Historical Sites In Jefferson County

Diller Opera House  Built in 1912-13 by Anna Diller, daughter-in-law of Samuel Diller, for who the town was named, the Opera House stands on Diller’s main business street.  The three-story brick building was designed in the Second Renaissance Revival style.  The second level of the opera house has a raked floor, balcony, and orchestra pit.  The walls and ceiling display stencil work and free hand painting by Danish immigrant artists Charles Hansen and James Willer.  Today the Diller Opera House Society owns the building so that it can be preserved and used by the community for wedding receptions, celebrations, and meetings.  More information is available by contacting C & C Food Mart and Processing at 402-793-5820.

District 10 School Museum – The grounds of this old country school display monuments to the Oregon Trail, Pony Express, and Mormon Trail.  Located a half mile west and one mile southwest of Alexandria State Lakes, northwest of Fairbury.  Visitors may contact 402-729-5131 for more information.

Endicott Clay Products Beehive Brick Kilns – Providing both a historical and economic impact to Jefferson County, Endicott Clay Products manufactures and ships bricks around the world.  Artists also create brick murals and brick art for customers.  Located across the Little Blue River south of Endicott and two miles west.  402-729-3315.

Fairbury City Museum Delve into the past of Jefferson County and take a walk through history by viewing many old-time displays.  The City Museum is an exciting educational experience in the history of Fairbury and Jefferson County.  Organized thematically, the museum features an exhibit of local fossils from the Cretaceous and the Pleistocene periods, a room of military items dating back to the Civil War, memorabilia from the world famous Campbell Brothers Circus which wintered in Fairbury in the early 1900’s, and many other displays depicting business & community growth which allow the visitor to relive Fairbury’s colorful past 150 years. Located at 1128 Elm Street, tours are welcome.  Open Saturday and Sunday 1:00-4:00 p.m. Call for tours 402-671-6879 or Ben McBride at 402-300-1318.

Four-Corner Survey Marker – Located on the 6th Principal Meridian and 40th Parallel, this landmark was used in 1856 to legally describe Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota from this point west of the Missouri River.  The marker can be reached by taking Highway 8 west to Reynolds, then turning south to Mahaska, KS.  From here, it is one mile west and one mile north of Mahaska, KS.

Jefferson County 298Jefferson County Courthouse Built in 1891 of hand-cut limestone.  Situated on a square in downtown Fairbury, the building also features ceramic fronted fireplaces in some offices and unique antique furniture in the courtroom   Newly renovated statues stand on top of the courthouse on three sides.  Open 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. on weekdays  402-729-6818

McDowell’s Rose Creek Mausoleum – 2 miles south on Hwy 15, 3 miles west on Hwy 8, 1 1/2 miles south on 566 Avenue.  McDowell’s Tomb, located south of Rose Creek, shows the work of Fairbury resident Nelson L. McDowell, a wealthy bachelor who spend a decade carving the two-room mausoleum with a hammer and chisel.  Now under the jurisdiction of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the site bears the carvings that thousands of visitors left as their own legacy.  Ironically following his death in 1937 from a car-train accident, McDowell was buried in the Fairbury Cemetery.  Rose creek also offers abundant hunting, fishing, hiking, trapping, and bird-watching opportunities.  Hiking  & caution required to the Mausoleum.   GPS Coordinates: N40 04.619 W97 13.293

Jefferson County 386Rock Creek Station State Historical Park Step back in the past at this Pony Express Station where James Butler Hickok gained his famed name, “Wild Bill”, when he shot and killed station owner, D.C. McCanles, in 1861.  Visitors have lots to see at the museum and interpretive center.  Outside watch the smithy at work and see the visible Oregon Trail Ruts, one of America’s pioneer legacies.  Modern picnic areas, campgrounds, and a nature trail are available.  402-729-5777.  Make reservations online. 

Rock Island Depot Museum – A gem in railroad transportation history, Fairbury served as the division headquarters for the Rock Island Railroad during its heyday, being the midpoint between Denver and Chicago.  Open Saturday & Sunday 1-5 p.m. 402-729-5131.  For tours call Phyllis McCown 402-729-5805 or Tom Remmenga 402-729-6634.   director.jchs@gmail.com

Smith Lime Kiln – A rare glimpse into early masonry manufacture unfolds at the limestone house built in the early 1870s by W.C. Smith, who procured calcined lime for building purposes in a nearby kiln.  Located north of Fairbury on River Road, displays in the house depict lime burning and its uses. 402-729-5131. director.jchs@gmail.com

Jefferson County 663Steele City Historical District – The past comes alive in a stroll through this historic village.  Visitors can check out a restored 1880s stone church, a 1900 stone blacksmith museum.  Living History Weekends throughout the summer and The Annual Steele City Flea Market/Farm Machinery Show the third weekend in September provides an excellent opportunity to take advantage of great antique finds and the scenery. Call for appointment.   402-729-5131.  director.jchs@gmail.com

Tri-County Oregon Trail Monument – This marker is located five miles east and two miles south of Steele City.  It gives legend of the Oregon Trail through Washington County Kansas and Gage and Jefferson County Nebraska.