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Merrick County
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The Nonpareil - July 21, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.


(Continued from last week)



   Silver Creek was platted by the Union Pacific in November, 1866. With the exception of the section house, the first building erected at the new station appears to have been built by Mr. B. F. Hobart. In September, 1870, Mr. Cyrus Lee erected a hotel called the "Lee House," which was the first semi-public building of which the little village boasted. Among the earliest settlers in and around Silver Creek were the Shaw brothers, Mr. Lathrop (who kept a ranch two miles below the town), J. and Ed Howland (who located a mile and a half north) and James Brown. During the year 1870, Rev. H. C. Shaw, one of the pioneer Episcopalian ministers, organized the society which still holds its regular sessions there. A district school was organized in 1871. In 1874 the Congregational church was organized and has grown in numbers and strength since that day.
   Silver Creek's newspaper history, so far as we are able to learn, is contained in the record of the life of the Silver Creek Times, originally a Republican paper, but at the present time, under the editorship of the Hon. Chas. Wooster, a representative of the Fusionists.
   Silver Creek derived its name from the clearness, sparkle and color of the little stream which meanders over the prairie near the town. Its growth in the twenty-one years since it was platted has not yet brought it into serious competition with the other towns of the county, but has none the less made it a substantial little country settlement.


   When the Union Pacific, in 1866, staked out its towns eleven miles apart along its road, the future station of Chapman had least reason of all the stations along the road to claim for itself the name of "town." Shoemaker's Point was abandoned, and yet the truth is hardly told when we say that it was abandoned that the village of Chapman might come into existence. From Central City to Grand Island was practically a townless tract, and even the need of a town between them was at that time unfelt.
   But the decree of the railroad, that there should be a station here, could not long be disobeyed, and in 1871 the first business building of Chapman was erected by Messrs. L. Reed and C. A. Leake and occupied by them for a general trading store. The first real store was opened in 1873 by Mr. J. I. Walker and sold by him to Mr. W. H. Morris in 1877. The real importance of the town dates from 1878, when the Chapman bridge across the Platte was completed, opening up the trade of the northern part of Hamilton County for the benefit of the new town. During this year the town attained to almost its present size, and would probably be today a fair rival of the county seat had not the coming of the Burlington branch into Hamilton County a short time after taken away a large portion of the new territory after which it was reaching.
   Aside from the educational line, Chapman has comparatively little history. Two or three diminutive newspapers have flourished for a month or two, but have not found nourishment enough to continue their existence. Religiously, Chapman has grown from no church accommodation to a representation by two denominations--Methodist and Baptist. The educational history of Chapman began with a school taught by Mrs. Aurand at her residence in 1871. In 1872 a school building was erected, and progress since then has been steady and rapid. Of the four earliest Merrick County towns--Lone Tree, Clarks, Silver Creek and Chapman--the latter two, at opposite ends of the county, have most nearly retained their old-time dimensions and commercial importance, although their existence is by no means to be denominated an useless one.


