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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Benedict -- York County

Benedict's main street, looking east on a snowy winter's day not long after the town was founded.
The Benedict Depot..."the place to be..."
The Bogart Hotel was on hand when the first train arrived. A later photo has a porch and shade trees nearby.

The pioneers described this place as, "an endless wild prairie, a sea of unbroken sod, and a vast treeless plain." Few realized the potential wealth that lay beneath the sod as they turned the grassland of northern York County into fields of grain.

Many who came were Civil War veterans, others were from eastern states, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Sweden. Those who survived the 1870s were rewarded by improved conditions in the 1880s. Before a town was even dreamed of, churches, county schools, three post offices, two cemeteries, and a public road system were established in Morton and Thayer Township.

In 1886 bonds were approved to aid the Kansas City & Omaha Railroad in bringing train service to the area. That spring, as the grade was being prepared between York and Stromsburg, a town was platted in Section 13. Located 10 miles north of York, it was named for the president of the railroad, E.C. Benedict.

The line ran between the farms of Elmer Crownover and Henry Harrington, with the depot in the center of two 60-acre plots. Even before the tracks were laid, a grocery store, a hardware store, and a hotel were in place, and carpenters were busily building homes.

On June 27, 1887, the first train came a-root-toot-tootin' down the rails to be welcomed by a jubilant cheering crowd. Benedict's depot agent and telegraph operator were already on the job, and a post office opened in Chris Sparling's general store on August 6th. The first schoolhouse was completed in 1888, housing eight grades and taught by one schoolmaster.

The depot was the hub of activity. People found trains to be a great way to travel. Farmers shipped grain and livestock and shop owners received merchandise daily. Of more importance than all this was the speed at which news from the outside world came over "the wire" at the depot. Even if people didn't have any business there, it was a place everyone gathered.

Benedict had an outstanding Opera House, which was the site of many community activities such as phonograph concerts, dances, lectures, plays, and musical programs.

During the early years, several grain companies served Benedict. In 1902 a farmers cooperative grain company was organized. Thought to be one of the first farmers co-ops in the state, it has grown from a capacity of 5,000 bushels to 1.8 million bushels.

When the high school was established in 1921, the question of consolidation was addressed. As a result, Benedict became the first consolidated 1-12 school in York County. A new building was dedicated in 1924 which housed not only the most modern equipment, but also one of the finest gymnasiums in the state. What an event it was when the New York Harlem Globe Trotters came to Benedict to play basketball.

Telephones were installed in 1902; the dial system came to Benedict in 1961, making another milestone of progress. Many businesses, such as the harness shop, blacksmith, and cream station, have disappeared from the scene, but the United Methodist and the Zion Lutheran churches have endured since their foundings more than 100 years ago.

Benedict is proud to have had four native sons in politics, the most recent being State Senator Scott Moore, elected in 1986. A 1978 graduate of Benedict High School, he was the youngest member of the Unicameral at the time. Other to serve in this capacity were Clifton Foster (1962), and D.W. Baker (1906-10). Maurice Van Nostrand served in Iowa's legislature.

Over the years, Benedict has witnessed various disasters, the most devastating of which was the fire of 1907 which destroyed six businesses. A tornado in 1964 swept through the rural areas destroying both life and property.

Benedict's centennial celebration, June 26-28, 1987, was a grand finale to the first 100 years. Since then a new restaurant opened, the co-op changed its name to "Great Plains Co-op," and we have added new street signs, using the names given on the original survey map. A group of volunteers began publishing a small monthly newspaper in 1989 with a circulation now of 375.

Benedict and the surrounding area is a community of caring, cooperative people drawn together by common interests, which makes it a pleasant place to live.

By Athla Tankersley, Box 96, Benedict, NE 68316