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Cheney U.S. Post Office

Lincoln has marched steadily east, past the former village of College View, to the major jumble of retail and service businesses on Nebraska 2 toward Nebraska City. The settlement of Cheney is now on the very edge of Lincoln’s city limits and has lost virtually all of its old stores, depot and even school with only homes left of the once prosperous village. Although there are problems to be addressed, it seems only a matter of time before Cheney is absorbed quietly into greater Lincoln.

Lincoln has had a number of neighbors in Lancaster County since its birth; many of the villages and proposed sites have fallen by the wayside, a few were annexed to Lincoln, others that have prospered briefly now have waned to a few houses and no businesses, and still others have become bedroom communities.

One of the first settlers in Grant Township southeast of Lincoln was Mr. Cheney. One of Nebraska’s earliest westward trails ran through the area, roughly paralleling current Nebraska 2 from Nebraska City, and it was this trail that saw the Capital Commission to Yankee Hill and the city of Lancaster in the summer of 1867, though there was little resembling a city or village on their route.

When various inducements were offered to build a railroad connection to the new state capital in 1867, the Midland Pacific Railway was formed in Nebraska City. Ground was broken on June 5, 1868, and in early 1871 the line reached Grant Precinct, arriving in Lincoln that April, the second railroad to reach Lincoln. The station in Grant Township was named Cheney’s Station in honor of the first settler, but the name first was shortened to Cheney’s and ultimately simply Cheney.

In 1874 Joel Converse platted and filed the plan for the village of Cheney. The triangular map had east/west streets numbered from 1 to 5 while the north/south streets were named Fleming, Smith, Showers and Lincoln while a northwest/southeast street paralleled the railroad.

In 1874, the first school building came into being. It was replaced in 1879 to accommodate grades one through nine and again in 1915 when grades 10 through 12 were added. Although the railroad had arrived five years earlier, and the village was growing, the post office, headed by Isaac Wheeler, did not open until Sept. 28, 1876. Although through the years Cheney has had a lumberyard, grocery, three churches, a bank chartered in 1909, hardware, elevator, general store and dance hall above the grocery, the village never really bloomed, reaching the peak population of 49 in 1940. The post office and school closed near its most prosperous point in 1943.

Once known more as the terminus of Old Cheney Road, it is now more widely famous for its ancestral connection to Vice President Dick Cheney, who also has aided in the pronunciation change from Cheen-y to chain-y. Cheney still has its own ZIP code of 68526, which shows a total population of 1,174, and as its next-door neighbors restaurants, a lumberyard, motels, service businesses, banks and even a hospital.

Another sometimes-overlooked village in Lancaster County is Davey, 15 miles north of Lincoln in Rock Creek Township. Michael Davey, the town’s namesake, immigrated to New York from Ireland in 1862, moving to Nebraska in 1870, where he briefly lived in a dugout. In 1885, the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad built through the eastern edge of his quarter section on its way to Lincoln. The following year a siding and depot were built and given the name Davey in his honor.

On Oct. 14, 1886, the Western Town Lot Co. platted the 40-acre village, which they named after the railroad stop even though virtually all of the townsite was on land owned by Alfred Peterson. The five-square-block map showed east/west streets numbered 1, 2 and 3 while east/west streets were named Elm, Cedar, Maple and Oak. The depot sat at about First and Maple, and the post office, which was opened Feb. 1, 1887, by Patrick O’Donnell, at Second and Cedar.

The first store opened in 1886, and the first train arrived Oct. 18, 1886. By 1890, the Davey Mirror, though printed in Lincoln, gave the community an air of permanence. On July 29, 1903, the Farmer’s State Bank, with $8,000 in capital stock, opened. By 1916, there were three churches, but a fire that started in the Catholics' building, destroyed most of the businesses and buildings on the west side of Main Street. In 1942, Davey High School closed, having seen only 84 graduates in its 22-year history.

Although William Jennings Bryan, Vice President Charles Dawes and General John J. Pershing all visited Davey, the village is far more interesting surrounding the businesses that left. On Jan. 1, 1949, the Farmer’s State Bank was purchased by G.A. Frampton. In 1960, his daughter Alice M. Dittman moved the facility to 14th Street and Cornhusker Highway in Lincoln, renaming it Cornhusker Bank.

In 1943, Arthur and Ollie Christensen moved their father’s business to the northeast corner of 11th and M streets to the ground floor of the once-three-story Masonic Temple. First known as Christensen’s Farm Equipment and Tractor Supply, through the years it morphed into Christensen’s Appliances. The business prospered until the property was acquired by adjacent St. Paul United Methodist Church, which expanded its building to encompass the entire south half of the block.

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Historian Jim McKee, who still writes with a fountain pen, invites comments or questions. Write to him in care of the Journal Star or at jim@leebooksellers.com.

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