Lanham – Kansas or Nebraska?
(Reprinted with permission from "Pony Expressions," quarterly newsletter for Hollenberg Station's Friends and Volunteers, First Quarter 2006, Issue No. 78)
It is an accepted fact that most, if not all, of our small towns are getting smaller. This is due in most part to the decline of the population and businesses.
We have chosen the town of Lanham, KS/NE to show what has happened over the last one hundred and twenty-two years of its existence, to what it is today. To do this we are using the 1957 English term paper of Darlene Maatsch (now Holle) and the 2006 Lanham information furnished by Lanham resident Viola Meyer.
Thank you both for helping out. Enjoy!
Lanham--The Early History
by Darlene Maatsch
This is the story of how a town can grow and become a great business center and then die down to be a very small village.
Let us turn back our watch to the late eighteen hundreds and visit this town which is known as Lanham, Nebraska.
As we are traveling along with our horse and buggy on this nice warm, sunny day, we come to a small town called Lanham. It is a fairly large town with a population of around one hundred people.
After seeing all of the business houses, we decide to stop and look around a little while. We tie the horses to a post, because they are tired from traveling.
There are a few men sitting in front of one of the saloons talking about farm and government problems, while others are inside playing cards.
As we walk by, one of the men starts talking to us. They are very friendly people. We notice that quite a few of the people speak German.
After asking them about Lanham, they tell us that the name of this town used to be Morton. Due to the fact that there was another town in Nebraska by this name, they changed it to Lanham. “Lanham was founded in 1883 by the Lincoln Land Company,” they tell us.
After inquiring more about this town, we learn that one-half of the town lies in Kansas, and one-half of it lies in Nebraska. The part that lies in Nebraska is in Glenwood Township, while that part that lies in Kansas is in Independence Township.
We learn that all of the streets in Lanham start with the letter J or C. This was quite interesting to us. Some of the names of the streets are Jersey, Jackson, Jasper, Clyde, Custer, Canton, and Jefferson Avenue, the street which we had traveled when we came to town.
One jolly man says that he will show us the town of Lanham if we wish him to do so. Of course we take him up on this, and we are now ready to start our little journey.
First we come to a small schoolhouse. It is a single-roomed schoolhouse that employs one teacher. The teacher is kept quite busy with her thirty-five pupils, but nevertheless she is proud of her work. As the teacher sees us looking at the building, she stops her classes and comes to greet us. We learn that this school was organized in the year eighteen ninety-two at the home of George Arnold.
Next we come to the Christian church. We learn that this was organized because the people couldn’t understand the German language. Due to this fact, they decided to organize a new church.
As we travel on, we come to the hotel. The hotel is now being run by Mrs. Rozell. She is a very friendly woman and keeps every one of the ten rooms in this hotel spic and span, because it seems like there is always someone staying there. Besides all of this hard work, she sees that the café is kept clean, too. Mrs. Rozell has hired a couple of women to help her with the work in the hotel and the café, also. We bid her farewell because we know that her work is waiting for her.
If the people stay in the hotel, they leave their horses in the livery stable. Here the horses are fed and cared for. The people can be sure that their horses will get the best of care at all times.
Next we see the stockyards that are located to the north of the depot. After inquiring if there are many cattle shipped, we learn that almost all of the farmers around town ship their animals by train. The stockyards have been here for nearly fifty years.
The depot is a well-built building. It was built in the year eighteen eighty-four. There are four trains traveling through Lanham each day. Two of the trains are freight while the other two trains are passengers. Lanham is now a great Railroad center.
We, also, see a section house. It seems like the section crew are kept busy keeping things in order.
Right across from here, we see a coal bin or shed as you might call it. It is located north of the elevator. There is a lot of coal shipped in and sold each year.
Watching the farmers bring grain to the elevator is vary interesting. One after the other the farmers keep coming in. The elevator man can’t keep up, because it seems like there is always a line formed waiting to get there.
Hammer! Hammer! That is the sound that we hear! After following the noise, we arrive at a blacksmith shop. Fixing cultivators, reshoeing horses, a job which seems to be very usual every spring and fall, and many other jobs keep him very busy.
As we look around we see there are seven saloons in town. We know now where the older men spend their precious time. Playing cards seems to be a big thing with the men, especially, the older men who don’t farm.
