Early Hansen Community

HansenThe roll of William Munroe's drum reverberated through the air of late October, 1872 as a caravan of seven covered wagons creaked into the raw locality of Hastings with her six scattered buildings. Eight-year-old Irving Munroe remembered it in this way in later years, while Levi Eddy recalled a town with one wooden building and several soddies with no settlement between there and his place to the north. Hastings had just been platted and not legally organized as a village.

The families of Will Munroe, Levi Eddy, Andrew Wheeler, Del Snyder, Ed and Frank Guernsey, Jehial Farr, and C. B. Sperry, a migration from Allens Grove, Wisconsin, arrived at the home of Simon Dow after a journey of a month. Catherine Munroe and Sara (Mrs. Frank) Guernsey were the only women in the group.

Dow, a Wisconsin friend, had arrived in May and lived just south of where Hastings College now stands. He opened a land office and established 270 claims within his first year. Most of the party were on the way to their claims in the area that would be designated as West Blue Precinct. Riding over the unbroken prairie of sparse bunch grass was like passing over cobble stones.

If the families who came in that migration, only Will Munroe held his original claim in 1916. Del Snyder was in a soldiers home in Burkett and the rest were dead by 1916.

A veteran of the Wisconsin Infantry, thirty-two-year-old Will Munroe took his wife, Catherine, and their four children in their black oilcloth covered wagon eight miles northeast of Hastings to homestead 160 acres in section 8 of West Blue. They lived in the wagon for six weeks while Will erected a frame house and out buildings. He and the others who settled in this area became the nucleus of the Hansen community.

The first thing a settler did was plow four furrows around his claim shanty for fire protection. At times, lightning started prairie fires. One never forgot their first sight of the blackened prairie with no north or south, stretching endlessly into the horizon.

There were no bridges nor roads, just trails across the prairie. Trips to Spring Ranche (in Clay County) to get grain ground were necessary until Juniata Flour Mills opened in 1874 or Dyer's Mill (on the Little Blue) in 1875. Lumber had to be brought from Grand Island until the Burlington railroad reached Inland in 1871, mail was picked up at Alexander's post office in Hastings. When the country was new, Will went to the Platte (in Hall County) to gather fire wood, but after that supply was exhausted, the people gathered buffalo chips to burn. When on these long trips, Catherine would set a lighted lantern on top of a fence post so Will could find his way home over the prairie.

The men enjoyed a fellowship, going from farm to farm to trade help, but the women were lonely and concerned over the lack of schools and social life for their children. Soon the men began to talk of forming school districts and elections of school boards were held. A soddie often served for the schoolhouse until there was money for a better one.

District 33, or Fischer School, was organized February 3, 1873 with J.A. Snyder as the first director. The earliest records which date to 1876 list two teachers that year, Dave Barlass and Ella Hersey who each taught a three month term. Charles Powers was then the director and there were 25 students.

Snakes were numerous in the early days. In the spring of 1873 hundreds of rattlers were found sunning upon the banks of a draw in West Blue. Every able bodied man grabbed whatever weapon he could find and five hundred snakes were killed that day.

Almost as old as Adams County, the Munroe Fife and Drum Corps played at the first July 4 celebration in Hastings in 1873. Charles Bigelow, Jacob Smith, Ezra Dominy, A.J. Kindig, S.O. Cooper, Del Snyder and Mr. Pool played for many public events.

Augustus Stone and Dave Barlass, friends of Will Munroe, came out from Wisconsin to work the summer of 1873. Liking the country, they took adjoining claims in West Blue just east of where Hansen would be. They went back home in November, later returning with Gus's brother-in-law, George Loucks. Gus used a team of oxen in the beginning, but he brought his fine Morgans when he returned on the train to Grand Island from a trip to Wisconsin. Stone and Barlass built one claim shack on the line separating their claims, each man had a bedroom in opposite ends, fulfilling the requirement that each must live on his own claim.

With many new school districts being formed there was a shortage of teachers. Gus Stone was asked to teach in the Powers School, but he had no certificate. since he had completed the Robinson Higher Arithmetic (and with the County School Superintendent's approval), he was hired. He attended the first Adams County Teachers Institute at Juniata. There he met Louella (Ella) Hunter who came to visit relatives, the Powers and Bates, and stayed to teach the Fisher School, In 1876 Gus and Ella were married. Gus sold his property in Adams County to Dave Barlass in 1880 and moved the shack (with Ella inside holding her cat) onto land he had purchased in Hall County.

