It would be utterly impossible to transcribe every event, place and condition of the transformation of unbroken prairie to the present place that Wymore holds in the society of cities, nor is it enough to say "that she was born of the prairie sod and just grew." There are conditions and people to be considered in her growth. Time would not permit the introduction of all the personalities from out of the past that have played important parts in the development and growth of Wymore.
Let us close our eyes for a moment and visualize a breeze swept prairie and that we are standing on a hill that slopes from us to the east down to a beautiful winding river. We are alone, except for some Indians in the distance, riding along lazily on their ponies, skirting the bank of the river, heading into the southeast from us. The year is 1854…we shake ourselves into reality, and come into the full light of the present. We open our "History of Nebraska" published in 1882, and we read, that in 1854, the very ground on which we are standing, overlooked, to the south, the Otoe Indian Territory. We read on, "In 1855, the Otoe and Missouri Indians occupied their reservation which extended ten miles north and south and twenty-five miles east and west. It extended two miles south of the state line its full length, into Washington and Marshall Counties, Kansas. North of the state line it extended two and three-fourths miles into Jefferson County. That portion of it which lay in Gage County was a strip eight miles in width and twenty-two and one-half miles in length, east and west. This strip in Gage County was comprised of 126,720 acres of land. This land divided in one hundred and sixty acre tracts was opened to settlers in the eightys. This inducement brought hundreds of good and industrious families to the Wymore vicinity who were ventually to play a great part in Wymore becoming the best trading point in Gage County.
The year 1881 was of an era when our country was subjected to "growing pains;" was still licking wounds from "the war of the States." It was a time when the East, West, North and South were being bound together by steel rails…steel rails out of the East from St. Joseph, Missouri to Denver, Colorado. Out of the North from Lincoln another line of rails met the East-West line at an intersecting point which brought into being the Wymore Railroad Junction.
To give you a better picture of the transformation of prairie to city, consider the rapid growth and development of events that took place prior to the moment of recording. We must picture men setting up transits in the prairie grass, aligning stakes that shortly would become city streets, lots, and blocks...platting this information on sheets of paper that would become permanent records for legal and historical files. The moving finger of history on Wymore was writing fast by the time of the recording of the original plot of May the twenty-first, in the year of 1881.
This birth date was made possible through the
efforts of The Burlington and Missouri Railroad, Samuel Wymore, and others. We will bear lightly at this time on the part each played in the development of the city...their place in this booklet will be treated under separate headings.
Already at this time, twenty business lots had been sold and building already begun, and it is interesting to note from there on the tremendous and rapid growth that ensued. Within sixty days after the plot was recorded there were sixty business buildings and houses erected in the new town of Wymore. In the first nine months her population zoomed from a handful to 1700 inhabitants. By 1883 the census showed 2000, and in that year her population and wealth and enthusiasm had grown to such proportions that her citizens threw her into contention of becoming a county seat for the south half of Gage County, that portion of the county was to be named Blaine County. However, this plan was vetoed by a hotly contested election that was held in November of '93.
It would be well to pause at this time and reflect on the many and varied problems that confronted early-day residents of Wymore. As we know the city today with its paving, sewers, lights and water…we must visualize a city without these many conveniences. We do know that there were town pumps located on the main street, and on hot summer days of special note "when the circus came to town" and other celebrations it has been said that the pump handle was in constant motion…and there was the ever present community tin drinking cup. However, the more health and sanitary conscious carried their own cups.
The old timers can recall vividly the constant clamor of noises...emitting from all directions of the town; the round house with its many duties to perform, probably set up the most and varied crescendos; the constant ringing of engine bells, no two bells having the same tones; whistles, some that would moan, others short hard blasts; trains entering town and leaving...and the early day hammering and driving of nails that rent the air, which was an accepted necessity towards the building of a town.
From the Weekly Wymorean of August 23, 1934, we quote from a letter received by the editor of that paper from Mr. H. W. Dimmett..."Wymore was not like Solomns Temple, as you could hear hammers going night and day and seven days of 24 hours each, which was a week, and no body kicked, but we enjoyed seeing the town building up." Another item mentions the fact that Wymore was known as the "mud hole" referring to the conditions of the streets while our neighboring city of Beatrice in the very early days referred to Wymore as simply "The Junction." It is noteworthy that Wymore holds the distinction of being the only city in the United States bearing the name of Wymore. So with her problems to surmount, reforms were instituted and carried out that eventually brought all the conveniences as we know them today.
