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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Gordon -- Sheridan County

Gordon school, 1884.
Gordon, taken between 1899 - 1901 from top of grade school looking east.
Gordon Boosters for Sheridan County Fair, 1923.
Gordon looking north from Main Square, 1910. Note school on the hill.
Early 1900s looking west from Main Square.
Main Street, 1908, with band stand in the middle of the street.
Wagon loads of potatoes from the A.B. McDowell Ranch, 1914.
East Main Street, 1920.
View of Gordon from the High School, 1930s.
Sioux Indians dancing at the fair in 1940.
Main Street, 1940, looking north.
Main as it looks today.

Our Town...GORDON is just 15 miles from South Dakota and 120 miles from Wyoming. Not many settlers were in the area before 1884. Judge Tucker, U.S. Commissioner at Valentine, convinced the Rev. John Scamahorn of Sullivan, Indiana, that northwest Nebraska was "a paradise for agriculture development" while in attendance at the Louisville Exposition in 1882. The next year, Scamahorn and a few friends came out to look it over. He returned home and organized a colony. In the winter of 1884, he and 104 sturdy folks journeyed to rail's end at Valentine, then on west by means of ox drawn wagons. They set up their tents beside the "Lone Willow", the only tree of any size in the area, near the present site of Gordon. A nine-trunked old willow tree still stands as a landmark to their campsite. The good reverend conducted church services and using a shoe box for stamps, set up the "postal service".

When the railroad built west in 1885, the town of Gordon moved a mile west to accommodate the men who "made towns." This is where you find it today.

Scamahorn discouraged the use of his name for the town, suggesting instead it be named for John Gordon, whose ill-fated pilgrimage into that area in 1875 had resulted in the loss of his wagon train and possessions. The name was accepted.

The Village of Gordon was incorporated in 1885, about the time John Crowder brought a second colony from Indiana and settlers were arriving from other states. The population was nearly 500, with a full business district and other necessary industries. Settlers found good land both north and south of the Niobrara. By 1904 the population was up to 650.

Kitty Hyde, teacher, opened the first school in 1885 with 27 students, the term lasting only three months. Presently the school system features new brick facilities with skilled faculty members throughout the K-12 system. Gordon maintains the theme "Maximizing Education Opportunity."

In May of 1920 Gordon became a city with a population of 1,200, and the government changed from "trustee form" to the "mayor and council" plan. In 1950 a city manager plan was approved by the electorate.

Gordon has a dozen churches, continuing the faith on which the town was founded. Great pride is taken in the medical center, a modern hospital and clinic equipped with the latest devices. These are staffed with excellent doctors, surgeons, and nurses.

The town has a nine-hole golf course, new ball field, bowling alley, municipal swimming pool, nice theatre, three smaller picnic parks with playground equipment, and two museums plus a third one, to be known as the "Scamahorn Museum" nearing completion. The Regional Arts Alliance brings professional entertainment, music, theatre, and ballet to the community.

Annual special events include: the Sheridan County Fair and Rodeo, the Willow Tree Festival, Town and Country Days and Spirit of Christmas. Many service clubs are active in town. Well stocked stores line the business section and residential areas reveal attractive homes set in well-kept yards.

"The Gordon Journal," a weekly paper, was established in 1891 and continues faithfully to support the community and record its history.

Potatoes raised for local use and commercially were an early-day crop interspersed with general farming and ranching, which dominates the agri-business today.

Residents of the Oglala Sioux reservation 18 miles north have figured prominently in the development of Gordon. In addition, their colorful costumes and dances have often been featured in the Sheridan County Fairs. Their culture is being maintained in the schools and through art shows.

Recognizing present economic down turns, the community development committee and city officials joined forces in getting a local beef packing plant reopened. This is a joint venture consisting of a private investor, the Oglala Sioux tribe and the City of Gordon, with 51% ownership by the tribe. New developments are in the offing, and with the cooperation of the entire community, the future in Gordon looks bright.

by Thelma Holst, 404 N Ash Street, Box 264, Gordon, NE 69343