Hazard -- Sherman County
If it weren't for the Grand Island & Wyoming Central Railroad Company constructing its main line from Grand Island to Alliance, the town of Hazard would probably have been built two miles west and one-half mile south of the present location. It was the railroad that decided the location of sidings and stations, so the community and post office of Bentora at that location was obliged to move to the new site if they were to become a town.
Hazard is believed to have gotten its name as a result of a dangerous, swampy area along the tracks at that location. The soft road-bed caused trains to slow down, and mark their logs with the word "Hazard" as a caution to other engineers who might be unfamiliar with the route. Lots in the new town, currently the home of 84 people, were sold to the early settlers by the Lincoln Land Company.
In 1986 Hazard celebrated its centennial with parades, dances, and picnics to honor the brave pioneers who moved to this frontier area, living in dugouts and sod houses. Their hard work has paved the way for us, as we still strive to make a living and educate our families.
Over the years, people of many nationalities and cultures have been the main component of Hazard. There was a strong community bond that bound them together as they lived through blizzards, tornadoes, hordes of grasshoppers, drought, and dust storms.
Churches and schools were very important to our ancestors. The first school was made of sod and located north of town. Around 1900 a frame schoolhouse was built. Today there is a modern brick building, with three full-time teachers plus a music teacher and a special education teacher.
Hazard has three churches: Methodist, Lutheran, and Catholic. The Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized as early as 1882, with services held in various farm homes around the area until the church was built.
As the town of Hazard formed, many businesses lined main street. At one time there was the depot, a post office, two banks, three grocery stores, two cafes, a hotel, hardware store, barber shop, pool hall, drugstore, doctor, telephone office, and an opera house. At its peak, more than 240 people lived in Hazard.
Fires have destroyed much of that early business district. One fire burned the east side of the street, destroying the hotel, drugstore, and other businesses. Later, fire burned many shops on the west side.
The 1929 stock market crash caused both banks to close. With the Depression and drought of the 1930s, many citizens had to give up and move to other states.
Hazard is still going forward in the second century with a good number of shops and businesses. We have the Hazard Hay Company, Trotter's fertilizer company, a Quick-Stop gas station and garage, Larsen's trucking business, two beauty shops, the post office, and The Dukes of Hazard Bar & Grill. Although our town is certainly classed as "a quiet farming community," the citizens feel that Hazard is still alive and well.
The school's "all-purpose room" is used for many events -- plays, programs, and meetings. The town hall is where people vote, hold social events, showers, and receptions. Athletics have always been an important part of the town's priorities. Hazard boasts many winning baseball and basket ball teams.
The citizens of Hazard can rightly be proud of their pioneer heritage whether their ancestors were trappers, farmers, cattlemen, legislators, or those who were not completely within "the letter of the law." In their own way, they met each day with courage and determination. They paved the way and made our lives in Hazard much better today.
By Ola Criffield, Box 64, Hazard, NE 68844. Typed by Wanda Otto.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL? "The History of Hazard -- Wheels of Time," by Criffield.