in the state. By 1982, using the name "Blue Valley Cooperative," there were 40 employees, more than 1,500 stockholders, assets of over $9 million, with branches in Staplehurst, Goehner, and Beaver Crossing. The headquarters at Tamora operated a unit-train facility, shipping 54-car trains on the Burlington Northern line. In a tragic flash-explosion in 1984, Robert W. Ihde of Tamora and Ragene Luth of Utica, were killed. With the damage to the structure repaired, it continues to be the largest elevator in the county. The only other business in town is Bob's Digging Service owned by Robert L. Ihde.

The Tamora town site was surveyed in 1879, and the plat was registered in 1881. In 1884 the population was only 53, but by December 27, 1888, the population was sufficient to allow for incorporation.

Tamora built a beautiful two-story schoolhouse in 1886. There was also a bank, owned by A.J. Williams. In the next three years the village grew considerably, building many homes, three churches, several factories, and had a busy main street.

In 1892, when the county was trying to pass bonds to build a new courthouse, someone suggested that if there was a suitable building in Tamora, the county seat could be moved to this location. A quarter of a block was purchased and excavated for the basement. Walls were laid up of Nebraska limestone. It was an impressive start, however, there was little or no support for the idea. This left Tamora with an "unused basement."

A few years later, a young man named Williams talked the people of Tamora into building a large opera house on the foundation. While waiting for the walls to be built, several hundred seats were ordered and delivered, which later had to be returned to the factory. By then trees and greenery were growing in the basement, and it became a play ground for the village children. The basement was finally filled in and the beautiful dream came to an end. Today, if you didn't know this story, you would never know that the basement had existed.

In 1920 there were over 200 residents and a thriving business community. People took great pride in their homes and gardens. One by one, businesses, homes, and churches were lost to fire. With no fire protection, most were not rebuilt. A fire department was organized in 1973 and by that October a fire hall was completed, equipment purchased, and members trained.

For many years, young people moved away in search of jobs. Recently, the population of Tamora has started to grow again, up from 50 in 1980 to 73 in 1991. A number of mobile homes and some new houses have been added. Tamora is still a wonderful place to raise a family, pets, and gardens.

In 1990, after months of "disharmony" on the town council, a petition was circulated to un-incorporate the town. With 29 eligible voters casting ballots, the issue was defeated, and Tamora continues to be Seward County's smallest incorporated town.

By Vickey J. Ihde-Gray, Tamora, NE 68434, with additional pictures supplied by Dan Kinnamon.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Memories of Tamora, Anna Frantz; On A Bend of The River, 1967, Jane Graff; Bicentennial Book , 1976, Harold Davisson, Seward County Nebraska, 1982; and other Seward County histories.