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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.  

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