We see a double store and after investigating a little more, we find that it is the farm store. On one side of the store, they have dry goods, groceries, and a place where the farmers can bring their eggs and cream in to sell. The other side—well! It is hard to say what kind of a store it is. They sell anything from furniture to hardware. There isn’t just a little bit of merchandise—it seems like every corner is full. Every time someone would buy some groceries, the clerk always puts a sack of candy in with the groceries.
Next we see a lumberyard. After watching the many people trading, we decide that we would like to see what the manager sells. Much to our surprise, they are selling paint and cement besides lumber. They are, also, selling nails and things like that. It is run by Henry Korff, the manager.
We know that we haven’t seen one-half of the town and we are tired, so we decide to go to the drugstore and get us something to refresh us. This is just the place, too!
As we are sitting there eating, we start to talk and after questioning our guide, we learn that for recreation the people go to the theater in town or play ball down at the ball field. When we ask if they have a ball team, we are told that they do.
Our guide, also, says that the carnival or side show as they called it in those days was a great thing. It seemed like the people always went for something like that. Carnival days were always so far away for them!
We decide that we have had enough to eat, but we are still a little thirsty, so our guide tells us that we can go and get a drink from the open well.
The open well is found in the middle of main street. After tasting this water, we agree whole-heartedly that this is the best water that we have tasted for a long time. How we had to laugh when we found out that the people cooled whiskey in the bottom of this well! We didn’t know whether we still liked the water or not, but we couldn’t refuse just one more little drink of water before we started again.
Machinery! Machinery! That is what we see next. The implement store is kept very busy, especially, in the spring and summer. We are told that one year they sold thirty binders. Along with this they sell cultivators, plows, and other machinery made for the horse to pull. We have to agree that this man has invested in a wonderful business, especially, because he is the only implement dealer in this part of the country.
The butcher shop seems to be quite an interesting place of business. Every few minutes we see someone running in or out. The people can always get the kind of meat that they want to buy at this place of business.
Discussing among ourselves what these people get for wages, we came to the conclusion that they must get quite a bit of money for their work. It seems like our guide overheard us talking because he says to us, “No, the salary isn’t very much. We get about eighteen dollars a month.” What a shock this was to us! All of this hard work for such a little amount of money.
On top of the hill, we see a beautiful church standing. After inquiring, we learn that it is the Catholic church.
Standing beside the church is the priest’s house. It is a large and very well-built house, and, also, a very attractive looking house. The large green lawn around the house helps to make this house so outstanding. We would like to go and visit this house, but we know that we haven’t got the time.
We wonder who has been doing all of this beautiful carpentry work? Our guide tells us that there are some carpenters living right around town. Mr. Kloppenberg of near Hanover helped build the priest’s house. Hanover is approximately eight miles from Lanham. Mr. Stephens, a carpenter from near Lanham, helped to build several houses.
Snip! Snip! That is the sound we hear coming from the barbershop. How attractive these red and white poles look in front of his shop! We, too, almost feel like letting him trim our hair on this hot day.
The sewing school attracted many people from far and near. We supposed that many people from Lanham went to this school; but when he told us that people came from Lincoln, Nebraska, to have lessons, we almost fell over. We could hardly believe this.
While the ladies were in town, it seems like they would always go to the ladies’ store. In this store they could buy almost any kind of dress that they wanted. This store had the latest fashions and that is what they wanted, so they were well pleased.
Of course if the ladies got a new dress, they would have to get a hat to go with it, too. From the ladies’ store, you would see them parading down to the hat shop. Here they could get almost any kind of a hat imaginable. We could have spent many hours watching these women parading down the street showing off their new hats. We agree whole-heartedly with our guide when he said, “It takes many different kinds of people to make this world.”
As for buying shoes, our guide tells us that the people can buy them at the farm store. If we see the women going to the farm store from the ladies’ store or the hat shop, we know that they are going to get a new pair of shoes to go with their outfit.
When something breaks down, it seems like the people take it to the garage. Of course there aren’t any cars to be found, but the garage man tinkers around with some of the things that break for the people. It sure keeps him busy doing this, too!
We wondered what the people did if they got sick, so we asked our guide. He said that there was a doctor’s office on top of the drug store.
We decide that we would like to see the doctor’s office, so we cross the street and go and visit the doctor. After talking with him for a little while, we learn that his name is doctor Nicely. The word “Nicely” describes him very well, because we find that he is a wonderful man. We can easily see why the people like him so well. We have been here for just such a little while, and we already feel like we have known him personally for many years. Although he doesn’t have a very large office, he feels that it is large enough for all of his patients. He, also, keeps his office very, very clean. This, to us, means a great deal.
