One small frame dwelling near the edge of a thriving cornfield was the first landmark of what ultimately became the village of Phillips, located in the northwest Hamilton County. Cornstalks were cut and cleared by R. E. Dingman, a well-known figure, streets and alleys were marked out and the town was on its way in 1884. Shortly after the establishment of the railroad camps, one on the east banks of the Platte and the other two miles east of the new town site, homes and businesses began springing up almost miraculously. It had even been rumored that Phillips would become a railroad division of the old Republican Valley Railroad Company extended its line from Aurora to Grand Island.
Meanwhile the little town of St. Joe, only three years old, began to totter, with this news of the railroad. Surveyed and platted in 1881 by Joe Skelton, a post office was established and those of Bunker Hill and Lincoln Valley discontinued. Located on the NE corner 9-10-8, the town had great visions for the future. In a brief three years it had two general stores, Lincoln Town Site Company laid out Phillips, as the result of the Burlington Railroad going through the area and it was named by a railroad official on the Lincoln Division by the name of R. O. Phillips. Thus ended the dreams of the little town of St. Joe, three miles southwest, ever growing when the rail line passed north of them.
Mr. Rollo Phillips, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1841, had an interesting and varied career. He was a printer, served three years as a captain in the Union Army during the Civil War, practiced as an attorney in Iowa and was a retailer in Illinois before moving to Lincoln in 1869.
His life in Lincoln proved to be nearly as varied and fascinating. A Lancaster County commissioner and a state legislator, Phillips worked as a land agent for the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad. In that capacity the Nebraska community of Phillips, is named for him.
St. Joe had a blacksmith shop, hotel of five rooms, post office and a town hall built by the people to serve every purpose from Sunday school and church to dances and political meetings. There were still other business places and numerous residences. Soon the businesses and many of the homes were transplanted into the new town with the railroad. Mr. Skelton had erred badly when he tried to sell right-of-way to the railroad and Frank Roach had offered them free route through his homestead. On July 7, 1886, the county commissioners vacated the town of St. Joe and it reverted to the Skelton homestead. Major Skelton meanwhile had purchased the lots from the vacating residents and St. Joe was no more!
Among the original business enterprises and professional men of the town were three general merchandise stores owned by Fairchild Brothers, M. K. Grass and Stephens, Myers and Son and Dr. Smith both had drug stores. Burke and Dingman and Harold Hardware operated two hardware stores. There were three lumberyards that flourished as the town was building up. They were Richey Brothers, operated by J. C. Faught, White Pine Lumber Co. and Wilse Lumberyard and managed by Charles Crane.
F. R. Reiter and Nels Dirsty formed a partnership and built many of the houses, schoolhouses and churches in the west part of the county. Dr. Sanders was the first physician, Sam Spanogle was the first real estate agent, and J. Van Bockirk started the first implement business.
The first and only furniture store was owned and operated by W. Eckerson. A fire destroyed the building on April 23, 1911, along with six other buildings along the east side of the street. The businesses that were destroyed in the fire were Phillips Furniture Co. Store, Wm. Chapman’s windmill and pump supplies, the Sorenson’s opera house, the Littrell & Son meat market, the Pechin Bros. Pool hall, Wm. Clawson’s saloon and Frank Campbell’s barber shop.
The first hotel to become a regular business and which remained for a definite period was built and operated by Nelson E. Lane. An aggressive leader, Lane also had the first livery barn. When he went into the hardware business, Mr. Lane sold the livery and feed barn. C. W. Willman and R. Rogers purchased it.
Mr. Lane was the town’s first mayor. J. W. Hiler and John Tye were the first grain buyers for the elevators, erected by S. W. Little and Company and the Thomas Grain Company.
Blacksmith ships were a vital part of the early community and among those operating the Phillips shop were George Peterson, J. Monroe, Ben Web, Louis Canada, Wm. Hilpert, Lemuel Hulbert, J. Barr, Rasmussen and “Shorty” Jensen and Wm Casteel, who was village “Smithy” for thirty-two years starting in 1898.
