This is a Saunders County NEGenWeb Project web page


   When he became aware that homesteads were available in Nebraska, he came to Omaha where he drew a number and received a surveyor's plat. The plat indicated his homestead to be west of the Platte River and north of Saline Ford. In Omaha he purchased a team of horses, harness and wagon; also a breaking plow, stove, lantern and various tools. From Omaha he drove to Saline Ford, which the following year in 1870 was founded, and renamed Ashland. There was no bridge across Salt Creek so that stream had to be forded.

   In Saline Ford he purchased such edibles as salt pork, pemmican, dried beans, rice and salt. Canned foods were not yet available. From Saline Ford he drove almost straight north until he reached the shanty of a Mr. Marble Richardson, the only squatter between Saline Ford and Fremont. Richardson's place was the temporary post office and was known as Headland. It was located where, in later years, School District Number Eight was established. Marble Precinct was named after Marble Richardson

   According to Father's plat, his homestead had to be straight west of Headland where he found a red cobblestone that marked the southwest corner of his homestead. He was elated to find a small spring of running water on his claim, which induced him to dig a dugout in a sidehill close by. That dugout served as his home for seven years and also the temporary shelter for many newcomers that soon poured into that area, including his boyhood friend, Hans Storm, who shared the dugout with him for an entire year while Mr. Storm built a small house and broke up some of the sod on his own claim, just one mile north of father's place. John Kolb and Hans Storm remained close friends throughout their lives. After their retirement, they lived across the street from one another in Yutan and I, the writer, occasionally listened to their reminiscing about their good times when they were boys in their homeland. They went fishing together and in the winter, skating on the Eider River near their homes. Skating, not with steel skates like we have now but with wooden shoes or shoes with wooden soles and leather uppers.

   The early years of the 1870's in Nebraska were fruitful years and the newly-broken sod produced abundantly such crops as wheat, corn, rye and barley. The problem was getting it to market, which was either Fremont or Ashland. Fremont was the preferred market place but that was twenty miles from home or a round trip of forty miles. In winter, hauling a load of wheat to Fremont meant a long and cold drive. Sometimes darkness overtook him on the way back home, and with no fences and roads, it was easy to get lost. Then the only thing to do was to let the horses find the way, which they always did. To keep warm on those long cold trips, he would heat a peck or more of shelled corn in the oven, pour it in a bag and that served to keep the feet warm. A bag of hot corn also kept the lap and hands warm. No bridge over the Platte River at Fremont, so crossings had to be made by ferry boat.

   Raising hogs proved to be a profitable venture but in order to sell his hogs, father had to butcher, clean and dress the hogs at home, then haul the pork to Fremont where the fresh meat found a ready market. This, of course, could only be done in the winter months since he had no refrigeration. All went well for a few years until one day when tragedy struck. He had driven to Ashland with some wheat to be milled into flour and when he returned home he found a prairie fire had swept over his place, consuming everything in its path. A small granary with some grain in it was still smoldering when he reached home. A straw hog shed was burned and the hogs in it killed. But worst of all his barn was gone. His prized team of young mules he had recently purchased were burned to death. The sight of his dead mules brought tears to his eyes. Only his two cows had avoided the flames. The fire had started at the place of a man named Black which was just a mile south of father's place. How the fire started was never learned.

   Fuel was another problem in the early days. A diligent search over a large area of prairie still yielded a few sacks full of very hard dried buffalo chips which proved to be an excellent fuel. But for a quick hot fire small bundles of prairie hay were often used. The only wood available was on the islands of the Platte and that was difficult to get to shore. The fuel shortage induced John Kolb to plant a large grove of trees on his claim. He also set out two orchards of fruit trees that in later years provided his growing family with an abundance of fruits. In the year 1875 he built his first frame house, consisting of four rooms and a pantry and also another barn and other needed buildings. All the lumber and rocks for foundations were hauled from Ashland, a distance of sixteen miles. That was time consuming and hard work.

   In the late seventies came the dry years and grasshoppers. The swarms of hoppers or so called Locusts almost obscured the sun and devoured everything green, even stripping the young trees. Those were discouraging years that tried the stamina of the homesteaders and many of the less steadfast pioneers called it quits; sold their claims and vanished. Only the more hardy, courageous Swedes, Germans and Irish remained to build up the eastern part of Saunders County.

