History of Hazard
To the grassy plains and hills of southwestern Sherman County came John Brewer and the Fisher brothers. This was about the time1878, only eleven years after Nebraska had been admitted to the union, and only five years after Sherman County was proclaimed by Governor Furnas. John Boecking and W.J. McNeill, who came in 1879, and Hans Peterson and Jacob Benson who came later, were other pioneers which settled in near vicinities. There was no Indian menace to contend with, but the prairie grass was infested with rattle snakes.
Henry Capellen, A.E. Dahlgren, Reinert Reinertson and Carl de la Motte were settlers that came later and were welcomed by help in establishment. A noteworthy characteristic of the pioneers was their strength to endure hardships. For lumber, windows, and other supplies, the settlers traveled in wagons thirty miles to Kearney while the women waited and worried at home until they returned days later. However, a man named Davidson operated a store at the neighboring territory Bentora, and Byers operated the same at Sweetwater. To the latter village many went to get their mail which was brought by stage to that early settlement situated at the northern edge of Buffalo County.
In 1886 the C.B.&Q. Railroad went through the lower part of the county on its way to the Sandhills. Shortly following, Mr. Davidson moved his store near the tracks, --and that was the beginning of a new village. Others came to the village, and Munn lived in a sod house and ran the post office. Mr. Skinner was the blacksmith and Mr. Hobert made wagons. Mr. Fuller ran the store, and the cornfield in which the village was located was pushed away as the village grew.
NAME ORIGIN: The village, however, was without a name, and as two men were walking along the tracks and noticed a "hazardous hole," the name Hazard was accepted in designation of the group of buildings. Yes, it was a growing village, but it was not all glory for the pioneers as they conquered the territory and sponsored a new town. They faced incidents over which they had no control. There came the blizzard of 1888 which was severe all over the state, but the settlers endured that incident that they had to face on the unprotected plain. In 1890 a tornado struck and demolished the village of Sweetwater. It was evident that the pioneers had no control over such conditions, and later came the "black blizzards" or dust storms which preceded the drought. It was trying for the settlers, yet sympathy and kindness was shown by the established homesteaders in helping the newcomers that followed.
EARLY SCHOOLING: The earliest school was a sod structure nearly a mile north of Hazard where Miss Chase was the first instructor. Later when the district was divided, a frame schoolhouse was built in Hazard.
BUSINESSES: About the time 1900 when the schoolhouse was built, the Dierks Lumber Company bought the Scott and Suffold Company and Mr. Evans operated the new lumber yard. The depot was situated at the south end of Main (Market) Street and the agent, Frank Allen, built a combined store where J.R. Toman handled merchandize, Mr. Tate the drugs, and Mr. Scott was the harness maker. When Mr. Allen moved to Mason City, he tore down the building and moved it to where he lived. One of the earliest boosters of the town was Mr. Evans who operated the lumber yard. He influenced area building, and the Lincoln Land Company, which owned the lots of the town site south of Douglas Street accepted the proposition that if one lot was purchased, another would be thrown in. With Evan's urging, several houses and the first Methodist Church was built by a carpenter from Lexington, Nebraska and Bill Hoage from Illinois. Mr. Cadwalader built the hotel and D.W. Titus built a bank of stone. Mr. Hockreiter built and managed a fine drug store on the northeast corner of main street. A butcher shop and millinery store were built on the northern end of Market Street. A hardware store was unsuccessful north of the hotel, but Philpot's Hardware situated on the west central side of main street remains to the present. South of the hardware store was a blacksmith shop, and later, on the southeast corner of main street, another building was set up for the same purpose. (see also Hazard Business History)
DOCTORS: There came to the village of Hazard many doctors, but the people of the community must have been healthy, for none of the doctors became rich or even stayed in Hazard very long. Some of the doctors were: Dr. Stokes, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Frisbie, Dr. Parker, Dr. Myers, and Dr. Paul.
PROSPERITY: Hazard reached certain milestones in prosperity. Men invested fortunes and lost them. Others gave the best years of their lives to the development of the village. Few grew rich, although the village prospered. The best period of the town's existence was that time before World War I, and a period after the war. The 1920 census states that Hazard had 167 residents. The village also had the communication facilities of a telegraph office and a private telephone company organized and set up lines in 1905. Undoubtedly, this period from 1920-1930 marked the heights of prosperity in the history of Hazard.
