Washington -- Washington County
How did our quiet little village survive for 100 years? No one knows for sure, but survive we did. Located near the lower edge of the county, it never grew very large, but it is a nice place to live and raise a family.
In the 1880s, rails were being laid all over eastern Nebraska. The Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad built a line from Arlington east to Omaha and south to the stock yards. The railroad bought a quarter section of land from Thomas Lindsay in 1887 on which to put a station. The name "Washington" was chosen for the town, developed by the Pioneer Town Site Company, with streets named for Revolutionary War heros.
The depot and a section house were built on stilts because the land was very swampy and flooded easily. There was a large brick platform on the south and west, and a shady park to the east. At one time, the west platform was wagon-high, used to load and unload merchandise, but when the depot was torn down, the bricks were level with the ground. The tracks were raised from time to time to keep them from being covered. Four passenger trains a day to points east and west would stop, with many freights in between. Near the tracks were two grain elevators, cattle pens, loading chutes, and a lumber and coal yard. The depot was torn down in the 1950s and the tracks taken up about 1970. The land is now dotted with new homes and all that remain are the memories and some old rusty spikes and cinders.
Washington's post office was established in 1888. Charles Withey, railroad station agent, was also postmaster. The current postmaster is Marybeth Cohrs. Her mother and grandmother held the post before her. During the town's
centennial, over 1,000 letters were canceled with a special stamp.
Washington loved its social gatherings. In about 1900, a group of men formed the Washington Hall Association and put up a two-story building. It was used for dances, the Woodmen of the World Lodge, home talent plays, medicine shows, and wrestling matches. Other social events in town were ice cream socials, church auctions, ice skating, roller skating, and the free movies.
With a complete array of shops and businesses, the town was incorporated in 1915. Three years later the first cement sidewalks were laid, and in 1920 some streets were graveled. In 1926 it was decided to widen and deepen the creek. It has been deepened more since then, so it hasn't flooded nearly so often.
A community church was built in 1911 by Mr.Lathrup of Kennard, with the help of Herb Brunton, Ira Kerstetter, and Lemuel Fitch. First used as a Methodist Church, it also served the Lutherans until the 1960s. When the building was torn down in 1987, a time capsule was found in the cornerstone. The bell was saved and placed on a stand near the fire station.
At first the children attended Rispin School several miles north of town. A Jaszkowiak boy furnished "buggy service," a forerunner of the school bus. In 1895 Washington District "Fr.37" was formed. (The fraction was used because the district extended into Douglas County.) Classes were held in the Jaszkowiak Store until 1897, when a school was built on the corner of Jefferson and Putnam Street. In 1916 a room for grades 9-10 was needed. Through the years, a basement, furnace, electricity, and running water have been added, and exits on the north and south. In 1956 Rispin and Washington merged and the district became known as Fr.100. It was the first district in the county to have a school bus. When Peaceful Hill School joined the district in 1968 another new room was added. Washington is very proud of its school and it is nice to hear the bell ring each school day.
On September 12, 1987, the town of Washington celebrated its 100th birthday with a great parade, games and contests, a quilt show, a crafts and art show, an ice cream social, and lots of visiting. Following the historical pageant, the evening was topped off with a dance at the fire station.
Washington's population, which peaked at 150 in the 1920s, dipped to 44 in the 1950s. During the last 20 years, with many new homes being built, the population is again on the rise, reaching 125 in 1980. Del Nelson, Loran Cohrs, Richard Japp, Louis Kologenski, and Henry Eicke, currently serve on the town board.
By LeMara Eicke, Box 973, Washington, NE 68068.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The History of Washington, Nebraska. A Struggle for Survival , 1976.