The town of Harbine was sited in 1883 and platted in 1886. The land that the town was to be on was owned by Fredrick Sandman, George H. Hansen and Charles Letton.
The Articles of Incorporation, dated January 8, 1914 list the following as the first Board of Trustees: G.F. Kroetsching, Geo. Arnold, W.T. Bishop, Geo. W. Arnold and L.B. King.
The town was named for a Col. Thomas Harbine who was born in 1820 in Maryland. He attended school in Ohio, studied law and later went to St. Joe, Missouri where he practiced law. At one time he was the mayor of St. Joe and also served in the MO. State Senate from 1866 to 1870. From 1870-72 he was Vice President of the St. Joe D.C. R.R. In 1874 he established a bank at Fairbury, NE. He organized the Nebraska Land and Town Company, for the promotion of emigration and development of the state, laying out towns on the St. Joe/Western R.R. From information available we do not find that he was ever a resident of this village named for him.
Like other towns of the 1880’s Harbine was built along a rail road. This one being the Horton, KS./Nelson, NE. segment of the Chicago Rock Island Co. The railroad was a very important means of transportation for the early settlers of the area. Nearly all supplies and freight, transportation of livestock to packing plants, and passenger transportation was by rail. The depot was built in 1886-87 and was a two story building with living quarters on the second story. A Mr. Parker was the first agent.
This was the day of the steam locomotive. The smoke, steam and whistle is something not to be forgotten. The trains had to replenish their water and coal supply periodically. Toward the last years diesel engines replaced the steamer.
The highest population on record for Harbine was 242 persons listed on the 1900 census.
The Post Office was established June 21, 1887 at first in a store building. The Post Office was in numerous buildings and homes through out the years. Since 1972 Harbine has been served through the Jansen Post Office.
The first school, District #87, was built in 1888. Eighteen students were enrolled the first year. Enrollment kept increasing until the highest number enrolled at one time was 89 students. Among the early teachers were: Schell, Buker, Hanckett and Martin. The two story brick building, to replace the original building, was built in 1931. The first teachers in this two classroom building were Clarence Butte, teaching for $125.00/month. He instructed 25 pupils in grades 7 thru 10. Avis Culberson received $110.00/month while teaching 26 students in grades 1 thru 6. Dist. #87 was closed after the 1968-69 term. For several years after that the building was used as a Learning Center for handicapped school age children from both Gage and Jefferson counties.
Harbine has had three churches. In the 1900 Jefferson Co. Atlas it shows both a United Brethren and a Congregational church. A tornado destroyed the Congregational Church building in 1903. Soon afterward a group began to solicit funds to erect a Baptist Church. The site for the church was obtained by trading the lots upon which the Congregational Church stood for lots owned by Paul Sandman because his lots were closer to “down town”.
Soon after the church was built a parsonage was bought and moved onto the grounds. For many years it was a Mission Church, receiving aid from the Nebraska Baptist State Convention. This little church closed it’s doors and disbanded in the late 1930’s.
At various times Harbine has had lumber yards, hardware store, livery station, blacksmith shops, barber shop, filling stations, post office, ice house, pool hall, cheese factory, pump and well shop, grocery stores, ice cream parlor, dentist, doctor, telephone office, harness shop, stock yards, hotel, implement shop, cafes, taverns, a bank, grain elevator, a green house, garages and it’s own electric plant.
The following businesses were listed in the 1900 Atlas:
J.R. Carpenter & Son - Blacksmith and wagon makers. Breeder of English horses and mules.
E.E. Reynolds - Physician and Surgeon
Henry Stahl - Dealer in farm implements, wagons, carriages & fertilizer.
O.H. Tasche - Dealer in Hardware, groceries, shoes & etc.
J.G. Wiese - Dealer in Windmills, pumps, tanks. Also buys and sells livestock.
According to R.G. Dunn and Co. January 1906, Harbine is listed as a banking town with a population of 200. Business places listed are:The Bank of Harbine was built on lots purchased from Charles Sandman in 1905. George Arnold was the banker. The bank closed after Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1933. Result of the Bank Holidays.
H.G. Carpenter, Blacksmith
T.L. Ewing, General Store
J.S. Hole, Grain
F. Mudrow, Harness
Henry Stahl, Implements
J.G. Wiese, Pumps
Wm. Wieters, Lumber & Coal (branch of Lanham)
The ball park, which later had electric lights installed, was the site of many exciting softball and baseall games.
A creamery that manufactured cheese and butter to be shipped to many parts of the country was located North and East across the street from the ball park just South of the rail road.
The Harbine Cemetery, located one mile north of town, was incorporated March 16, 1893. The first burial was Ray Wrigley, the infant son of Edmund and Carrie Wrigley, in August, 1893. The ground for the cemetery was purchased from John White, grandfather of Ray Wrigley, for $150.00 for 2 acres.
Free movies were shown out doors during the summer months and were well attended during the mid 40’s and early 50’s before television became so common.
In March of 1946 a fire wiped out the entire south side of the block where at that time the Ernest Jordening store and the post office was located.
With the coming of the automobile, the small towns of the area have gotten smaller and the people have become less dependent on small towns. Also the farms are larger and the population has shifted away from the rural areas into cities.
The rural schools, which were located about two miles apart, as well as the rural churches located every few miles served the rural citizens efficiently. The schools and churches were the central focus for social activities.
Times change and we must go forward but it is interesting to stop and reminisce about the years gone by.