Cozad, NE

Turn the historical pages back to 150 years ago. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln challenged the railroad to be built to a specific spot on the Nebraska map. President Lincoln was pointing at the 100th Meridian, the current location of Cozad. The challenge was accepted, and the Union Pacific Railroad was being built with "the workers laying new rails at a rate of one and one-half miles per day."

On October 5, 1866, the railroad reached the 100th Meridian. It was determined that there should be "appropriate ceremonies enacted on this ground on October 26, 1866. The Great Excursion from Wall Street to the 100th Meridian brought 250 notables: railroad and territorial officials, congressman, financiers and newspaper men, including such dignitaries as Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln; Rutherford B. Hayes, future President of the United States; and George M. Pullman, inventor of the Pullman car. It was the first passenger train to roll in Nebraska Territory and included the car which the year before had borne President Lincoln's body from Washington to Springfield, Illinois."

"In 1872, John J. Cozad was traveling through the Platte River Valley on the railroad, and saw the 100th Meridian sign. He was impressed, and purchased land in this area. He returned to Ohio, organized an excursion and brought a company of people to this location. Thus, Cozad, Nebraska was born." (The trip ticket from Cincinnati, Ohio to Cozad, Nebraska: $22.00 in 1879.)

The Cozad newspaper, THE COZAD LOCAL, reported: "Cozad was born with and nurtured by the Union Pacific Railroad. The growth over the years of both has been a parallel and cooperative achievement. The railroad, with its early construction crews, and later with its encouragement of immigrants and settlers from the East, laid the foundations upon which the city was built; and, in return, Cozad poured its wealth of agricultural products and livestock into this great transcontinental artery, nourishing the growing giant, which is American."

Cozad was represented in the 1939 Golden Spike Parade, in downtown Omaha. Two brothers, Lane and Miles Hart loaded their six horses onto the Union Pacific Train and traveled on the train to Omaha. They unloaded their horses, wagon and in their best western outfits and large cowboy hats, were photographed amidst flags waving in celebration.

In the early history of Cozad, the rail cars were seen on many side tracks, such as at the Cover Sheep Lots, in east Cozad. The loading chutes are still there, with some pieces of track, reminding the people of that important business. History is visible today as the "pen riders" in their chaps and silk neckerchiefs, and sweat-laden leather hats are out in the old Cover Lots, on horseback, feeding hundreds of cattle.

So today, one awaits the sound of the Union Pacific train whistle. The service to the Cozad Community is noted, as the crops are harvested, and the train cars are loaded by the elevators, near the 100th Meridian sign.