Wymore's main street as it looked in 1884. This picture was taken from the present Neuman corner, looking south.
Wymore's main street as it appeared this summer. The picture was taken at the south end of main street, looking north.
The founding of Wymore dates from the construction of the main line of the Burlington Railroad upon which it is located. At the time of its origin the situation in Nebraska was such as to invite railroad building on a large scale throughout the eastern two-thirds of the state.
The main line of the Union Pacific Railway through central Nebraska had proved a surprising success as a factor in the settlement and development of all the territory tributary to it. By successive purchases and consolidations with other lines the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company had, by 1870, acquired a line of railway from Chicago, Illinois, to Pacific Junction, opposite Plattsmouth, Nebraska.
The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company in Nebraska had been incorporated May 12, 1869, and in July of that year began the construction of a line of railway from Plattsmouth to Kearney Junction, Nebraska, on the Union Pacific, near where the city of Kearney is located. Several years after the completion of this route, the company was consolidated with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, under the date of the 26th day of July, 1880, having at that time 836 miles of trackage in southeastern Nebraska, including a railroad bridge across the Missouri river at Plattsmouth and two miles of trackage at Pacific Junction. Amongst its other activities it had constructed, in 1878, a line of railway from Hastings to Red Cloud, and thence up the Republican valley, projected to Denver. In 1871 it had also constructed a line of railway from Crete, on its main line between Plattsmouth and Kearney Junction, to Beatrice.
In 1879 the Union Pacific Railway Company, then described as the Omaha & Southwestern, had built its present line of railway from Marysville, Kansas as far as Beatrice, via Blue Springs and the Otoe Indian Agency, which was projected to a junction with its main line at Valley, via Lincoln. Almost the entire state, and particularly the South Platte country and that portion of central Nebraska which
was the tributary to the Union Pacific Railway lines, was in a ferment of activity. Immigration was rushing in, following the rails, at an unheard of rate; the prairies were disappearing under the settlers' plows; in every direction towns and villages were springing up as if by magic; and everywhere in the state the railways were taxed to the uttermost to meet the demands of the ever increasing population.
Moreover the local situation by 1879 was such as to promote the increase of railway trackage in Gage county, and particularly in the southern portion. Since its completion Beatrice had been the terminus of the Crete branch of the Burlington road. In 1877 the western portion of the Otoe and Missouri Indian lands had been placed upon the market and quickly sold to actual settlers, as by law required. This splendid tract of fertile lands was without railway facilities nearer than Beatrice, or, later Blue Springs. Under these circumstances, it created no surprise when, in March, 1880, a party of Burlington surveyors arrived in Blue Springs from the west.
(Editor's note: Information taken from the "History of Gage County" published in 1918 concerns the sale of the reservation as follows:
In 1875 a bill introduced in congress by Hon. Algernon S. Paddock of Gage County, U. S. Senate, to sell that part of the Otoe & Missouri Indian Reservation lying west of Range VII. The act became law August 1 5, 1 876, and land comprising over one-half of reservation was appraised and sold for cash in tracts of not over 160 acres for average price of $3.50 per acre. This with interest, netted the Indians over $200,000.
On March 3, 1881 a bill was passed by congress placing the balance of the reservation on sale. In October, 1882 the Indians were moved to a reservation in Oklahoma. In 1883 the balance of the Otoe reservation was placed on sale, being sold at public auction for cash to the highest bidder, to actual settlers only, in tracts not to exceed 160 acres. Prices averaged $12.50 an acre, bringing a million dollars to the In-
An early day view of the roundhouse, machine and blacksmith shops and other buildings required to carry on the busy matter of railroading on the Wymore division of the Burlington.
