A LOOK AT MCCOOK IN 1886 by Ryan & Turner’s Land District Directory

On the north hank of the Republican river at a point near the center of Red Willow county, is one of the fairest spots in southwestern Nebraska, Here the mild Republican, fringed with forest trees and bedecked with shrubbery, placidly winds its circuitous way through the oval valley which, widening into miles of “peaceful bottom lands,” finally loses itself on either side in gentle slopes and terraces that rise into the divide beyond. Here a broad plateau juts out shelf like from the hill side, and rising thirty feet above the sleeping river, commands a view of a landscape, which when bathed in the golden glory of an autumnal sunset, tempts the pen of the poet or the pencil of the artist.


On this spot, attracted by the beauty of the surroundings, the fertility of the soil, and the salubrity of the climate, in the Spring of 1879 William Colvin became the owner of a tract of land embracing the E. ½ of the S. W. 1/4 and the W. 1/2 of the S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 29, T. 3 N., R. 29 W., which he afterwards conveyed to Geo. Colvin, a brother of S. H. Colvin the present Justice of the Peace. On this ledge of table land two sod houses were erected near the river bank, in one of which Squire Colvin opened a general merchandise store, feed station and hotel, and in 1879, after inducing every traveler to set his hand thereunto and scouring the country far and near for signers to a petition, a post office was secured with Mr. L. V. Kennedy as postmaster, and this primitive child of the plains was christened that suggestive appropriate name “Fairview.” Here for years in this rude habitation, the Squire, “monarch of all he surveyed,” and embodying in his person all the official functions of the locality, kept a hostlery for man and beast, dispensed merchandise to the natives and distributed the mails for the surrounding country, while at night the partition was removed, time floor was cleared, and the cowboys from the neighboring hills flocked in to “trip the light fantastic toe,” or amuse themselves by shooting full of holes the venerable stovepipe of “mine host.”


And so the even tenor of these primitive times went on and the monotony of the daily round was only broken by the bellow of the herds, the shout of the cowboy, or the tramp of the savage tribes as they filed past on their way to the “great father at Washington” to grieve over the loss of their hunting grounds, until the fall of 1881 when that great pioneer and civilizer the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad company seeking for new fields to conquer stretched its arms of steel towards the far west and began to deposit along its pathway the living freight that now people the plain.


Then it began to be whispered about, that a division station was to be located somewhere in this part of the valley and speculators began to trim their sails to catch the passing breeze. The honors were divided between Culbertson and Indianola, but railroad secrets are unfathomable and by a coup d’etat that threw the lynx eyed land broker off his guard, the site of time Fairview settlement was secured and the beautiful city of McCook was born.


This “gem of the prairie” is the sole and peculiar child of the railroad and its co-worker, the Lincoln Land Company. Scarcely was the idea of making a division headquarters at this point conceived than a purchasing agent for the land company, Mr. H. C. Rider, was sent out and quietly purchased a tract of land sufficient for the town site. In the spring of 1882 the town was surveyed and platted and in May of that year lots were put on the market and sold like ‘hot cakes.


The advent of the railroad into McCook was soon followed by the arrival of the division officers, who in common with the other founders of the town, lent their energies to the building up of this new candidate for public favors which seemed to have been “born with a silver spoon in its mouth.” The erection of a commodious depot building, an elegant eating house and a substantial and finely built round house soon followed the railroad, enterprising, energetic and liberal business men came from the older towns to give impetus to the boom and reap the first fruits thereof, buildings were moved from lndianola, and the surrounding towns gave a substantial portion of their population to build up their ambitious neighbor. Lumber yards, banks, and merchandise stores were started; doctors and lawyers soon put in an appearance and in a remarkably short space of time every line of business was represented.


The busy builders seemed to have learned the art of “perpetual motion” for the ring of the carpenter’s hammer and the chick of the mason’s trowel was heard early and late and they seem to haven ever ceased as building after building has arisen as if by magic, until today clustering on plateau and hillside can be counted 150 places of business and innumerable dwellings, a large portion of which are of substantial build and architectural design.


A short time after the location of the town site, the Lincoln Land Company with commendable enterprise and an abundance of faith in the future of their protege, constructed and put in operation a complete system of water works, and on June 15th, 1883, the United States Land office was opened here, both of which events are important eras in the history of McCook and have done much to perpetuate her progress and round out time measure of her metropolitan ambition.


Shortly after the location of the town site Mr. H. C. Rider turned his attention to the building up of West McCook, supplementing it with the South McCook addition. These additions stand separated from time main town like little villages, and the large number of neat and substantial dwellings and ornate and commodious business houses that have been erected add much to the thrifty appearance of the “Magic City.”


The political history of McCook is briefly told. It was organized as a village on November 2nd, 1883, with the following officers; Trustees: J. E. Berger, chairman, V. Franklin, G. W. Daniels, H. C. Rider, G. L. Laws. Clerk, F. M. Kimnmel; Treasurer, W. F. Wallace.


It is confidently expected that in the early spring the village will be organized as a city and take her place where she belongs, among the thriving and prosperous municipalities of the state.


Since the organization of the town but little has occurred to mar its fair name. Peace and good order prevail, a solitary police officer finds his position a sinecure, the courts have little to do, and the structure erected as a city prison has from long disuse ceased to he either ornamental or useful.


The story of McCook is time history of progress and prosperity, and as the tourist is taken upon the hill top on a beautiful summer afternoon to view the incipient park, the well trimmed lawns, the dwellings, substantial and ornate, the broad thoroughfares, the splendid business blocks, and is told that he is treading above eleven miles of watermains, he can but observe the evidences of permanency and prosperity, and marvel that the hand of man could in scarce four years accomplish so great a work.


No better evidence of the healthfulness of the locality is wanted than the exceedingly low death rate. Ten or twelve deaths will cover time mortality for the past year, and time fifty mounds in the cemetery west of town, a large proportion of which are the graves of children, evidence in a striking manner the continued health of the place since the town began.


The business interests of the city are in a most satisfactory condition, the stores are well supplied with well selected stocks including every line and variety the market affords, tastefully and artistically arranged, the frame rows of a few years ago, with miniature windows and restricted space are being rapidly replaced with handsome brick blocks and plate glass fronts. The solid business men of thee town are enterprising and liberal and are amply equipped to weather the storms of occasional financial stringency and await the “good times coming.” It will be the public policy of the Board in time near future to inaugurate a systematic course of public improvements and no doubt by the time this book is given to the public, the streets will have been supplied with hydrants to lower the rates of insurance and by the aid of an efficient fire department, protect from time ravages of fire the business property of the city.


Two solid banks and an army of money brokers furnish the needed banking facilities; three bright and well conducted papers supply the current news; four commodious hotels, including an elegant two story and basement brick structure just completed, affords ample accommodations for the traveling public, while a multitude of minor establishments representing every line of trade help to swell the volume of commercial transactions and accommodate the purchasing community.


In a word, the city of McCook possesses unusual advantage as a place of residence or business. The center of a region of country that must soon become rich in agriculture and stock raising, possessing ample water power, yet underdeveloped, and excellent facilities for transportation and climate, good educational facilities, numerous churches, a class of citizens wedded to peace and good order, broad thoroughfares and beautiful drives, make it a desirable place of residence, while the finger of destiny points with prophetic accuracy to its future proud position as the metropolis of western Nebraska.