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Bellwood CB&Q depot in the early 1900's.

Press for April 15,1909, said word from Bellwood was that the passenger train had set fire to the Loup bridge, with 16 spans of it burning.
   Upkeep of the Columbus branch fell largely to local section gangs, laborers hired by the railroad for day-to-day maintenance of the rails and ties. Most towns on the branch such as Bellwood had a section house adjacent to the right of way where the railroad provided housing for the section foreman and his family.
   Gleanings from newspapers at a time when railroads figured largely in every-day occurences; provide some insight of life along the Columbus branch.
   The Butler County Press told on Aug. 28, 1900, how the freight train crew rushed their switching duties at Garrison and David City in order to get a mother and her sick baby to a doctor in Bellwood. Despite their fast-paced trip, the child eventually died.
   A Columbus Telegram article for September, 1904, said cheers were the order of the day when Company K of the Nebraska Guards returned to Columbus by the CB&Q from the annual encampment held in David City. All the men were in line for the final roll call except for one, who had detrained at Bellwood to inspect the town and failed to make connections upon the train's departure.
   The Butler County Press for July 24, 1919, said that Cloyd Grisinger, formerly of Bellwood, had recently been appointed Divisional Superintendent of the Sterling Colo. division of the Burlington. It was noted that it had only been 20 years since Mr. Grisinger had started as a helper at the Bellwood depot, and had later left in 1897 to go to work for the railroad in Lincoln and elsewhere, finally achieving his current position which entities him to a good salary and the luxuries of a private rail car for him and his family.
   Business on the branch proceeded as usual through the 1920's. Still, traffic would never be the same as automobiles, trucks and improved roads diminished passenger train occupancy and reduced freight orders.
   Sounds of a combustion engine coming down the rails

may have startled some uninformed trackside residents at Bellwood in 1928 when a conventional Columbus branch passenger train was replaced with a self-propelled gas-electric motor car for carrying the few passengers and small freight shipments that remained. Its appearance and rambling pace earned it such nicknames among citizens as the "potato bug" and "puddle jumper."
   The motor trundled along until the CB&Q applied in 1953 to discontinue it. The Nebraska State Railway Commission agreed that the motor was unprofitable, an order of July 24, 1953, granting the "Q" permission to end service.
   The railroad then provided mixed train service only on the branch. Passengers rode in a combined coach and caboose on the end of the local freight. This lasted until the early 1960's when the "combine" was replaced with a standard caboose. Provisions for allowing passengers to ride the freight were discontinued entirely in October, 1968. The Columbus branch has been freight-only since then.
   Major transitions occurring in the railroad industry were showing their affects on the Columbus line. Sometime during the 1950's came the last run of steam over the branch, the last whistle that reverberated over the landscape most likely going unnoticed. In the place of steam locomotives came colorful four and six-axled diesel units in paint schemes of Burlington black and gray as well as "Chinese red," their flanks lettered with CB&Q slogans of "Way of the Zephyrs" and "Everywhere West."
   Grain continued to be the branch's mainstay of business in the 1950's. Trains scheduled as "extras" were quite frequent on Sundays during harvest to handle the loading-out of grain cars. Increased traffic came from such on-line concerns as the Farmer's Co-op of Bellwood constructing its first concrete elevator in 1950 and later adding annexes for a total capacity of 1,685,000 bushels.
   The remaining open-agent stations, with the exception of Columbus and Seward, were closed after the CB&Q initiated a mobile agency service on the branch in October, 1969. Tiny Scholz was the Bellwood depot agent at the end. A Seward


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based agent now travels by company van to Bellwood and other towns to handle carload freight shipments. The Bellwood depot was purchased and dismantled by Norman Piller in spring, 1972, with the exception of the freight room. It was moved to the Jud Nickolite farm for barn use.
   The traditional "Burlington Route" logo and the Chinese red color on Columbus branch units disappeared under a paint scheme of Cascade Green during the 1970's. The CB&Q merged on March 2, 1970, with three other railroad companies to form the Burlington Northern Inc.
   Service on the branch under B.N. ownership has remained essentially the same. A track up-grading effort now allows some heavier and more powerful locomotives to come up the line and assist in moving the heavy summertime tonnage from the Bellwood gravel pits. Grain load-outs on the branch are still substantial, though the line is caught up at times in the boxcar shortage issue. To help alleviate this, the Bellwood Co-op acquired a number of its own grain cars in 1980.
   Freight service was operating on a schedule of three trips a week to Columbus and back until June, 1979, when a shortage of diesel fuel forced a cutback of the local's schedule to traveling to Columbus twice a week and only to Seward on Wednesdays. Still, service continues as the train rumbles along and in so doing, provides a vital asset to Bellwood and other communities along the Columbus branchline.

Compiled by:
Jim Reisdorff and Mike Bartels



Part of Burlington Depot.


Bellwood Board Okays
Sewer System Project

-The Banner-Press, August 9,1962

   A resolution of necessity calling for the construction of a sewer system for the village of Bellwood was adopted Monday evening by the Village Board of Trustees at a meeting held at the Bellwood Public School gymnasium. The system will include sewer mains, laterals and a sewage disposal lagoon.
   A large number of Bellwood residents were on hand for the meeting and they took part in the question and answer period preceding the adoption of the resolution. No formal objections were filed by residents to the adoption of a sewer construction program.
   It was reported the village's plans must be approved by T. A. Filipi of the State Department of Health before bids can be sought for the construction work. Federal funds to aid the community in this project are also being requested. The firm of Reed, Wurdeman and Associates of Columbus is handling the engineering details for the project and Edgar V. Thomas

of David City is the village's legal counsel.
   Robert Raric is chairman of the Village Board. Garland Mais, Clyde Cook, and Glen Forre are board members, with C. W. Sorensen as the village clerk.