The telephone office is located by the post office. It is the telephone center of Hanover, Odell, and Diller. These three towns are the closest to Lanham. Communication is starting to play an important part in their every-day lives.
The post office like usual has a lot of business. The people mailing letters and packages, getting their mail, and even buying stamps seem to keep the mailman busy.
We wonder where the people got their money cashed. After hearing this question, the guide decides to take us to the State Bank of Lanham. The people are very glad that they have a bank in Lanham; because if they have to have some checks cashed or they want to deposit some money, they wouldn’t have to go anywhere else.
Next we see the Lutheran church. We learn that this church was founded in the year eighteen hundred eighty-five. The first minister in this church was Gustav Mueller. We, too, agree that this is a beautiful church. Our guide tells us that the church sometimes has a synodical meeting here. After asking him what he meant by that, he told us in the year eighteen ninety the first synod meeting was held here. The purpose of this meeting was to organize a new synod and its officers. He, also, adds that the people were very proud to be able to have the meeting.
The people in Lanham were starting to take communication seriously because Henry Widen, a resident of the town, had installed a broadcasting station in the back of his house. Yes! The people were very, very proud of this.
As we are traveling along, one of us looks up and exclaims, “Oh, look! They have street lights.” Yes, after electricity came to Lanham, they decided to install street lights. The people thought this was wonderful because this way they could show their town off to strangers passing by. From the way these old settlers talk, we came to the conclusion that they are mighty proud of this town. We have to agree that they do have a mighty fine town to be proud of.
If the travelers had trouble with a saddle or something like that, they took it to the harness shop. Yes, this man came in pretty handy, especially, if you were in a big hurry and something broke. He was able to fix it fast, but also good at the same time.
About in the center of the town, we find the city hall. It is a large two-story building. The people meet in this building if any difficulties arise within the town.
We look toward the west and see a field that has something growing in it. We know that it isn’t wheat or oats, so we decide to ask our guide what it is. We are very much surprised when he tells us that it is a tobacco field. Dick Wieden, the owner, raises and then rolls the tobacco himself. This seems to be quite an interesting process to us, and we could stand there and watch him work for a long, long while.
We have now completed our tour of Lanham in the late eighteen hundreds. Don’t you agree with us that this has been a very interesting trip?
Lanham--The Nineteen Fifties
by Darlene Maatsch
Now let us turn our watch back to the present day and compare the town of Lanham with that of yesterday.
We are no longer traveling in horse and buggy, but instead we are riding in a new nineteen fifty-seven Chevrolet. As we enter Lanham on this bright sunny day in July, we see two older men sitting in front of the tavern.
We park our car along Main street and get out to talk to these two men. We learn that their names are Mr. Herman Rippe and Mr. August Miller. They are both residents of this small town known as Lanham.
We are very much surprised to see such a little town compared to what it was years ago, so we ask them what had happened to it.
After asking them if the business houses were moved because of lack of trade, they tell us that in the year nineteen hundred and twenty there was more trade here than in Odell, Nebraska; so we know that isn’t the reason for it being such a small town.
Mr. Rippe and Mr. Miller tell us that in the year nineteen thirty-six the greatest disaster came to Lanham that could come to any town. Fire broke out among the business houses and burned several houses down.
The fire started in the farm store. Of course it was impossible to have a fire truck come out, because in those days there wasn’t a fire truck in that part of the country. It burned up nearly twenty thousand dollars worth of merchandise in the farm store. How the fire started is unknown and, probably, never will be. From the farm store the fire spread to two grocery stores, a couple of saloons, and the garage. The buildings were burned down. This left the town a lot smaller and, also, a smaller business center. This was a great loss to everyone.
We learn that the Christian church was sold and then moved out in the country. From there it was moved to another locality, so we couldn’t go and see it. How we would have liked to have seen this church once again.
There aren’t many houses in Lanham, so we inquire what the population is in Lanham. They tell us the population is approximately fifty people.
Mr. Rippe tells us that he has been a resident in the Lanham community for sixty-six years. During that time he has served on various committees. He tells us that he was on the building committee when the Lutheran church was built in the year nineteen hundred and eleven. “Since that time that this church was founded, it has had sixteen resident ministers,” he tells us. Of course we know that they have had supply pastors when they don’t have a resident minister. The minister now is Rev. Arthur Huneke. Although he has been minister here for the last nine and one-half years, he has now accepted a call to Johnson, Nebraska; where he will be moving a few days from now.
