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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Student Reports Help Save Bennington's History

 We came into possession of some early reports written by students of Ms. Edna Mohr on the subject of Bennington's history.  One in particular was extremely well written. Much of the information in these reports were used in Ms. Mohr's and Gary Sather's 1992 book on Bennington's history.  It is quite evident, these students had a great deal to do with preserving our town's early history.  

The author of this report is unknown but by the narrative we can tell it was written around 1935.  To whomever wrote it; we thank you.   We'd like to share it with you.  

History of Bennington

Author unknown (ca. 1935)

The building of Bennington in itself is a living chapter from the ever glowing story of the winning of the west.  Men who work and plan today that the structures which will be their children's heritage will rise strong and true tomorrow.  Men who have patience of soul and the durability of spirit to make the dreams become realities.  Of such stuff were the pioneers made; and of such stuff were the people whose names are known in the early history of Bennington.

All are architects of fate,

Working in these walls of time;

Some with massive deeds and great,

Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Rude structures, such as the tar-papered store building hastily thrown up by Felix Ebener in 1888, were soon rebuilt for permanency; as was the building which he erected in 1889 and which is now occupied by the Desler Pool Hall.

Merchants in those days bought their goods from the traveling salesman who drove out in livery rigs from Omaha.  People looked forward to their coming, for they were entertainers as well as tradesmen.  One man played the violin exceptionally well, and most of them could perform slight of hand tricks, and all were great story tellers.  Old timers say they could match Will Rogers and Bob Burns of Modern times.  When they had finished their work in Bennington they hired livery rigs from here and drove on to the next town.

Because there was a demand for such services Eggert Oft built a livery and feed barn in 1889 and carried on a thriving business for many years.  He also built a large hall and hotel which burned in the fire of 1913.  

Earliest of the buildings in Bennington to be started is the store building in which Stoltenberg and Ohrt have their hardware business today. It was started inn 1887 and completed in 1888.  Unique in its history is the fact that each owner has  carried on a hardware business in that building.  The first owner were Simonsen and Schmidt.  They were followed successively by Christ Steinert, J.H. Siert, August Witte and Stoltenberg and Ohrt who have been located their since 1916.

The next store was built by Peter Mangold on the present site of the Bank of Bennington.  It was run by Peter Mangold until 1890 when it was bought by G.G. Mangold.

Among the first buildings too, was the grist mill which was built and owned by Claus Oft for many years.  It was located on the banks of the Papio Creek where a brush dam impounded enough water to turn the wheel of the turbine in the mill.  Here the farmers for many miles around, brought their grain for Charles Schleip, the miller, to grind into meal and flour.

Because high waters during the spring rains washed out the brush dam, a framed dam was but which proved much more successful.  

Nime years ago, Charles Schleip died and the mill stood silent.  Later his daughter Minne, sold it to Adolf Mueller who had the structure torn down. 

During the winter ice wa cut from the mill  pond by the saloon-keepers and butchers to store for use in the summer.  Rivalry was so keep between two of the bucheers that it took a ducking in the pond to cool them off before prohibition and repeal when the country really was wet.  

Other building followed in close succession upon the completion of the ones mention and soon a bank, general merchandise stores, a barber shop, saloons, elevators, and a lumber yard were ready for business.  

Farms in the surrounding community had been under cultivation for some time and many homes in the little village were soon established.  

A post-office was established in 1887 with Peter Mangold as the first postmaster.  Since then Herman Timme, H. M. Fredrichsen, D. H. Kirachner, and Fred Hagedorn and Walter Mangold (who is the present postmaster) have held that office.  A rural route was established in 1901 with Morgan Andersson as the first carrier. 

Dr. Hickey began doctoring in Bennington in 1905.  The Bunz Implement Shop was started in 1899 while Henry Shroeder has been located here for 40 years.

Foremost in the memory of many people was the difficult task of moving a large blacksmith shop and house from Washington.  The house was taken apart in sections, moved to Bennington and rebuilt exactly as it was in Washington.  Although everyone helped--farmers, draymen, and townsmen--it took nearly two weeks to compete the job.  Today the widow of Gustof Paulsen and a son still live in the house.

