SARONVILLE -- CLAY COUNTY
Our town came into being because of a little prairie church.
A wave of homesteaders that came to Clay County in 1869-70 in search of new homes were of Swedish descent. At this same time, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad started its line westward from Lincoln. Towns were named in alphabetical order, "A" probably for the state asylum, then Berks, Crete, Dorchester, Exeter, Fairmont, Grafton, Huxley, etc...
You have never heard of Huxley? Well, that is because it failed to develop. During the short time it was "on the map," the settlers built a combination church-school-community center about one-half mile south of the Huxley stake. The crude structure was known as "the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church of Huxley." In 1881 "a proper church" was built about one mile west of the school. Before it was dedicated, the church was renamed "Saron Evangelical Lutheran," [reportedly for a village in Sweden.]
A Methodist congregation, north of the tracks, decided to move its church to the other side, not far from the new Lutheran Church. On October 3, 1882, a post office was established and given the name, "Saronville," the only office known by this name (as far as we can discover) in the world.
With two churches and a post office in place, the people realized that "a real town" could develop. All it needed was a railroad station. Rev.Haterius, pastor of the Saron church, led a group of promoters that went to talk with the railroad company. The request was granted, and Saronville came into being on November 29, 1882.
The village grew rapidly. Soon lots extended well beyond both churches. At its peak in 1900, there were nearly 200 residents and over 20 businesses. The village was known to the railroaders as "the white city" or "the windmill town," since all the brand-new houses were painted white and each had its own windmill.
During the early days there were four "Flyers" (fast passenger trains) and four "locals" traveling between Lincoln and Denver every day. One could take the 8 a.m. local to Lincoln, shop all day, and then return on the "Dolly" at 8 p.m. Freight trains took grain and livestock bound for Omaha, Chicago, or Kansas City markets.
During World War I, the community organized a Home Guard unit. Men, too young or too old for over-seas duty, practiced marching on main street. Young women in Red Cross uniforms rolled bandages and prayed that the war would not reach Nebraska.
In the 1920s the Saronville baseball team had a large following, and a local roller skating rink that drew huge crowds from neighboring towns. Ice cream and lunch was served when the town's band played from the bandstand on Main Street. As horse and buggy days gave way to the automobile, simple pleasures yielded to more elaborate activities.
During World War II, with the lack of housing and shortages of material, many of Saronville's homes were purchased and moved to other towns, leaving our village with vacant, uncared-for lots. When the war ended, the reliance on railroads faded. Passenger service was discontinued and the depot dismantled.
Amtrak now makes its daily round trip between Denver and Chicago, but it does not stop. Even though numerous freights rumble through and frequently pass one another on the mile-long siding, much of Saronville's grain is transferred to larger markets by truck. In 1970 a derailment toppled seven cars into empty lots north of the elevator. The tracks, once cared for by locally-based section hands, are now maintained by crews headquartered at Hastings.
In the 1880s the one-room school expanded to a two-teacher facility, educating students through the 10th grade. In 1968, when districts in the county reorganized, Saronville merged with Sutton. The schoolhouse is still used by Lewis Township, and for village board meetings. The school grounds, site of the bicentennial ceremonies in 1976, has become a park where many community gatherings and an annual picnic are held.
Saronville, population 54, still has a bank, the post office, a large grain terminal and storage facility, and a Methodist Church. The Saron Lutheran Church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1972. In 1986, unable to maintain its membership, the church closed. Saronville, stands as a tribute to the many pioneers who worked together to create a town in the shadow of a little prairie church.
By Dorothy Kinyoun, Saronville, NE 68975
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The 100th year" Methodist Church, 1975 ; Saron Lutheran Church Centennial 1972, Blossoms of the Prairie, Matteson, 1988; and The Bicentennial Scrapbook, compiled in 1975.