We asked them if there were any officers in Lanham. They said, “No, it is just like Mr. Wieters told some newspaper men once.” Here is the reply that Mr. Wieters gave them, “We’re peace loving people, and have never had to have any officers.”
If they would have needed any officers, they would have had to have two of each of them. They would have had to share the office as mayor. Two sheriffs, one for Nebraska and one for Kansas, would have had to be appointed. They concluded this subject by saying that it is a good thing that they never had any officers.
Mr. Miller says that he hasn’t lived here as long as Mr. Rippe, but he has lived here for thirty years. But he exclaims, “I helped to build the post office. I can well remember carrying cement from the lumber yard that was used to be here over to the post office.”
When asking what happened to the Catholic church, we are told that it was sold to some farmer. The farmer, after buying it, tore it down; so that he could use the lumber.
We do notice that the priest’s house is still standing. After inquiring if someone is living in it, we learn that Mr. and Mrs. Henry Maatsch and family are making their home there. The house looks just as good as it did years ago.
We ask if the carpenters that made their homes around Lanham were still living. Mr. Rippe tells us that Mr. Stephens had passed away. He was just starting to build one of the houses still standing in town today when he passed away. It is now owned by Mr. William Duensing. Mr. Stephens didn’t even get to finish his last job. We agree whole-heartedly with our guide when he says, “I guess that goes to show that we will never get our work all accomplished before our time is up.”
Next we go to the schoolhouse; but when we get to the place where it used to stand, we don’t see it. We were very much surprised to see that the school house was moved out.
In nineteen fifty-five the rural schools in Gage county, Nebraska, consolidated with Odell. All of the children in Lanham were to go to Odell to school on the school bus. The things that weren’t taken to Odell such as playground equipment, desks, books, etc., were sold at a public sale the same day as the school building was sold.
We asked them if all of the school children in Lanham went to Odell to school. Mr. Miller told us that some of the pupils went to Hanover Rural High School in Hanover, Kansas. He, also, added that due to the fact that there wasn’t a school bus from Hanover, the school children have to furnish their own transportation.
The elevator is still in Lanham, but it is not open for business during the winter months. During the summer months the farmers bring in grain to the elevator. From here it is shipped out by train. The elevator is owned and managed by O. A. Cooper’s grain company in Odell.
The depot to the north of the elevator is still standing, but no one is on duty there. Mrs. Henry Dierking has the key to the building in case that any merchandise is shipped in by freight or express.
Mr. Rippe adds that the depot is going to be torn down in the near future. Instead of the depot, they will have just a little freight house, as you might call it, where they will put merchandise if any is shipped in by train.
Mr. Miller says that instead of four trains traveling through Lanham, there is only one at the present time. This train is the Burlington that comes from Concordia, Kansas. We ask if this train is a full length train like they were years ago. Upon hearing this question, they start laughing because the train that goes through town has just a few cars.
“On top of that,” they add, “it only stops when there is some freight or express to be left off or if they have to leave or pick up a train car by the elevator.” We, too, have to laugh after hearing this.
When we ask how the people get their mail if the train doesn’t stop, we are told that the mail comes in by truck. They tell us that the truck route is from Concordia, Kansas, to Wymore, Nebraska. The truck comes through Lanham twice each day. It comes in the morning about ten forty-five and at about three fifteen in the afternoon every day Monday through Saturday.
Mr. Miller tells us that almost all of the people in Lanham get the Beatrice Daily Sun. Due to the fact that the newspaper doesn’t get off the press soon enough, the daily edition is delivered by a car. The newspaper arrives in town each evening about six o’clock.
The grocery store is managed by Carl Lytle, Jr. He has the store packed with groceries. After walking in the store a little while, we notice that Carl, also, sells overalls, paper, pencils, and things like that, too. He, also, has an “off and on” beer license. This license permits him to sell beer on any day of the week except Sunday. Carl is not allowed to let anyone open a bottle of liquor in the store either. In the back of the store, he has a room where he tests cream, and, also, a place where the farmers can bring their eggs. Due to the fact that the elevator doesn’t sell feed, it seems that Carl came to the rescue for the chicken raisers; because he sells feeds of all kinds.
Next to the store to the west, we see a welding shop that is owned by Albert Adam. Besides just doing welding, Albert likes to build things, too. We learn that he is forever building wagon boxes, post-hole diggers, articles for the house or lawn or many other things. The last couple of years he has been selling baler and binder twine. This made the farmers happy because now they don’t have to go way to Wymore or Beatrice to get it. Albert, also, sells Carlson seed corn.
