Located in Bluff Precinct in the northeast corner of Hamilton County, Hordville was the last town to be established in Hamilton County.
Settlers, churches, and schools actually predated Hordville. An early settler recalled her parents settled near a place called Mirimichi, about a mile west of Hordville. There was a post office and a store run by a missionary to the Indians. The school was a sod cabin and served as a church as well. Later a frame building replaced the soddy. In 1885 the school building was moved a half mile south of Hordville.
Also before Hordville was founded a trading post consisting of a general store, creamery, implement shop, blacksmith shop, and a post office was located on the North side of Highway 66 about 1.50 miles east of Hordville. This trading post was known as Stark, Nebraska.
The Fridhem Lutheran Church congregation was officially organized on October 15, 1880. In 1881 the church bought 40 acres from the railroad at $2.50 per acre, and in 1882 the first church 24 x 32 feet by 12 feet high was built. The church was dedicated in 1883 the first parsonage built to the east in 1886. A monument now marks the spot in the cemetery where the first church stood.
The coming of the Union Pacific Railroad to this community was really the foundation for the establishment of the Village of Hordville. The United States federal government gave the Union Pacific every other section of land along the railroad. In turn the Union Pacific gave permission for the City Improvement Company of Stromsburg to plat two towns to be of equal distance 7 ½ miles apart between Central City and Stromsburg. Land was purchased at $100.00 an acre from John Litzenberg, John Larson, Andrew Person, Nels Bengtson, and the Fridhem Lutheran Church, the latter voting to sell 30 of its 40 acres. The City Improvement Company, a corporation, was operated by Wesley, Nathan, and Victor Nelson of Stromsburg. O.T. Reedy, a civil engineer, made the plats of the new town and personally headed the surveying. Ivan Bengtson was one of the four men doing the surveying and measuring. All lots, streets and alleys were laid out and put for sale on September 12, 1906. The town was given the name of Hordville in honor of T.B. Hord, a prosperous cattle feeder of Central City, who also erected the Hord Elevator.
What did Hordville look like in 1906? At that time it was mostly corn fields. The first building on the site was the Fridhem Lutheran Church which was erected in 1882. In 1886 the Lutheran parsonage was built. This house is currently owned by Merlyn and Darlene Fowler.
It’s hard to believe but Hordville once boasted of having five doctors, three at one time, four grocery stores, a drugstore, a jewelry store, a hardware store, a photography studio, a garage, a blacksmith shop, a hatchery, and a large lumberyard. There was a barber shop, a shoe repair shop, and several cafes, in addition to a hotel and livery stable used by traveling salesmen, boarders, and visitors to the community. Most of these are gone now but they were a part of Hordville history.
The day after the sale of lots, H. M. Benson began the construction of a general store for Axel F. Johnson. This early store sold fine china, clothing, as well as groceries. This building was only half the size of the later store used by several merchants. Later the southern part was added. In 1946 a locker plant was added for frozen food storage. Other proprietors of the store were Oscar Branting, Willis and Wilson, Homer Branting, Victor Suntych, Mr. Pillar, Martin McConnell, Merlin and Nadine Guilford, and Carl and Peggy Simonsen. This landmark store has been closed and torn down.
Shortly after the Axel Johnson general store began to take form, Cyrus Ramey started a general store on the south end of the same block. After 4 years of operation he sold to David Olson who in turn sold the store to John Ostbloom. Later it became a photography studio operated by Edgar Draper. This building served many purposes including a filling station and a shoe repair shop before being torn down.
The trading post at Stark was doomed soon after the new town was formed. The Stark Implement building was moved to Hordville with its location north of the Ramey Store. Then it was moved to a half block east of the First State Bank and finally to the east side of Main Street. M.A. Larson was the first operator of the implement business. He sold to H.M. Benson in 1910. Other owners of the business were Axel W. Johnson, Dick Thesing, Lloyd Benson, and R.L. Anderson.
The Stark general store was moved to Hordville on the east side of Main Street near the old barber shop. This store was managed by Lucious Comstock. For a time the post office was in this building and Dr. Douglas had his office upstairs. Later the building burned in a spectacular fire. Joel Carlstrom, the town’s only harness maker, had his establishment upstairs at the time of the fire.