   In the early 1880's the rains came again and the country flourished. This brought in a new wave of immigrants and soon Saunders County became well populated. Submitted by Wm. O. Kolb

Anderson Thoroughbred Farm, south of Wann
Anderson Thoroughbred Farm, south of Wann


(image links to larger map)


   A government for Saunders County came in the election in the fall of 1866. At that time the county commissioners divided the county into 3 precincts, Douglas, Pohocco, and Union of which our area was a part. In 1871 the county was divided into 22 precincts with Marietta (named in honor of Mrs. Marietta Copp) established as it presently is, except section 1 (later to become a part of Leshara precinct) was included at that time.

page 83


   The village of Mead and a big part of the community surrounding it, lays on an unusual strip of land known as "Todd Valley," so named in honor of Prof. J.E. Todd of Vermillion, S.D. in 1903, who had done extensive geological work in this area and who had suggested how the valley was formed. This valley, six to eight miles wide and twenty-eight miles long, stretches diagonally across the county from the northwest to the southeast.

   It is believed that at one time this valley was the course used by the Platte River. The Platte waters, after scouring away the glacial drift and possibly some older formations, laid down its own bed of sand and gravel to a depth of one hundred feet or more across the wide valley. Then, for reasons unknown, the waters were diverted into the present course of the Platte. Sometime later a 20 ft. layer of loess was laid on top of the old river bed, as well as on the remaining hills of glacial drift on each side of the valley. Thus Mead today stands about 20 ft. above the old river bed.


   A 16 square block area was set aside to make up the new town. It was located on both sides of the tracks in such a manner that the center line of 4th Street was also the east west centerline of the half section. There was room on the west for another tier of blocks.

   The plat was captioned "Village of Alvin." It was signed by Silas H.H. Clark, as president of the Omaha and Republican Valley Railroad, and by I.W. Garnett as its Secretary, in Douglas County, Nebr. on April 23, 1877. It now was official; but the first developers of the village had arrived a couple of months earlier and were already building the town.

   The village would come to life in a section of prairie land where no development had occurred prior to the arrival of the railroad and where no white man had ever before lived. Homesteaders, however, had been in the near countryside for several years eagerly awaiting the railroad and a place to purchase their needs and market their produce.


   The temporary board of directors appointed by the County Commissioners to serve until the May election were: Thomas Ostenberg, Oscar O. Johnson, C.W. Wilson, C.J. Blomberg and L.B. Padget. Their first meeting was held at the Bank of Mead on Jan.22, 1886 at which time Thomas Ostenberg was elected Chairman. Appointed to fill other positions were: C.T. Condit, Treas., Peter Anderson, Clerk, and P.L. Hall, Attorney.

   A summary of the business in Mead at that time would seem to include 3 steam powered elevators, each of which required an engineer in addition to the manager and other help. There also were 3 grocery or general merchandise stores as there were hotels, livery barns, and blacksmith shops. Two lumber yards were in business as were two hardware stores, drug stores, harness and shoe shops. Two doctors were now in town which was also true of plasterers or stone masons, cream drivers, gardeners, draymen and saloon keepers, the latter operating what they called The Temperance Saloon. There were 4 carpenters and 4 railroad men.

   Under the guidance and prodding of Chris Buerstatte, the year 1914 brought electric lights and a water system which included a 35,000 gallon tower and fire hydrants. Edgar Fetz was Mead's first water and light commissioner. For years to come, the rhythmic "chug"-"chug"-"chug" of the one cylinder engine powering the generator would be heard across the town. The plant was shut down at midnight and started again at 6:00 in the morning. The kerosene lamp and the candle were rather quickly replaced, and gradually over the years the grass grew and covered the paths.

   Today we count about a dozen businesses based in the village itself and about an equal number located nearby. In addition there are several who own truck tractors. A portion of the business district has been cleared and awaits modern development when the opportunity arises in this village of nearly 500 people.

   Marietta Precinct Officers 1983-87: Chmn.: Thomas M. Shires, Clerk: Philip J. Johnson, Treas.: Elwyn D. Johnson.

Alvin - Saunders - Mead

   Alvin -- was the name officially designated by the railroad when they signed the plat of the town Apr.23, 1877. All transfers of title of property made during about the first 4 years used this name. The census of 1880 used the name Alvin for the town.

   Saunders -- was the name officially designated by the postal department when they opened their post office in the depot, Feb.15, 1877.

   Mead -- The postal department officially changed the name of the post office to Mead on Aug. 4, 1880. Since about that time title transfers used the name Mead or Mead -- formerly known as Alvin. Some reports indicate the name Mead means "meadow"; other reports say it was named after a railroad official, perhaps Charles W. Mead, Assistant General Superintendent.