Educational needs were not neglected during these early days and the children from Bennington went to the school in District #34 for a few years.  There they learned their A B C's and fine points on smoking out ground squirrels.  After accidently starting a small prairie fire that burned over 40 acres of hay land, the boys decided to leave the squirrels alone and concentrate on reading and writing.  Boys then were way ahead of their time.  Today that would be a part of their field work in Science.  In 1890, Peter Mangold laid out a school district for the town and a school building with accommodations for eight grades was built.  Eldredge Messenge, who had been teacher with a monthly salary of $75.   At that time there were four saloons in town and the $500 yearly tax money paid by each was used to help finance the school.  In 1910 a second building was erected and two more grades added.  Not until 1924 were the eleventh and twelfth grades added.  

Two elevators were built and operated for a number of years.  They handled from 80,000 to a 100,000 bushels of grain annually.  The one built in 1899 by Peter Diedrichsen was run by steam power.  Later it burned to the ground.   

The other elevator, which was build by Peter Mangold and is now owned by the Farmer' Union, was run by horse power.  A big black horse was kept to turn the cog wheel int he building which the Union now used for storing feed.  

One of the earliest business enterprises was a cooperative venture with a creamery.  Farmers about the community donated money with which they bought two or three lots in the east part of town.  Here a Mr. Coriss of the Waterloo Creamery Company erected a building and installed a cream separator which was run by steam power.  The cream was taken into Omaha and sold and the farmers took the skim milk home.  Later when Mr.   Layman ran the creamery, he installed pasteurizing equipment and sold the whole milk to Omaha markets.

By 1892, considerable agitation had started to incorporate the town.  Fearing that there would be to small a population to carry out the plans, Justice of the Peace, Herman Timme, took the census while a group of railroad workers were in town and counted the necessary hundred for incorporation.  The papers were then drawn up, and Bennington became a full pledged village.  The first meeting was held April 15, 1892 at the school house when H. Simonsen was elected President of the Board, H. Fredrichsen-Treasurer, Hans Scheider-Marshall, and P.A. Anderson-Clerk.  The present Board of Trustees are Tim Ohrt-Chairman, H.H. Newmeyer, H.D. Schroeder, Fred D. Peterson, Gus Grebe and O.W. Glandt-Village Clerk.

The first newspaper was the Bennington Bugle, the first copy appearing March 29, 1892.

A number of factories flourished in the town at one time or another and included a hen-nest factory which was run by C.W. Glandt.  Several carloads of nests were shipped out.  These nests were not only convenient for the hens, but also  game the boys who had to roam the orchards looking for eggs more time for themselves.

A cigar factory where hand-made cigars were rolled from kentucky tobacco was run by George Scheef, who leaned thes trade in Germany.  He was also the Town Marshall and took his work very seriously.  Three years ago, at his death, he was buried int hee blue uniform trimmed with brass buttons that he had worn for so long a time.

Wooden shoes were manufactured here, too.  Mr. Andresen made thick wooden soles which were held on the foot by a strap over the instep.  A Dane made a regular shoe which was hollowed out and fit over the foot.  Although the shoes were rather clumsy and noisy they were warm and so there was a good demand for them for many years.

A great many people remember when the Papio Creek flooded and put a company of soldiers from Fort Crook to flight.  The soldiers had come out to take part in a D.A.R. reunion and were encamped on the low ground, now included in the Bennington Park.  Everyone was having a good time and not a great deal of attention had been paid to a black clout that suddenly loosed a downpour of rain.  Before the soldiers had a chance to break camp, water wass washing their tents, ammunition and other equipment away.  For several years afterward boys around town display boxes containing 1000 blank cartridges that they had picked up after the flood water had receded.  How different from autographed baseballs or pictures of favorite movie stars today.

On July 22h, 1891, the first long-distance toll station was established giving the people their first telephone service.

