Our Historical Markers across Nebraska highlight fascinating moments and places in our state’s past. Today we focus on the Smith Limekiln, one of the last remnants of Jefferson County’s booming limestone industry of the late 19th century.
56552-56570 River Rd, Fairbury, Jefferson County, Nebraska
The availability of suitable building material was of great importance to Nebraska’s pioneer settlers. Here in Jefferson County, native limestone was used for building and the stone was burned in kilns to produce lime for mortar and whitewash. The U.S. Army reportedly operated the first kiln in this area during the 1848 construction of Fort Kearny on the Platte. During the 1870’s and 1880’s, the limestone industry flourished in Jefferson County and numerous kilns and quarries were located near here. The limekiln which survives on this site was built in 1874 by Woral C. Smith who had settled in the county the previous year. Much of the limestone from Smith’s quarries was used locally but after the St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad built a siding to the kiln, limestone products were shipped throughout the region. In 1876, Smith constructed the nearby house with limestone from his quarters. Today, commercial limestone production continues in several areas of Nebraska. Although the old limekilns have largely disappeared, the Smith kiln and limestone house remain as examples of this important pioneer industry.