Hamilton County NEGenWeb Project
The original town of Stockham was located on Section 25-9-6 in Orville precinct on the bank of the Blue River. The town was located near the vicinity of the first settlement made in the county. Supplies were brought in by team and wagon from Lincoln, 80 miles away, and Nebraska City, 120 miles away. the population of Hamilton County in 1870, was 130 people.
It is thought the first buildings in this original town were put up about 1870. Among them was a grist mill, post office, store, restaurant and schoolhouse. The grist mill was operated by John W. Gray, the first store by Hi Misner. Stockham received its name from Joe Stockham who operated the first post office. The town was on the south side of the river while the mill was a short distance east and across the road, placing it in Farmers Valley Precinct. The schoolhouse stood on the north side of the river and on the hillside. Among other first settlers were George Willcock, Frank Fralick and William Patterson. Charlie White and Tom Farmer were known as early trappers around Stockham.
The original town was abandoned when the railroad was put through in 1887. Most of the old landmarks are gone. Several years ago, some of the indentations were still visible but since then, the building site has been plowed up. In 1887, the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley railroad built a line from Fremont to Hastings and telegraph service was put into use. The first train was pulled by an old style wood burning engine. Later this rail line was taken over by the Chicago & Northwestern.. The town was moved about a half mile further southwest, directly south of the rail line. The railroad had purchased the land, 320 acres, from Joe Stockham, it was then cornfield and prairie.
The new town of Stockham was surveyed and platted in 1887, by Pioneer Townsite Company and work began August 1, 1887. Four men formed the town site, William Patterson, from Pennsylvania, I.D. Evans of Iowa, Walter Scott, from Ohio, and Frank Fralick of Illinois The town was located on section 25, town 9, range 6, and was incorporated September 1888. As the town was started land was divided and sold as lots. By 1889, Stockham had 60 improved lots and 167 unimproved. Among the first business enterprises were Bank of Stockham, I.D. Evans, cashier; P. Moore & Sons, druggists; A.D. Atwood, Stockham , hotel. John W. Gray also took care of the post office and ran a stationery and bookstore and a good grocery. A newspaper , the Stockham Reporter, was established in 1888, by T.P. Corrick. In 1890, the editor became J.S. Lounsbary. The Reporter was Republican in politics. In 1890, the village board members were F.J. Sharp, Gustave Buss, H. Hicks, I.D. Evans, E.F. Elmore, W.E. Sharp and E.M. VanWormer. Census report 169 residents
The German Lutheran Church was erected in southwest Stockham in 1887, as this part was mostly settled by German people. The first minister was Reverend G. Grobe. This church ceased to function about 1900. Later it was used by Henry Ellwanger and his Stockham Band as a place to practice. The Verona Presbyterian Church was organized in 1889, when a small frame building 22 x 32 was erected in town, with Reverend John Branch, first minister. First trustees were James Cameron, James McKeand, A.F. Salmon, F.J. Sharp, and Joseph Rowe. In 1897, the name was changed to Stockham Presbyterian Church. Having outgrown the building, the congregation constructed a new, larger church in 1899. This Presbyterian Church had a distinctive record in the county, having served the community proudly for 73 years under the leadership of 20 different ministers. The church was officially closed September 1, 1962.
The present Stockham Bible Church had its roots in the Methodist Episcopal Church which was officially organized and held worship services in the following schoolhouses: Cain, VanWormer, Farmers Valley, Pelen, Eldorado, Henderson, Jacoba and Stockham, with the very first pastor being a Reverend Adams. During this period they were served by 15 ministers. The members felt it would be to their best interests to become an independent church, so the property was bought from the Methodist Conference and incorporated as the Stockham Bible Church, January 1, 1953.
A two-story frame schoolhouse 24 x 60 was built in 1888. The first principal was E.C. Grubble with Miss Minnie Rowe, assistant. In 1890, it became a graded school. In 1907, the High School was enlarged to include tenth grade and in 1914, the eleventh grade was added. In the summer of 1920 the school building was destroyed by fire. In 1921-22, a modern one-story brick structure was erected. It was the first school building of this type in the county. At this time it became a four-year high school. The high school was discontinued in 1949, but kindergarten through the eighth grade continued with bus service.
A Prosperous Town
In the 1920's, Stockham was a thriving town with 239 residents with a wide trade territory. The progressive businesses included two hardware stores, three groceries, drug store, bank, hotel, theater, hospital, doctor, dentist, two churches, a 12 grade school, two barber shops, pool hall, two garages, implement shop, two blacksmiths, filling stations, meat market, depot, I.O.O.F. hall, dray service, telephone was brought in by Consumers Public Power District. Business men put on free movies weekly for the community through the summer months.
The Farmers Co-op Elevator incorporated March 22, 1910, with 132 stockholders, was one of the most important businesses in the community. The elevator corporation was dissolved and $3.00 returned for each $1.00, the stockholders had subscribed. Theo Scroetlin of Sutton, the new owner, lost the elevator by fire in November 1950. Plagued by fires through the years, the last big fire occurred February 26, 1966, when a new meat processing plant was destroyed and jeopardized the General Store for a time.
The dry years of the 1930's started the downfall of the town, the Stockham State Bank closed in 1933, as did many others over the nation, though this bank did not reopen. In 1942, the railroad abandoned its line due to money loss in operation. When this lifeline was removed, the town deteriorated rapidly, and the removal of houses continued over a period of years. As population declined, businesses left town and on February 27, 1967, the population had decreased to 55. Thus, Stockham has followed the pattern of thousands of other towns in the nation, as improved highways and transportation has brought larger cities in easy access.
"Centennial History of Hamilton County 1867-1967"
by Bertha G. Bremer