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS: It would be impossible for the modern historian to trace the history of each business, building, or residence as businesses change hands; people come and go. However, there are some important business men and firms whose histories are known in general. The names of some of the merchants before 1920 include: Krestler, Norling, Fuller, Peterson, and Donahue. Philpot's Hardware went to Mr. Hays and then to Mr. Anderson. Hazard's blacksmiths were Mr. Patchin, Mr. Iverson, and Mr. Dailey. The well-men were Mr. Graham and Mr. Kinney. Charles Boldt sold Raleigh products and William Peterson sold patent medicines. After the War, Carl Peters built the Farmer's State Bank, and Mr. Titus rebuilt his bank, --the Hazard State Bank. Two banks in one small village marked certain prosperity. At this time there were nearly 45 private residences in town.
CASUALTIES: Hazard has long been noted for fires. As soon as a flame broke in a building, there was little chance that it would ever be saved as the town had never been supplied with water works. The hotel, butcher shop, Brewer's store, the blacksmith shop, elevator, interior of the Grand Theatre, the train depot, and the Dailey and Wallace residences were all destroyed by fire. After the burning of the original, a new depot was built about 50 rods west of the former.
THE DEPRESSION: In 1929 the Hazard community suffered extremely from the failures of both banks. The life savings of many families were taken from them, and that was the beginning of the depression. The Hazard State bank became a Cooperative Credit Bank, while the Farmer's Bank was sold to A.E. Betts for a private residence as he operated the store adjoining the building. Following the bank failure, the extensive drought began. Disgusted farmers moved to Riverton, Wyoming and others went farther west. In the same year the Peterson store, run by Mr. Harris, burned down and in the same blaze the north side of the post office was damaged. The building was later torn down and the post office was moved into the Trumble Store building where it has been since. However, the successive merchants, Mr. Leach and Mr. Hile, were quite successful in their businesses and successfully competed with the larger towns. The Wilkins Grocery was started in the late 1930s. At this time of writing (1943) we find the village consisting of three stores, a bank, two filling stations, a garage, a lumbar yard, a post office, pool hall, telephone office, and the depot. During that period the businesses seemed to exist although the population of the town decreased.
ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENTS: In 1936 the Catholic Church was built and dedicated as St. Gabriel's. Father Moser of Pleasanton served the parish first. About two years later, the Opera House was remodeled. The floor was lowered to the ground and a favorable gymnasium was made of it.
SCHOOL PROGRESS: During the 1930s the school progressed steadily. S. Mulvany, A.M. Frazel, and L.A. Garner served as superintendents during the period. Hazard had long been proud of its accredited high school. The school produced a number of successful basketball and track teams, and the school had always shown fine competition in other contests.
BUSINESS TRIBUTE: During Hazard's youth, Mr. Titus accumulated a vast amount of wealth. Years later, Hazard had another successful business man. His name was Henry Larson who was a mechanic and implement dealer who had great business ability. He moved to Ravenna shortly before 1940.
ENTERTAINMENT: The merchants were united in furnishing the community with free entertainment for many years. Each Friday night a thrilling motion picture was flashed upon the screen hung at the north side of the garage.
THE NEW DECADE: In the summer of 1940, the Lutherans moved their church to the two lots on the corner where Jerold and Munn streets intersect. This building made up for some of the other buildings that had been moved away from town. In the Summer of 1941, the Dierks Lumber Company main building was moved away and the loss of the business was greatly felt by the town. However, the town bought their scale and coal sheds, and the former was moved to a position between the bank and the post office. The town lost the section house in 1942 when the Diefenbaughs from Litchfield tore it down. In January 1943 the Catholic Church was nearly destroyed by fire. As it was, the bucket brigade saved the structure although the beautiful interior suffered severe damage. Another building, the Lovitt house, was purchased by Frank Frink who moved it to his farm. Everything declined in the new decade. The Betts' store and pool hall were both vacant. In fact, only the post office, Trumble's store, Wilkins' store, Capellen's filling station, and the bank was all that remained to await the new business world to come after the war.
At present (1943) there are 56 mentionable buildings and other minor sheds in the village. Below is a list of the inhabitants of Hazard:
*Glenn Reinertson, a Hazard native, graduated from what is now the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he studied music and education. He was known as an accomplished musician who served as a teacher in area schools. Upon his passing in the early 1990s, he left financial contributions from his estate to the Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic church in Hazard. Glenn is the son of Mrs. Alfred Reinertson, whose History of Hazard article is found on our home page.