   Early accounts of the beginning of the Village of Alvin, now known as Mead, indicate that Charles Ostenberg, 55, and Cyrus Truman Condit, 33, were the first businessmen on the scene.

   Condit was an experienced carpenter having learned the trade from his father while living in Ohio. He had moved to Fremont and worked at his trade there for about nine years before coming to Mead.

   The Ostenbergs, natives of Germany, had settled in Wisconsin in 1849, then moved to Schuyler, Nebr. in 1876. The Ostenbergs and the Condits had known each other in Wis.

   When these two men arrived early in 1877, there was lots of room in the prospective town. It is probable that the depot and the railroad agent, Joseph Sturdevant, 27, were all that was there to meet them. Mr. Sturdevant would have been the only resident; and he only part time, because for a while he was a commuter -- that is, when possible, he walked back and forth to his farm (Sec. 15, Marietta Precinct) 3½ miles to the northwest.

   There were living quarters in the depot, however; and it was there Charles and Cyrus, along with Mr. Sturdevant, bunked while building their businesses and homes.

   The 1880 census taken in June indicates that there were forty three people then living in Alvin, of which 27 were adults. Of the adults 21 were under 40 years old. Fifteen of them had been born in the United States, seven in Canada, two in Germany and one each in England, Scotland and Sweden. It was shortly after the census was taken that the name of the village was changed to Mead.

   Slow but steady increase was the case in the early 1880's, but by 1885 that had given way to very rapid growth.

   When the next census was taken in June of 1885 the population, at 162 people, had nearly quadrupled in the 5 years and about 30 vocations could be counted. A significant shift in nationalities had occurred. Of the 99 adults in the village, 43 had been born in the U.S., 38 in Sweden, 14 in Germany, 2 in Canada, and 1 in England.

   Six months later, when the year 1885 closed, the population exceeded 200, the area included in the village had doubled, and formal incorporation had been requested with acceptance coming early in 1886. Mead now would have a formal government of its own for the first time.


   First, a little history of the community.

   The first building to be constructed in the little community, called 'Alvin,' was the Union Pacific Railroad depot. It was built in 1876 when the railroad came here. When it was discovered there were two towns called 'Alvin' in Nebraska, the name was changed to 'Saunders' on February 15, 1877. The first house was built here by Cyrus Truman Condit in 1877. The second was built by Charles Ostenberg. He also opened the first grocery store on March 1, 1877.

   The name was changed to 'Mead' on August 4, 1880, honoring a Union Pacific official.

   Some of the community pioneers were: Joseph B. Sturdevant -- first depot agent; John Ohmstead -- first general store; Phegem E. Hebert -- first hardware store; Charles W. Wilson -- first drugstore; Ola Carlson and son Charles -- first butcher shop; Henry Brown (ex-slave) -- first barber shop; Lars Anderson and Ola Carlson -- first livestock dealers; William N. Becker -- first newspaper 'Advocate'; Cyrus Condit and Thomas Ostenberg -- first elevator and grain; Dr. Philip L. Hall -- first physician; Freeman Knowles -- first attorney.

   The Bank of Mead was opened for business as a private bank in 1885 with Cyrus Truman Condit, president; Thomas Ostenberg and Henry Anderson, vice-presidents; and Philip L. Hall, cashier. The capital stock was $5,000.

   The need for a Swedish-speaking assistant was apparent. Gus Soderberg, a Swedish immigrant, walked from Fremont to apply and stayed with the bank for 48 years.

   The bank was incorporated on December 31, 1900. Philip Lewis Hall was president, Thomas Ostenberg, vice-president, Cyrus T. Condit, cashier and Gus Soderberg, assistant cashier.

   In 1916, Mr. E.C. Shumaker became cashier and stock was sold locally.

   The old two-story frame building was moved to the south, onto 4th street, when a new stone building was started in 1918. At this time burglars gained entrance to the vault by breaking through the floor. In 1920, R.M. Erway came from Valley to replace Mr. Shumaker who had resigned. He guided the bank through the 20's and 30's in a manner so that no depositor lost his savings.

   In 1931, the bank had an undivided surplus profit of $16,000 and the deposits averaged about $340,000. The officers of the bank were Jay Willey, president; Harry Widman, vice-president; Roy M. Erway, cashier; Gus Soderberg and Emerson E. Erway, assistant cashiers.

R. M. Erway, Emerson Erway, Gust Soderberg
R. M. Erway, Emerson Erway, Gust Soderberg

   In the early 30's, the bank was robbed by men who took Emerson Erway hostage in their car. They let him out a mile east of town and were later apprehended.

