The Oxbow Trail, which ran from Nebraska City to Fort Kearney along the south-banks of the Platte River from 1852-1860, is very near Phillips.
John Harris and Alfred Blue, established the Deepwell Ranch in 1862 on the Oregon Trail, near Beaver Creek in Section 32.
In 1884, the Burlington Railroad was built through the west part of Hamilton County. The town of Phillips was born.
The site was purchased from P. M. Cross, in the winter of 1873-74, by the Lincoln Land Company and was surveyed by them in the spring of 1874. Captain Rollo Phillips, of the Lincoln Land Co., for whom the town was named.
J. C. Murphy built the first building and it was built in 1884,which was a grocery store and he also bought the first lot and built the first house. Soon after a hardware store, drug store, lumberyards, a hotel, livery stable, real-estate office and grain elevator were established. The post office was moved from a little town of St. Joe, which was south of Phillips, to Phillips in summer of 1884. Mr. J. O. Baker was appointed the first postmaster.
On July 20, 1884, a tornado visited the town doing considerable damage. The hotel was entirely demolished. It was located on the same site as the present Methodist church.
The population in Phillips in 1885 was 152 and by 1890 they had 20 businesses.
In the fall of 1885, a two-story brick building with a basement was built. The second story was a large hall. Soon after the completion of the hall, the Masonic lodge at St. Joe was moved to Phillips. This was the Keystone Lodge No. 62. A.F.&A.M., it is the oldest Masonic organization in the county, having received its charter June 20, 1876. This building was torn down in the spring of 1955. The Masonic lodge moved across the street. They are still very active in Phillips today.
The first phone service came to Phillips in 1901.
Electricity came from Central Power Co. in 1919.
Natural Gas flowed into Hamilton Co. as of Sept. 20. 1929.
REA power lines were first energized in Hamilton County in June of 1940.
Seven businesses were swept out of existence on the east side of Main Street by a severe fire in Phillips on April 23, 1911. They were Chapman pump shop, Phillips Furniture Co., Phillips opera house, Litrell meat market, Peachin Brothers’ pool hall, Claussen’s saloon and Frank Campbell’s barbershop. The Phillips Hotel was saved from the fire and was the only building remaining on the east side. (We have a picture of the east side of main street in 1908.)
There were two brickyards west of Phillips and one flour gristmill located on the east edge of town.
A new Burlington railroad bridge was built about 18 feet down stream from the old bridge. Work begun March 1, 1917 and was finished Sept. 1, 1918. At this time the railroad track was moved from the middle of Phillips to the south edge of town, to eliminate the sharp curves.
A round trip from Phillips railroad depot to Lincoln on the Burlington Railroad cost was $2.25 and a round trip to Omaha cost was $3.00, in the early 40’s.
The Phillips school District #95 was started in 1886.
During World War 1 consolidation of District 95, with several neighboring rural districts results in construction of a large brick school building in Phillips. The first 12th grade graduating class was in 1921 and the last class was in 1966. The school remained open for another ten years for the elementary students and then the school was discontinued. The building was destroyed by fire on June 22, 1985 it had become an apartment house.
Phillips had another large and destruction fire on October 2, 1923, when the combined drug store and post office, pool hall, a barbershop were destroyed.
The post office was then established in the Wadkins grocery.
The current post office was built in the late 60’s.
The Bell Tower is a landmark in the middle to town. That is where people went to get their water in the early days. The bell would be rung to alert people of a fire.
The Phillips Methodist Church was built and dedicated on August 12, 1888 and it was entirely paid for. On November 20, 1977 at 11:50 a.m. a major fire destroyed the 90-year old church. On February 18, 1979 the first service in the newly completed present church was held and they are still going strong.
Some 14 different beauty shops have been in Phillips.
Phillips Memorial Hall was built in 1949 with open house on March 12, 1949 and dedicated to Veterans of All Wars from the local community, a 60 x 100 feet gymnasium-auditorium.
In 1962, the Rural Fire District was formed comprised of 40 sections of land.
On May 22, 1969, open house was held at the new fire station, which is now the Phillips Maintenance shop.
With the failure of two bond issues to build a new fire station, it was decided to form a Phillips Economical Development Committee to raise fund to build the new fire station/community center.
The building is 87’4” x 60’ and the footings were started on Dec. 8, 2004 and the fire department moved in Sept. 2005 and the lst town board meeting was held in the new community room in Nov. 2005. The fire department is a very active part of Phillips.
Hamilton Street was blacktopped and opened to traffic on Nov. 2005.
Phillips Cemetery was started in 1880’s. Annual Cemetery dinners were started in 1960, to raise funds for the maintenance of the cemetery. The home cooked roast beef dinners that are served annually are still a big part of the community on the Sunday after Easter.
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs, extension clubs, card clubs, free movies (in the early days), senior citizens, Methodist Church, Lion’s Club, fire department, Mason’s, Eastern Star, Phillips Fall Festival are a big part of the activities.
We have had as many as 10 different doctors in town, in the early years and they made house calls by horse and buggy.
The Bank of Phillips was started in 1885 and after more than fifty-one years, closed it doors permanently on Saturday, September 5, 1936.
A grocery store, creamery and café were destroyed by fire in the late 50’s. It was rebuilt.
A fire in the Phillips Café in April 1975, which destroyed the building and a new steel building was built in June 1975, the café was closed in 2004.
The Phillips Lion’s Club was started Dec. 7, 1977 and is a very active part of Phillips. They sponsor a ball program for the boys and girls of the community and have had over 160 children signed up for the ball program. They have an annual stag feed that brings in people from all over the area.
Baseball has always been a big part of the Phillips community in the early years, too.
The original cement block jail in Phillips has been restored.
A book “Phillips through the Generations 1884-2006” has been written and is still available for sale.
Phillips will be celebrating it 125th anniversary on July 3rd and 4th, 2009.