Clinton -- Sheridan County
By 1883 the Fremont, Elkhorn, & Missouri Valley Railroad had pushed its way across Nebraska to Valentine. Surveys were being completed and in the spring of 1884 a few hardy settlers, interested in homesteading free land, headed west. Abel J.Love was one such pioneer. He walked the 100 miles from Valentine and was the first to file a claim in Township 32 of Sheridan County. He returned to the east but came back that fall and built a combination dugout/sodhouse on the present site of Clinton.
Before long there were many other settlers in the area, so a post office was necessary. Love was appointed post master, but since there was no town, it had no name. After much discussion, the name "Clinton" was approved, probably for the hometown of people migrating from a town by that name. After the railroad came through in 1885, Love's duties included meeting the daily train, for which he was paid 15 cents per day.
With the arrival of families, a school, church, and meeting place was needed. A log schoolhouse was built, with an initial school term of 3 months. A larger school was built in 1890, a brick building was constructed in 1916, and expanded in 1934. In the 1930s, there were 100 students enrolled; 65 in elementary and 35 in high school.
The first jury trial in Sheridan County was held in Clinton, so there was hope it would be the county seat. However, an election held on September 8, 1885, eliminated Clinton from the race.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated in the spring of 1890. Located on lots deeded to it by Abel Love, the church is still active today.
After the railroad arrived, many new businesses sprang up. In the early 1900s Clinton was a flourishing village with shops that included general merchandise and groceries, a Farmers' Union, drug store, meat market, curio shop, cafe, hotel, bank, barber shop, blacksmith, grain elevator, lumber yard, harness shop, well drilling, ice plant, garage, gas station, and village light plant. The census showed almost 200 persons.
In 1919 it was decided that the village should be incorporated. In order to get enough signatures on the petition however, the village limits were expanded to include 36 square miles! The Village of Clinton was officially incorporated on March 1, 1920. During the Depression, rural landowners petitioned for release from village taxes, and it reverted to its former and present size.
Clinton was noted for a very fine community band, so a bandstand was built for concerts. Clinton was also widely known for its basketball teams -- the town team "Clinton Coyotes," and the high school "Clinton Cubs."
The 1940's saw many residents leave for more gainful employment in wartime jobs or to the service. Many businesses folded and much of the property was abandoned. Lots were sold for tax liens in the 1950s for as little as $1.00. The high school was discontinued in 1945 for lack of students. The few remaining businesses, except the grain elevator and lumber yard, folded. In 1959 the post office was closed.
In recent years however, three new businesses have been built on the outskirts of Clinton; a meat processing plant, a restaurant, and a manufacturing and repair plant. There are some new homes and the village has paved streets, mercury street lights, and a fine elementary school on Love Street. Our secondary students attend either Gordon or Rushville High Schools. The present population is 50, which makes Clinton one of the smaller incorporated towns in Nebraska.
The Village of Clinton, founded by Love, refuses to disappear and has dreams of a future, rather than of the past.
By Harold Retzlaff, Rte 1 Box 123, Gordon, NE 69343