Last updated: August 20, 2004
Niobrara Historical Brevity
July 1, 1986
From "Niobrara Historical Brevity" published by the
Niobrara Historical Society, in observance of the Lusk Centennial 1886-1986
In 1884 the mill on the mining hill belonging to the Great Western Mining and Milling Company was operating at full steam. The mining hill is just west of Lusk and just east of the tent town of Silver Cliff. Gold, silver and copper were mined there.
On July 13, 1886 the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad arrived at the tent town of Silver Cliff. The coming of the railroad was the end of the tent town and about a mile east the boom town of Lusk was born. The railroad ran through Lusk from east to west and the Cheyenne-Black Hills Stage line made connections north and south.
Frank S. Lusk, owner of the land, was the railroad representative at the new site. Forty lots were sold at public auction on July 20. Lots brought from $165 to $475. They were sold on Tuesday and by Saturday night Silver Cliff had moved to Lusk.
Title to the first homestead here was issued in 1883 to George W. Newton. The patent #6709 was issued on 5/25/1883 and recorded in Laramie County 9/15/83. Lusk is built on part of this homestead.
There was only one board store in Silver Cliff. All the rest were tents. Tent saloons were open all the time with poker and faro banks and dance halls - even a tent bank (open 9 to 4).
The railroad was built by men, thousands of horses and mules, road scrapers, fresnos, dump wagons, shovels and blacksmith equipment. Engineers surveyed the lines, contractors drove the men and the men whipped and cursed their mules and horses. Teams pulling 4 horse scrapers moved up the grade. Ties and iron rails came next and then the steam locomotive. The work was very hard and the men sought solace in the end of track town. There was a double track from Lusk to Omaha.
The first week a bank, livery stable, a big hardware store 25 by 50, a depot, seven saloons and many more buildings were built. The Lusk Herald built the second building in Lusk. It was founded in Silver Cliff by J. K. Calkins.
Lusk was two weeks old and it could boast of buildings built of lumber. A depot, lumber office, the Lusk Herald, 2 drug stores, 2 doctors, 2 meat markets, 2 barber shops, a bank, 4 restaurants, post office, 2 furniture stores, 1 clothiers, commission house, land agent, attorney, notary public, 3 hardware stores, tin shop, lodging house, wholesale liquor dealer, livery barn and livery tent, bone buyer, grocery and 2 dry goods stores, Silver Cliff Exchange, lumber company, lumber yard. Within three months Lusk had a population of 300 people.
On August 1, 1886 both the new and what was left of the old town was all but wiped away. A storm of wind, rain, and hail swept down from the northwest with such violence as had never been seen or equaled in the territory since it had been inhabited by civilized man. Terrible damage was suffered by the town.
The first school started in Lusk September 1886 in the Gospel tent with Mrs. O. P. Goodwin as teacher. She received $50 per month wages. By November, Mr. Goodwin had erected a neat comfortable school house. 26 pupils were enrolled by Feb. 1892. In 1909 a new grade school was built and in 1930 a high school.
Lusk Herald Item: June 1887: The Herald would like to see the 760 men who are batching on claims get married and become school directors.
A jail was built in 1886.
John Haley started the Lusk Cemetery by his burial there on May 27, 1887. He was an employee of the Union Cattle Company and accidentally shot himself.
Laramie County was divided and Lusk was then in Converse Co. Lusk officially became the County Seat when Converse County was divided and Niobrara County was formed January 1913. It had gone before the legislature in 1911.
Telephones arrived in the early 1900's. In 1901 the city water system was installed and bonds were voted for electric lights 12/8/1914. The power plant was built in 1919.
EARLY DAY CHURCHES WERE:
Niobrara's Catholic Church history actually began in 1851 when Father DeSmet visited our territory.
St. Leo's Catholic Church was built in 1912.
St. George's Episcopal Church was founded in 1891. It was dedicated on April 16, 1899.
Lusk Congregational Church began in 1886. Actually the church had its beginning in the spring of that year when Rev. Brass held a street service in the old town of Silver Cliff.
The First Baptist Church was organized in a tent July 1919.
FIRST ORGANIZATIONS IN LUSK:
Custer I.O.O.F. Lodge #21 - 04-10-1893
Lusk Rebekah Lodge #12 - 09-19-1900
Harmony Masonic Lodge #24 - 02-27-1906
Order of the Eastern Star - Niobrara Chapter #26 - 1912
Luke Voorhees Chapter D. A. R. - 1924
Lusk Lions Club - 1922
Weiten Dupes American Legion Post #4 - July 1919
1st County Agent - J. Carl Laney - 08-24-1917
1st Home Demonstration Agent - Olea Sands - 08-24-1917
1st 4-H Clubs for Boys and Girls - 1917
Farm Bureau - 1918
P.E.O. Sisterhood - 05-29-1920
Oil was discovered at Lance Creek in 1917 and Lusk's Population grew so rapidly that housing became a serious problem. In 1920 the population had reached over 10,000. The post office was so busy people had to stand in lines for hours to get their mail. The express office and freight service were also overrun.
By January 1919 at least 35 new residences were under construction. Businesses built during this time were 10 hotels and rooming houses, 2 bank buildings, a new depot, courthouse, several restaurants, 2 hardware stores, 1 refinery, steam laundry, 9 business buildings and the Carnegie Library.
The Lusk Free Lance - originally the Van Tassell Booster - was published by J. E. Mayes and later by Arthur Vogel.
The first post office in Lusk was in the Baker Brothers Store with Nat Baker as postmaster.
Lusk has grown from 300 people in 1886 to 1654 people in 1986 - our Centennial Year.
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