School District #1 organized in Sept. 1870, during 1873 – 21 districts were organized bring a total of 32 and in 1885 there were 95 school districts in Hamilton County. In 1921 there were 100 school districts in the county.
The first school, known as District 95, was started in 1886 in Phillips. About 1920 Phillips was recognized as having one of the finest consolidated schools in the state. In the early 1950’s re-districting begin to take place in a big way. Phillips led the way in 1952-53. One rural school District 32, south of Phillips, which remained. School District #95 with 110 students, no longer functions independently, but came into the Aurora district in late 1966, because of state regulations. While the grade school continued in Phillips as a branch of the Aurora. In the early 1970’s, the grade school was transferred to Aurora.
Charles Bondegard started the first garage. The next garage by Kutchkau & Detamore, another by George E. Horn, who was succeeded by Fast and Stinnette.
George Proudfit and further records state, that it was owned and managed by J. O. Baker and Mr. Wenn started the Bank of Phillips in 1885. Mr. Wenn interests were sold to Mr. Burk. Holding Charter No 593, the Bank of Phillips statement showed Wm. Glover as president and Harry Peard as cashier in 1905. It later became the property of W. I. Farley, he being succeeded by a number of farmers who were stockholders. Carl Carlson was cashier for some time and succeeded by E. C. Huxtable as President and cashier. He remained until the bank was moved to Wood River in 1936. For some years he returned one day a week, then banking service ended.
While the village became a thriving trade center in a short period, it was not incorporated until March 17, 1891. First village board included Benj. F. Fulton, Alden Garwood, Frank England, Nels F. Lane and Mathias Grass.
The business roster of Phillips in the early 1900’s also included:
W. Bebb & Son, hardware and groceries, Dr. C. B. Coleman, physician, R. Connell & Co. owners of the first elevator, Levi Cox, stock buyer and justice of peace, Chas. Ellersick’s Steam Grist Mill, Fairchild & Garwood general store, Henry McCoy’s meat market, R. G. McKibben, druggist and schoolteacher, E. C. Purdy, manager Farmers’ elevator, Sorensen’s Opera House, Wm. A. Chapman, windmill and plumbing dealer, succeeded by Ray Kirkpatrick, Frank Campbell barbershop, Homer Bowen drug store; Gus Hald and W. A. Harrison operated the last drug stores. W. T. Dearing, Fred Schwartz, H. L. Yerkes and Ezra Devore operated general stores. C. E. Coffey was proprietor of the local elevators for 20 years, selling his interests in 1920 to O. P. Baker.
Businesses in 1922 brought new names to the scene. They included:
W. R. Wadkins, general store, D. Sorensen, grocery and market, Arnett Bros., hardware owned by E. C. and Mrs. M. S. Arnett, Andrew Allen, cream station, Farmers Lumber Co., owned by Nelson Lumber Co. of Grand Island, N. P. George Jensen, blacksmith, S. Gilbert Service Station. Miss Hazel Killion was manager of the telephone exchange, J. W. Spencer was postmaster, H. L. Yerkes was rural carrier and continued in this until his retirement, M. J. Doll was Burlington agent.
Religious activities began with the organization of the Union Sunday school in which “Aunt Jane” Price and her brothers, Alonzo and John were leaders and out of which came the Methodist and Baptist Churches. Price was Hamilton counties first school superintendent and traveled the entire county on horseback or foot to organize or visit the districts. “Aunt Jane’ was considered an “Institution” in Hamilton County, with her outstanding personality and leadership. She was an authority on many subjects and throughout her lifetime was revered by a wide circle of friends and admirers.
PHILLIPS BUSINESSES IN 1967
Although the business streets of Phillips has been largely vacated as have many of the other small towns, it has by no means lost its grip for there are several industries in the community of which its citizens can be justly proud.
