Ayr History


by Catherine Renschler   

   Ayr Township is a tableland near the center of Adams County.  Homesteaders arrived in the area in the early 1870s,  In 1878 the Hastings-Red Cloud branch of the Burlington Railroad was built.   Four men, A.C. Moore, J.R. Ratcliff, Ayres Goble and Professor Meyer set apart 20 acres each from their own adjoining farms for the eighty acre town.  To insure a railroad depot at the townsite, the owners were compelled to donate every other lot, giving control of   half  the townsite, to the railroad owned townsite company.  In   September, 1878  the South Platte Town Site Company laid out the town of Ayr twelve miles south of Hastings.  Named after one of the railroad's directors, a Dr. Ayr from Iowa, it was overlooked by magnificent highlands gently sloping to the Little Blue River to the west of town.

    O.D. Barrass built the first house on the site, a small frame building, in October 1878.  The second building, the two story Central Hotel, was built by Rev. John and Rebecca Fleming in November after the railroad built the Ayr depot.  Barras, serving as proprietor for the Flemings, operated the hotel until 1883.  Elizabeth Statler took his place. 

     The first school was located one-half mile north of Ayr and was taught in 1874 to 1876.  A. Peck and Henry Howe built a saloon in the north part of town, but the business did not flourish.  The building was used as a school for the 1878-79 term with Irishman, John Gainor, teaching. He was a good teacher, but a better judge of alcohol.  he went on a binge at the close of the term and never came back--just when the school board had voted for a nine month term with school uniforms and books furnished.  In 1883 a two story frame school building was constructed.  Ayr High School was held in this building from 1920 through 1947.  A new building which now houses elementary grades K-6 only was built in 1964.  

   In 1878 A.L.West and Thomas Fleming built a general merchandise store and dealt in grain and cattle for the railroad owned stockyards in the north part of town.  By late December, 1878, the Gilson post office, two miles north, was transferred to Ayr.  the post office was located in the West-Fleming store. 

   Rev. John Fleming, father of Thomas, conducted the first religious services in town.  Fleming, born in 1807, labored for the 30 member Presbyterian Church in 1878-79 as a missionary.  During that period he funded and built the Church Hall at 4th and Lincoln streets. 

   In late 1878, McMillan and Hull opened a general store and John Richards also opened a store.  Born in Cornwall, England, Richards lived in Wisconsin before coming to Juniata to visit a friend, George Misen.   Deciding to stay in Nebraska, he bought a farm south of Juniata, and put in a store at Silver Lake.  The Silver lake store soon became a stopping place for freighters going from Hastings to Riverton.  With news of the railroad going south from Hastings to Red Cloud, however, Richards foresaw a decline in business and moved the store to Ayr. He  built a two-story building in 1878 with plans for a grocery on the first floor and living rooms for his family upstairs.  But the regions frequent strong winds frightened the family, so the top story was taken off and set on the ground.  this pioneer farmer and merchant died in 1905, leaving a legacy of eleven children, eight of whom were Adams County school teachers.

   The Methodist Episcopal Church started early in 1879 with four members, Adam Reader, George Eastwood, John Giddings and A.M. Jefferies.   Early elders were Adams Melville, O.C. Rogers, Arthur Mathers and George Crafford.   They met in homes, then in the old saloon building which was being used for the school. In 1884 the school district built a two story school and sold the old building to the Methodists who moved it to first and Irving Streets.

   In 1881, this notice was printed in the Juniata Herald  "Wanted! A live Methodist preacher to stir up church-going sentiment in this community; one that can keep an audience awake for a half-hour."   The call was answered by Rev. Albinos Powers, and the group enjoyed enough success that it built a new tin-covered church in 1893.  Located on the eastern slope of the town, it was a big one room structure that looked like a school house.  In 1910 it was remodeled into a large white frame structure with stained glass windows and a belfry.   The church burned in 1944 when the bell tower was struck by lightning. 