They had carried a projected line of railway from Red Cloud down the Republican river to Hardy, Nuckolls county; thence across country to the head waters of Rose creek, in Jefferson county, crossed the Little Blue river--at the confluence of these streams; led up historic Rock creek to the head water of Big Indian creek; followed down the valley of that stream to its junction with the big Blue river, and, crossing the river, led away eastward to an intersection with the Atchison and Nebraska at Table Rock, and still on down the Big Nemaha to the Missouri, St. Joseph, Northern Missouri, Western Illinois, then to Chicago.
This ambitious and most successful plan of railroad building contemplated the extension of the Crete-Beatrice branch to a junction with the east and west main line. When it became evident that these lines of railway were to be pushed to immediate completion the southern half of Gage county seethed with excitement and eager anticipation. The question of greatest concern was the location of the junction, since it was evident that at that point would be developed a city of importance. Blue Springs was of course ardently hoping to become the center of all this railroad activity and to profit by securing the location of the junction of the two lines of railway. Unfortunately, and to this day to the regret of those who love it, these expectations were not to be realized. We will pass over the difficulties that arose out of the various meetings between the Burlington Railroad officials and different committees from the citizenry of Blue Springs at large. It seems that for the most part there were misunderstandings as to certain guarantees on the part of both parties, some qualifications were accepted and some rejected and on the whole neither party reached a satisfactory conclusion toward the establishment of the railroad terminus for Blue Springs. Out of these disagreements Samuel Wymore came forth and tendered options on certain parcels of land.
We will continue from the "History of Gage county, published in 1918":
A busy time at the Burlington railroad in 1910.
"Samuel Wymore then owned (1879) the northeast quarter of section 20 Blue Springs township, which joined the section in which the city was located. When he learned that R. O. Phillips, for the Lincoln Land Company, had procurred options of purchase on lands east of the Big Blue river, he offered to donate a half-interest in the west half of his quarter section, which on the north joined the townsite of Blue Springs and which was crossed by the Burlington right-of-way leading eastward, if the railroad company would erect and maintain a depot on his land or at the junction of the two lines on the southeast quarter of section 20, joining his land on the south, and he signed a contract to that effect.
"Mr. Owen R. Jones (father of Mrs. R. S. Jones), who at that time owned the southeast quarter of section 20, together with the north half of the northeast quarter of section 29, was contacted for right-of-way over the southeast quarter of section 20 and any extra right-of-way that might be required in the construction of the railroad across or upon that tract of land. Mr. Jones was of the opinion that the railroad should buy his land and he asked $20.00 per acre. He and his wife signed a memorandum contract to that effect, agreeing to convey to R. O. Phillips the above described land, 240 acres, for the sum of $4,800.
Note: "To closer define the land owned by these two men for present day readers, Samuel Wymore 's
The Burlington Roundhouse with stalls for 20 engines was a busy place for many years. In the shops, engines were completely torn down and rebuilt, providing employment for large numbers of mechanics, machinists and blacksmith shop employees.
quarter section, the NE quarter of section 20, laid between 1st and 7th streets and the south line would have been J street. Owen Jones land, the SE quarter of section 20, laid between 1st and 7th streets, coming to C street on the south. He also owned 80 acres just south of this tract. The family, in early days, had a two room house located where the Burlington livestock pens were later built. At the time the Burlington became interested in building its railroad through here, the Jones family had moved to a community near Frankfort, Kansas."
"The contracts of Samuel Wymore and Owen R. Jones were sent to Mr. Phillips and to a Mr. A. E. Touzalin, general manager of the Burlington in Lincoln. There was an extension made on the contracts until September 15, 1880, while the location for Blue Springs was still trying to be adjusted to an amicable solution.
"At the last meeting between the Burlington officials and a Blue Springs committee, Wymore and Jones were both present and since nothing of any consequence came out of that meeting towards an agreeable settlement, the following day which was September 18, 1880, Jones and Wymore signed an agreement with the Burlington people and the deal closed to the effect that a depot would be built at the junction on the southeast quarter of section 20, township 2 north, range 7 east, Gage County, Nebraska. In the latter part of December, 1880, the line was extended from Beatrice to the Junction. General Superintendent Holdrege and other officials rode down to the junction over their own new line, in a special car, Jauary 5, 1881.