In 1902 the Bell Telephone line was built into Bennington by popular subscription.  There were only about a half-dozen business phones and no rural lines.  Business men paid from $75 to $100 in advance for toll charges.  Mr. Kirschner was the fist telephone operator.  He also ran the general merchandise store at the time and the post office.  It was no trick at all for him to sell a postage stamp, sell  a pair of shoes, wrap up a side of bacon, and plug a few wrong numbers!

The coming to electricity is also very interesting.  December 7, 1914 John Peterson began to furnish current for street lights at $2.00 per 100 watt bulb provided at least three were used.  December 5, 1915 he was a Franchise to serve the public.  July 3, 1917 the Franchise was given to the Platte Valley Power Company to serve the town.  In 1927 the Nebraska Power Company took over the franchise to electric lights and power and has operated ever since.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020

District #44 School hits the Road and an 'Old' History Report.


Rural School District #44 was sold and moved in 1956 to 144th Street to become someone's home.

We ran across and old report about the history of  Bennington in Edna Mohr's files.  For those who didn't know Edna, she taught school in the Bennington area for over 50 years.  She taught 3 generations and she was the primary editor for the Centennial Book entitled; Bennington, Nebraska 1892-1992. 

The author for the following report is unknown.  We would love to find out.  It was found with a couple of student papers that Edna had corrected.   It appears to be student report conducted by someone who must have interviewed an old resident.  It has a wealth of information, much of which was used in the Centennial Book.   

Hope you enjoy a historical document on the subject of Bennington's History.


Friday, May 24, 2019

When Did Electricity Arrive in Bennington?

We recently came across an old report that describes how electricity arrived in Bennington.  We have no idea who compiled and wrote it; but we are grateful they did.  Here it is:

History of the Electrical Industry in Bennington, Nebraska

Bennington is in Douglas County, about 16 miles northwest of Omaha.  In the year 1911 it had a population of approximately 300.  In that year John F. Peterson operated a garage in Bennington and desired some sort of electric service.  No service being available he installed a large farm electric light plant for his garage.  After this had been in service for but a short time, the citizens became very much interested and asked Mr. Peterson to sell them electric service.  He purchased a second light plant and served, in addition to his own garage, some nearby stores.

Enthusiasm over this electric lighting system grew until  it was not long until Mr. Peterson's lighting plants were loaded to capacity.  The business men of the village insisted that Mr. Peterson increase the capacity of the plant so that he would be able to serve the entire village.  In 1915 Mr. Peterson installed a 25 hp gas engine and a 12 1/2 kw generator.  This plant served the purpose very well for night service, but the demand during the day was so small that it was a loosing proposition to operate the plant during the day.  In order to give day-time service Mr. Peterson installed a large storage battery.

At the time business men of the village induced Mr. Peterson to increase the capacity of his plant, they offered to help finance the additional equipment, which was to be repaid to them by Mr. Peterson as the income from the electric plant would permit.  

The electric  rates charged by this plant were as follows:  $1.00 per month which included 5 kw,  12 cents per kwh for all excess kwh.  This plant was in operation until the latter part of 1917, when it was purchased by the Platte Valley Power Company.  The consideration was $500 in Platte Valley Power Company  stock and a Bennington Business lot.  The Platte Valley Power Company operated its plant until the spring of 1919, when a transmission line was built from Irvington to Bennington.  This transmission line was financed by 14 farmers along the line who were requested to buy stock in the company in order that they may receive electric service.

The Platte Valley Power Company was purchasing its current from the nebraska Power Company to serve this line, with the metering equipment located at Irvington.

The same rates were charged in Bennington as in Waterloo, Elkhorn, Valley, and other towns served by the Platte Valley Power Company.  This line between Irvington and Bennington was later extended on west to Elkhorn, and connect to the line between Elkhorn, Waterloo and Valley, where it was connected with the generating plant in Valley.

