Joshua Cox came to Nebraska with his family from Illinois in March of 1879. After much effort on his part, Hampton was surveyed and platted in October of 1879. That fall the railroad was built from York to Aurora and Mr. Cox decided a town should be located where Hampton now stands. It is said that Aurora objected, to keep the business coming this way, but Mr. Cox not to be outdone, circulated petitions and Hampton was born. The old frame building at the south end of main street was the first building erected. Mr. Cox had purchased 440 acres of land here in the spring and the town site was placed on this ground. During the next year, he acquired 600 additional acres, making a solid body of 1,000 acres. His brother, James M. Cox, also bought 1,000 acres adjoining this land. Mr. Cox's only living child is a daughter, Mrs. Alice Houghton Carpenter. Earnest Leyrer erected the first store building, in which he had the first general stock of merchandise. C.R. Young soon after built the first dwelling house. These were soon followed by the grocery store of Mr. young, the general store of A.T. Vich & Company, the grain storehouse of F. Eberhard, hardware store of A.G. Evans, drug store of A.F. Morse and lumberyard and office of D.C. Bell. In 1880, G.P. Chessman put up a grain elevator, the first in town. James F. Fodge built the first hotel in 1881, and in the same year a bank was built and opened by he Cox brothers. Prominently identified with the building of the village were W.J. Williamson, Holden & Lane, H.H. Lohman, Frank Chambers, T.J. Fiegenbaum, A.G. Evans, G.P. Chessman, R.A. Ingalls, Wellman & Son and Joshua, James and Levi Cox. A schoolhouse was built in 1881, where J.H. Sauls taught the first term of schools. He was one of the oldest settlers and represented the county at the constitutional convention in 1875. An excellent school building for grade school was built in 1885, and the population had reached 500.
Hampton was incorporated as a village January 10, 1883, with E.D. Foster, S.W. Holden., O.M. Zook, Levi Cook, and M.E. Gerdes as trustees. In the late 1880's the first bank, known as the Bank of Hampton, was established with J.H. Lincoln, an attorney , as president and A.G. Evans as cashier. It is unknown when the bank changed hands but in 1891, it had been sold to the Houghton Interests and A.B. Houghton was cashier for many years. Also associated with him was his brother, Stephen Houghton. In 1891, the bank had resources of $70,892.23, and it had climbed in 1900, to $155,422.94. This bank closed in 1943. The Farmers State Bank was granted a charter in the early 1900's and for years, A.L.Gausman served as cashier. This bank closed during the bank moratorium in 1932.
This population reached over 600, but in 1900 it had dropped to 367, and has since fluctuated. It has followed the pattern of all small towns which have fallen victim to superhighways and fast transportation . In July 1883, a creamery was opened and flourished for 30 years, only to be destroyed by fire in 1913. Fires were the dread of all of the early towns who had no method of fighting fire. In February 1883, the first fire struck Hampton when the Gerdes Furniture was destroyed. A dry goods store belonging to Peter Wall, also fell victim to the fire with a loss to the two estimated at $7,000. On several occasions, both sides of main street lost several business buildings. On April 8, 1886, seven stores on the east side burned to the ground, and later three elevators, the mill and a livery stable were lost by fire. In 1920 a hose cart was put into use and the town felt much safer. Hampton was fortunate to have two doctors locate there in 1881. They were Dr. Douglas and Dr. D.S. Woodard, who moved to Aurora in 1895. Here he practiced medicine, and later in connection with his son, Dr. J.M. Woodard, until his death.
Hampton did a thriving business in the shipment of grain and livestock. Hampton had the distinction of being the first town in the United States from which livestock was exported to Liverpool, England, by a private individual. There were 600 head of cattle in the shipment which left Hampton June 19, 1891. Joshua and James Cox were represented in the shipment. Men from the community who accompanied the shipment, long remember this experience. They were Jim Wilson, G.M. Carter, J. Hockenbary, R. Greer, Frank Woodard, Rufus Buckley, and James Cox,. Joshua Cox had gone ahead to check commission firms in the country.