  January, 1879 was quite cold, but improvements went on in the village.  In March, 1879, R.C. Gregg built a storehouse and opened the first drugstore on the south side of Lincoln Avenue (now State Highway 74).  The Commercial Hotel was finished by Mr. Pate and T.J. and M.S. Edgington started a hardware store.  Dr. Hoyleman built a two-story building and operated a drug store from the first floor.  The second floor was used as the town hall.  In the summer of 1879 Gund and Company built a grain elevator.  It was a "shovel elevator" built on an incline.  The horses backed up to the top, then men shoveled the grain into a pit where an elevator took it to various bins.

   In 1879 William McLaughlin and Cyrus McMillan built a lumber yard across the tracks from the elevator.  Ayres Goble set up an agricultural implement shop, J.H. Robinson opened a livery and feed store, and C. Allender started a meat market. 

   The town's first physician , Dr. Samuel A. Bookwalter, arrived in 1879.  The first birth in Ayr was Harvey Fleming, son of Thomas Fleming.  Ayr's first death occurred in 1881, when the twin infants of Henry Harms died. 

   Despite a diphtheria epidemic in early 1880, the town continued to grow.  These additional businesses opened:  Henry Rowe, boot and shoe shop; Isaac Vandervort and T. Bigelow, blacksmiths; O.D. Barrass and Thomas Robinson, carpenters; Will Brantz, painter; A.W. Patterson, contractor; S.P. Williams, milling; John Meyers, bricklayer; Isaiah Ream, barber; henry Ream, boot and shoe maker; Thomas Fleming, stock shipper; Frank Jefferies, depot agent; Henry Howe, restaurant; Scott Philleo, grain business; U.P. Jefferies, insurance; Keith and Kress, a second livery.   By 1880 Ayr reached its peak population of 250, the majority merchants and their families. 

   The 1880s proved to be Ayr's glory days.   By the middle of the summer in 1881, Thomas Fleming had a cheese factory going.   Henry Fleming was making wagons on the west side of the tracks and George Allen on the east side of the tracks.  Gregg sold his drugstore to Koehler and Pharr in 1881.   In September, 1882, Dr. Royce came to town, and Hutchinson and Davis dry goods store opened. The Ayr Times, published by the Watkins Brothers, was founded as the town's first newspaper.  In 1885 W.H. Hawkins started a brickyard, and a second grain elevator was built.  In 1886 McMillan sold his general store to Elihu Dailey and Henry Schertinger bought the butcher shop. 

Herron Post, #152, Grand Army of the Republic, (Union Veterans of the Civil War) was organized at Ayr in the 1880s. 

   By 1890 Ayr's population was 173.  The drought and depression years of the 1890s were hard on Ayr.  Several businesses closed and the population declined.  After the turn of the century when the economy improved two more newspapers operated briefly, the Ayr Gun in 1901 and the Weekly News in 1907.  The Farmers State Bank was built in 1912.  In 1917 a fire destroyed the H.A. Howe general store, and the IOOF hall, and a disastrous fire in 1921 burned a whole block of business buildings.  A Sinclair Oil pumping station was built near town in 1923.   

Although a railroad line still runs through the village, its depor is long gone.  Nearby Crystal Lake State Park, formerly a commercial ice production site, remains a source of local pride and pleasure.



Hastings City and Adams County Directory, 1895

Alphabetical listing of Ayr residents

   Located in the southern part of the county on the Blue River 12 miles from Hastings; on the Republican Valley branch of the B & M railroad.  Three churches, one school and several lodges.  M. M. Kelly Post master.  Population 275

Abbott, C.B.                      manager of O&B lumber yard

Abbott, Bertha Mrs

Bovard, James E.               insurance and realestate

Bovard, F. P. Mrs             dressmaker

Brands, Lisetta  Mrs

Brands, Millie   Miss

Brown, Frank

Brown, Mrs Alice

Caton, Cahs                     teacher

Corbin, N                         mail messenger

Corbin, F. J. Mrs

Corbin, James

Corbin, Minnie, Mrs

Edgington, Thos J             hardward

Edgington, Marie, Mrs

Edgington, Essie D, Miss

Fleming, H. M.                  carpenter

Fleming, Jennie, Mrs.