The Mitchell and Cohagen Grocery and Hardware store was located in what is now the Hordville Community Hall. After two years they sold to Albert Hahn who later sold to the Farmers Union. Later proprietors were Leonard Walin, then Virgil and Milburn Erickson, who sold groceries and bought poultry, cream and eggs. After the building became vacant, R.L. Anderson used it until John Veburg established a seed store there and operated it for many years. Finally, in 1981 the store was remodeled by Gene Fowler, his crew, and community volunteers into what is now the Hordville Community Hall.
The buildings next to the original First State Bank building were used for many purposes. The next building north of the bank was first used as an office for the Hamilton County Telephone Company. Telephones were installed as soon as business places and residences were built. The first operator was Mrs. Baird. Mrs. Percy King succeeded her in 1911. After she married Isaac Lampshire, the switchboard was moved to their home in west Hordville. She served in this capacity until 1941 when Mrs. Grover Coleman became operator and later Mrs. Gilbert Necker. In 1957 the conversion to the dial system was made.
The building used by the telephone company was later used as a café operated by Bill Erickson and by Albin Nelsons. Joel Carlstrom also used it as a harness shop which was later taken over by Frank Lingwall. The middle building was the location of the Albin Person and Jenning General Store. Later it served as a barber shop. Barbers included Don Shields, Grover Coleman, Burl Campbell, and Del Bratton. The North building was used as Dr. Jarmin’s office and later as a produce station by Miles Duffy and then by Homer Branting. Grover Coleman used it as a café, as well as the McCarthy sisters, Frank Parker and Leo Bowlby. In 1975 it was purchased by Howard and Lorene Cox and remodeled to include some of the other buildings. Later owners were Russ and Julie Kortum, Jim and Karen Hansen, Jim Hicks, and Hazel Struble. In 2016, Justin Blase purchased the building. From 2016-2018 the building underwent a massive renovation and in 2018 it opened as an entertainment venue and bar named Banana Rams.
Hordville had a hotel to accommodate salesmen, and visitors. It was located west of the original bank. Owners were F.I. Wallin and J.O. Wade. A grocery store and meat market were in the hotel. Mr. Jennings had the town’s first meat market which he sold to Mr. Wallin. In later years Leonard Wallin operated the store and lived in the hotel.
At one time the town had three doctors! Doctors that practiced here were Moore, Jarmin, Douglas, Spannare, Lingenfelder, and Flippin. For a time a jewelry store was in operation.
The first blacksmith shop with a planning mill was run by Thede Larson. He sold to Clark Towle who sold to H.M. Benson and P.J. Refshauge. John Veburg took over in 1911 and sold the business to Gust Seaquist in 1919. In 1939 Mr. Seaquist moved to south Hordville.
The Hoagland Lumber Company was the first lumber yard in town. It was sold to the Hordville Lumber Company that was managed by Aaron Blomquist and later by B.E. Bengtson. The structure was immense and was said to be one of the largest in Nebraska at the time. The High School basketball games used to be played there before a gym was built. Floyd Johnson of Hordville said that they used to have to stop the games to let the dust settle before continuing. Sadly when the business closed the building was sold and dismantled.
Across the street and west of the Hordville Lumber Company was a cement block building which housed many purposes. It was started by Frank Mitchell who operated his business for one year. He sold to Reuben Larson who had a garage there until his death in 1919, when his brother, Irl took it over. Irl then sold it to H.M. Benson in 1923. In 1926 Freeman Larson purchased the business which he later sold to R.L. Anderson in 1929. Other owners were Morris Johnson, Lowell Keyes, and Kenneth Person. In 1957 the building was converted into the Hordville Fire Hall and also housed the school buses. The building was torn down in the 80’s and a new fire hall was built in 1982.
Other main street businesses included the Bush Livery Stable, located in the back of the old fire hall. Art Bush operated the stable for a long time. Earl and Dwight Bush had a dray line. They hauled incoming freight merchandise from the depot to various business places. Drug stores were operated by V. McFarland, Mr. Brown, Cecil Smersh, and T.G. Slater.
