Carleton -- Thayer County
Carleton celebrated its centennial year in 1972. The history written at that time chronicles the first century of our town's life in detail. We will cover a few of the primary dates and events, and include events that have occurred since that date.
The first post office, called "Pioneer," was changed to "Coleraine" when it was kept by Chauncey Barton. Soon after the railroad came through in 1872, the name became "Carleton." Its name was changed on February 13, 1873, in honor of Carleton B. Emory, son of the owner of the town site. At this time, the post office is located in the old bank building and the acting postmaster is Karen Bartels.
Carleton is the "C" on the alphabetized St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad, now the Union Pacific line, between Fairbury and Hastings. A long raised trestle from which coal chutes gravity-loaded the tender-boxes of the steam engines, was once located here. The UP continues to run an average of 40 trains a day through the town, but we no longer have a depot. Trains have progressed from the old 9000-series steam engines to the present diesels. For economic reasons, the trains no longer have a caboose, making them look as if they are not complete.
We are a farming community and set much stock by our agricultural roots. Conditions of the crops greatly influence the economics of the town, both in good times and bad. Without the farmers, we do not survive.
Carleton's school, established when the town was platted, went through a number of changes. An impressive three-story brick structure was built in the early 1900s. In recent years it was decided that the old schoolhouse was beyond repair and a new one was needed. Before the old building was demolished, graduates of Carleton High came from far and wide to an alumni gathering, at which time a sale of the contents of the schoolhouse took place. There are now mementos of the school in homes all over the United States. The Carleton K-6 school has a substantial enrollment, three full-time teachers, and a number of other support staff.
Because of the on-going decrease in population, the Brethren and Methodist churches, both long established congregations, have had to close their doors. Their members have been welcomed into other churches, the Zion Lutheran in town, and the Bethel Church of the Brethren, located in the rural area.
Among Carleton's early businesses, Olga and Harry Weddel founded a grocery store over 65 years ago. Their daughter, Marjorie Werner, has continued to operate the store with the help of other members of the family. In addition to the bank, local businesses continue to supply the services that help to keep our little town stay active.
Naturally, since Carleton is located on a busy railroad, the Farmers' Elevator, owned by shareholders and operated by Richard Zeleny, continues to expand. It recently erected two large bins which hold 250,000 bushels each. The elevator use both the railroad and semi-trucks to move grain out to markets. Milo is one of the chief crops. On the second Saturday of September, the town celebrates "Milo Day" with milo pancakes, a parade, a horse show, and games. We call ourselves the "Milo Capital of Nebraska."
Fires visited our community many times during the early years of our existence. Since 1972 we have had four serious fires. The Roger Bonin family lost their home and belongings to fire, as did the Greg Thieman family. Fortunately there were no serious injuries. On January 20, 1975, a fire not only burned Shirley Rachow's home to the ground, but took her life with it. In 1981 a fire at Jack Blunk's feed store threatened a whole city block. With the help of surrounding towns and our own volunteers, the fire was finally contained, but much damage was done. The building has since then been rebuilt.
The highest population for Carleton, 458, was recorded in 1890. The present census lists 160 residents. Located on Highway 4, five miles west of Highway 81, we enjoy the quiet setting of a small town with good connections to the rest of the world when we want to go someplace.
Warren and Tresa Voss, Carleton, NE 68326.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: A History of Carleton, Nebraska, 1972 , sponsored by the Carleton Community Club, available at the Thayer County Museum and NSHS.