The town of Axtell was founded by the St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad Company of which Dr. Jesse Axtell was an officer. J. Taylor, J. Hebbard, and David Smith donated 160 acres of land for a town site. In 1872, the first building was erected by W. H. “Shoestring” Dickinson. The same year the railroad built a depot and sidetrack. A post office was erected R.F. White assumed the position of postmaster. The year 1872 also marked the first birth in Axtell, a son to W.H. Dickinson. The first death had been George W. Earl, who been the towns first blacksmith. No marriages were recorded until 1879.
In 1879, only four families lived in Axtell. In the fall of 1879 and winter of 1880, 20 families arrived from Deep River, Iowa to make Axtell their home. At this time the first lumber yard, and Summit House, Axtell’s first hotel was erected. In August of 1880, the Axtell Post office became a money order office, and the first money order was sent by Thomas Hynes.
In 1880, it was voted down to form a government; but in 1886, the vote carried, and Axtell became and incorporated town in 1887. The first mayor of Axtell was Charles Russell.
In 1886, the Citizens Bank was erected by a stock company at a cost of $20,000. The bank conducted business in real estate, loans, insurance, and regular banking. A grain elevator was erected in 1886, another in 1891.
In the winter of 1889-1890 Axtell had a creamery; this was sold in 1895 and converted to a feed mill. The Sherman house was erected to compete with the Summit House. In 1889, the Kansas City, Wyandotte, and Northwestern Railroad built into Axtell. In 1890, the State Bank of Axtell was created.
In the early 1900’s, the business district of Axtell moved from the north side of the tracks to the present-day location. In 1901, eggs were three cents a dozen, sugar was 16 pounds for $1.00 and coffee was 25 cents a pound.
In 1905 the council passed an ordinance against board sidewalks, stating that only stones, bricks, or cement would be allowed for walkways. By 1908 there was not a board sidewalk to be found in the business area.
The city fathers approved a franchise with Hybskmann Gas Co for construction of a acetylene gas plant and to lay pipes for lighting and heating purposes. The franchise also included a clause stating that the company would provide one streetlight in the center of the business area, free of charge to the city.
In 1910, Lincoln Township was formed. In 1911, the Mina School and Lone Star schools closed. In 1912 the city council decided Axtell was in need of electrical power. Several members of the council traveled to Seneca to see if a contract could be worked out to purchase power from them. In June of 1912, construction was started on an electrical line from Seneca to Axtell at a cost of $10,000. One of the first to hook up for electricity was the Byrne, Hendrick, Waymire Moving Picture Co. which began showing moving pictures in the fall of 1912 for a ten-cent admission charge.
In 1920, under the leadership of Mayor A. P. Simpson, an election was held to build a waterworks system. The vote carried a small margin. Building materials were at a premium, so no action was taken by the two following administrations except that plans were drawn, tests for water made and a firm of engineers were engaged.
When the 1925 city elections came about the citizens went looking for men that would give the town the much-needed improvement of waterworks. E.W. Bergmann, one of the most progressive citizens in Axtell according to the Axtell Standard, was elected mayor. In August of 1925, a special vote was held to approve the waterworks system. It passed by a large majority. The system would include 36 Fire Hydrants, a 50,000-gallon steel tank on a 100-foot tower, two pump houses and two drinking fountains for the business area. Water was first pumped into the tower in March 1926, taking 11 hours to fill. Seventy-five residents had already applied for hook up at a cost of $20 per residence with a $1 per month for the first 2,500 gallons and 35 cents per thousand charges thereafter. Also in 1925, the city of Axtell purchased six acres on the south side of town. The city wells were placed here, and the town would have a park. With the addition of the city water tower came the pranksters who dared to climb it. Warnings were issued to people to stop climbing the city water tower or to face a fine of $25.
In 1927, gravel was brought into Axtell by train car to place on the city’s streets and two main intersections were concreted along with gutters and curbs. The first issues of the Axtell High School Eagle and The Tattler of St. Michael’s School newspapers were completed. In 1936 the city body gave the approval for a modern sewer system. The cost of the system was estimated at $53,000 with the city’s share being $11,000. Four miles of pipe had been laid at a depth of five to twenty-four feet with 576 feet of the line bring cast iron pipe and the balance using clay pipe. Eighty manholes were also installed.
The county health officer placed a ban on all public gatherings due to several cases of scarlet fever.
In 1946, the county’s big caterpillar tractors were being used to pull hedge and large tree stumps along the road from Axtell to Macville, which now known as Highway 110, in preparation of widening and graveling the same. In 1948 Highway K-110 along with the city streets, were paved and oiled. Lights were added to the ball fields at the city park in August of 1949.
In 1951, the Rural Electric Cooperative building was completed. In 1955, the local chapter of the Lions club started. This organization was instrumental in many projects in the community ranging from sponsoring benefits for the local hospital to spearheading the cleanup of dead elm trees in the early 1970’s and the planting of new trees in the city.
The year of 1956 showed what a small community can do if they just put their minds to it. Groundbreaking for a new hospital north of the city park occurred and donations for the project topped out at $45,881.50, a great amount of money for a small community to raise. A new city building was built in 1961 to house the fire trucks and a community room on the west end of Main Street. In 1973, the library and city office were moved to this building.
The year 1956 showed unification of school districts. Axtell patrons voted to unify with Summerfield and Bern School districts. In 1972 the hospital was forced to close due to Dr. Hash suffering a stroke and a resident physician was not possible to secure and maintain.
