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To portray properly the events leading up to the location choice and the incorporation or David City, it is necessary to explore in some detail several decades that immediately preceded this period. It would perhaps be difficult for many or us to truly visualize the enormity of this great panorama that unfolds in this raw, untamed and hostile region with the passing or this era.

Numerous probings had been made in search of what the territory contained and most of the summations were far from flattering. Notable among these expeditions were the ones made by the U S. Army Engineers under Major Stephen H. Long in 1820, and by the expeditions of Lewis and Clark in 1804.

Soon after came Lt. Zebulon M. Pike who explored along the Republican River around 1806. He was quoted as saying "The soil was barren, parches and dried up for eight months out of the year." and predicted that "the American Great Plains, of which Nebraska was a part would be as celebrated as the sandy deserts of Africa."

Major Long, upon returning from his expedition as far west as the Rocky Mountains, confirmed what most Americans had suspected that most of the areas between the Missouri River and west to the mountains was a desert wasteland and in his words in regard to this extensive section of the country, "I do not hesitate in giving the opinion that is almost wholly unfit for cultivation and, of course, uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence."

Other early explorers arrived at almost identical conclusions. But time and the toil of undaunted pioneers disproved all of these allegations and through their steadfastness their suffering and perseverance, they made the so called "Desert" look up and blossom for the future generations that were to come. Events were shaping that would cause countless thousands to head west and move by oxen teams and covered wagons to the challenging call that was impossible to resist. Gold had been discovered in California Sutter’s Mill in 1848, and silver in Nevada, and it echoed to the far corners of the world. From all over America and into foreign countries he craze gathered momentum.

Nebraska was a part of the Territory of Louisiana purchased from France by the United States in 1803. It, the territory, enveloped a domain stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border and included some dozen states as they were later laid out. Fate must have had hand in placing our great Nebraska in the proper position to absorb the historic flow of this mighty westward trek. It moved endlessly, slowly, majestically and seemed filled with enough courage to counter the terrible hardships, the tragedies, and dangers that lurked in every mile.

Enormous in its scope, as many as 900 units in a single day were entering our state and evaluating at first hand the true meaning or new country. Sickness took a terrible toll and the last resting place of many dotted the Plains with only a crude cross to mark the spot. Supplies for six months bad to be taken along. Their eyes had been fixed on the West Coast but many surveyed the terrible journey ahead and decided to settle in the Midwest. Perhaps some of them arrived in our state when Mother Nature was spreading her finest and were captivated by what they saw. It can be beautiful and appealing, as we all know, and it can suddenly be otherwise. With their decision to stay in Nebraska was formed possibly the nucleus of the migration that was to come.

David City

Above an aerial view of David City taken June 1, 1964 by the later A.H. Morton. Near the center of the photo the new Courthouse and the old Courthouse which has since been razed.

In 1854 a bill presented in the Federal Congress by Stephen Arnold Douglas proposed the organization of the vast region between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains into two large territories, one called the Territory of Kansas and the other the Territory of Nebraska. That designated Nebraska territory was immense in size and it comprised the area extending from the 40th Parallel northward to the 49th Parallel, taking in the Dakotas, parts of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

This vast stretch of land known as the Great Plains was one of America's last frontiers. It stood for hundreds of years before it was even inhabited, and then for additional centuries before it was seen by a white man. It provided a home for the first inhabitants-not the Germans, the Danes Scots, or Czechs-but the Sioux, the Pawnee, and the Arapahoe. These proud people called the Great Plains home for hundreds of years. It was an area undisturbed by the complicated aspects of life in a much different America. Even the first explorers from the young United States were not interested in disturbing this life.

By the middle of the 19th century. This vast expanse of land became a highway, a highway one had to travel to reach the ''golden spots" of the northwest the gold fields of California, and the silver mines of Nevada. Even the persecuted crossed this "desert" to settle in another desert where they felt they could carry out their way of life. Following his great highway across the midsection of the nation was the main conduit of early communications-the Pony Express the telegraph and finally the first transcontinental railroad.