Among these is the PRAIRIE VALLEY HYBRID COMPANY, which was established in 1942 by B. B. Heuermann and son Keith. The first crop of hybrid seed was harvested from one acre. The progressive and expanded business was owned and operated by Keith and Eugene Heuermann in 1967; they built their plant on the highway a half-mile south of Phillips. The business was incorporated in 1960. They grow some seed corn for the central Corn Belt but their large operation is in the sorghums with this seed being shipped throughout the Midwest, the west coast and several European countries. The firm has 300 dealers and six full time employees, which is greatly increased at the peak of their season.
HEINZMAN BROTHERS is another business, which has developed from an irrigation pipe business, which was started when irrigation in the area was in its infancy, by their father in the 40’s. In the 60’ this business had increased in volume to the extent that it was advantageous to have a more central location for its operation. At that time the firm built a large plant on South Locust in Grand Island and one west of town in Grand Island, where we manufactured. There it was expanded to include heavy equipment. Although Dale and Warren Heinzman moved to Grand Island, with the business, Wayne remained on the farm west of Phillips and is a member of the firm, which also operates a large Grade “A” dairy business, there. The operated was sold out in the 1970’s. In the spring of 1980, the plant and main office on South Locust was completely destroyed by a tornado that hit Grand Island and they sold the business.
OTTO BROTHERS, Norris and Roger, who reside south of Phillips, operated a large Grade A dairies, in this part of the state. They have been prominently identified with the state and national industry. The Otto Brothers have always maintained a high ranking hear and had received three five-year plaques for high production from the Nebraska Dairy Association. They market one and a half million pounds per year. Norris has served many years on the American Dairy Association and on the Board of the National Dairy Council.
OLSON-KREUTZ IMPLEMENT COMPANY located two miles west of the Phillips corner on Highway 34 owned and operated by Donald Olson and Max and Dick Kreutz. They supply a wide range of machinery of all kinds and provide a complete service the repair business. Harry Olson, father of Donald, started the business in 1956. Harry continued in business until 1956, when he sold to the present owners.
DON WATSON GROCERY
MR. REO’S BEAUTY SALON
PHILLIPS GRAIN COMPANY
THE PHILLIPS CHURCH
The first religious activity in Phillips was the Union Sunday school from which evolved the Baptist and Methodist Episcopal Churches. The Baptist Church was organized here in July 1889. The membership was small. Rev. J. McLeod was the pastor and had services every alternate Sunday. The Methodist Church has served the local community continuously to the present day.
The Phillips Methodist Church was organized at a conference held at Tecumseh in September of 1884; the year the town was platted. Rev. George M. Jones was appointed to serve the St. Joe circuit, which consisted of Phillips, Pleasant Hill schoolhouse, Bromfield and Seaton. From 1881 to 1886 the people attended church in the circuit.
Rev. C. E. Rowe served the church from 1886-1888, when the church was built in 1888. F. R. Reiter drafted the plans and with much willing help the church was completed. Jane Price, B. N. Miller and Henry England each gave $100 for building purposes and the ladies of the society were each asked to give 25cents. One woman earned her quarter by hand shelling 25 bushels of corn for a neighbor. In 1890 the church was in a flourishing condition and now numbered 50 members. In 1891 the charge was reorganized to include Pleasant Hill and Mt. Vernon with Rev. F. Ashpole as pastor. In the interim Rev. F. Deal served.
The official board in 1893-94 included Sarah Jane Price, Henry England, B. N. Miller, V. Horn, Wm. Ghomaly, W. R. McCullough and R. E. Hammond. Henry England and M. L. Huffman were Sunday school superintendents and stewards for the circuit were England, Huffman, Miller, Baker and Ida Short.
The first wedding in the church was that of Ethzelda Rush, (a schoolteacher) and Marion F. Stanley on February 15, 1891. They were prominently identified in Aurora for many years, where Mr. Stanley was an attorney. Both now rest in Phillips cemetery. The second wedding was that of Elva Killion and Giles Perry, February of 1903.