Descendants of the Mayflower family, Charles, Aaron, and John Powers, came to the area in 1873 and '74 and settled in Hall County. The brothers started Sunday Schools which met in various rural school houses, the start of what would become the Hansen Presbyterian Church. The actual building was erected in 1884.

The Monroe School, District 48, was organized in March, 1874. There was plenty of moisture in the spring of 1874 and crop prospects looked bright...until a cloud of grasshoppers descended, destroying every green thing, leaving the farms without grain or fodder for cattle or horses. Grasshoppers returned in 1875 and 1876 causing great hardship resulting in many settlers returning to their previous homes in the east. But others came to take their places.

The Dewester family came in 1872 and homesteaded in section 22. Two of his children were buried in unmarked graves in the pasture those first years. There was no cemetery nearer than Hastings.

Aaron Powers, a lay minister, invited burials on a corner of his farm; it later became Greenwood Cemetery. No one knows how many unmarked graves are in the cemetery, but the oldest tombstone dated 1875 is that of Melvin Regan 21 month-old infant of John and Josephine Regan. The Greenwood Cemetery Association was organized in December, 1878. Mary Huff died in December, 1878; Flora Dominy in April, 1879; and within 15 days in March, 1879 Aaron and Ann Powers lost four of their children to "black diphtheria." The fathers of all these children were on the first Greenwood Cemetery Association.

The Hastings Gazette Journal of August, 1879 printed the news that grading for the extension of the Hastings and Grand Island Railway was being done. The new county-line town, named Hansen, would be located in Adams County.

Immediately Gregg and Brothers build a grain elevator and Oliver from Hastings built the south elevator. These elevators were shovel elevators. Grain was taken up a steep incline and shoveled into bins. The railroad built a depot and in 1880 built the stockyards. About the same time, Sammy Loucks built the Hansen House to cater to railroad workers, travelers, and the "drummer" trade (salesmen) traveling from Omaha and other points to Hastings. The hotel eventually was large enough to accommodate 30 people, had a large bay window, a veranda, a croquet grounds, and a livery. About 1896 it was moved from the west side, across First Street to the east and converted to a store by Mr. Frink. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows had a meeting hall upstairs.

The post office was established in 1879, with James McGregor the first postmaster. While some matters were being settled between the railroad and the postoffice department, he carried the mail between Hastings and Hansen on his back. The post office was closed in 1956. Hansen State Bank was incorporated in 1912 and liquidated in 1931.

Early Hansen had two churches, Presbyterian organized in 1879 and Evangelical organized in 1901. The Evangelical dissolved after about 20 years and the building was moved to be used a a school by district 48. The Presbyterian Church closed in 1969 and the building was moved to Hastings.

Business enterprises included a cheese factory, blacksmith shop, and a balloon manufactory. The coming of the auto encouraged people to drive to Hastings for shopping and social life. Trucks soon replaced rail shipping and the railroad depot was removed.

All that remains of Hansen, which was never incorporated, is an elevator, child care center in the old school building, and an antique shop in the old bank building, and a few homes. .

Gus sold his property in Adams County to Dave Barlass in 1880 and moved the shack (with Ella inside holding her cat) over into land he had purchased in Hall County.


Published by Wolfe and Pickering, Kenesaw, Nebraska

Alphabetical List of Hansen Residents

Appling, Leo
Appling, M. S., Section Hand, wife Lydia, Gerald 3 mo
Appling, Sidney, laborer, wife Kate
Bates, M. E.
Haggard, J. A., Section Hand, wife Bertha, Ethel 4, Wayne 6, Wendell 12, Glen 14
Haggard, Ruby
Hansen, Harry, Blacksmith, wife Louise, Thelma 7 mo
Harrell, Floyd
Harrell, Mrs. Sara, widow
Hudson, James, laborer, wife Carry, Wendel 9
Jurgens, Ed F., manager Hayland Elevator, wife Margaret, Edward 12
Lanfear, F. W., grain buyer, wife Ruby
Lanfear, F. W., manages Hynes Elevator
Longstann, Rev. George, minister, wife Susan, Elsie, college student
Lyle, Mrs. M. E., widow, telephone operator, Margaret 14, Wendell 7
Peabody, Edith, teacher, Edna, teacher
Peabody, G. H., manager Farmers Elevator, wife Grace, Howard 14, Lyle 16, John 18
Reel, J. S., general merchandise, wife Florence
Rinker, M. J.
Sanderson, H.L., cashier Hansen State Bank, wife Ina, Ruth 7, Barbara 10
Tompkins, William retired, wife Letitia
Tryon, W. E., station agent, wife Myrtle, Helen 3, William l

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