Butler County became immersed in the early struggles and the first attempt to settle in this spot was made by the Waverly Town Company in 1857 near the town of Linwood. Of short duration, lasting only a few short years, they did, however, erect the first house in the County.

Solomon B. Garfield and James Blair came as the first permanent settlers choosing as their location Sec. 26, Township 17 Range 4. In the year 1859. David R. Gardner made the first settlement of Savannah and was the original proprietor of the Town Side. During the years 1869 through 1872, while the county Seat was located there, it was a thriving village grouped around a courthouse a hotel, a couple of stores, a blacksmith shop and a number of other buildings.

Blending in with the pioneer period, it was the scene of many stirring events that were of political, social and various other categories. Fate was against it, however, due to its location at the extreme north side of Butler County, agitation had started for a new location for the county seat, one more centrally located that would be better suited to the needs of the entire county.

The first election was in 1868 with it 68 votes being cast which indicated a population in the county of approximately 200.

Nebraska had been admitted to the Union as a stare in March 1, 1867. After the Civil War, the land grants to the railroad companies and legislation gave 160 acres to any family who would be willing to settle this area and stay. This contributed greatly to the migration which followed and by 1870 the population had increased to some 1200 or 1300, by 1873 to some 3,800.

During the period 1869-1872, while Savannah was the county, seat, a great struggle was developing and it involved four elections. Two were under the General Statutes and two by a special act of the legislature. At the fourth and final one, by a majority of 39 votes it was decided to remove the County Seat to "The East One-half of the Southwest Quarter and the west One-half of the Southeast Quarter Of Section 19, Township 15 North Range 3, East of the Sixth Principal Meridian." This is the present site of David City.

The new town was named David City in honor of one Mr. Davids, a friend and relative of Mr. William Miles, patron and part owner of the site. The first name was David’s City but the "s" was soon dropped for convenience.

No time was lost and due to the energy and enthusiasm of the new citizens, the ground was immediately surveyed into blocks and lots, a neat courthouse was erected and the records of the County were placed in the new structure on the 6th day of August 1873.

Wise and far reaching decisions were made by these early pioneers as we note the splendid, spacious courtyard they proceeded to lay out and the wide streets throughout our business district. Almost 100 years later with all the changes that have taken place it would be hard to improve upon what they did in this regard.

This new courthouse was a modest affair and contract was let to Martin CADY and John W. McDONALD who agreed to put up a suitable edifice for the sum of $1,470.00 in the autumn of 1873. This building stood alone and was surrounded by nothing more than a wide expanse of virgin prairie. Later in the year, Hubbell PEPPER moved his house up from Savannah and at about this time, B. 0. PERKINS bought the old courthouse, removed it to David City, and opened the first hotel known as the "David City House." Its location was on the north side of the street at Fifth and E Street.

Others round her way to the new city, other buildings were moved in or built and the city continued to grow. Throughout the winter of 1873 and 1874, much discussion was going on relative to the needs of the citizens and early in the summer on June 5, 1874 to be exact, the city was incorporated and duly qualified on June 8th.

B. O. PERKINS was appointed Temporary Chairman, a title used at that time in preference to Mayor. Four trustees were elected and later it the year Mr. PERKINS was succeeded by a permanent Chairman, C.D. CASPER. These titles were used until 1886 when David City became a Second Class town. The four trustees were expanded to six councilmen and the Chairman changed to status of Mayor. This is the present set up of city officials.

The records of the Nebraska State Historical Society indicate the first issue of The Butler County Press was published in January 1873 at Savannah. In September or the same year the site of publication was moved to David City.

Another early newspaper in David City, according to the State Historical Society research was The Butler County Republican established in February 1877. It apparently lasted until 1885. Another publication of the same name was established in 1897. It lasted about a year and a half.

Others or the earlier vintage; David City Tribune, established 1884; Nebraska Opinion established 1886; The Peoples Banner; David City News 1891; and Home Record, 1901.

