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Lowell, the History of a Boom Town

Few Nebraska towns had such a boom history as Lowell in Kearney County. It was selected as a townsite by the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad in 1871, and its first businesses were established soon afterward. According to A. T. Andreas's history of Nebraska, published in 1882, the site selected "was on land belonging to the United States Government, and consisted of an entire section of 640 acres. The manner of gaining possession of it was as follows: D. N. Smith [town locator for the railroad] built a large hotel in the very center of the section, so that each corner of the building should be on a different quarter-section, and each quarter-section was entered by pre-emption claim by some man selected by Smith, who as soon as six months' residence, at the hotel had expired, proved up and paid for the land and then sold it to Smith, who at once proceeded to lay out the town."

Lowell, as the first incorporated town in Kearney County, was chosen county seat at the reorganization election of June 17, 1872. The railroad arrived on July 8, and for a short time it was end-of-track, becoming a major shipping point for central Nebraska. Also in July, it was selected as a site for the U.S. Land Office for the Republican Valley, and its streets were crowded with homesteaders. It was a temporary shipping point for herds of cattle trailed north from Texas. Andreas said of Lowell during this period: "The streets were continually thronged, and everything was life, bustle and energy. Many times, however, the town was a scene of disturbances from the half drunken cow-boys, roughs, and gamblers, who at times frequented the place, and four saloons were in operation."

Lowell's decline began as early as 1873, when the railroad built on to Kearney, making it the regional trading center, and a bridge built across the Platte at Kearney in 1874 continued the drop in business. The removal of the land office to Bloomington in 1874 added to the decline of Lowell. When the Kearney County seat was removed to Minden in 1878, a quiet village replaced the boom town. According to Andreas, "The town has now (1882) dwindled away until its population will not exceed fifty, and the only business done is a very light country trade."

(September 2004)



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