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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Hoskins -- Wayne County

Train time at Hoskins, 1913.
Hoskins main street during the winter of 1912. The bank, Hoskins' first brick structure, had been built
Another view of Hoskins by Vurgil Cook Photography, 1987

My grandfather, Franz Puls, emigrated to America in 1869 from Donop, Germany. He named the post office, located in his home, for that village. Mail came as far as Stanton, and was carried from there on foot. In 1881 when the railroad was extended from Norfolk to Wayne, a town was established and the name changed to "Hoskins," for a grain dealer who was also a member of the land company. The coming of the railroad signaled a time of great expansion and growth.

Wm. Sonneken and David Rees established a general store, and John Crosby started a bank. Grandpa Puls discovered good clay near his farm on Spring Branch Creek and became a brickmaker. With the help of his sons he built a kiln with a tall chimney, to provide the draft to make a very hot fire. Buffalo and cow chips were used for fuel. (They baked bread in the kiln as it cooled down.) Their large brick home, built in 1882, is currently occupied by Puls' great grandson.

Engine No.43, the first train to steam into town over newly-laid rails in 1882, was fired by another grandfather, Peter Brummels. He and his wife Augusta had homesteaded in Wayne County in 1868.

School District 3 organized west of Hoskins in 1877 with five beginners, all different ages. The school later expanded to meet the needs of the growing community. There are currently four teachers and about 50 students attending the public school and nearly 30 attending the Lutheran parochial school.

An Evangelical Church was organized in 1878. The Peace Reformed Church, established in 1881. Later a Methodist Church was established, serving until 1920. Lutheran services were held in homes until a church was built in 1887. Zion Lutheran organized northwest of Hoskins in 1902. Trinity Lutheran was dedicated in 1970.

From 1910-20 Hoskins had two banks, a newspaper, the "Hoskins Head Light," and nearly two dozen businesses and shops. Doc Averill's wife had a millinery shop with a unique bookkeeping system. After trimming a hat, she wrote the customer's name and charge on a slip of paper and pinned it to the curtain in the window. Her husband would collect the fee and tabulate the day's business. The hat business was excellent in those days.

Early in 1899 a committee (Weatherholt, Rohrke, Kautz, Ziemer, and Swanson) was appointed to look into the matter of incorporating the town. With the required 200 residents already living in Hoskins, an election was slated for February 7th. Clerk Wm. Zutz, Treasurer C.F.Lenz, Marshal A.T.Waddell, and Justice of the Peace Ludwig Ziemer all served without compensation. They served until the first election "in the Village of Hoskins" on April 1.

Duly organized, ordinances were set up and actions initiated:

-- street venders and peddlers were to be taxed.

-- the village was to be surveyed again, this time by A.L.Houser.

-- a special meeting was called to discuss a jail. The report included "how to build a jail."

-- a committee was appointed to locate a dam and engine on the creek to supply water in case of fire.

In 1912 the people wanted a modern water system, so a committee was appointed. By November 1915, the committee decided on a high tower tank. Additional construction was needed, but the Norfolk Bridge Company completed the job in 1921 at a cost of $3,773.

The town was lighted by gas lamps prior to 1916, when a power plant was built and run by Fred Miller.

Wetzlich Hall, used for school plays and dances, was where the town board meetings and court were held for many years. Bruce Pavilion, a popular dance hall built in the 1920s, was located at the north end of town. Lawrence Welk and his orchestra played there many times.

Hoskins, a baseball town went to the state tournament in the 1930s. The playing field, in the north part of town, had flood lights. The team's best year was during the height of the Depression, 1933. The team disbanded during the war years of the 1940s. A softball association was formed in 1955.

Hoskins, less than 10 miles from Norfolk, has a current population of over 300. The 40-member volunteer fire department and rescue unit serve the community, NUCOR steel plant, and Woodland Park Housing Development.

Story by Laura Puls Ulrich. Shirley Mann, Coordinator, Box 14, Hoskins, NE 68740.