by: Kevin Brown
source: Loup County Centennial Book 1883-1983
transcribed by: Melody Beery

The Gracie territory covers a large portion of northeast Loup County.  In addition to sandhill, the area is made up of some excelllent wet meadows or hay flats.  Early homesteaders called the area the "Gracie Flats".  The predominant feature of the locale, however, is Gracie Creek itself.

This cold, clear stream has its origin in Rock County, but the bulk of its course is in Loup County.  Eventually, the creek joins the Calamus River in the Valleyview area.  According to  Lillian Fitzpatrick's Nebraska Place-Names (1925,1960) Gracie, nebraska, was named for Gracie Creek.  The creek was in turn named for a little blind girl named Grace.  "Her people were traveling through the country and camped on the bank of the creek for several days.  This is the story told by local, old ranchment with regard to how Gracie Creek was named" (pg98).  Perkey's Nebraska Place Names (1982) says the office was named for a daughter of Dick Ray, the first postmaster (p.132).  This cannot be true because Ray (whoever he was) was never a postmaster at Gracie according to the U.S. Postal records.

Although the Gracie area was among the last parts of Loup County to be settled by homesteaders, it had long been known and used by the Indians and later by the cattlemen.  Cattle often grazed on the lush grasses and many a herd were pastured here in the 1890's.  It wasn't until the early 1900's that any real settlement began.

At one time (about 1910) Gracie was expecting an extension from the CB&Q Railroad at Burwell to be built on up to South Dakota.  Another crushing blow in the Twenties was the loss of the KSP (Kearney-Springview-Pierre) Highway, known as U.S. 183 today, which area promoters hoped would pass through their village.  Thus Gracie never truly developed.

One of the early homesteaders at the southern end of the community was John Fisher who came from the East.  Fisher was a distinguished looking gentleman and well educated with a degree from Princeton University.  Fisher was much in demand at the local literaries where he was a polished speaker and debater.  His aunt, Mary Terrell, also had a claim on Gracie Creek.  The Kinkaiders hoped that Fisher would represent them in Lincoln, but apparently he never ran for state office.  He left the country before 1920.

Gracie Post Office was established March 17, 1905.  The tiny, unincorporated village had a champion in Robert T. Williams, the first postmaster and founder  Williams was instrumental in nearly every facet of the community's early days.  He donated land for the Gracie Cemetery about 1910, established a country store, and helped form the famous Kinkaid Fair and Picnic (held at Hartford Grove) in 1908.  Williams served as an official on the fair board, too.  According to Wilma (Scherbarth) Scherzberg, Williams ran a well stocked little store, helped to drill wells and erect windmill towers, and sponsored community gatherings at his village.  In fact, Gracie was sometimes referred to as "Bob town" at that time in honor of Williams.  The Gracie correspondent in the Burwell Tribune (July 13, 1911) reported a crowd of "400 at the July 4 doings at Bob Town."  Mr. Williams and his wife were Catholic.  They had only one child, a daughter, Libby.

Under Williams' direction, the village expanded to serve many homesteaders in Loup, Rock and Garfield counties.  The Oct. 20, 1910 gave this account of Gracie's growth:

" A wide veranda has been added along tow side of R.T. Williams' two story store and residence, and a new barn is completed.  W.D. Verley's feedmill is reported as good-sized.  He also carries pumps, windmills, and a well-boring machine with plans to stock a line of hardware.  George Zeller has the blacksmith and repair shop.  Central City Creamery Co. has erected a structure for cream reception and testing.  Cream is received every Saturday and tested, with checks issued in payment.  R.T. Williams has added a 50 barrel water tank and 600 feet of piping to the cream station and residence.  Mr. Conrad trades vegetables each Saturday, and W.T. Craven (father of Mary Hesselgesser) conducts a butcher shop on the weekends."

The Williams family held a clean-up auction in October 1911 and eventually moved to Edgar, NE., and later to LaJara, CO, in 1913.  George W. Zeiger, succeeded Williams in the mercantile business at Gracie.  Mr. Zeiger finished a new store building on the C.W. McAllister place less than a half mile south of the old location in 1914.  Gracie Post Office was also moved to the new site.  George Galley was postmaster at this time.  The new store building was 20x40 with two stories.  The second floor was used as a dance hall.  In april 1914 the store was burglarized and in January 1915 the store burned to the ground.  The losse was estimated at $3000.00 in the Tribune.  Zeiger carried insurance, so he was able to start over.