"April 7, 1881, Mr. Phillips, secretary of the Lincoln Land Company, and Anselmo B. Smith, the company's townsite surveyor, began the survey of the townsite at the junction of the two lines of railway. A. E. Touzalin, general manager of the Burlington lines, named the town Wymore, after the late Samuel Wymore."
The twelve miles from Beatrice to Wymore was opened up to mixed train use Feb. 7th, 1882. However on July 29th, 1881, a passenger train was run from Beatrice to Wymore, inaugerating it as the first scheduled passenger train over the twelve mile line. The excursioners returned to Beatrice over
The Touzalin Hotel, named after one of the Burlington officials, was rated the best in the state in the early days. This picture gives you an idea of the attractiveness of the large building. The two top stories were removed by R. R. Hevelone who now uses it as a machine shop.
The Burlington bridge over the Blue River just east of Wymore was planked and used as a wagon bridge until the wagon bridge was built in 1884. This old time picture was taken at flood time, showing that the river flooded in the early days the same as now.
the Union Pacific out of Blue Springs. The entire trip time was four hours.
To refresh the memory of the oldsters who can vividly recall the activity of the "Wymore division point" and to impress on the minds of the youngsters just how big the operation of the railroad was here we further these figures:
From the Omaha Bee July 16, 1892: "The railroad shop consists of a twenty stall roundhouse, machine shops, etc., between 500 and 600 men are employed, while the monthly payroll amounts to nearly $30,000."
1917 and 1918 years which as near as we can arrive were probably some of the peak years after establishment of the division point, what with the First World War in progress there were 135 employed in the mechanical department, 371 in its operating department, and 46 officers and clerks--a total of 552 employes of the Burlington in Wymore. The biggest single day's business on the Burlington in Wymore was registered on May 26, 1900, a total of 63 trains registered in and out of Wymore, while on the following day a total of 61 registered. This big upsurge was caused in part by the shipment of Texas cattle to Montana and the northwest country.
Sidings outside of Wymore were the results of necessities. Prior to the siding at Putman, Krider and Kinney, cattle and other stock was loaded in Wymore and it was an ever and constant problem, for the stock raisers would drive them in on the hoof and if they were lucky the stock was well behaved and would go politely in a bunch to the loading shutes, if not there would be a mad scramble to collect them from the four corners of the city. It was not an uncommon sight to see cattle running pel mel up the main street.
Described in the Weekly Wymorean dated May 23, 1929: "Longest train--The Burlington established a new record with 151 cars in here last night. A new record for the longest train ever hauled on the Wymore division of the Burlington was made last night,
This early day switch engine never left the yards. It was fired in 1904 by George Baker of Wymore.
when an extra from St. Joseph arrived at 6:25 p.m. with 151 cars in the train.
"This train, consisting of 121 empty stock cars and the balance empty grain cars, was over one and one-half miles long. The engine crews never saw the caboose from the time they left St. Joseph until they arrived at Wymore. It was necessary to split the train into three sections to get it into the Wymore yards." The train was pulled by two engines, No. 5014 in charge of Engineer J. P. Pangburn, and Fireman C. Kinnison, engine No. 1956 in charge of Engineer C. O. Timmons, and Fireman G. Bowland. The train crew was Conductor G. A. Allen, and Brakemen Rex Bowery and W. A. Carrico."
During all these years of this tremendous operation of the Railroad through here there were natural and common expressions in almost everyone's daily
These early day steam engines served the railroads well but in recent years have been replaced by diesel engines because of economy. They are rapidly becomes a museum piece.
speech habits of "Let's go down and watch the train in from Lincoln" or "I'm catching the early train for Lincoln in the morning," "Hey Dad, where's my pass book for McCook?", "We're catching the 2:00 o'clock for Falls City," and so on. There were switch engines working around the clock, and how many remember the round-house whistle at noon and midnight? And that multi-toned fire whistle at the round-house that ran the gamut of tones from a high pitched shrill to low base notes?, and the coal smoke? Many an "old rail" will recall when the engine whistle was the private property of the engineer and when he changed engines for a run, his whistle went with him.