Across the street to the east, we see another business house, the blacksmith shop. Ernest Schierkolk owns the building, but he has retired; so you hardly ever see him in his shop working. Some cool summer days you will find him out in his shop making hoes, rakes, or even stilts for the children. It seems that he enjoys doing something like this, especially, if he can make some small child happy.
Next we see the filling station and garage that is located just to the east of the blacksmith shop. It is owned and managed by Henry Maatsch.
“On a warm summer day, you will often times see two or three tractors, a combine or some other piece of machinery, and a couple of cars or trucks standing around here,” is the reply of Mr. Miller when we ask him if there is a lot of business at the station. As we enter the station we see it packed with tires, batteries, light bulbs, cans of oil, and many other things. In one corner he has seed corn stacked up. We see he is a Funk’s G Hybrid dealer. Yes, we see that there is some competition in town. Besides overhauling cars, trucks, and tractors, Henry tells us that he, also, greases cars, fixes tires, changes oil in cars and trucks, and sells gas and anti-freeze. We leave knowing that he doesn’t have time to talk with us now, because we see that he has two tractors and one car that he is working on tore down in the back room.
Across the street from the filling station, we see the post office. The post office is run by Mrs. Hilda Wieters. We are very inquisitive about how many mailboxes there are in the post office, so we decide to go in and look. We are surprised to see only thirty-eight mail boxes. After asking Mrs. Wieters if there is a lot of business, she tells us that there isn’t too much business; but it is quite a bit considering the number of people in town.
Mr. Rippe tells us that during Wilson’s administration the post office crossed the street three times. One time the address would be Lanham, Nebraska—the other time it would be Lanham, Kansas. The address of the town now is Lanham, Nebraska; because the post office is in Nebraska.
Tap! Tap! That is the sound we hear coming from the shoe store. It is owned by Henry Eden. Along with repairing shoes, he, also, repairs canvases and other articles.
Mr. Eden tells us that every Thursday afternoon the barber, Mr. Carl Rosecrans, comes to town. The barber chair is kept in the shoe shop, due to the fact that he doesn’t have a barbershop himself. He is always kept busy on Thursday afternoons, too. There is always someone waiting to get a haircut or a shave.
The last business house that we wee is the tavern that is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Achtemeier, residents of the community for several years.
After asking them what the young people do for recreation, we learn that the young people like to play ball as their pastime on Sunday afternoons. The girls, as well as the boys, play ball, too. Mr. Miller says that the young people have formed a ball team and usually enter into a league during the summer months.
Besides playing ball, they enjoy the free shows one night during the week. There is always a large crowd attending them, too. After asking who sponsors these shows, we are told that the businessmen do. They, also, add that the free shows are usually held on Friday nights.
Mr. Rippe tells us that Mrs. Rozell, the woman who ran the hotel years ago, had passed away a few months ago. She was ninety-nine years old. He, also, adds that many of the people living in Lanham could still remember her for her faithful duties.
This concludes our trip around the small town of Lanham. We thank the older residents of Lanham, Mr. Rippe and Mr. Miller, for showing us the town and, also, explaining everything to us.
We can hardly believe that this is true—that a town can change within a number of years from a large business center to such a small village.
Now as we are about ready to leave and are thinking about this small village, we are, also, wondering what will become of this town in the near future.
by Viola Meyer
Businesses currently in Lanham include
Jim Adam -- Plumbing Shop
Allan Adam -- State Line Digging
Jim Jueneman -- Jueneman's Construction
Scheele's Summer Kitchen
Elevator owned by Jueneman's
St. John Lutheran Church
by Darlene Maatsch
Dobbs, Hugh J. The History of Gage County, Nebraska. Lincoln, Nebraska: Western Publishing and Engraving Company, 1918.
Executive Board of the Synod (Editorial Committee). Our Churches and their Pastors. 1948.
“Lanham—Is it Kansas or Nebraska: State Line Splits Town Main Street” Beatrice Daily Sun (August 20, 1946).
Miller, August. Lanham, Nebraska. April 9, 1957.
Leuhring, Mrs. Lanham, Nebraska. April 9, 1957.
Duensing, William. Lanham, Nebraska. April 9, 1957.
Duis, Rudolf. Lanham, Nebraska. April 10, 1957.
Maatsch, Henry. Lanham, Nebraska. April 10, 1957.
Rippe, Herman, Lanham, Nebraska. April 17, 1957.