Louisville History Written in Stone
Louisville, Nebraska traces its being back to 1857, only three years after the territory formed. It is situated in Northern Cass County on the Platte River, 18 miles west of Plattsmouth and the Missouri River.
The first settler in the area was Gardner Powers, a Native trader, who bought out a soldier's claim and built a dugout and later a log cabin at about Third and Mill streets where the Christian Church would later stand.
Powers had great hopes for the community and on Jan. 1, 1857, established a post office at what he called Louisville.Exactly why he chose that name is uncertain. Some say it was the town where his fur trading company was located, others that it was named for the community in Kentucky and least popular for a Mr. Lewis, now lost in antiquity, who operated a mill somewhere in the area.
That August, Powers formed the Louisville Town Association and filed a plat. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing transpired.
In 1863, Capt. J.T.A. Hoover arrived in Cass County after serving two years in the "late unpleasantness," as the Civil War was sometimes called, with the 58th Ohio. First hoping to farm a 320 acre tract he purchased, his plans were interrupted with the discovery of white clay on the property.
Seeing a commercial opportunity, Hoover set up a pottery works.
In 1865 he was elected to the territorial legislature and in 1867 re-established the Louisville Post Office, which had been forfeited by Powers through inaction, with himself as Postmaster.
From 1857 on, literally no structures had been built around Powers' original 1857 cabin but because of the proximity of the Platte River, Hoover began to work on the Burlington Rail Road and Missouri River Railroad to build here and even proffered a $500 gift to help build a depot and siding.
The railroad, though probably not materially swayed by the cash grant, did build through Louisville in 1870. With the promise surrounding the railroad, Hoover built a general store and post office. As it began to look like a real community might actually develop, he also had a new survey drawn that showed the Burlington tracks along the north edge of town, parallel to the Platte River, with the depot just Northwest of Cherry and First streets between North and South Depot Streets. At this point Hoover owned about a third of the roughly 50 square block town.
In 1874 the first hotel was built and in 1876 Huber and Sons Louisville Mills opened at the foot of Main Street. This steam-powered mill had two run of burrs that were capable of turning out 15 barrels of "Bone and Sinew" brand flour per day.
Hoover then incorporated his fledgling pottery company as the Louisville Stone Ware Company in June 1878 with a total capitalization of $5,000. In 1879, when Louisville had a population of about 250, his company was listed as "the only stone-ware manufactory in the state of Nebraska."
By 1881 the pottery works had a capacity of "12,000 to 15,000 gallons per week."
In 1881 Louisville had a sudden burst of growth as the Burlington completed a bridge over the Platte and the Missouri Pacific Railroad arrived with its tracks cutting through town on a north/south line paralleling Mill Creek.
A depot was built at about Third and Mill streets and elevators and stockyards just to the South.
By 1882 the Congregational Church had been joined by the Methodist and Baptist, and the Christian Brethren and Union Sabbath Schools began holding services.
The now-prosperous incorporated city of Louisville boasted a population of 450, a total area of 200 acres, four general stores, two hotels, three druggist, two groceries and many smaller prosperous merchants but no bank until the following year.
The next big event was the opening of an auto and wagon bridge over the Platte allowing their trading area to greatly increase.
In 1927 the Ash Grove Cement Company of Kansas City opened a new factory on the site of the old Murphy Quarry grounds and the town's economy boomed.
Ash Grove now owns nearly 4,000 acres of land and quarries in the Louisville area, producing about a million tons of cement annually.
Only about 30 minutes from Lincoln, Louisville is a great day trip.
Highlights include the state recreation area on the South bank of the Platte River, several antique stores, interesting restaurants or the authentic drug store soda fountain that still serves real ice cream sodas seven days a week.