Early day arrivals at the Burlington depot were greeted by this scene. In the center is the old Touzalin Hotel which ranked as the best in the state during its early days. At the left (in what is now Burlington park) is the 2-story Greenwood building which housed an electrical supply house, the George Schad hardware store and also a bank. Later the building was converted into a rooming house. The large building to the north of the Touzalin was the Livsey Opera House (where the Benson Agency now stands). Just next to it was Frank Docekal Shoe Shop where Mr. Docekal made shoes, incuding special orders. Next building housed the Democrat, owned by J. R. Dobbs, who later changed the name of his newspaper to The Arbor State. The present Delehoy residence is at the right. It was built by a grandfather of Sherman Taylor and was usually rented to Burlington officials. At the extreme right is the Burlington Lunch Room which was torn down several years ago. Most all the buildings were built the same time as the hotel.
Early day train order of August 13th, 1893. Train orders then as today are hand written on thin tissue of high quality, carbon copies dependent on the number required. You will note the name Harpster appearing on the train order. This was an uncle of Don Harpster of this city.
Nostalgia can't help but grip us a little in our rememberances of the Burlington Railroad that was such a great hub of activity in our midst through the years, an activity that can't be measured alone in dollars and cents to those who were employed by her nor the merchants that benefited by her, nor the farmers who had access to the transport of products, grain and livestock. One must dig deeper than sub-
This train order is one governing the movement of "speed test" of Burlington Zephyr between Denver and Chicago, Warren Robinson being Conductor on train 98. The order is dated Oct. 21, 1936. Note that there was very little change in train order forms from that of the early date. These two forms are from the collection of Chester Clements, who has over 1700 forms in his collection.
stance to find a more true answer. And what happened to this hub of activity that was once the glory of Wymore?
The fair thinking know that for every cause there
Pushing cars of coal up the hi-line to the coal chutes was quite a trick, required a considerable run of the switch engine to pick up the required speed. In the second picture the engine apparently had too much push and the coal car went over the far end.
Early day railroading had its hazards. This wintertime headon collision occurred near Putnam, between Wymore and Beatrice, in March, 1916.
is an effect as in the case of the gradual decline of the activity that once was the Burlington's here in our midst. It must be remembered that in the "old days," before the advent of the automobile, people relied on the horse and buggy, and the railroad for travel. There were no transcontinental truck lines, no highways to speak of, certainly none through Wymore. I think it could best be summed up to this effect, that as the dust of the roads diminished--so also did the short hop travel by trains diminish. As the highways became broader and more direct the "shortlines" of the railroads became shorter and in many a case non-existent. Recall too, that in 1916, a person could on almost any given day stand on the road to Beatrice (Highway 77) and count the automobile traffic on the fingers of his two hands.
Progress is an insatiable hungry thing -- the railroads had to meet these new contingencies, divert traffic, heavier traffic means heavier rail, more traffic calls for better methods of traffic control, centralized traffic control, a method of controlling the movement of trains literally by push button system where a dispatcher in Lincoln can note the movement of a train on the main-line by means of a lighted board, and by simply pushing a lever, open and close switches, change signal lights, etc., miles from his position.
Then too in this decline of railroad business in Wymore the financial depression of the late twenties
Here is one of the small diesel engines now serving the Wymore Division and which have replaced the old steam engines. Offering economy and other advantages unknown in steam power, in a relatively few years they relegated the old work horses to serve as museum pieces.
and early thirties gave forth its causes that left damaging scars on our railroad economy. The diesel locomotive has played its part also, faster trains, more tonnage per train, more car handling with less operating costs, etc. and this is as it should be to keep pace and enter into the spirit of progress. What of all this in relation to Wymore’s economy. There's no doubt that it hurt but to feel hurt is to feel pain and you have to be alive to feel pain. And the people of Wymore are alive--the business men here are alive, alert and attuned to the times.
Now, 75 years after the building of the division point and extending of its lines, the Burlington is still with us. True, it's service has changed with the times; but a few trains a day compared with the peak of 63 mentioned previously. However it still gives freight service in four directions, something few towns can offer. Passenger service has been curtailed greatly, but is still offered in a lesser degree. The importance of the Burlington to the welfare may have diminished, but the memories of the early day railroad town will remain for a long time to come.
Today's view of the roundhouse which has been reduced to four stalls. The large building to the left, which housed the machine and blacksmith shops has been purchased by the City, providing location for possible future industry.