Gust Soderberg & Hulda Parrish
Gust Soderberg (1863-1946) was married to Hulda Parrish (1871-1949) on December 2, 1902.

page 84

   Emerson E. Erway succeeded his father in the mid 50's with banking experience from 1922. Emerson's wife, Ella, worked in the bank from 1934 to 1964. Leon Langemeier purchased the bank in 1964 and hired Kenneth Schuette to be manager followed by Les Nieuwenhuis.

   In 1971, the bank was robbed again. Employees, including a present employee, Alice Erickson, were tied on the floor and one customer was pistol-whipped as he entered the bank. The robbers were later caught and sent to prison.

   In 1979, William Foxley acquired the bank and hired Mrs. Sandy Reed as manager.

   A new 'Drive-up' facility was opened on Highway in November, 1982. The bank now has 6 full-time employees and one part-time employee.

Drive in Bank
Drive in Bank


   On Tuesday, Mar. 7, 1871, at about 4 P.M., our family took a train at Blackwalnut, Pennsylvania, bound for Nebraska. Others joined our party until there were twenty or more in our company going to Nebraska. We arrived at Fremont, Nebraska, Friday afternoon, Mar. 10, 1871. This was my brother, Edward's, birthday, he being nine years old that day. Our family were apportioned out among old friends for the night.

   On Saturday morning, Mar. 11, 1871, Father bought a cookstove, groceries, and some furniture, and other things needed. After dinner, he had them hauled to the Platte River, just south of Fremont, by a dray. There was no bridge in those days. The only means of crossing the river was by ferry, run by John Lee, an oldtime friend of Father's. Our goods, trunks, etc. were loaded onto this ferryboat, which was just a flatboat, called mud scows in the East. Then we all got on the boat with the goods. The boat was pushed across to the south side of the river by men using long poles.

   We were, in a little time, safely landed on the south side of the river, and our goods set out upon the bank. We were met there by three prospective neighbors, Theodore L. Adams, Samuel Gregory, and Fletcher Gregory, each one bringing a team with lumber wagon with which to transport our goods and ourselves to our new home. Our goods and party were divided and loaded into three wagons. We started for our new home.

   In the Adams wagon was the stove, groceries, and some trunks; also Father, Mother, Joseph, Edward, Bertha, and myself (Frank). We reached the Adams' home shortly after dark, and Mrs. Adams had supper about ready for us.

   After supper Father and Joseph loaded some straw into the wagon, and Mr. Adams took all of us who came with him to our new home. The stove was set up that night, the trunks opened, and bed ticks procured, and filled with straw. Beds were made up on the floor in the one bedroom on the first floor, and on the second floor, which was all one room. Then we retired for the night. We had a sweet night's rest after our long journey on the train.

   With hearts beating high with hopes for the future, we awoke the next morning, Sunday, Mar. 12, 1871, and arose to eat breakfast, prepared by Mother in our new home.

   Our new neighborhood was composed largely of Christian people, though divided much by denominational lines. However, this did not matter so much. Neighborhood services and Sunday School were held Sunday morning in the schoolhouse about one-half mile south of our home. Our part of the party went to the schoolhouse to attend these services, all excepting Mother and our little sister, Bertha, then three and one-half years old. Mother must remain home and prepare dinner for all the party. The other two parts of our party remained with their hosts overnight, and came to the services at the schoolhouse the next morning.

   There was a goodly number out to the services. A preacher of the Free Methodist type, Rev. Noble Gregory, father of the two Gregorys who met us at the Platte River with their wagons, preached. We, who had come from the East, were not accustomed to that type of preaching, and some did not restrain the smiles which they felt inside. This seemed to irritate the old gentleman, and sitting down on a schoolhouse seat close at hand, and pounding the desk with his hand, he said, "It may be that I am a fool; but if I am, I am a happy one."

   This was our first introduction to Nebraska. I think that none of our party ever regretted our coming to Nebraska.

   It was not long after that Father and Noble Gregory Jr., a brother of the Gregorys already mentioned, and son of the preacher, went to Council Bluffs to purchase horses and wagons. In about one week they returned, Mr. Gregory with one team and wagon, and Father with one wagon and three teams, two of horses, and one team of mules. Now all hands were busily engaged in putting in crops, or doing their bit about the farm. They settled down to real farm life in the West.