In 1922 the construction of a transmission line from Bennington through Washington, Kennard, and on to Herman was started.  This line was completed and energized on January 25, 1923.   A distribution system was built by the Village of Washington, and this village received its first electric service this same year.

The Platte Valley Power Company continued to  serve the villages of Bennington, Washington, Kennard and Herman until September 1927, when the entire properties were purchased by the Nebraska Power Company.

I was told by an old time resident that the town's power plant was not operated all night long.   As a warning before shutting it off for the night, the operator would power the generator down, causing the lights to dim 15 minutes before they were shut off.  This allowed folks time to light their kerosene lanterns before the 'lights' went off.    

Friday, December 29, 2017

Colonel James H. Pratt

Attached is a YouTube link about Colonel James Pratt who was in the Civil War.  He lived just 3 miles south of  Bennington on State Street more than a century ago.   He had an amazing life and was truly a frontiersman.   Click on the link and enjoy the show.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bennington Daze 2017

The Bennington Daze celebration was a huge success and the Historical Society offered several old and new activities to our Community.  Here is a rundown on some:

Museum.    Linda Klabunde and Lois Musel set up a marvelous display in our museum.   During the two days, we have nearly 200 visitors who stopped by to examine some of Bennington's history.  This year we offered old historic photographs, walking tours, koozies and some memorabilia left over from the 1992 celebration.  Below are members of the Schneider family posing in front of their grandmother's wedding dress.  

This young man was amazed by the World War 1 uniform from Walt Mangold.  He had to try on a helmet.  

Diorama.   Diane, Mac, Cory and Linda created a diorama representing what Bennington might have looked like in 1892.  It was a huge undertaking, measuring 8 x 8 foot.  It contained models of the businesses and homes that were here at that time; like the railroad, train and depot.  The old grist mill and ice house.  The saloons and businesses.  Folks really enjoyed seeing how much we've changed.

Main Street, Bennington, Nebraska 1892
Historical (Ghost) Tour.   Some of our old noteable residents came back for the celebration.   Eggert Oft, one of the towns founders led a group of interested folks through old downtown before he faded away.  

Eggert walked the folks uptown, pointing out things that had changed in the past 125 years.   Along the way he ran into some other old "spirits" like Bud Holms who was the Depot Manager. 
Gordon Mueller playing Eggert Oft / Corey Olsberg playing Burt Holms

Here they are talking about driving cattle up warehouse street to the livestock pens next to the depot for shipment to Omaha.  No trucks in those days.  Mr. Holms lived upstairs in the depot and told he had to chain his bed to the wall because it would 'wonder' when trains sped through town. 
Diane Warrick playing Mrs Wilcox

Mrs. Wilcox, the editor of the Bennington Herald had some printed posters for Mr. Oft and told the group how the newspaper operated. Annual subscription cost to the paper was $1, whether you could read or not.  

On the way up the street they ran into Edna Mohr who taught school in the Bennington area for over 50 years.  If you think that is something, she taught Sunday School for over 60!  She told that in those days, teachers had to be single.  
Lois Musel playing Edna Mohr

We ran into Bertha Sass at the museum.  Bertha told about her life and WORK raising a family in those early years. 

Linda Klabunde playing Bertha Sass
On the last leg of the walk, the group ran into John Petersen who had the early horseless carriage  and garage business her in town. John showed the group the new Ford Model T.     

Bob Mckelvie playing John Petersen

The tour then ended as Eggert, Burt, Edna, Bertha and John faded back into the past.  We appreciated their stories about Bennington. We also extend our thanks to Ignition Church for the use of their building. 

Scavenger Hunt.   This was a new activity with the 'hunt' made up of questions and goals related to Bennington History.  The questions were developed by Ruth and Bob Zaruba and Linda and Gordon Mueller.  Ruth and Ginger gave out and received the questionnaires.  
Ruth and Ginger
Some businesses gave out articles.  A Civil War reenactment soldier gave out American Flags to Scavenger hunters where they had to read something off the Veteran's Memorial.   The flags were donated by Woodmenlife.  

