Beatrice History

Beatrice, the county seat of Gage County, is located 39 miles south of Lincoln, Nebraska on US Highway 77. Court Street, Beatrice's main street, was known as the DeRoin Trail in the 1840's through 1860's. The trail crossed the Big Blue River at Beatrice and continued west until it joined the Oregon Trail. The rock bottom ford can be seen looking south from the Court Street bridge.

Photo: Court Street, circa 1884

The town of Beatrice was founded in 1857 by a group of pioneers from St. Louis, traveling by the steamer "Hannibal" up the Missouri River to the new territory of Nebraska. While aboard the steamer they organized an association and selected a committee to "explore Nebraska for the purpose of selecting a town site." This committee left the boat at Nebraska City, divided themselves into two groups and set out to find a suitable location for the town site. One group proceeded directly west from Nebraska City. The other group traveled in a southwesterly direction and made camp one night on the banks of Indian Creek at its junction with the Big Blue River. This site was selected and the first building built, known as Pap Towle's cabin, in about the same location as the Gage County Museum. The town's name is pronounced Be-a-trice instead of the common pronunciation.

Beatrice's Downtown Business District features some fine examples of cornice detailed storefronts. Many dates of original construction are still visible. The oldest building in its original condition stands at the corner of 5th & Court. It was build as the Gage County Bank in 1874 of native limestone. Located at the corner of 6th & Court is the Paddock Kensington. It was formally the Paddock Hotel which was rebuilt in 1924 by interested citizens after the original Paddock Hotel burned. It is an example of early 20th century Renaissance Revival architecture and is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places.

Historic Businesses

Beatrice Foods, founded in Beatrice in 1894, began when partners Haskell and Bosworth began producing creamery butter provided by local farmers. They incorporated in 1905 as the Beatrice Creamery Company. On November 12, 1901 they adopted the "Meadow Gold" trademark.

In 1878, C.B. Dempster started Dempster Miller Manufacturing, a retail pump and windmill store in downtown Beatrice. Dempster began manufacturing its own windmills and pumps in 1885. Later, they began the manufacture of Dempster gasoline engines. Their windmills are still being manufactured today. A display of Dempsters can be seen at the Gage County Museum.

Kees Manufacturing Company, the oldest metal manufacturing company in Nebraska was founded in 1874. F.D. Kees started as a gunsmith and later operated a hardware store. In 1892 he began manufacturing corn husking hooks, roller and ice skates, lawn tools and trellises. An exhibit on Kees can be seen at the Gage County Museum

Historic Buildings in Beatrice

Chautauqua Park, located south on US Highway 77 across the Big Blue River bridge. This was the site of Chautauqua assemblies from 1889 until the 1920's. These assemblies were based on high moral standards and offered secular and religious education. The original Tabernacle, first used in 1889 is still standing and is used for Homestead Days and family reunions. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gage County Court House, 6th & Grant, was built in 1892. It is a Richardsonian Romanesque limestone structure with a clock tower. Laura Ingalls Wilder was making her move from south Dakota to Missouri, the Gage County Court House was mentioned in her diary on Sunday, August 5, 1894. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Carnegie Library building, built in 1904, is located at 218 N. 5th St. In 1991, it was no longer used as a library. Noted for its Beaux Arts architectural style, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Beatrice Public Library and Arboretum, located at the corner of 16th and Court streets, was built in 1991 on the site of the former Sonderegger Nurseries. A display on the nurseries can be viewed at the Gage County Museum.

Gage County Historical Society and Museum is located in Beatrice on the corner of 2nd and Court streets. It is housed in the Burlington Railroad Depot built in 1906. the depot was presented to the Gage County Historical Society by the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1973. The Museum's displays show the history of the industries, businesses, medicine, communities and the people of Gage County. The Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9-12 and 1-5 pm; Sunday 1:30 to 5pm. Closed Saturday from Labor Day through Memorial Day. Close Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter. Admission is free and tourist information is available at the Museum.


Copyright 2002, Gage County Historical Society. All rights reserved.