   In about May of that year, 1871, Zenas and Alanson Smith, sons of Joseph and Lucy Sturdevant Smith, and cousins of Father, came west, procured farms in our neighborhood. They remained to build a house on the Alanson Smith farm, and returned to Pennsylvania for their families. They both returned with their families in November of that year. Submitted by Frank Moxley Sturdevant


   The post office, using the name Saunders, was established Feb.15, 1877, and occupied a part of the ticket office at the railroad station which was then called Alvin. The name of the post office was changed to Mead on August 4, 1880. Before the post office was established, the addresses of some of the early pioneers in this area were: Ashland, Eldred, Estina, Headland, and Wauhoo.

   In the beginning, Joseph Sturdevant, the depot agent, was also postmaster and was replaced on Mar. 2, 1883 by Charles Ostenberg. The post office was moved to the Ostenberg store and remained here until the wood frame building on the west side of Vine Street was built in 1890 by Delos Kearns. Other postmasters were: Delos Kearns, Michael Kane, Katie Kane, Wm. Campbell, Orlando Adams, Marcia Williams, Joseph Fleming, Addie Mills, G.H. Gilchrist, Mildred (Johnson) Moline, Juliet Johnson, Esther Carlson, Leo Coslett, and Odette Daharsh. At the present time, Alice Johnson is Officer in Charge. Mrs. Esther Carlson began as postmistress in 1929 and retired in 1961, with Mrs. Esther Anderson as Clerk for many years.

   In the early 1900's, a list was published in the Mead Advocate of the letters uncalled for at the post office.

   On Oct. 1, 1898, rural free delivery was inaugurated and was regarded as one of the most far reaching developments in the mail service. Mead received free delivery on Nov. 1, 1901. Mead had two mail deliveries by train a day, and two mail routes until May 1, 1941. Some of the rural mail carriers were: Joseph Fleming, Nels Sjogren, Fred Lange, D.H. Templeton, Howard Johnson, Gordon Swanson, and Robert Pearson. On Feb. 16, 1974 the Mead, Colon, and Yutan routes were combined and two carriers deliver the mail, Robert Pearson and Donald McCright.

   The new brick post office on the east side of Vine was dedicated on May 5, 1962. At the present time there are 190 postal patron boxes and 135 rural boxes.


   The railroad through Mead was completed from Valley to Wahoo on Dec.26, 1876. It was built by the Omaha and Republican Valley Railway, but operated by the Union Pacific until 1898, when Union Pacific gained complete control and ownership. With the exception of Lincoln, there are only 2 depots still in service on this branch -- Mead and Valparaiso.

   The first depot building contained a waiting room, ticket office, telegraph office, and freight house combined, and some living accommodations. Today's depot also has larger living quarters, though they are not presently in use; and telegraph service has been discontinued.

   The railroad was a vital part of the early community, bringing food and supplies to the businesses and people, and hauling the farmers' livestock and crops to the bigger markets. It also provided a faster and more convenient means of travel and communication.

   In the early years there was 1 passenger and 1 freight east, and 1 passenger and 1 freight west per day. These trains were powered by steam engines and would be very small compared to the engines of today. In about the 1940's, mail and passenger service was discontinued. Today there are about 6 freight trains per 24-hour period. Many of these trains are over 100 cars long, and are powered by as many as 4 and 5 diesel electric units.

   The railroad opened a ballast operation in 1885, east of town near the site now used as the disposal area. Using old ties as fuel, the soil was treated by fire to create ballast for their tracks. It operated only 1 year at that time, but opened again in 1892 for an unknown period of time. A number of houses were built to house the workers. They were sold when the operation closed, with some of the houses being moved into town.

   Joseph Sturdevant was the first agent. The present agent, Darwin Peterson, lives at Cedar Bluffs.

Station and Elevator
Station and Elevator


   The Mead Fire Department of today is recognized as one of the best equipped, capable, departments its size in the state of Nebraska. Vehicles included are two tankers, a pumper, four-wheel drive pickup, a 65-foot aerial platform, and two rescue units, all radio-equipped, in addition to other fine equipment.

   The first fire fighting capability came into being in 1914 when a 35,000 gallon water tower and hydrant system was installed in Mead. To transport fire hose, a two-wheeled cart and box was purchased and equipped with hose and nozzles. This hose cart was pulled by men or towed by car to the scene of a fire, and was manned by citizens of Mead as there was no organized fire department then.

   On July 9, 1928, concerned citizens met in the Almen Garage and organized the Mead Volunteer Fire Department. Fifteen members were present,

page 85

Back Contents Next

Return to
The Saunders County NEGenWeb Project

© 2002 - designed by Connie Snyder for The NEGenWeb Project.