In the summer of 1915, J.C. and Sophia Phillipps bought out Zeiger and moved the store building east of the Phillipps' homestead.  The Zeiger's then moved over on Dry Crek but soon left the area.  (Taylor Clarion, July 1, 1915) Mr. Phillipps also became postmaster.  J.C. (Dad) Phillips moved to Burwell around 1923 where he built that town's first gas station.  Mr. Phillipps' daughter Freda and her husband Raymond (Dutch) Simpson later moved on the place, remaining for many years.  Apparently the Gracie store business ended with the Phillipps' although Goerge Maxson (Valleyview store keeper between 1916-1928) operated a sister store at the Malsbury Ranch in the Twenties.

At some point--1924 perhaps--postal recrods are confusing on this matter--Gracie Post Office was moved into Rock County on the Jack Hughes ranch where it was discontinued in the Thirties according to Mrs. Paul (Bessie Hughs) Lanz of Bassett.  The Gracie maile route is an interesting case study in Dandhills mail service.  Mail was carried to and from Gracie in several directions.  The Burwell-Valleyview-Gracie route was the most predominant.  In 1915, a westerly route statring at Ballagh was begun, serving Cedar, Carson, Blake and Gracie.  Then, in 1921 a tri-weekly mail route originating at Gracie was established which then went to Butka aand Aksarben in Rock County.

Chronologically, the Gracie postmasters included (as near as I can determine): Robert T. Williams, appointed March 17, 1905; Lewis C. Banker, appointed January 24, 1912; George F. Galley, appointed October 23, 1913; George W. Zeiger; Julius C. Phillipps, appointed January 22, 1915; and Jack Hughes, 1924-1925?.  Some of the carriers who brought mail to or from Gracie Post Office included Harry Mattern, Jack Hughes, Ray Birch, Reed Hurst, Mrs. William Whittington, Elmer Hesselgesser, Everet Allan, and Frank and Bill Graham.  Today the area is served out of Route 5 from Burwell.

In September 1913 a Gracie Community Club was organized for boosting Gracie and the Sandhills in general.  The whole family attended the meetings, and the club continued on for many years.  First officeres elected in 1913 included: President-L.C. Banker; Vice President-William Whittington; Secretary-George F. Galley; Treasurer-J.H. Fay; Corresponding Secretary-William T. Craven; Board of Trustees- Uriah B. Craven, 3 years; William Martens-2 years; Mr. Hook-1year.  Other families involved included the Phillipps', Schroder's, Cornwall's, Harris', Ferbee's, Barton's, Herbert's, Ryans's, Conrad's, Veach's, and Hugh's.  The club exhibited vegetables at the Kinkaid Fair.  Some ladies in the area were active in the Blake Women's Club about this time, and in the 1930's the White Wing Club had members in Loup County from the Gracie area including Vera Dittmar, Hattie and Leila Flowers and Freda Simpson.

The Gracie Farm Loan Association of southern Rock County was established at Elmer Graham's in January 1917.  W.T. Craven was first secretary; Jack Hughes, Jim Berryman, and George Schubert were the appraisers.  This organization aided and benefited the people of both counties for many years.

The first Luthern church services in this part of the county were conducted between 1904-1908 at the Christian Scherbarth home.  Catholic mass was heard at Gracie between the early 1900's and 1932, often in the McDermott home.  The Burwell priest came here and then went on to Duff.  Non-denominational Sunday School and church services were conducted in the schoolhouses of this vicinity.  Gracie Sunday Schools were members of the Northeast District of Loup County.

