In 1871 a homesteader chose the verdant land along the Beaver Valley on which to stake his claim. Soon other followed and built their homes of sod. A post office called “Beaver” was established; the name was later changed to “Waterville.” As the settlement developed, the population was mostly of German, Swedish, Irish, and Polish descent.
Early in 1872 surveyors from the St. Edward Land and Emigrant Company of South Bend, Indiana arrived and platted a town site. They named the town “St. Edward” for Rev. Edward Sorin of Notre Dame. St. Edward is the only town in the United Stated so named. Renaming the settlement, however, was not prophetic until a strong dike was built to control the flooding along the Beaver Creek in 1884. Citizens of the town were far more acquainted with water (in vast amounts) than with the saints.
The first business was the Waterville Mills, which operated its grinding stones with power from a 10-foot fall of water. This pointed the way for the business emphasis of the town.
The settlement was ready to incorporate soon after the Union Pacific Railroad built a line northwest from Columbus in 1883. Two short of the required 200 population, the citizens “built” the needed two from sand and lime. They were known thereafter as St. Edward’s “Stone Men.”
A school, used as a church and community center, was built in 1872, but was soon replaced by a two-story building. Larger facilities were erected in 1972.
Land for a park was purchased in 1896; brush was cleared and trees were planted. After several children had drowned in the Beaver Creek, a swimming pool was built in 1929. The bans shell, which is used as a picnic shelter, was the center of the weekly summer “concerts in the park” for more than 30 years.
In the early days business interests centered around the moving of agricultural products. Grain companies were formed around the turn of the century.
St. Edward has survived numerous flash floods, several damaging tornadoes, crippling blizzards, and crops burning in the fields during a drought. The people have persevered through epidemics and the loss of loved ones in wars. Many changes have come to this little town! But one vital element has remained constant-the spirit of the people!
For more information, contact:
Francis and Virginia Whidden
3515 320th Ave.
St. Edward, NE 68620