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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Hebron -- Thayer County

Hebron, built in the center of Thayer County, was a natural choice for its seat of government. Its first courthouse, built in 1877, was a two-story wooden structure. The jail was a cell underneath that structure with two small port holes, effectively designed "to frighten evil-doers away."
A.D. Eliker & Sons had a thresher and sheller outfit, doing custom work in Thayer County. This photo is of the steam engine and threshing machine like they used. [Lynch]
Bird's eye view of Hebron in 1893, by August Koch. [TCM]
Hebron's main street between 1901-09. Album of Thayer County , [Nebraska State Historical Society]
Substantial brick buildings build in the 1880s line the cobblestone streets of Hebron, 1991. [Harris]

During the Civil War, Isaac Errit, editor of the "Christian Herald" in Cincinnati, Ohio, purchased 750 acres of land in Nebraska for $1.25 an acre. In time he gathered together a group of people interested in moving to the frontier. Calling themselves the "Union Colony," they headed west with all their belongings in 1869. When they arrived at Meridian, in Jefferson County, they were forced to stop because the Indians were said to be "on the warpath."

A militia, Company A, First Nebraska Cavalry, built a fort between the Little Blue River and Spring Creek just west of what is now Hebron. Named "Fort Butler" in honor of the state's first governor, it provided "a measure of security" for those who feared the horribly savage acts by Indians they had been told about.

After a year of deliberating, the colony platted a town south of the river on land belonging to Edric Huse. When it failed to develop, a rival plat was surveyed north of the river by Ed Past, who organized a town company. With 18 investors sharing the cost, lots sold for $30 each. Since the people referred to it as "their city of refuge," Ives Marks, a minister from Rose Creek, gave it the Biblical name for such, "Hebron."

Elder Correll store was first, followed by Proctor's hotel and Miss Potter's small building, used for the post office and a newspaper, the "Hebron Journal." (It was referred to as a "tri-weekly" paper -- that is, get it out one week and try to get one out the next!)

When Thayer County was created in 1871, Hebron, ideally located in the center, was named county seat. At that point the town grew rapidly as many businesses and professional offices were established. "Premium Mills," built in 1873 on the river west of Hebron by Wetheral's, also played an important part of the economy of the town.

It was noted in 1882 the town's population of 800 had increased by 20 in ten years "...even without a railroad." After two railroads arrived, the Rock Island from the east on its way to Nelson, and the Burlington from the north, running from Fairmont to Chester, the town's growth was significant.

Our first church was the Disciples of Christ, which included the 18 founders of the town. Since then the Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Assembly of God, and two Lutheran congregations have established churches.

Saturday nights in Hebron were "especially busy times." Farmers came to town with their cream, eggs, and chickens. They sold them at the produce station or traded them at the grocery stores for "staples" such as salt, molasses, and spices. Then, until very late at night, they visited with each other, while the children played. Wednesday night was band concert night at the city park.

Very early in our history a 3,000 gallon reservoir was built near the center of town to provide protection against fires. A lightplant was built and we had electricity. The telephone came, automobiles, and finally airplanes, so we paved our streets and built an airport.

Over the years we saw our boys go off to war, and experienced periods of bounty and growth, as well as drought and depression. During times of peace and prosperity, new homes were built and improvements made.

We were living a happy life in our beautiful town in 1953, when on May 9 at 9:45 p.m., a tornado struck Hebron and nearly destroyed it. It was very disheartening to see our homes, churches, and business places in ruins. Even before morning had arrived, groups of people came from surrounding communities, bringing food, chain saws, crowbars, trucks, and sympathy. We dried our tears and went to work.

It took a year, but Hebron was rebuilt. It is beautiful again and we are very proud of our new city. In the years since then we have built a hospital and a nursing home that are very comfortable and well equipped. A new high school and elementary school give our children a fine education. Every street and many alleys have been paved. Hebron's business district, with many locally-owned businesses, continues to provide the majority of our community needs.

Hebron has a very interesting history. It includes stories of the Oregon Trail, Indian troubles, weather-related events, the great work in the Woman Suffrage movement, and many other facets of our growth.

Yes, Hebron -- current population 1,906 -- is one of Nebraska's growing towns and proud to be so.

By R.H.Thomas, 422 Lincoln Avenue, Hebron, NE 68370

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Nebraska, 1882, Andreas; Album of Thayer County, Nebraska, 1903, by Frank S. Mickey, with many photos of Hebron and other towns in the county; and The Wonderful Years , 1871-1971.