The Gracie community was long know for its love of sports, particularly baseball.  Gracie had a team for many years, right up through the 1930's.  In fact, the Gracie nine were participants (against Ericson) in the first Garfield county Frontier Fair at Burwell in 1921.  Some of the teams Gracie competed against over the years included Ballagh, Ovitt, Valleyview, Thurman, Sybrant, Chambers, and Duff.  At one time the Gracie diamond was located at the Malsberry Ranch.  Some of Gracies palyers included the Ben Harris sons; the Pages; Jude, Louis and Bum Phillipps; Hunk Simpson; and many others.  In the Twenties, the burg also sported a basketball team, and in 1922 they defeated teams from Long Pine and Burwell.  Playing roundball for the Gracie team were the following:  Elmer (Bus) Johnson, Wlater and Bill Williams, Jude and Bum Phillipps to name a few.  Mrs. Dutch Simpson was a loyal Gracie sports fan.

Several telephone lines served the area.  By 1909 there was a Gracie Creek Telephone Company attempting to serve the homesteaders.  In northeast Loup County, the Dry Creek, Gracie Creek and Calamus Telephone companies all existed until about 1926 when at least part of them joined Farmer's Mutual in Burwell.  Gracie patrons are currently served by the Rodeo Telephone Co. from the burwell circuit.

The Kinkaid era which began in 1904 and lasted until approximately the 1920's was the busiest time for the Sandhills and Gracie.  Families were living on nearly every section.  School districts were orgainzed to accommodate the homesteaders' children.  The first Gracie area school was District 27, known as Longview.  This district originated November 29, 1901.  It was also called the Daddy Axford, Ben Harris, or Whittington school.  Emilie Scherbarth was a primary force in this school's creation.

District 30 was organized november 4, 1907.  It was located near the Loup-Rock county line about two miles west of Gracie.  It was first known as the Ballard school.  U.B. Craven's (who operated the Calamus Post Office in their home between 1913 and 1917) and the Bill Martens family were among those living in the district.  A frame schoolhouse 18x24 was ereected on the H.B. Marshall section in the fall of 1913.  Meta Brown was the first to teach in the new facility.  For many years the McDermott family kept this district organized when there were few patrons and students.  The district dissolved in 1948 and was attached to Ovitt.

Finally, on October 1, 1913, District No. 40 (the Gracie School) was established from Districts 27 and 30.  district 27 gave two sections from its west boundary and No. 30 gave 1 1/2 sections from its east side.   the old Bob Williams store building was used as a school room and Lucy Beyers of Valentine began a winter term there in January 1914.  The fall term of 1914 began October 1, in Henry Scherbarths house a half mile south and a half mile east of Gracie with Meta Brown as school marm.  The long awaited Gracie Schoolhouse was finally completed during the end of 1915 and early 1916.

When large ranches became the more economical mode in the Sandhills, the resulting depopulation was particulary noticeable at Gracie.  Amos Grant of Omaha by the late Thirties owned a good sized portion of Gracie lands.  The school aged children swindled and soon the schools had few or no students.  Some of the final teachers at Gracie District 40 included Virginia Perkins, Olive Zalud, and Ted Scherbarth.  District 27 was merged with No. 40 about 1948, and by the 1950's No. 40 had been absorbed by C-1 at Taylor.

In 1956 however, District 40 was completely reorganized to serve the Bud Phillips family who was living on the Lhotak Ranch, miles away from the closest operating district.  Sharon Welton (Hopkins) of Taylor taught in the Phillips home in 1956-57 and 1957-58.  Her students were Bert and Charles Phillipps and later during '58, Kitty Lee Garska, daughter of Nolan and Belva Rose Garska.  By 1959 the district had again been dissolved, and the Phillips children began driving to school at Nunda over Sandhill trails.  A serious car accident permanently disabled one of these children on one of the long trips to Nunda School.  The family then left the area.  Families with school age children have long found it a problem getting their children to school in the Gracie territory.

Many times when there were no school at Gracie, the students went to Valleyview, especially in the 1960's and early 1970's.  In 1963-64 Valleyview hired a teacher for the Gracie area.  Pupils were the children of families working on the old Grant Ranch.  School was conducted in the bunkhouse at the ranch.  All students in Loup County now attend a K-12 district in Taylor and are bussed each day.

The Seventies and Eighties have seen some center pivot irrigation development in the Gracie region.  The Jim and Bob Price Ranch (called Gracie Creek Ranch), and their employees provide the only inhabitants left in 1983.

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