First improvements of the church were completed in 1951; this consisted of digging a basement for needed room and also a kitchen. The next major improvement came under Rev. Foster, when as abandoned church was bought and moved to the east side of the church. It was a 24 x 40-addition move from Kearney in 1958. It was build into a sanctuary by willing hands. Harvey Otto is credited for his tireless efforts here. Still further improvements were made in 1961.
Maude and Minnie Huffman were two people whose unlimited service to their church is truly a part of its history. Although more than 50 ministers have served the church during its existence this list is not available to us. In addition to those mentioned we record Rev. H. V. Price who served twice, 1898-1901 and again 1926-1928. Rev. C. L. Watson and Rev. Foster, Rev. H. Porter, Rev. O. E. Johnson was pastor when the parsonage was built in 1915. Rev. Nora Mendyk, who also serves the Giltner church, is the present minister as of 2004.
Large festivities marked the 75th anniversary of the church on November 24, 1963. There was a basket dinner at noon, with a full day of observance and program. Pins were given to four 50-year members, Allie Yerkes, Clarice Eaton, Helen England and Goldie Cogil. Helen England had been a member for 74 years.
Jerry Porter was given his license to become a minister from the Phillips church, as was Marvin Coffey, who has served as a missionary.
On November 20, 1977, the Phillips Methodist Church was destroyed by fire. A new church was built. It is fitting that the mortgage will be paid and the new church to be dedicated during the 1984 Centennial year.
COMMENTS MADE IN THE YEAR OF 1957
“No one can afford to be sick any more; $35 a day in the hospital is too rich for my blood.”
“I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are it’s going to be impossible to buy a week’s groceries for $20.”
“If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.”
“Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball?”
“Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?”
“When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost twenty-nine cents a gallon? Guess we’d be better off leaving the car in the garage.”
“It’s too bad things are so tough now days. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet.”
“It won’t be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.”
“There is no sense going to Lincoln or Omaha anymore for a weekend. It cost nearly fifteen dollars a night to stay in a hotel.”
“If they think I’ll pay fifty cents for a haircut, forget it.”
PHILLIPS CAME INTO BEING IN SUMMER OF 1884
Article dated Wednesday, February 2, 1938 in the paper and the article from George Jensen
One small frame dwelling house near the edge of a thrived cornfield was the first landmark of what ultimately became the village of Phillips, situated in northwest Hamilton County. Corn stalks were cut and cleared by R. E. Dingman, still an active and well-known resident, streets and alleys were marked out and things began to happen in the summer of 1884, the year the old Republican Valley Railroad company extended its line from Aurora to Grand Island. Shortly after the establishment of railroad camps, one of them two miles east of the new town-site and the other on the east bank of the Platte River, homes and business houses began popping up almost over night. Rapid growth was further stimulated by the erroneous report that Phillips was to be made a railroad division.
Within a few months most of the inhabitants of old St. Joe, three miles southwest, moved to the town on the railroad. Several houses and store buildings were transplanted from the inland trading post when its founder, the late Joseph Skelton was unable to persuade railroad officials to lay their tracks through the earlier settlement. After Frank Roach offered them a free right-of-way through his homestead, near the location of the present Burlington Bridge.
Among the original business enterprises and professional men were three general stores operated by Fairchild Brothers, Mathias, Grass and Stephen’s General store. Meyer’s Drug store; Dr. Smith’s drug store; Burke and Dingman Hardware, Harold Hardware; the Bank of Phillips, started by George Proudfit and later taken over by J. O. Baker, whose wife was the first post mistress.
There were three lumberyards, Richey Brothers Lumberyard, managed by J. C. Faught; Wilse Lumber yard, managed by Charles Crane and the White Pine Lumber Company.
Sam Spanogle was a real estate agent and Dr. Sanders was the first physician. J. W. Hiler and John Tye were the first grain buyers for the elevators erected by S. W. Little and Company the Thomas Grain Company. F. R. Reiter and News Dristy formed a partnership and built many of the homes, schoolhouses, churches and other structures in West Hamilton County.
Nelson F. Lane opened the first hotel, the first livery barn and an aggressive leader in all community movements. When he went________ and feed barn was taken over by C. W. Willman and R. Rogers. Mr. and Mrs. Willman are now living in the house originally built for a hotel by Mr. Lane.
Religious activities began with the organization of the Union Sunday school in which the late “Aunt Jane” Price, for half a century an outstanding and revered personality, and her two brothers, Alonzo and John, was leaders. Out of which came the Methodist and Baptist churches, John Price was Hamilton County’s first school superintendent, traveling over the entire county on foot or horseback or organizes or visits the new districts.
Early settlers still living in the community are Wm. Arnold and C. E. Killion, at one time engaged in the hardware business. A. P. Peterson, first engineer in the steam-powered grain elevators and for many years a grain buyer. He also served more years on the village board than any other resident of the town since its origin. Mr. F. E. Reiter, retired contractor, life-long student of science whose workshop is filled with models designed in testing theories of perpetual motion.
Henry England, who observed his 90th birthday in November and is, stills a strong and admired leader in the Methodist Sunday school and church. Wm. Casteel was the village blacksmith for thirty-two years. R. E. Dingman, who cleared the cornfield and helped survey the original town-site, hauled many loads of building materials from Aurora by teams while the railroad extension was underway. He was one time associated with Wm. Casteel in a general store, later operated his own meat market and conducted a restaurant shortly before his retirement from business. Mr. Dingman was personally acquainted with Captain R. O. Phillips, of the Lincoln Land Company, for whom the town was named. To Mr. Dingman and Mr. and Mrs. Willman the writer is indebted for much of the information in this story.
While the village became a thriving trade center in a short time, it was not incorporated until March 17, 1891. Members of the first board of trustees were Nelson. F. Lane, Mathias Grass, Benjamin J. Fulton, Alden Garwood and Frank England. J. W. Hiler was the first clerk.
Business firms and others known through and last half century were as follows:
W. Bebb and Son, hardware and groceries,
Dr. C. B. Coleman, physician,
R. Connell and Company, owners of the first elevator,
Levi Cox, stock buyer and justice of peace,
Chas. Ellersick’s Steam gristmill,
Fairchild and Garwood general store,
Henry McCoy’s Market,
R. G. McKibben, schoolteacher and druggist,
E. C. Purdy, manager of the Farmers Elevator,
Sorenson’ opera house,
Wm. A. Chapman, windmill and plumbing dealer, whose business was taken over by Ray Kirkpatrick, a year ago,
Frank Campbell’s Barber Shop,
The drug store owned by Homer Bowen, now in Grand Island,
The late Wm. A. Harrison and the late Gus Hald operated the last drug stores
During the later period general stores operators were Fred Schwartz, W. T. Dearing, H. L. Yerkes and Ezra Devore;
A.E. Coffey was proprietor of the local elevators for twenty years, selling his interests a year ago to O. P. Baker.
Other business firms today are W. R. Wadkins, general store,
B.Sorenson’s grocery, market and lunch room,
Arnett Brothers Hardware, owned by E. C. and Mrs. M. S. Arnett,
Andrew Allen’s cream station,
N. P. George Jensen, blacksmith and implement,
Farmers Lumber Company, owned by Nelson Lumber Company, Grand Island,
Heldman Garage, owned by W. G. Heldman,
Gilbert’s Service station, owned by A. S. Gilbert, who is also manager of the lumberyard,
Miss Hazel Killion is manager of the telephone exchange,
J. W. Spencer, postmaster,
H. L. Yerkes, rural mail carrier,
M. J. Doll, Burlington Agent, E. H. Yerkes retired from the Burlington service six years ago after forty-one years, twenty-eight of which were spent in Phillips.
For a year and a half, Phillips has a one -day bank. In September of 1936, the Bank of Phillips was moved to Wood River by its president and cashier, E. C. Huxtable, who keeps open house in Phillips every Friday for the convenience of local patrons. After fifty-two years the town did not have any banking facilities. Those connected with the bank preceding Mr. Huxtable as president were Mr. Glover, W. J. Farley, Levi Otto, S. N.Wolbach, Wm. Schuster, August Bartz, August Ernstmeier and E. C. Arnett.
Harry J. Peard, formerly associated with N. F. Lane in the hardware business, was cashier from 1900 to 1913, being succeeded by C. M. Carlson who is now as assistant vice-president of the First National Bank in Grand Island.
Fire destroyed seven businesses on the east side of main street in the spring of 1911, only four being replaced. In the fall of 1923, three more buildings on the west side of main street burned, none being rebuilt. The second loss included the drug store.
Consolidation of five rural school districts with the village also occurred in 1918, resulting in the erection of a $100,000 building in which eight teachers are employed.
Average attendance is 170 to 200. Commercial training was installed in high school in 1935. Members of the board of education are Frank Hunt, president; Joe Millsap, vice-president; W. Fischer, treasurer; John Ernstmeier, secretary; August Ernstmeier, A. A. McDannel and N. P. George Jensen, directors. L. R. Hagood is superintendent.
PHILLIPS SCHOOL DISTRICT #95
Starting as a primary school with an enrollment of 53 pupils in 1886, the books were closed eighty-one years later in May of 1967 when the District was incorporated into the Aurora District.
The year 1916 saw the addition of grades 9 and 10. The school in 1916 was described as “a quite large steam heated one-story building with two wings: the north being high school and intermediate; south the primary grades. The schoolhouse has a hall and three rooms each nearly 30 ft. by 25 ft.”
The year 1919 was the year of consolidation and 1920 was the first year of consolidation with all four high school grades.
On March 12, 1918, Phillips was one of the biggest consolidation projects in the state has just been completed. District 31, 54, 92 and 95 of Hamilton County voted by an overwhelming.
District 16 was attached to and consolidated with District 95 at a special meeting on July 20, 1918.
The consolidation brought together a total of 22 sections of land with a maximum of five miles anyone had to travel to school.
The fall of 1919 was the start of the new building, which was a 3-story brick building. The total enrollment was 155 for 1919-1920. There were three bus drivers bring the children to school.
The Class of 1921, a group of seven students was the first graduates from Phillips High School.
During the years of 1921-1966, 517 students graduated from Phillips High School.
The largest class was in 1926 with 24 members.
The smallest class was in 1927, 1932, 1954 and 1963 with 6 members.
School bus drivers in 1958 were Kenneth Purdy, Donald Yonker, Jim Dake and Glenn Carr as substitute driver.
After WW II was a total community effort for funding and building of the Phillips Memorial Hall, a gymnasium-auditorium-community center dedicated to those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Many drives to raise money were held. A June 1, 1948 Jamboree, which brought nearly 2000 people to Phillips for a daylong event, added much to the needed pot of money. Being nearly completed in March of 1949, the overall costs had nearly reached $20,000. Bob Mabon, who pounded in first nail of Phillips Memorial Hall.
In 1989, forty years after being built, the Memorial Hall received major renovations, again mainly from individual donations. Bob Wagner was a key person for getting the committee together for the remodeling. The total cost of the project was $28,000.
June of 1966, at an annual meeting, a vote on the proposal to contract students in grade 7-12,
to another district for the year 1966-67. On November 29, 1966 a special election was held at which time the voters did pass a proposal to merge with the Aurora District 4-R.
In March of 1977 the athletic field at the Phillips school was sold to the Village of Phillips for $400. Included in the sale was the land occupied by the memorial Hall in addition to the athletic field. The Village of Phillips had already purchased the memorial hall building.
In August of 1977 the school building, constructed in 1918, was sold, along with about 2.21 acres, to David Yonker of Phillips for $3,100.He made it into an apartments.
Finally, an early morning fire on Saturday, June 22, 1985 destroyed the former Phillips Consolidated School. Such was the ending of a long and memorable history of schooling in Phillips.
