Ghost Towns of Sarpy County





Gary B. Speck



Have you ever felt like you scored a coup while out ghost towning?


Seventeen years ago, in the summer of 1993, I did, and think I startled a historical museum curator.We were spending four days with my wife's brother in Bellevue, south of Omaha, Nebraska.While she visited, I ghosttowned.


Bellevue is an old historic town, and I assumed that the library would have a decent historical collection.With four days here, I wanted to find the ghost town sites I marked on my roadmap.Stopping briefly at the county assessor's office to obtain a county map, I hit the library.It has a small collection of material, and I added a half-dozen names of sites to visit.When my brother-in-law came home from work about 2 p.m., he ate lunch, then the two of us trekked across cornfields in search of Ghost Town USA.†††


We drove around and around, and eventually found one site.After exploring a few minutes (all private property), we headed back to his house.Later they took us around town and onto Offutt AFB.We saw what remained of Fort Crook.Later we stopped by the county historical museum, which was closed.


The next morning guess where I went?


"Good morning, I'm Gary Speck, and I'm visiting family here in Bellevue.I'm interested in ghost towns and abandoned townsites.I write for a national magazine, and..." I produced several photocopies of recent articles..."I was wondering if you could tell me a little about these locations."I produced my county map now marked up with research notes.


I thought his eyeballs were going to pop out of his head!


By the time I left the museum three hours later, I had the locations of 34 sites in the county.I showed them to my brother-in-law, and boy was he surprised.He'd lived in Bellevue about ten years and hadn't heard of hardly any of them.


The next morning I visited twenty-four of the sites.I couldn't locate the other ten, mainly due to time constraints.Listed below are just a few of the 34 ghosts that I discovered in Sarpy County, Nebraska...



††††††††††† This was the site of a ferry that transported folks to Cedar Island, an island in the Platte River, several miles upstream (west) of its confluence with the Missouri River.It was located in what is now tangled trees and undergrowth west of the resort, three miles west of the US 73/75 bridge over the Platte River at La Platte.



††††††††††† This is an old 1880s railroad town that developed northwest of Papillion.The site is just to the west of State Highway 60, and just south of the county line.All that remained in 1993 were a grain elevator and warehouse, both of which are still in use.



††††††††††† During the 1850s, the lime-kiln at this site employed about 400 men.Huge quantities of lime was mined and milled here.During the 1930s extensive ruins remained, and even today if you look carefully through the underbrush along Dyson Hollow Rd, south of Platteview road, you can still see some ruins.



††††††††††† The barren site of Forest City sits a mile and a half west of Gretna, in the far west end of the county.The town was originally founded by Irish immigrants, and a town rapidly built up after their arrival.On April 18, 1858, Forest City incorporated.For twenty years. the little community was large on spirit, even contributing its brass band to county functions and parades.

††††††††††† It was along the road from Omaha to Ashland, and along the stage line.It had a post office, catholic church, two stores, two boarding houses, a granary, and a school that was held wherever room could be found to hold classes.

††††††††††† By 1875 the town was eclipsed by nearby Gretna, and the population migrated to the new location, which was located on the Burlington Northern Railroad.



††††††††††† Located south of the riverboat town of Bellevue, Fort Crook was built between 1894 & 1896, with the first infantry troops moving in on June 28, 1896.It wasn't until 1918 with the arrival of the 61st Balloon Company, that it became an airfield.

††††††††††† Majestic brick structures marked the fort's buildings, and it became a very important post.In 1921 dirt landing strips were graded, and by 1924, the landing field had become known as Offutt Field.Both the airstrip and army post grew in importance, until June 11, 1946, when Fort Crook officially transferred to the 2nd Air Force.On Jan. 13, 1948, it became Offutt Air Force Base.

††††††††††† Today, the Fort Crook buildings remain scattered across the base mixed with more modern structures. (Access is limited only to members of the military and their official guests.)

††††††††††† Fort Crook City was located just outside the west gate of Fort Crook, and served as a "support" town for the soldiers stationed there.The main street was a long line of one and two story wooden structures that housed diversions such as saloons, saloons, and saloons.

††††††††††† Today the site has been absorbed by Bellevue, and most lies under the pavement of US 73/75.



††††††††††† This is a "wannabee" town that barely established itself.Its site is where the Union Pacific Railroad crosses 36th Street. A grain elevator, stock pens, and a railroad depot that contained the post office marked the community.Today it is a barren site.


La PLATTE...two sites...

††††††††††† The first site of La Platte was along the Missouri River, just north of the Platte.It was established by four men around 1855.A year later, the site was abandoned mainly due to flooding.Nothing marks site #1.

††††††††††† The town moved inland a couple miles, and was reestablished under the name of Larimer Mills (see).

††††††††††† In the 1880s when the Missouri Pacific Railroad pushed through the area, the town of Larimer had faded.A railroad station called La Platte was established on the north side of the tracks, across from what was Larimer.Today site #2 is a small, sleepy community with a population of several hundred.There are a number of OLD buildings in town.



††††††††††† After the town of La Platte relocated to the inland site, it grew slowly.It was at first called Larimer City, but that was changed to Larimer Mills.In 1859 advertisements were run in various newspapers for the two-story whitewashed wooden Larimer Hotel, which still stands.It is a private residence, and sits just south of the railroad tracks on the south side of La Platte #2.The rest of Larimer is overgrown with trees, or lies under La Platte #2.



††††††††††† Nothing much remains of this once busy railroad junction community but scattered farm houses, cornfields and rubble.A mile and a half west of town is the Meadow Cemetery.



††††††††††† This small railroad town was predated by a one-room school and cemetery; both of which remain.The site of the town is long gone.It was located along the Union Pacific Railroad, northwest of Papillion, on Giles Road, between 108th and 114th Streets.



††††††††††† This is the number one ghost town SITE in the county, and today is just about gone.The old school and a store still remain, but both have been converted to farm homes.

††††††††††† The town was founded in 1874 by a Captain Spearman, with the anticipation of the arrival of railroads, and county seat honors.With its location in the center of the county, both seemed assured.

††††††††††† The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad did come through, and an election was held for county seat.Three towns became finalists...Bellevue, Papillion, and Sarpy Center.Bellevue was eliminated in a second election, and the folks of Sarpy Center were jubilant.

††††††††††† Sarpy Center as a town was busy and consisted of a blacksmith, hotel, store, school, and newspaper...Sarpy County Sentinel. In April 1875, a third election was held, and Papillion took the county seat honors.This proved too much for Sarpy Center.Most folks moved southwest to Springfield, and Sarpy Center became a ghost town.

††††††††††† Its site is at the corner of Fairview Road and 120th Street.



††††††††††† Located seven miles east of Springfield, the town site is at the corner of Buffalo Road and 192nd Street.On the northeast corner the abandoned schoolhouse sits with empty window sockets staring into the green corn fields.On the southwest corner the old store has been converted to a home, and is occupied.A half-mile to the west is the old cemetery.


Sarpy County may be the smallest of Nebraska's 93 counties, and the third in population, but to this California-based ghost towner it's #1.Of the 34 sites I identified through research, I could not locate ten.Ten were barren of any evidence of a town. Four had rubble, ruins, or foundation outlines.Ten had standing buildings, either occupied or vacant.


Yes, Sarpy County, Nebraska is indeed prime ghost town country!


This was our GHOST TOWN OF THE MONTH for October 1999.




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FIRST POSTED:October 01, 1999

LAST UPDATED: March 20, 2005




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