The first post office, known as Williamsport, was located on the banks of Lincoln Creek,on the William Werth farm, northeast of Hampton. This was long before the advent of rail service and mail came any way possible. Mr. Werth died in 1888, in a grain accident but the post office had been moved from his dugout in 1879, to the home of G.W. Hiatt. Even as late as 1940, part of the dugout could still be recognized. In 1961, the post office was moved into a new and modern building, built especially for the post office. The first exclusive post office Hampton has had.
In the early days, newspapers sprung up at the slightest provocation and Hampton had its share. In 1882, H.L. Hellen began publishing the Hampton Journal, and in July had taken C.F. Holden as a partner. The firm also printed the Bradshaw Pike for the York community. Mr. Holden took over the entire business but had to have the assistance of the citizens to pay off his mortgage. Mr. Hellen started a new paper, the Hampton Herald, in February 1884, a somewhat unethical procedure, after having sold to his partner. The length the Herald survived is not known. The Hampton Journal was being published in 1886, the Times from 1891, to 1897, the Hampton Star in 1898, and the Hampton Record was published for a time in the 1930's by Ray Ramekers. Through the years all of the newspapers printed in the smaller towns of the state have folded and in almost all instances, county seat towns have but one newspaper, through consolidation or by failure of one or more. This is due to the great costs in operating a modern printing plant and the demand by the public for spendid newspapers, with good news coverage, and attractive and reliable advertising. Too, the county seat pulls the trade from the entire county, hence one newspaper serves the entire county.
One of Hampton's oldest and most successful businesses is the Hampton Co-operative Elevator Company which was organized October 22, 1910. Open fro business in July 1911, the business has moved ahead. In 1954 the company purchased the other elevator in the town and constructed a 100,000 bushel steel storage facility. In 1955, the company acquired a roller mill and the feed operations were moved to the west elevator in 1957.
St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, Hampton, was organized on February 20, 1910, when seventeen persons signed the constitution at the home of Mr. Karl Fenster. It branched off from Zion Lutheran Congregation, four miles northeast of Hampton. One month after its organization, St. Peter's decided to erect a parochial school building. Mrs.. Louis Fenster donated the land for this purpose as well as for the erection of the church building and parsonage. Pastors also served as teachers until Mr. Karl Ehlers became the first called teacher of the St. Peter's School in 1921, until 1928. In 1929, Mr. C. A. Germeroth was installed as teacher until 1942. Due to the shortage of teachers, pastors also served as teachers. In 1947, Mr. Merton Grabau was called as teacher and principal of the school, until 1959. Mrs. Harold Zastrow accepted the call as teacher and principal in 1960.
The roots of the United Lutheran Church of Hampton run deep. It all started in 1871, when the first Lutherans of Danish origin settled north of Hampton. On September 22, 1874, the first worship service was held in a schoolhouse north of Hampton and on this date the congregation was organized. It was named Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church. Charter membership consisted of 29, and the congregation built its first permanent place of worship in 1879, four miles north of Hampton. The first church which later served as parish house, was replaced by a much larger structure in 1888. This church continued to serve the congregation adequately until 1964.
On June 25, 1916, Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hampton was organized, with 45 comprising its charter membership. Its first and only house of worship was purchased from the Christian Church which previously had a congregation in Hampton. This building served the congregation until 1962. Because of a general population decline in the rural areas, Hampton not excluded, Immanuel Lutheran and Emmanuel Lutheran merged to form a new congregation -- United Lutheran Church. The merger was completed December, 1962, at which time the rural church was chosen as the place of worship for the new congregation. On November 22, 1964, a new church building and an educational unit were dedicated on the northeast corner of Hampton. The old rural Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church has been moved to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer grounds in Grand Island where it symbolizes the church life of the early pioneers in Hamilton County.
"Centennial History of Hamilton County 1867-1967"
by Bertha G. Bremer