Originally West Point was known as "Philadelphia" when it was platted by Andrew J. Bruner of the Nebraska Settlement Association in June 1857. It wasn't long before the name was changed to West Point because of its being "the most westerly point that was settled in the Elkhorn Valley." Later plats completed by John D. Neligh show West Point's location as "Sections 34 & 35, Township 22, Range 6 East in Cuming County, Nebraska." It became an incorporated town in May 1869 with a log house as the official headquarters for the County Seat of government as well as the official site of the first post office in the town until a brick courthouse was built in 1874.
In the beginning, West Point showed small growth in businesses only having the seat of justice, a steam sawmill from which all the lumber used in building every pioneer house in the Elkhorn Valley was sawn, a post office and three or four houses comprise the town. The summer of 1869 began to show signs of growth with a general store opening and a flour mill built which helped draw newcomers to the area and to think about settling there permanently. The West Point House later known as the Union house was built, a blacksmith shop and grist mill followed the next year.
The Pawnee Indians were the source/cause of great fear during the summer of 1859. Plundering pioneer homes, killing the pioneer's livestock in addition to the rumor the Indians were going to wipe out the little settlement of DeWitt, near West Point, caused most of the inhabitants of West Point to flee to Fontanelle for safety. They fled with the possessions they could carry as well as driving their cattle ahead of them. Upon returning later great devastation was found at the DeWitt settlement but the town of West Point was safe. In 1858, the settlement of DeWitt waged a fierce competition for the seat of County Government against West Point where it was already established. When the October election results were counted, West Point had garnered 12 votes to DeWitt’s 7 leaving the County Government a sited. Today all that remains of DeWitt is the Historical Cemetery located on the site of the infamous Indian raid during the summer of 1859.
On an early morning in 1879, a devastating fire, later learned to be that of an incendiary, swept away an entire business block in downtown West Point. It was not until 1885 that a volunteer force of four divisions of fire fighting men was established as the first Fire Department. In the same year a water bond was passed to construct the town’s first water-works. In 1888 an electric light plant franchise was granted with the West Point Electric Light and Power Company being organized in 1889.
Public School education began in rented rooms in 1865 but when the school term began in 1866 a 22x40 foot building had been erected. A high school building was built in 1881. The first high school commencement of June 9, 1887 honored three of the town’s young ladies. The West Point Public Schools, St. Paul Lutheran School, Guardian Angel and Central Catholic School plus various pre-schools continue to offer a fine education to the town and surrounding rural areas.
Religious needs were met very early on with a Methodist Episcopal Service meeting in 1858 in a log house. St. Mary’s Roman Catholic in 1874 with services held in someone’s home. The following churches were also part of early West Point history: The German Evangelical Church 1869; The Congregational Church, 1878; The German Methodist Church, 1871; The German Evangelical Lutheran Church I 1871 and in 1891 found the formation of The Young Men’s Christian Association. Today one finds three Lutheran Churches, a Catholic Church, an Assembly of God Church, a Baptist Church, a Church of Christ and a United Methodist Church actively serving the populace.
Newspapers have played a prominent role in the history of West Point with the first one appearing in 18570 as the West Point Republican. A more liberal paper, The West Point News was printed from 1872-1874. The Republican paper The Nebraska State-Zeitung began publishing in 1872 and was the first German paper outside of Omaha and Nebraska City. It suspended publishing in 1876 and was followed by The Nebraska Volksblatt in 1880. The Progress was formed in 1876 as a Democratic paper. Today The West Point News is published as a weekly paper.
In May 1949 ground was broken for the Memorial Hospital with formal dedication occurring in December 1950. The hospital has continued to grow and has expanded its services greatly making West Point home of one of the finest and most modern rural facilities in Eastern Nebraska.
West Point’s library had humble beginnings in 1917 with the backing of the Girl’s Culture Club. Soon the city took over its responsibilities which has allowed for continued growth and development. The present J. A. Stahl Library opened its doors September 1984 and is a well-used source of enlightenment for all of West Point’s citizens. The Leila Stahl Buffett Genealogy Center is housed here also.
Neligh Park, named for one of the city’s founding families, is also the location of the Cuming County Fair grounds and the Cuming County Historical Complex. A large swimming pool and an area with hook-ups for motor homes provide additional recreational opportunities. During the summer and fall months Neligh Park and Fair grounds are a bee-hive of activity for all ages.
West Point, Nebraska, continues to be a thriving community on the banks of the Elkhorn River in Cuming County, Nebraska.
Early map of West Point
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