Fleming, J. F.                      carpenter

Fleming, Rebecca C, Mrs

Fry, Dan M

Fry, Susan Mrs

Fry, Isaac,                          section foreman (railroad)

Fry, Martha M  Mrs

Fry, Mary E  Miss

Gardner,  Frank             B & M station agent

Gardner,  Hattie Mrs

Goble, A.                         grain and stock buyer

Goble, Alta Mrs

Goble, Caroling O  Mrs

Gund & Co                      grain elevator

Harrington, W. M.          

Harrington, Fannie M  Mrs

Harrington, Chas

Heet,  Minnie  Mrs

Heet,  Lena  Miss

Holmes, Edgar R             physician

Hoskins, Benjamin

Hoskins, Sarah A  Mrs

Howe,  Henry A

Howe, Elizabeth Mrs

Humphrey, O. H. Mr. and Mrs.

Jeffers, Andrew M

Jeffers, J. Mrs

Jeffers, Anna M  Miss

Jeffers, Harley

Johnson, J. B.                  general merchandise and drugs

Johnson, F. M. Mrs

Kelly, M. M.                     postmaster

Kelly, H. E. Mrs

McCormick, S. S.              shoemaker

McDonald,  Wm W.       boarding

McDonald, Hattie E Mrs

McDonald, Adna

McGowan, F. P.

McGowan, E. J. Mrs

McGowan, J. C.                 B & M section

Oliver & Bechtelheimer    lumber

Patterson, John                   livery

Patterson, Louisa, Mrs

Patterson, Elmer

Philleo, Edgar A

Philleo, Etta Mrs

Philleo, Frank

Philleo, Ira

Philleo, Maggie E  Mrs

Philleo, Nelson A

Philleo, Wm W.             nursery

Plummer, L. L.               well boring

Plummer, Matha J  Mrs

Plummer, Louisa A  Miss

Price, Fred and Mrs.

Ratcliff, R. M.

Ratcliff, Ellen N  Mrs

Roscoe, Horace

Roscoe, Frances Mrs

Schmidt, John                 contractor and builder

Schmidt, Mary A Mrs

Shamblin & Wadell,          butchers

Shamblin, Frank                 butcher

Shamblin, Anna Mrs

Uerling, F. P. & Sons         general merchandise

Uerling, Charlotte  Mrs

Uerling, Eva, Miss

Uerling, Mathew

Uerling, Peter

Uerling, Eva M  Mrs

Wadell, S.S.                      Shamblin & Wadell

Wilder, J. P.                     blacksmith

Wilder, Melinda Mrs

Wilder, Frank.                 plasterer

Wilder, Letta Mrs



Published  by Wolfe and Pickering, Kenesaw, Nebraska

Alphabetical List of Ayr Residents

Allender,  Presley, retired farmer;  wife Mary

Bird,  Alfred, works in Sanford  Garage

Boontjer,  Ted laborer;   wife Marie

Bovard,  Mrs. R.D.; Lee, single, laborer;   William, single, section hand (railroad)

Brandts,  Alda;  Ruth, telephone operator

Brandts,  W.M. mail carrier, wife Lulu; Marjorie 12

Brown,  Mrs. Allie, widow

Bucklin,  Clarissa, teacher

Cameron,  Maraguerite, teacher

Cantwell,  Sarah, widow of S.E.

Connely,  Vance, road maintainer; wife Sarah; Von 1

Coutts,  L.N., laborer; wife Mable; Beulah, 5; Darrel, 4; Vergil, 3; Luean, 1

Dillon,  E.W., telegraph operator; wife Pearl; Enod, 17; Daurance, 11; Maxine, 9; Harriet, 6; Betty, 4; Joanna

Disch,   Mrs. V.