Even in the old days there were offenders of the law. For them there was a stone block jail located between the bank and the hotel west of there. The jail has been torn done some years ago.
Later businesses included the starting of two filling stations along Highway 66, owned by Gus Seaquist and by R.L. Anderson. Gus started in 1939 and later sold out to Marwin Rogers. Bob and Andrew Bush took over the station established by Mr. Anderson in 1950. The Farmers’ Cooperative Gas and Oil station was started in 1961. Dennis Riekenberg was the first manager. The Cooperative eventually sold the business to Frank Riebslager and Gregg Fowler and the business was renamed “The Hordville Shop”. Today, Gregg Fowler is the sole owner of the building and business.
The post office has had various locations. Mr. Comstock had it in his store. C.T. Hill erected a small building for it south of the present Hordville Community Hall. Hulda Anderson Branting was the next postmaster followed by Cecil Smersh. Afterwards Mrs. Mae Slater filled the position until her retirement in 1950. During this time the post office was in conjunction with the T.G. Slater Drug Store. After Mrs. Slater retired, Elmer Garner became the postmaster. Elmer and Maxine Garner also had a variety store in the same building. After Elmer retired, Maxine took over as postmaster. From then, several have filled the vacancy. There have also been several mail carriers. For years Tom Montgomery was a familiar sight with his wheelbarrow as he picked up the mail at the post office, took it to the train, and carried back the morning mail. The train arrived in the morning and returned in the early evening. After Tom retired, Vic Ahl carried the mail. Art Bush was the rural mail carrier for many years followed by E.B. Holmes who continued until his death. Several others have carried the rural mail including Maynard Johnson, Delane Chader and Darold Ortegren.
One outstanding business with service to the community is the Farmers’ Co-op Association. This firm is the fourth oldest in Nebraska. In 1906, 74 stockholders provided a paid up capital of $3925.00. With George C. Grosvenor as manager, the new organization purchased the Lexington Elevator Company then operating in Hordville, and later in the 1920’s took over the T. B. Hord Grain Company. Starting with a small elevator, a flour and storage building was added in 1913. Increased office space was added in 1920 and a new manager’s house was built in 1923. In 1949 the firm erected a new elevator with storage capacity of 65,000 bushels, a new office and 50 foot scale. Another concrete elevator with 155,000 bushel capacity was built in 1955; dryers were added, plus expanded feed and fertilizer facilities. The first elevator built was torn down in 1976. The firm has added several more large storage facilities, including the latest one in 2005. Co-op managers throughout the years have been, George C. Grosvenor, H.G. Carpenter, Clarence Rodine for more than 32 years, Dwayne (Shortie) Hahn and Joe Hahn. The CO-OP has been purchased by United CO-OP, and today is owned by Central Valley Ag.
FIRST STATE BANK
The First State Bank was established almost as soon as the town started. Its charter is dated September 10, 1906. The building materials were all hauled from Stromsburg by team and wagon. While the building was in progress, the bank operations were transacted in the drug store building as was the post office. The bank was organized by Wesley, Nathan, and Victor Wilson with C. Victor Nelson as cashier. The bank was incorporated with capital of $10,000.00. In 1910 it was sold to W.I. Farley and A.W. Hickman with P. J. Refshauge as cashier. In 1918 L.G. Crampton became cashier and R.C. Gustafson started as bank clerk. In 1922 R.C. Gustafson became cashier and then the bank’s president in 1927. In 1957 Richard Anderson was hired as cashier and later became president, the position he held until his death in 2006. The bank has been robbed twice in its existence. First in the fall of 1928 and the second time on December 26, 1974. William (Bill) Anderson has been president of the First State Bank since 2006.