   With the advent of the Lincoln & Black Hills branch of the Burlington route into Merrick County, there came also a new era of townbuilding. On the south, of course, the Platte, distant less than two miles precluded the possibility of a new station. But on the north was a large territory which had divided its trade between St. Paul and Central City, although at some distance from both of these. To this territory the extension, in 1887, of the branch road from Central City to St. Paul offered the desired opportunity for establishing, intermediate shipping points. It was in this manner that Palmer and Archer came into existence. In the Courier of August, 1887, is found a letter from Mrs. R. K. Pierce, in which is contained considerable information concerning the first-named station. We give below the principal points of interest as found in the letter:
   The Lincoln & Black Hills R. R., which is an extension of the B. & M. from Central City, is now completed to Greeley Center, Greeley County. Passenger and freight trains are running regularly to the above named point of completion. The new town refered to [in the introductory portion of the letter] has been christened Palmer, and is located about forty rods east of the junction of the St. Paul branch with the main line of the L. & B. H. R. R., on a four hundred and eighty acre tract of land, purchased by the R. R. Co of Mr. W. Templin, Robert Lambert and Mrs. Samuel Lambert. It is about sixteen miles northwest of Central City and fourteen miles northeast of St. Paul .... At the junction several switches, two thousand feet in length, have been surveyed and stakes are set. Also ground is laid out for a round house, fifteen hundred feet in circumference, calculated to make forty stalls. It is to be a brick structure. Car shops are to be erected. The depot will be near the city. Town lots will be surveyed soon and streets laid out. Parties from Kansas City are here waiting to commence building as soon as possible .... Palmer is as beautiful for situation as the Psalmist said was Mt. Zion. ... It lies on an elevated plateau, overlooking one of the finest sections of country in the world. On the one hand lies the beautiful Loup Valley, with its hundreds of acres of meadow and pasture lands besides acres of oats and corn in their season; and Gage Valley, which has always been noted for its beauty, on the other.
   From the foregoing it will be seen that Palmer was not brought into existence without those exaggerated hopes which attended the rise of nearly all of our county towns. And although Palmer has never realized the ambitious of its early citizens, it has not been the least among the settlements of the county. From a score of inhabitants in 1885 it grew in a few years to a population of about 200, which was approximately its size in the closing year of its history as we record it--in 1895.
   Mr. G. M. Burlingame, one of Palmer's oldest settlers, informs us that the first building erected in PaImer was built in September, 1887, by Mr. Joe A. Hays, and occupied by Hays Bros. as a grocery store. Church and school facilities were a part of the original town, Palmer having been created in the later years when the county was so thoroughly organized in all these lines as to make immediate response easy to the demands of the new town. Palmer's first paper, the Palmer Sun, was started in October, 1887, by Mr. Chas. R. White, and continued by him until 1892, when it was transformed into the Palmer Prodigal, under editorial control of Mr. Fred G. Shaffer. who ran it for a few months, when it was permanently discontinued.


   In a personal letter to the author, Mr. C. D. Chapman, who has been connected actively with Archer life from its beginning, tells the following interesting story of the extension of the Burlington branch and the subsequent establishment of the town which is situated about half way between Central City and Palmer:

    In the winter of 1886 I wrote to Mr. Touzalin, of the B. & M, and suggested an extension of the road from Central City to St. Paul, setting forth in my letter the advantages of drawing to the B. & M. freight traffic for Chicago that then went to the Union Pacific. At the time I received only an acknowledgement of the receipt of the letter, but in about thirty days there came a letter from Mr. Touzalin, thanking me for my suggestion and stating that although they could do nothing on it that year, the plan would be filed for use the following spring. When the spring of 1887 came, I received word from the B. & M. that in about two weeks surveyors and the railroad gang would be along and commence work. I was corresponding for the Courier at that time, and stated in my items that the B. &M. would soon commence the extension of its line from Central City out our way [Midland precinct]. Nearly everyone thought I was joking, but in two weeks more the surveyors had come, and I worked with them a month. Through them, by advice and counsel, I got the town of Archer located where it now is and later secured for it the name of Archer. In the fall of 1887 Mr. E. Hanson moved the Adams Center Creamery and store into the new town, from its former site two miles southwest. In the spring of 1888 I put up the first building--a store 16x32, and later put up a larger store. Mr. Hanson formed a partnership with Mr. J. B. Templin in the fall of 1888, and the same still continues. Mr. H. O. Chapman taught the first school in the town.
   Archer occupies the position of a shipping point midway between Central City and Palmer, and as such has not had the opportunity for expansion that the latter two towns have. Yet from two or three buildings in 1887 it has grown to a settlement of about 125 inhabitants, supplied with the usual school, church and mail facilities.

NOTE:--Through an oversight on the part of the editor, a date was allowed to go through last week without correction. In noting the change by which Stitzer Avenew was created, a part of the edition made it occur in 187=, and the remainder in 18==. The date of the change was 1886. A second error occurred in the statement that "It was during these years [1883-90] that the 'Union Block,' on the south side of Broad street, was erected." It whould have read, "on the north side of Broad street."


© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller