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Local residents seek stories from Minatare families
December 18, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Since June of 2014, a small group of people in the Minatare area have been meeting to pull together information that will eventually lead to a history book of the community.

“Our goal is to get as much history and people into the book as we can,” said Mary Warren, who has gone her entire life known as Francie. “We don’t want to leave anyone out, so we’re asking people to share their history.”

Francie said that with families returning for Christmas, this is a good time to people to share their personal histories with each other and also for inclusion in the upcoming Minatare history book.
“We’d appreciate any pictures people want to share,” she said. “We welcome people to join us at the Minatare Library any Monday at 9 a.m. If they don’t feel up to doing their own writing, we’ll interview them and write the story for them.”

Francie’s father owned the Minatare Free Press newspaper for a number of years. And from that chronicle, she started to understand the importance of preserving local history.

“There hasn’t been a lot written about Minatare,” she said “but there were a lot of early newspapers that seemed to change every 18 months or so.”

Some of those early newspapers carried names like the Trumpet, the Trumpet-Sentinel, the Ranger, Our Home and the Minatare Free Press.
“I’m so glad to have all the people on our committee,” Francie said. “They grew up in the Minatare area and want to see the town’s history preserved.”

She added she’s been working on collecting whatever information is available on the pioneer settlers themselves. Now they want to collect the histories of local families, from the town’s founding in 1887 to today.

“There was a rivalry among those small towns in the early years that I have to smile when I read about them,” Francie said. “The publisher of Chimney Rock Transcript moved his paper to Minatare when neighboring Millstown was in the running for the county seat. He moved back to Bayard after that fell through. I’ve enjoyed finding a lot of our history in our newspapers. Every story has something interesting about it.”

George W. Fairfield was surveying the newly formed State of Nebraska from York west to the Yellowstone. When he got to the Minatare area, he found an abundance of good water and rich soil. So he filed claim to land in the area in 1885.

Fairfield’s proposed town of Tabor consisted of a "soddie" building which served as the Post Office and a general store. Three or four houses completed the town.

Local residents saw the potential in the area and in 1887, organized to form the Minatare Canal and Irrigation Company, the first such project in the area. Built mainly through the efforts of people like Theodore Harshman and his large family, who dug more than half the ditch themselves, it was constructed with little or no money. The first water was turned in on Aug. 15, 1888.

When the Burlington Railroad came through the area in 1900, it missed the town of Tabor. So residents picked up everything and moved closer to the tracks. They also changed the name of the town to Minatare.
In 1926, a sugar factory was built in Minatare and provided a strong financial base. The town prospered as numerous shops, businesses and professional offices opened their doors. The town was at its peak growth in the 1940s.

But Minatare suffered after the shutdown of the sugar factory in 1948 and was never able to regain its earlier population base.

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