One newspaper survives in all of this group. The Banner-Press, resulting from the acquisition in December 1953 by The Peoples Banner or The Butler County Press. Previously the Brainard Clipper and The Bellwood Gazette had been merged with The Peoples Banner. In effect the surviving publication is observing its centennial year along with David City.

Three banks found financial reasons at this early date to obtain charters and supply the needs for a growing population. The Merchant and Farmers Bank opened its doors in 1879 and the David City Bank in 1882. The First National Bank, formerly the Butler County Bank started in 1883. Of these three banks, only the First National remains and it has prospered and grown tremendously in its many services. A new "David City Bank'' opened for business in November 1963 and is a very fine addition to our financial structure.

Over this first decade in the life of the new town the efforts of dedicated men and women rubbed off the rough edges of the raw lawless frontier village and the appearance of constructive order began to emerge. Population growth was taking place and with it dignity and pride among those who had left old ties to cast their lot in this new environment.

Today, as we look back on a century of great achievement, dominated by pioneers, eager with a consuming desire and filled with undaunted courage and determination we realize that our Centennial celebration must of necessity be a great tribute to all that had come and gone; for the right decisions that are responsible for our present with material wealth and security in a progressive, wide awake city surrounded by a trade territory that keeps us prosperous. It is not a feeble, half-hearted attempt. but one that matches and enfolds the past, the present, and the future, on a par with those great souls who looked at yesterday and gave us today. Only in this way can we be satisfied


Perhaps no section of our city has upgraded itself and come into its own to a greater extent than that portion which has always been referred to as the "West Side."

Bounded on the east by the C.B.&Q. Railroad property and on the north by the now departed Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, it covered an expanse to the south some five blocks to A Street. Its western border was the present city limits.

Rolling back the past sixty odd years would unfold an era very hard to visualize at the present time. There were no homes west of Oak Street in this early period, only a prairie used for pasture and corn and the grazing of livestock. At one period, Dr. John D. SPRAGUE kept his racing stock in this area.

Due to controversy, C and D Streets were fenced shut at one time and travel was forced to use a trail that extended from the C.B.&Q on D Street southwest to a junction with A Street. Litigation proved that these two streets, having been used by the public for a great number of years, could not be closed off and after a period of time were again opened to traffic.

The west side area had all the physical aspects of being thrown together in a hodgepodge manner and if you weren't too particular, it could be called, in the early years, a place to live.


The Butler County Historical Society is a group "pledged to the preservation of historic items that reflect events of a pioneer past and contain them for the present and future.''

Several individuals in the county have contributed their collections of historic items In the Historical Society's Museum including Walter DOEHLING of Surprise, the late Alfred TICHACEK of Linwood and Leo BONGERS.

The forming of a central organization for the county had been a topic for several decades, but not until 1967, with the help and drive of the David City Business and Professional Women's Club and other individuals in the county, did it get off the ground.

The first meeting to form a Butler County Historical Society took place in the Rose Room of the Perkins Hotel on March 2, 1967, with the late Mrs. W. J. (Bea) FRANTA presiding.

A second meeting was held April 6 with Mrs. Lillian KARASH as temporary chairman. A rough framework of the organization was planted at this time, and May 4,1967 was scheduled as the date for election of permanent officers.

Mrs. Karash was elected president, with Mrs. Mildred HOOKSTRA as vice-president Secretary was Mrs. Richard (Virginia) RERUCHA and Everett McCRACKEN was named treasurer.

Directors elected included Della KOBZA, Ulysses; Allie WILL, Surprise; Alfred NOVACEK, Dwight; Bea FRANTA, Abie; Angie HIATT, Rising City; Alfred TICHACEK, Linwood; Everett ALLEN, Octavia; Ed KOZISEK, Bruno; Anna HOEFT, Garrison; Ed BOHATY, Loma; Harold ZINNECKER, David City; Rhoda COOK, Bellwood; and Louis NOVAK, Brainard.

At the June meeting of that year Mrs. Fred (Flossie) DOLLISON was appointed historian with Anna McELRAVY as assistant.

The Butler County Historical Society was incorporated in March 1969 as a non-profit corporation.

