The Railroad Act of 1862 and Supplementary Act of 1864 granted land to railroad companies, the sale of which was to finance said railroads, and resulted in the creation of many towns. One early railroad company, the Omaha and Republican Valley Railroad, owned the rights to a right of way through Howard County. The above-mentioned railroad act granted the railroad company the odd-numbered sections along the right of way, and in some cases up to fifteen miles on either side of said right of way. Early locomotives needed to replenish their fuel and water supply every ten to twelve miles. Wind mills and water towers were always situated in odd-numbered sections. Section 21 was about mid way between Grand Island and St. Paul. A town site, yet to be named, was platted in section 21. This town site consisted of six blocks, blocks 1, 2, and 3 east and parallel with the tracks, blocks 4, 5, and 6 west and parallel with the tracks.
Grace I. A. Bradley, wife of the first depot agent, Anthony R. Bradley, signed a contract October 15, 1873 to purchase all six blocks, receiving clear title, July 6, 1883. In 1891, Fred S. Becker surveyed and re-platted the town site, now named St. Libory and referred to as the St. Libory settlement. This re-platting changed blocks 1, 2, and 3, creating town lots 1 through 17. Starrett's subdivision in 1910 added nine more blocks.
In 1876, William Buddecke, Henry Cordes, John Dingwerth, Conrad Evers, Joseph Gruntmier, Joseph Strehle, and others established a catholic parish on ten acres of land they had contracted to purchase from the Omaha and Republican Valley Railroad, price four dollars an acre. They named this parish St. Libory, after their church Saint Liborius, in St. Libory, Illinois.
A post office was established on May 13, 1875, in a sod house in section 28, about 7/8 of a mile east of the railroad depot. This post office was named Grantville. The first postmaster was Hiram T. Coffman. A petition was circulated and presented to the United Postal Service requesting moving the post office and changing the name to St. Libory. On May 16, 1878, this post office was reestablished as the St. Libory Post Office.
On of the first homes built in what was to become St. Libory was the sod house of Conrad Evers. The Evers home was used for Catholic Mass until completion of the first Catholic Church in 1878. Most structures built after 1877 were constructed of wood, as lumbar was available in Grand Island, the Union Pacific having been completed in 1869.
The first wedding, Joseph Strehle to Mary Selbach, 11/30/1877, and the first baptism, Rose Evers, daughter of Conrad Evers, 3/12/1878, were conducted in the Evers sod house. The first church was completed in 1878. The first Mass was offered July 4, 1878. Fire destroyed this church and a new church was completed in 1900. A wood frame parochial school was added in 1888, replaced by a larger brick structure in 1910.
1880 saw the completion of the railroad to St. Paul. St. Libory boasted a population of 30. This thriving community had two churches, Catholic and Baptist, a mill, general store, blacksmith shop, livery, a saloon, and the Illinois House, a hotel, was under construction by John Dingwerth. Over the years St. Libory had two hotels, grocery stores, hardware stores, saloons, blacksmith shops, a creamery, two doctors, a lumber yard, a butcher shop, a bank, auto and implement dealers, billiards parlors, a grain elevator, and a livery. The peak population of 175 was reached in 1960. It now appears on the increase.
Congress passed the Homestead Act in 1862; the purpose was to populate the land west of the Missouri River. Until the railroad companies began advertising cheap land in 1872, there were few takers. One of the first homesteaders to settle in the area was J. A. Haggart. In 1873 he homesteaded the northwest 1/4 of section 28. Other homesteads were Charles Roberts, Claus Steffen, Roselle, Schrieves, and in 1874 Marten Jensen, Miles Randell, and George Campbell. By 1875 all the free government land in the area had been taken, leaving only railroad land to be purchased. Among those purchasing land from the railroad in 1876 were Joseph Strehle, Joseph Gruntmier, William Buddecke, Diedrich Buhrman, Conrad Evers, John Dingwerth, and Henry Cordes. Other new arrivals included Bernard Pranger, Ed and Anthony Assendrup, Joseph Eller, Henry and Nick Kerssens, Nicholas and Mathew Arends, Herman Franssen, Vincent Horek, Henry Gerdes, and many others.
It appeared as though St. Libory, like a lot of other small towns, was destined to a slow death by depopulation, however, with the completion of four lanes of highway 281, new life may be in the fore. A new quick shop and filling station has sprouted, the Catholic Church has constructed a large community hall, additional subdivisions have been added, and new housing construction appears everywhere.
Many thanks to Bryon B. Buhrman for providing this history and the photographs.
Back to the NEGenWeb page for Howard County, NE