In 1868 early settlers – most of whom were Catholic immigrants from Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, Poland, and Ireland — took up claims in Tracy Valley. A post office was established on the L.D. Leach farm three miles north of the present town site. His wife, Nancy, the first postmaster, named the office after the town from which she came, Humphrey, New York.
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In 1879 the Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills Railroad Company began construction on a line that ran from the Union Pacific main line at Duncan to Norfolk. The land in the area was rich and fertile farm land, but also “railroad land” and priced low for rapid settlement of the little town. The following year the Humphrey post office, which was served by stage coach, and had moved several times from one farm to another, was finally placed next to the depot. On November 25, 1880, James North, the Platte County surveyor, platted lots and drew up a town plan. Humphrey immediately began to grow “as if it had sprung up out of the prairie.”
One of the original buildings still serves as a store room for the City Meat Market. The Democrat, the town’s weekly newspaper, was established in 1886. Many business have lasted through the ages and still have a presence in today’s Humphrey. An ad placed in a 1888 “Democrat” was for William Duesman’s business offering “furniture, coffins, and shrouds.” Today, Paul Duesman carries on the family tradition at Duesman Furniture and Funeral Home, the oldest continuous business in Humphrey dating from 1882.
The citizens of Humphrey, population 800-900, are very proud of the appearance of their little town, and work hard to keep it clean and neat. They have a bowling alley, a veterinary clinic, a flying service, and “Steepleview Golf Course,” a nine-hole golf course. The sports complex, dedicated to Ed Foltz for his long and faithful support of Humphrey athletic programs, has football, baseball, softball, and tennis facilities. In addition to a mayor, Humphrey is governed by a four-member village council.
In the park, along with children’s play equipment, there is an area for picnics, a dance hall, a shelter, and a swimming pool. The Humphrey Medical Clinic has greatly enhanced the town’s medical facilities. Its fires are put out by a large volunteer fire department, whose 30-some members also serve as trained paramedic rescue volunteers. Another great addition to the town is a convenience store, RB’s Food.
The St. Francis parochial and public school systems, established in 1884 and 1889 respectively, educate about 250 children per year, and are using many cooperative classes – band, art, industrial arts, and others.
Visit Humphrey. You’ll like the relaxed atmosphere, mixed equally with town spirit and optimism toward the future.
Adapted from an article by Irene O’Brien.
Additional material: Centennial Edition of Humphrey Democrat, July 1, 1983; TheFranciscans of Nebraska, by Eugene Hagedorn; and Past & Present of Platte County, by Phillips.