Phillips Railroad Depot
When the railroad track moved to the south end of town. A. S. Gilbert, a local contractor, built the new Phillips railroad depot in about 1918. Mr. E. H. Yerkes retires from Burlington Service after 42 years on the job as of May of 1932. Merle J. Doll, the Burlington agent came here from Murphy on May 1, 1932. The depot was closed in 1956, Dale Young was depot agent at the time and he moved to Hampton, NE.
Outright dismantling or demolition has been the final disposition for more than half of Nebraska’s railroad stations. Often, any reusable lumber, brick, stone, wainscoting and other materials from the buildings were salvaged for use in the construction or improvement of other structures. Typical of the individuals who purchased depots for the purpose of recycling the construction materials was the Elmer Riedy family of Cairo. Having heard the Phillips CB&Q depot was for sale, the Riedy’s successfully bid of $152.00 for the depot in April 1958. The 22-by-44 foot frame depot was torn down and its solid pine lumber taken to Cairo, where it was reassembled as part of a 36-x-36 foot family house. Station platform bricks were used to construct the home’s fireplace, chimney and decorative planters. The house is at 503 Said St., Cairo, NE. Mrs. Riedy said they had a 2x4 x 24’ long board without a knot in it from the old depot. The Riedy’s later acquired the Cairo BN depot and dismantled it as well. This time they sold the salvaged lumber and donated the platform bricks to Grand Island’s Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer for use in its “Railroad town” station platform. (We have not been able to find any pictures of this depot.)
PRAIRIE VALLEY HYBRID COMPANY
Bernard B. Heuermann and sons, Keith and Eugene, established Prairie Valley Hybrid Company in 1942. The first crop of hybrid seed was harvested on two acres. The company was founded by an investment of $12.00 from the purchase of foundation seed from the University of Nebraska. The progressive and expanded business was owned and operated by Keith and Eugene Heuermann until 1967. They built their plant on Highway 34 near Phillips.
In 1958 they hired their first salesman, Harold Akerman, who worked with them until his retirement in 1975. Much of our sales success was due to this person. “ He was the best seed salesman I have ever known,” says Keith.
The business was incorporated in 1960. They grow seed corn for the central corn belt and several European countries. The firm had 300 dealers and six full time employees, which is greatly increased at the peak of their season of 1967. Back in the 1940’s Prairie Valley Seed corn sold for $6.90 a bushel. Prairie Valley was one of first if not the first to introduce single cross hybrids with the production of their hybrid 325 in 1957. The company was sold in 1979 to Stauffer Chemical Company and is now owned by Syngenta Seeds, Inc.
Heuermann worked 11 years for Stauffer Chemical Co. until he “retired” in 1990.
While working for Stauffer, Heuermann began experimenting with popcorn production on his own in 1982 and in 1992, BKH Popcorn Inc. distributed its first popcorn product. The family-owned company located on Highway 2 and now sells these products all over the United States and as far away as Europe, Africa and Asia.
Keith Heuermann was born and raised on a dry land farm near Phillips. He graduated from Phillips High School and enrolled in the Agricultural College at the University of Nebraska. Heuermann is an active member on the Board of Directors for the Farmers State Bank of Aurora and has been officers for the Nebraska Seedsmen Association and Nebraska Seed Advisory Committee. He also is on the Board of Governors for Nebraska Wesleyan University, trustee for the University of Nebraska Foundation, board member for the Aurora Development Corporation, and finance chairman of Phillips United Methodist Church. He holds memberships in the Keystone Lodge #62AFAM, Tehama Temple in Hastings and Central Nebraska Shrine Club. The Nebraska Crop Improvement Association named Heuermann Premier Seed Grower in 1968. He was recognized as Nebraska Entrepreneur of the year and named to the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce. In April of 2006, he was honored as the 118th person named to the Nebraska Hall of Agriculture during the Nebraska Hall of Ag Achievement annual banquet. Keith and his wife Norma have four children.
THE FIRST RAILROAD DEPOT IN THE MIDDLE OF PHILLIPS BEFORE 1918
Seven miles of the Burlington line route from the center of town was moved to the south side of town in 1918. The change was made to eliminate a sharp curve and steep grade.