The Society sponsored an essay contest on pioneer heritage in 1969 and 1970 for all school children in the county from grades four through twelve. Cash prizes were awarded to the first, second and third place entries in four divisions. Entrants were also awarded memberships in the Historical Society.

The Burlington Depot was obtained as a site for the museum in January, 1970. The Burlington railroad donated the building and underlying ground. The acquisition of the building assured for the first time that there would be a central location to collect and display items front the past, for future generations to see.

The Burlington and Missouri railroad depot as it appeared years ago. re-built, it is now the Butler County Historical Society Museum, after being donated to the group in 1970.

Wiring insulation and paneling were done in the depot through donations of time and labor from individuals in the county, to make the museum fire safe and in good physical condition.

Other presidents of the society in 1969, 1970 and 1971 were Dan HOOK and Mildred HOOKSTRA.

Because 1973 is the Centennial year for David City, the Society moved forward to work on the museum, so persons attending celebration will be able to see items from the past which tell the history of Butler County.

When open house was held at the Butler County Historical Society Museum (formerly the Burlington Depot) in the fall or 1972, Alfred Tichacek of Linwood (above photo) brought in his collection of Indian artifacts for display. At his death a short time later this collection became the property of the museum. He also recalled assisting Miss Ruth ETTING and two of her relatives in getting home from a dance after a heavy rainstorm had left them stranded at Linwood some years ago. Miss Etting's picture is on the top of the piano.

Literary Society

The Once a Week Literary Society, later known as Owls Club, was organized in David City (Butler County) in October 1898.

Charter members:

Mrs. Evaline BARNS
Mrs. Ad? HALL
Miss Gertrude HUMPHREY
Mrs. Clara PATRICK
Mrs. Jessie REYNOLDS
Mrs. Sadie RISING
Mrs. Belle RUNYON
Mrs. Gertrude SCHAAF
Miss Laura WARD
Mrs. Madessa WOLFE

Source: Nebraska State Genealogical Society, Nebraska Ancestree, Vol 2, no 1 page 25 - Summer 1979.


The David City Chapter D.A.R. was organized on March 5, 1912 at the home of Mrs. Loran JORDAN, and was chartered on February 24, 1913.

Charter members were as follows:
Mrs. F. S, AYERS,
Miss Helen AYERS,
Mrs. S. D. COE,
Mrs. Sidney COBB,
Miss Cecile COBB,
Mrs. S.F. HYATT,
Mrs. Loran JORDAN,
Mrs. J.Z. LULL,
Mrs. J.H. OWEN,
Mrs. R.G. RICH,
Mrs. R.C. ROPER,
Mrs. H.R. RYAN,
Mrs. E.W. WHITE,
Miss Evelyn WORT,
Mrs. Daniel SANLEY

Mrs. R. A. Bennett was elected first regent, and other officers elected to serve first terms were: Mrs. R.G. Rich, vice regent; Mrs. S.J. Hyatt, secretary; Mrs. Loren Jordan, treasurer; Mrs. S.D. Coe, chaplain; Mrs. F.J. Ayres, historian; Mrs. F.M. Reynolds, registrar.

Members voted at the organizational meeting to hold meetings the first Wednesday of each moth; however at the second meeting the date was changed to the second Thursday of each month.

In June, 1912, the Seward Chapter entertained the David City group. They went to Seward on the Burlington Train, arriving there at 9 a.m. where they were greeted and entertained royally all day. It was a day they long remembered. Before the year was over Miss Evelyn Wort transferred her membership to Fort Kearney.

In May 1914, a constitution and by-laws drafted by Mrs. S.D. Coe and Mrs. J.H. Owen was adopted by the Chapter.

A highlight of the 1915 year was the annual reception held at the home of Mrs. Bennett on New Years Day, to which the public was invited. Guests came and went from 2 to 5 o’clock. Hostesses were dressed in Colonial style not forgetting white hair and beauty spots.

The first flag day meeting was held in 1915 at the home of Mrs. W.C. Buchta, where Colonial costumes were worn and all joined in dancing the Virginia Reel.

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