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Columbus, Nebraska


The “old town of Monroe” settlement was about two miles northeast of the present town site in what was then Monroe County, giving the town of Monroe its name. Monroe was established by Leander Gerrard and his brother in 1857. The early town consisted of a log dwelling that was designated as a post office.

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The town of Monroe was chosen as the county seat and located near the old Indian trail and the route used by the Mormons.  This location should have insured its place in posterity. However, money was scarce and an attempt to create interest in a ferry or bridge across the Loup was minimal.

Two years later, Monroe had only four buildings. There were foundations for 14 others, but these were never completed. When a Loup river crossing was established near Columbus, it immediately worked to the advantage of that community. Monroe lost further identity when the area merged with Platte County and Columbus was named as the seat-of-government for the enlarged county.

For many years the log post office, and home of Leander Gerrard, remained a stopping place for those who happened along the trail between the Indian Agency and Missouri Valley. On dark nights, the Gerrards kept a light burning in the window, guiding many a weary wayfarer to a safe resting place.

The Omaha Indians often camped near the settlement when on their way to visit the Pawnee. One night in 1864, while 19 people slept in the lower room of the Gerrard home, a rider brought news of “a Sioux outbreak.” While the alarm was somewhat vague and lacking in detail, a close watch was begun. Nearby settlers gathered at the house and a stockade, consisting of poles set side-by-side and banked with sod, was constructed in a semi-circle between the schoolhouse and the dwelling. Although all the horses were later driven off by what was thought to be hostile Indians, there was no fight.

James Gleason, who homesteaded during the 1880s, dreamed of Monroe becoming a metropolis. His vision would be possible if the town became a railroad siding for the UP branch line from Oconee to Albion. Gleason repeatedly went to Omaha trying to convince the railroad officers of the wisdom of his cause. A delegation of settlers even journeyed with him to help lobby for the project. Even before a siding was established, a grain elevator was established in 1881 and grain was shipped from Monroe. Finally “passes” were issued by the railroad to “the Village of Monroe.” Returning home in December 1889, the delegation of men had trouble getting the conductor to stop at their destination. But, when the train was brought to a stop, the men got off and a great celebration was held. As the story goes, the town was officially “christened” by sprinkling whiskey upon the ground.

While the delegation achieved a great victory, the town and citizens of Monroe were obliged to bear the cost of building the siding as the town was already laid out. The sum of $900, a huge amount at that time, was raised in just two days, thanks to Edward Gerrard picking up half the amount. In 1889, Gerrard returned to his homestead and built Monroe’s newspaper, “The Looking Glass.”

Even though Monroe is one of the oldest settlements in Platte County, it was not platted until January 1889, when surveyor John Truman established lines for streets and named them. The village was incorporated on December 22, 1899.

Monroe is now a town of 300, the principal industries are farming and livestock. The business center consists of a number of one-story buildings that house a tavern, a post office, a bank, and several other small businesses, a filling station, and a large shipping elevator. A Methodist Church and large consolidated school also serve the citizens of the community.

Adapted from a story by Edna M. Schmidt

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