The first railroad depot was built as soon as the town was started. It was destroyed by fire and another one was built which has since been torn down. The railroad schedule included not only freight, but passenger trains as well. It was possible to board a train (or motor) in the morning, spend a few hours in Central City, and return on the afternoon train. Kids and adults too met the “Spook eye”, as it was affectionately called, as it came from Lincoln in the early evening. This train, in its later years a motor car, made its last run on January 27, 1952. Nowadays the rail line serves the grain elevator and its customers. Sam Briggs served as agent many years and was followed by Stambaugh. A.M. Patterson served as agent for 22 years and was followed by Larry Killion in 1952. Some notable news from the history of the railroad is that the train that Abraham Lincoln once rode made a stop at the Hordville depot. Also William Jennings Bryan came through Hordville on the train when he campaigned for presidency. In the 80’s the Farmers Cooperative of Hordville made news by ordering 25 of their own grain cars with the Hordville Co-op name on them.
Churches were and still are a very integral part of the community. The Fridhem Lutheran Church was organized in 1880. A church was built in 1882 on what in now the northeast corner of the Hordville cemetery. Later, in 1908 the present church building was erected. The current Fridhem parsonage was built in 1930. The old church was sold and moved to Main Street where it was enlarged and used for many purposes.
The First Baptist Church was organized on December 18, 1878, two miles east of Hordville. They held their meetings in a school house until 1886 when a church was built. In 1920 this building and the parsonage was moved to Hordville.
The members of the North Blue Methodist Church located 2 miles south and 1 mile east of the present site of Hordville, built a new church in Hordville in 1907 on the corner of 4th and Olive St. Members voted to disband in 1955. The church property was sold at auction on July 16, 1955, the church being purchased by members of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Polk and moved there.
The original Fridhem Lutheran Church building which is located on the corner of 2nd and Main Street is the oldest building in town. Although not pretentious in size, it has well served its purpose and stood the test of time. It was used for Lutheran Swedish summer school in the early days and later used temporarily by the Baptist members. It has been a precinct polling place, was a lodge hall for Royal Neighbors and the Modern Woodmen. It also was a meeting place for 4-H clubs, square dance clubs, Cub Scout meetings, Halloween parties, and the place that Santa Claus visited every year. Before the gym was built the Juniors and Seniors presented their class plays there. There were medicine shows. It was once called the opera house and had a magnificent opera curtain with many advertisements for Hordville and surrounding community businesses. High school graduation exercises were also held there. In 2005 the building was renovated by Rod Blase, Marwin Rogers, Karla Person, and Rony Fowler and was used as a Hordville History display for the 2006 Centennial. It was used again in 2016 and houses many old pictures and artifacts from Hordville’s history. Also on display is the large opera curtain with Hordville and area merchant advertising.
The first building that housed the pupils of District 61 was located a mile west and a half mile south of Hordville. On November 4, 1885, a small tract of land was purchased a half mile south of Hordville on the east side of the road from John Litzenburg for $25. The original one room building was moved there. Enrollment was large, going up to as many as 60 when farm work was slack. The school was so crowded that at times three children shared a double seat and desk. In 1911, citizens living in town and north of town decided that the school should be moved within the city limits. A special meeting was called to make the final decision. After a heated discussion a vote was taken. The outcome was to construct a new brick building in town at a cost of $5,000. George Johnson was selected as the contractor. On January 1, 1912 the new school was placed in use. Ray Peters was the first superintendent, followed in 1913 by Ivan Bengtson. The school first had ten grades. Later in 1917, an eleventh grade high school was established and in 1921, it became a twelve grade school.
As enrollment gradually increased the housing became inadequate and a meeting was called in 1927 to survey the possibility of enlarging the school building. The patrons of the district approved a $20,000 remodeling program. In 1928 the building was enlarged to add another floor atop the current building and also included a gymnasium and stage. A parent/teachers association was begun in 1925 and were active sponsoring immunizations, purchasing kitchen equipment, planning Mother-Daughter and Father-Son banquets. In 1952 the district consolidated, adding several neighboring districts. Two buses were purchased for transporting the children and this same year the hot lunch program was added.