Nearly 50 folks participated and we'll surely do this again.  We all have a great time.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Changing History?

I often check Ebay for old photographs and articles about our local history.  This week I found a Bennington medallion advertised for sale and I bought it.  Here is a little history about it and this year’s Bennington Daze celebration.

Fifty years ago (1967), Bennington celebrated Nebraska’s Centennial and its 80th Birthday (1887-1967).   We celebrated it in style with a Centennial Day’s parade and party during the weekend of July 29. 

The Bennington Woman’s Club put together a pamphlet entitled “History of Bennington Nebraska 1887-1967” that recognized the “Nebraska Centennial year and marks Bennington’s eightieth year of establishment”.   Their work summarized the high points of interest in our Community’s history along with photographs.  It is an excellent source of information.

Some (?) group also had medallions made to celebrate the event.  One side showed a covered wagon with Centennial Days inscribed and the other side proclaimed “Our 80th Year 1887-1967”. 
Bennington, for some unknown reason didn’t specifically celebrate the centennial of its founding in 1987 and instead celebrated the centennial of its incorporation five years later in 1992.  Incorporation happened when the town’s population reached 200.   This may have been the result of a major effort to document our town's history in a book entitled: "Bennington Nebraska 1992-1992" edited by Gary Sathers and Edna Mohr.  They did an excellent job of pulling together old photographs and document family and Community history.

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with celebrating incorporation but it's highly irregular to celebrate "Incorporation" rather than a town’s ‘founder’s day’.   We know of no other community that does that. 

In 2012, an effort was made to recognize Bennington’s 125th Birthday with a Proclamation.   The City Council refused to take up the topic, suggesting it was to confusing.   Mayor Johnson signed the Proclamation without the Council’s support but again, that milestone wasn't recognized during Bennington Daze.   

That same year, Washington celebrated their 125th Birthday.  Their town was dedicated one month earlier than Bennington but didn't incorporate until 1915.  That was 23 years later than Bennington.  Their community grew at a much slower rate.  

This year Bennington celebrates its 125th year since incorporation as Nebraska celebrates our 150 year.    Fifty years ago when Nebraska celebrated its Centennial, Bennington celebrated its 80th Birthday.     80 + 50 = 130 years.   What happened to those 5 years??    

This year I turn 67.  Next year instead of celebrating my birthday, I'm going to  celebrate when I graduated from High School instead.  That will make me 50!  That works for me.

Happy Bennington Daze!   Come join us the weekend of June 9th.   

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Johnson Photos

The Johnson Family donated some century old photos of Bennington to the Society the other day.  Many are new and quite exciting because they provide us more information about our Community a century ago.  Here are a few of them, enjoy:

Witte Hardware Store, Bennington, NE  ca. 1915
 The Witte Hardware store still survives today.  It was built in 1888 and is located on the northwest corner of South 2nd and Stark streets.  The building supported various hardware businesses for nearly 90 years.  Today, the west wing houses our museum.

Bennington Royal Neighbor Drill Team,  1910

The next set of images were shot around Papio Creek activities. The creek furnished power to the grist mill to grind grain to make flour and meal.  During the winters, Ice was harvested and stored in ice houses for use in the summer.  It also provided recreational opportunities.
Boating on the Papio Creek near 156th Street Bridge.  ca 1917

Boating in the flood waters of the Papio Creek  ca. 1917
Prior to the 1930s when the Corp of Engineers deepen and straightened the creek; it was prone to major flooding.  Information along with the photos suggested this might have been C.W. Haden who was boating in flood waters west of town.  His location is in Nancy Neumeyer's field, located south of the soccer fields from Johns/Bohn Park.  Bennington can be seen in the background. 

Ice Skating on the Old Mill Pond at Bennington, NE

The Papio Creek offered folks a place to ice skate.  These ladies are located on the old mill pond.  The old ice house is located in the background.  Ice was cut into blocks and slid up the ice shoot and stored in the ice house until needed during summer.  

Ice skating on the Papio Creek, Bennington, NE