R.R. Hendricks Post #214 was chartered on January 28, 1920. Annually they sponsor the Memorial Day services and in recent years have sponsored the “Avenue of Flags” at the cemeteries in Axtell. They participate in military funerals for deceased veterans in the area. The present hall was built in 1992 mainly through sponsorship by the Legion, Knights of Columbus, and the Axtell Community through monetary contributions and labor. The Legion Hall is an asset to Axtell as an available place for community events, dinners, and wedding receptions.
9:00 am - St. Bridget Cemetery
9:30 am - St. Michael's Cemetery
10:00 am - Rose Hill Cemetary
At the intersection of Fifth and Maple in Axtell stand a Doughboy monument. It is a tribute to local men and women who served in World War I. The monument was the brainchild of the newly formed American Legion R.R. Hendricks Post 214. It contains a plaque listing the 150 men and two nurses who served. It arrived in Axtell in the spring of 1925, and the April 30 issue of the Axtell Standard carried a financial statement of the memorial. The bronze Doughboy had a cost of $1,173, the monument base $550, bronze tablet with names $110, freight and labor $12.39. The town still had to raise the final $150 toward the purchase price. This project had been in the works for two or three years with towns people raising funds by having box socials, raffles, and other forms of money-making ventures. The city donated $500.The statue, according to The Chamber Monthly of Spencer, Indiana, was designed and copyrighted by E.M. Viquesney of Spencer in 1920. It was titled “The Spirit of the American Doughboy.” It is a World War I infantryman advancing through No Man’s Land, through stumps and barbed wire entanglements, his rifle held in his left hand while his right hand is raised high, holding a grenade. The Viquesney creation has two stumps, one front and one rear, and the sculptors name is imprinted on the statue. These features distinguish it from doughboys done by other sculptors. Formal dedication of the Axtell Doughboy took place on “Decoration Day,” May 31, 1925. The six-and-one-half-foot statue stood on a six-foot base which had been placed on a large concrete block in the center of the main intersection of town. It remained there for 35 years but was frequently the victim of pranksters and vandals. It was also more and more frequently the victim of the ever-increasing automobile population. In March 1955, the city obtained a lease from the railroad for a small piece of land on the northeast corner of the intersection so the Doughboy could be moved to a more appropriate location. For reasons unknown it remained in its unenviable position for another five years. It was during this same period that Axtell was struggling to build and finance a new hospital so the monument may have been relegated to second place on the list of priorities.In April of 1960, the Doughboy and its base were removed from the concrete perch and positioned on the land at the northeast corner of the intersection. Local organizations and the city arranged for the planting of shrubs and flowers to provide a suitable location for the monument.The monument is a noticeable feature in Axtell, and every spring the R.R. Hendricks American Legion Post 214 begins its Memorial Day services at the Doughboy.Submitted by LeNore Stumpf in the Axtell 125 year book
Years ago, the Oregon and California road went winding through Nemaha and Marshall County. On this trail, northeast of Axtell, was the little town of Ash Point, located on high ground where there was a large grove of ash trees. There was a general store and a hotel. These buildings, along with several dwellings, constituted the town. The hotel at Ash Point was on the South side of the trail and there were two large sleeping rooms, one for the men and one for the women and children. Another large room was used as a dining room and dance hall. A very large barn was built near the hotel to house the horses and mules of the travelers and Pony Express rides. Several sheds for storing grain and hay were nearby. Small as it was, there were several streets in Ash Point. The well at Ash Point was the first one on the trail after leaving Seneca, and it was an ideal place for travelers to make their noontime stop. Many Indians passed through Ash Point, especially in the fall of the year, when they would visit other tribes in what is now Nebraska. The Pottawatomie tribe were regular visitors at Ash Point, often camping there overnight. The building of the railroad and the birth of Axtell in 1872 was the beginning of the death of Ash Point.
David Smith and his wife, Emily Shockley Smith, came to Marshall County from Indiana in the fall of 1861 and settled north of what later became Axtell. In July of 1862, Smith took over the Ben Holliday stage line station, located on the Little Vermillion Creek about 1 ¾ miles north of what later became Axtell. The station was part of the Overland Trail. The stage made daily trips both directions, succeeding the Pony Express which had traveled over the same route from April 1860 to November 1861.Smith operated the station and inn for three years. It was the first stop enroute to Guittard Station, near present Beattie, from Ash Point, a trading post on the Oregon Trail and former Pony Express relay station. Ash Point was located on the Nemaha-Marshall County line, two miles from the Smith station as the crow flies.
Years ago, the Oregon and California road went winding through Nemaha and Marshall County. On this trail, northeast of Axtell, was the little town of Ash Point, located on high ground where there was a large grove of ash trees.There was a general store and a hotel. These buildings, along with several dwellings, constituted the town. The hotel at Ash Point was on the South side of the trail and there were two large sleeping rooms, one for the men and one for the women and children. Another large room was used as a dining room and dance hall. A very large barn was built near the hotel to house the horses and mules of the travelers and Pony Express rides. Several sheds for storing grain and hay were nearby. Small as it was, there were several streets in Ash Point. The well at Ash Point was the first one on the trail after leaving Seneca, and it was an ideal place for travelers to make their noon-time stop.Many Indians passed through Ash Point, especially in the fall of the year, when they would visit other tribes in what is now Nebraska. The Pottawatomie tribe were regular visitors at Ash Point, often camping there overnight. The building of the railroad and the birth of Axtell in 1872 was the beginning of the death of Ash Point.
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