As increased enrollment was causing crowded conditions, plans for adding a new building were made. A bond election was held on March 2, 1959, for the approval of a $126,000 structure. The votes were 192 for and 75 against. The new addition was begun in June of 1959. It included a new gymnasium, stage, kitchen, band room, and science room. The building was dedicated on September 25, 1960. Hordville has celebrated many years of excellence in education. One hometown woman, Verna Erickson, served for 32 years as a teacher and principal. Sports and other extra curricular activities were very prominent in Hordville for many years. In 1981 and 1982 the Hordville boys basketball team won the Nebraska State High School Class D Championships.
In 1988 the patrons voted to dissolve District 61 and merge with Polk school to form Polk-Hordville Schools. In 2001 another merger was held and Clarks was added to the school district to form High Plains Community School. In 2004 the High Plains School district closed the Hordville site and gave the school to the village of Hordville. Since then the village, with the help of generous donations of citizens past and present, has made improvements to the newer gymnasium with a new heating and air conditioning system. The village continues to use this building as the Hordville Event Center for large town functions, special occasion dinners, wedding receptions, or other social functions. The old part of the school, though unused, stood standing proud until 2021. That year the Hordville Village Board accepted a bid from G&G Dozer of Caney Kansas for $78,000 to demolish the old 3 story school building and remove it for a new concrete parking lot. After that a bid of $140,000 was accepted from Schoch Concrete of Benedict, Nebraska for the installation of a 120’x134’ parking lot and new sidewalks to the Event Center. The money for all of this was provided by the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Harlan & Emma Jane Peterson trust fund, the Carl Chader trust fund, Tri Community Foundation, First State Bank, local businesses, and many, many charitable contributions from organizations, past Alumni, and local residents. The Hordville Event Center and new lighted parking lot has brought new life back into Hordville.
The oldest home in town is located at 112 3rd Street and is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Merlyn Fowler. Other early homes are at 208 Elm St., 210 Elm St., 402 Main St., and 304 Main St.
Hordville was incorporated in 1916. Shortly after that electricity was brought to the village. The water pumping station, water tower, and water system were put into use in 1922. The sewer system was installed in 1964.
Hordville streets began, like any others, as dirt (or mud when it rained). One time early in Hordville’s existence, all the farmers for miles got together and took their team and wagons to the Platte River, got sand, and took it back to town to spread it on the streets. The women served meals and a gala occasion was made of the two days it took to do the job. In 1972, Main Street and three others were hard surfaced.
BAND AND ENTERTAINMENT
The Hordville Band was long a part of the local life. John Lyon directed a group known as the Stark Cornet Band, organized in 1899. He boasted of 17 young band men, none of them married. The band sometimes practiced in haymows before the advent of Hordville, and played at weddings, celebrations, and rallies. After John Lyon left, a Mr. Isaac from Stromsburg came by team, later by train, to direct the band. Art Thompson of Central City was also a director. In time a Hordville band was organized and Leonard Nelson directed it, followed by Chris Rasmussen. Band concerts were held weekly during the summers and were big events in the social life of the community. Later free movies were shown.
You may think life in this small town was dull but even in the horse and buggy days there was excitement. For many years once a week the band provided music in the band stand. During the summer, Chautauqua’s were held under a tent south of the Baptist Church. This enterprise provided games and entertainment for the children in the mornings while in the afternoons and evenings some of the nation’s best performers appeared on the stage. One time citizens gazed in amazement at a balloon ascension that took place near Main Street. Small circuses came with their elephants, monkeys and other animals. For a number of years, corn shows attracted exhibitors who tried for prizes in corn, baked products, and needle work. Charley Larson had a large ice pond in west Hordville where people came to cut ice in the winter and store in their icehouses for summer refrigeration. It was also used as an ice skating rink. During Word War I the Red Cross had an auction on Main Street. Patriotic citizens did their share of contributing to the cause. August 25, 1956 was Hordville Day when the town celebrated its 50th anniversary by having an all day celebration. Another large celebration was held in the summer of our country’s 200th anniversary in 1976. In 1981 Hordville was named “Nebraska’s Outstanding Small Community.” In 1996, a celebration observing the town’s 90th anniversary was given.
In 2006 the small village of Hordville celebrated its 100th year of existence. And in 2016 the village had a 110 year celebration.