Kennard — Washington County

Kennard was laid out by the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad Company in 1869 upon the completion of the line to that point, and was named for Nebraska’s first Secretary of State Thomas Kennard. Situated in the northern part of Richland Township, it lies to the west of the Big Papillion Creek. Nathaniel Brewster is recorded as having a post office as early as 1859 that he called “Papillion,” but it was in existence only a few years. Kennard’s post office was established in 1871. It incorporated as a village in 1895.

The first water system was completed about 1910, with water being pumped into a large standpipe on the crest of a hill above the town by a gasoline engine. Several new wells were dug in 1965, two of which are currently in use.

At one time Kennard had three church buildings: the Methodist, the Danish Lutheran, and the Christian, which was also used by the Church of God. The Methodist and Lutheran Churches are still active.

For many years the village used the Metropolitan Hall for public meetings. Upstairs was the lodge room that accommodated the various orders represented in the community. The hall was also used for dances, and had a stage for theatrical performances and public meetings. A large wooden pavilion stood on main street, just across from the present fire station. It was a good place for dancing, roller skating, and other get-togethers.

In the 1950s the town felt the need for a new auditorium and a place for the high school to play basketball. A full-sized gymnasium was built on an existing cement platform using volunteer labor. Later a stage and shower rooms were added, funded by the area’s businesses.

The Farmers and Merchant Bank erected a brick building, complete with safe-deposit vaults, in 1912. Soon thereafter several more brick buildings replaced the original wooden business places. Kennard also had its own newspaper, “The Enterprise,” for many years before it was moved to Blair.

The citizens of Kennard relied on trains for transportation. They were able to make connections several times a day at Arlington or Blair, or on to Omaha and other places. Two elevators and two livestock buyers handled a large amount freight shipped to the Omaha market.

The depot, among the first buildings in Kennard, sat near the east road going into town. Elmer Dale was the agent at the time passenger service ended in 1942. There was a custodian until 1954, after which the depot was used for storage, then finally torn down.

Since then, a park was developed with many trees and a bandstand that can be moved to the center of the street for celebrations and free shows. The Chicago & North Western Railroad, itself, is still very busy and in 1980 a new siding was completed on the west side of town.

Kennard’s population went into a decline after the stock market crash of 1929. The 1930s were also hard on farmers, and lots of property was sold for back taxes. After World War II several barrack-type houses were moved into town from the Benson Park area of Omaha, and remodeled. The town started to grow again.

During 1947 the first hard-surfaced streets were installed after years of “bottomless streets” during the spring thaw. More streets were done in 1962 and by 1980, all were hard-surfaced with either concrete or blacktop paving. An up-to-date sewer system was installed in 1968.

The Kennard School (District 47) was formed in March 1884. First located on a hill south of town, it was moved into the village and enlarged. By 1894 another room was added to include the high school. In the 1920s a $16,000 frame schoolhouse was built to house both elementary and high school students, and furnished with modern desks and “all the facilities of newer schools.” The last high school graduation was held in 1960, and the grade school closed following the 1972-73 school year, with students now attending Arlington. Anything moveable was sold at auction in September 1973, and two weeks later the building was burned as an exercise by the Kennard Volunteer Fire Department.

Kennard’s highest population (372) was recorded in 1980.

By LeMara Eicke, Box 973, Washington, NE 68068