The Instant Town

Adjusting to rapid change is a trial we associate with “modern” life. But a hundred years ago

Nebraskans witnessed change almost overnight as new portions of the state were settled and

developed. An October 1890 edition of the Kearney Hub reported on one of Nebraska’s new

“instant” towns.

“Those who predicted a rapid development of the Wood River valley as a result of building

the Kearney and Black Hills railway, will not be in the least disappointed. The magic touch

of enterprise is upon the whole of that fair valley and such wonders are being accomplished

as would surprise any person not familiar with the way that great things are done in this

pushing west.

“The Hub has upon its editorial table a copy of the Sumner Dispatch, volume one, number

one. There is nothing remarkable in receiving a new paper asking for an exchange, but here

comes a paper from a town where only three months ago there was not town at all; and

speaking upon the subject the Dispatch says:

“‘Not a city on the Kearney and Black Hills Railroad can boast of the remarkable building

record which has characterized the growth of Sumner. On July 1, not a single house or

graded street marked the present site of the city. The whole was covered by ripening fields of

grain. In two short months a thriving village with beautiful and symmetrical streets was

reared in the midst of this agricultural fountain; the iron horse snorted on his freshly made

track of steel and the mingled sounds of the hammer and saw combined to drown the music

of the sickle. To-day over fifty substantial buildings, most of which are completed, stand as a

nucleus around will be rapidly grouped enough buildings to make this one of the leading

cities of western Nebraska.

“‘Not a village in the state can boast of heavier exports in the first three months of its

existence. More lumber has been shipped to Sumner than to any point along the entire valley.

The railroad company has put in extensive stock yards at this point, and have laid more

sidetrack than at any other station. The finest depot on the route is being constructed at

Sumner, and is now nearing completion. The rapid growth of this city has already

necessitated the laying out of an elegant addition to the west of the principal business


“All hail to Sumner, the magic town, and to the plucky Dispatch which sounds her praises!”

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