Druecker,  Henry, retired farmer; wife Louisa

Druecker,  William, farmer and blacksmith

Easter,  Edward, engineer

Foster,  Dewey; wife Hazel

Frank,  C.W. manager elevator; wife Fredica; Freda 18; Dorothy 16; Marjorie 7; John 6

Fry,   Mrs. Martha

Giddings,  Frank;   Maurine

Gray,  Dr. O.S. physician; wife Leta

Harrington,  Annie;  Frank

Harrington,  J.W. junk dealer; wife Marie; Cleo 14; Zetha 10; Ray 16

Hargleroad,  Mrs. Zella, clerk

Heltenberg,  John, retired farmer

Hildebrand,  Ed, garageman; wife Lizzie

Hoffman,  H.S. mail carrier; wife Laura; Cecil 12; Newton 17; Roland 15

Holt,  Herbert,  station agent; wife Blanch; Velma 12

Jeffers,  Delma, clerk

Jeffers,  H.C. section foreman; wife Anna; Norma 12

Johnston,   Mrs. A

Johnston,  C.S., carpenter; widower, Lawrence 17, Marlyn 10; Milo 15

Johnson,  J.P.  business man;  wife Neva; Darlene 4; Ruth 1

Keebler,  Mrs. R.M.;  Miss Anna,  teacher

Kindig,  P.T. retired farmer; wife Anna

Kort,  Fred, farmer; wife Octavia; Douglass 3

Kort,  William, bookkeeper, Farmers State Bank

Leslie,  John;   wife Cerena

Manning,  J.M.  telegraph operator; wife Dollie; Leland Trembly 12

Marshall,  John, carpenter; wife Sarah C

Moore,  Bert; wife Cleo; Bernard 7; Earl 5; Sylvia 3

Osborn,  J.N.  retired farmer; wife Adeline

Parks,  H.  retired farmer; wife Elizabeth; Dawson 17; Donald 10

Pollock,  J.   Banker

Radley,  C.D.  manages lumber yard; wife Nellie

Ratcliff,  R.M.  insurance and real estate agent; wife Ellen

Reader,  Adam,  retired

Runkel,  Professor, Ayr Schools

Sanford,  H.H.  garage; wife Stella; Gerald 10; Virgil 8;  Jessie 6; Harriet 1;

Schmitz,  B.F.  engineer, Sinclair Pipe Line; wife Mildred; Claribel 5; Gloria 3

Schmitz,  Earl,  laborer

Schmitz,  J.A.  carpenter; wife Matilda; Beulah 15

Schmitz,  Leo, farmer; wife Tillie; Orville 5; Eugene 3; Junior 2

Schmitz,  Willis, single, carpenter

Scott, Charles, groceryman, wife Delia; Pauline 15

Scott,  Mrs.  J

Sheets,  Mrs. Nora B.  telephone operator; Roland C 16

Smith,  Earnie, engineer; wife Maude; Helen 11; Beula 10

Snyder, Chester, and Tom, brick  masons

Snyder, Thomas, cement contractor; wife Ida;  Harold 17

Taylor,  Samuel, carpenter; wife Sarah

Uerling,  Mathew  hardware merchant; wife Sarah

Uerling,  Luretta,  clerk soft drink parlor

Weakley,  W.R.  laborer; wife Marnie; Sylvia 8

Wheat,  W.A.  works at oil station

Wigert,  James,  retired farmer; wife Sigirdi

Wilder, Frank,  brick mason; wife Lottie

Wilder,  Verna

Woods,  Lester D  filling station

Woods,  Ora,  retired farmer; wife Anna

Woodworth,  Henry, retired farmer; wife Mamie

Woodworth,  Jennie,  widow

Woodworth,  Mrs. Melessa,  widow

Woodworth,  Milton

Woodworth,  Ray E  farmer; wife Sadie; Elaine 8; Edgar 11; Clayton 2

Return to History Page
Return to the Adams County Main Page

Copyright © 2014 Adams County Historical Society. All rights reserved.