Telephone Service

   The Selzer family has been associated with the Bellwood telephone exchange since its beginning in 1904. Frank Selzer was the first switchboard operator and his daughter, Camilla, learned to operate the board when ten years of age. After her mother's death in 1925, Camilla became assistant operator, and in 1932, assumed the position of chief operator when her father retired.
   The Bellwood Telephone Company first operated the exchange, later selling its property to the Surprise Telephone Co. At that time, it would cost 10 cents to make a call before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
   In 1917, the Surprise Telephone Co. merged with the Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co.
   In 1946, the telephone subscribers at Bellwood were the third exchange to become dial operated in the company's post- war conversion program. The dial switching equipment was installed in the present telephone building at Bellwood.
   Telephone subscribers began the dial service to 10 a.m. on September 16, when Camilla Selzer, chief operator-cashier, pulled the pin, which completed the conversion. Present at the brief ceremony were O. A. Brandenburgh, Bellwood banker, and J. E. Moyer, fire chief.
   The dial switching equipment operated at near maximum capacity for almost an hour, following the cut over, as many residents of the community tried out their new service. Four hundred and thirty-six calls were registered during this initial period.
   Miss Selzer, who had operated the exchange for 21 years was surprised and pleased on September 25, when she was presented a purse of two hundred dollars. The gift was sponsored by the Bellwood Women's Club, and given in appreciation of her faithful and courteous service from the patrons she had served for so many years.


The Bellwood Watershed

   From the time the Platte Valley land around Bellwood was broken out of native prairie and put into farm crops the farmers were plagued by frequent periodic flooding. This was due to the rapid run-off from the uplands down the steep draws onto the relatively flat land in the valley. Beside drowning and washing out crops it left heavy deposits of silt on the lower ground. These floods proved costly not only to the farmers but also did much damage to the roads, bridges and railroad.
   In the early part of this century the landowners attempted to alleviate this damage by having large drainage ditches dug from the hills to the Platte River. Six such major ditches were dug in the Bellwood area. These helped to reduce the damage, but with no provision made for their maintenance and repair the ditches became less and less effective over the years. Even when the ditches were new, there were periodic heavy rains that caused more runoff than the ditches could handle.
   On August 6, 1957, a meeting was held in Bellwood with 120 persons present. At this meeting representatives of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service explained the purpose and provisions of the relatively new Small Watershed law known as Public Law 566. Under this law the Soil Conservation Service would assist the local people in planning and designing the flood control project and the federal government would pay the cost of the flood control dams in the hills and the flood channels to the river.


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   After many meetings and the circulation of petitions the area was declared a legal Watershed Conservancy District on February 17, 1959. The defined area of the Watershed District comprised 51,300 acres which included all of Savannah Township, two-thirds of Alexis Township and the north one- third of both Summit and Olive Townships.
   On March 30, 1959 an election was held and the following persons were elected directors of the new Watershed District: T. L. Anderson, Robert M. Bell, Loran Schmit, Cyril Birkel and Kenneth Miller, Sr.
   The watershed board and the Soil Conservation Service proceeded to develop a plan which involved many public meetings. The completed plan was published in a booklet form in January 1963. The plan called for the construction of 15 flood control dams in the hills and 33 miles of improved floodways to the Platte River. At that time the total cost of the project was set at slightly more than $2 million.
   To date (1980) all the dams have been built except the one on Elm Creek which is the first drainageway west of Bellwood. Although very little has been done on the flood channels the flooding problem in the valley has been dramatically reduced except for the land along Elm Creek.
   Under an act of the Nebraska Legislature the entire state was divided into 24 Natural Resources Districts (NRDs). When this act took effect on December 25, 1969, all the watershed organizations were dissolved and the watershed projects were put under the direction of the Natural Resources Districts. The Bellwood Watershed project was thus put under the jurisdiction of the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District.
   Work is still continuing on the Bellwood project although it is now doubtful that the flood channel improvements in the original plan will all be carried out.
   With the alleviation of flooding, irrigation development in the Bellwood Watershed has increased dramatically. There are now 18,681 acres under well irrigation.

Businesses and News Items

   The news items are from the Bellwood Gazette. Items printed after 1939 are from the Butler County Press, The Peoples Banner and The Banner-Press unless otherwise stated.

   Like all other villages and cities, Bellwood has been home to a host of business through the years. Obviously, over a hundred years, records of some have been forgotten.
   However, following, in chronological order are those discovered during the research for a history of Bellwood. In many cases, the only record was a small one-line advertisement, often telling more about the individual or period in time than the author ever thought possible. In order to create as "real" a situation as possible, we have reproduced these notices as originally published.
   R. E. Crozier - painting and paper hanging
   Millinery store - New goods & Lillie Page Saleslady (She later purchased store)
   Bellwood Wagon & Repairs Shop - E. L. Carpenter
   Livery, Feed & Stable - B. Taylor
   New Blacksmith Shop - Al West in B. Taylor's old stand

December 6, 1895
   A. H. Gould of Bellwood is one of the jurors of the State against ex-state Treasurer Hill and his bondsman, for the recovery of $236,000.00 deposited in Capitol National Bank. The trial is before Supreme Court Justice Norval.

December 18, 1895
   A masquerade ball will be given in Belsley's Opera House on Christmas night, under the management of Bock and Ostrander. A prize will be given for the best masked couple.



Leopold (Joe) Bock's blacksmith shop.


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© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller and Carolyn Wilkerson