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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Arlington -- Washington County

This copy of a print of the depot at arlington in late afternoon, presents an interesting study in shadows and silhouettes against the sky.
Telephones came in many sizes and shapes. Arlington's were first installed by the local photographer. Dial phones were not installed until 1967. [D. Gee, Palmer]
Marshall Nurseries at Arlington. Long established business in this area, 1991 [Harris]

In the spring of 1869 the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad platted a town which it named "Bell Creek," for the stream that ran nearby. The town was divided into lots that were sold for $40 to $150 each.

The depot was the first building in the new town, and as soon as a lumber yard was established, several homes were built. A brickyard, where the Washington County fairgrounds is now located, also provided material for the homes and businesses. Soon there was a blacksmith shop (which continued in town under various "smiths" until 1977), the Eagle Hotel, a general store, a paint shop, a meat market, a saloon, a harness shop, a drug store, and a shoe shop.

Because the names Bell Creek and Battle Creek, in Madison County, were so similar mail was often misdirected between the two towns. In 1882 federal postal authorities decided that a change must be made. Even though Bell Creek had been authorized as early as October 1857, it was none-the-less the one slated to change. On February 2, 1882, in response to a petition filed with the county board, the name was changed to "Arlington." They completed incorporation requirements two months later.

As the town grew, the needs changed. Medicine took a step forward, from druggists performing the services of "doctor," to real doctors, with medical school training and licenses. Arlington has been very fortunate to have a doctor in practice since 1879. Many towns with the same population are not so lucky.

Electricity came to Arlington when a group of local men organized a stock company under the name "Arlington Electric Light & Power Company." On the morning of December 8, 1904, shortly before noon, the first electric lights blinked on. After that the electricity came on at 6:00 in the evening, blinked a warning at 11:45, and at midnight the engineer pulled the switch, turning it off for the night. Soon there were requests that on Monday and Tuesday forenoons, the electricity be on for the ladies who had electrical appliances to wash and iron their cloths. Power was not available 24 hours a day until 1929.

The telephone had its beginning in Clarene Vail's photography studio on main street in 1900. He built and installed a telephone switchboard in the corner of his shop, made a few telephones, and strung wires to a number of residences. Until 1967, when dial phones were installed, the Arlington Telephone Company had a local operator who linked all calls through a single switchboard.

Education was of the utmost importance in the building of the community. Classes were held in private homes until the first schoolhouse was built in 1879. The two-story frame school, located at 4th and Elm streets, cost $5,000 to build, and had 59 students. A new schoolhouse was built on "Quality Hill" and dedicated in September 1907. This brick structure contained six "recitation rooms" and a superintendent's office, and was said to be equipped with "all the modern conveniences," including steam heat, a water supply on every floor, and a system of lighting and ventilation that was "the best."

Since then school districts have consolidated. Rural elementary districts have disappeared in favor of a K-12 system. The present high school was built in 1962, at which time the elementary classes moved into the remodeled 1907 building. A new elementary school and gymnasium were built in 1973, and the old school torn down to make room for a track and football field.

The city established a park and planted trees on the lots surrounding the schoolhouse in 1884. A new city auditorium was built in 1953, and the old one (the first schoolhouse that had been converted for community use) was torn down by local citizens for the lumber. A swimming pool was added to the recreational facilities in 1967. In 1971 a community room and a five-bay fire station were welcome built. In addition to the baseball field at the fairgrounds, Bell Creek Memorial Park was construct. It includes tennis courts and a softball field.

Arlington, only seven miles from Fremont, is among Nebraska's small towns that have shown new growth in the past decade. The 1980 population, pegged at 1,117, is the highest recorded to that date.

By LeMara Eicke, Box 973, Washington, NE 68068

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Washington County History , Taylor Publishing Co, 1980; and The Changing Face & Faces of Arlington, Nebraska, 1969, reprinted in 1985, by Enterprise Publishing Co. Blair, NE.