History of Ayr, Nebraska
From: Past and Present Adams County, Nebraska
Edited by: Judge William R. Burton
Assisted by David J. Lewis
Published By: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago 1916


The Village of Ayr, situated about twelve miles south of Hastings, in the valley of the Little Blue River, was established in September, 1878. It was named in honor of Doctor Ayr, of Iowa, who was then one of the directors of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad.

The land at that time was the property of private parties, and portions of it had previously been obtained from the railroad company, having been included in the land grant. Those owning the land were John Ratcliffe, who owned section 33 of the railroad land; east of this a quarter section, property of A. C. Moore; one quarter section on the east belonging to Ayers Goble; while south of Goble's land and west of Moore's joines the quarters owned by Professor Meyers.

The town started after the building of the railroad in 1878, in consideration that the parties owning the land were to donate every other lot, or half of the townsite, to the company, providing they locate a station at that point.

O. D. Barred built the first house on the village site, a small frame dwelling, in October, 1878. The next improvement was the erection in November of the same year of a two story frame hotel, by R. C. Fleming. The same fall, T. C. Fleming and A. L. West built a storeroom and opened a business house with a general stock of merchandise. Immediately following, R. C. Gregg also built a storehouse and opened the first drug store, which he afterward sold to Koehler & Pahr. Pahr later bought the interest of his partner and had control of the business. Late in the fall of 1878, John S. Richards opened a grocery store, McMillan & Hull a general store, and M. S. & T. J. Edgington started a business, dealing in hardware. In the summer of 1879, Henry Gund & Company built a large grain elevator, and John Robinson opened a livery barn.

In 1878, A. Peck and Henry Howe put up a building, which was used for a saloon for a time, but, as the business did not flourish, the saloon was closed and the building later used as a schoolhouse. In the fall of 1879, Isaac Vanderwart built a blacksmith shop, and the same fall the Commercial Hotel was built by A. J. Pate and Rev. J. Fleming erected a building known as Church Hall, to be utilized for religious purposes, in the building of which he used his own capital.

The educational facilities of Ayr were about equal to those of the average country district, and the school was kept in a building situated about half a mile north of town. The first school was taught in the winter of 1878-79, by John Gainor, a true son of the Emerald Isle. Gainor was generally considered an excellent teacher, having had a splendid education, and, with that amusing manner so characteristic of his race, he won the good will and admiration of all his pupils, his only crime being an excessive love for the intoxicating bowl. He was employed by the school board to teach a second term, but at the close of school, in the spring of 1879, he "went on a big spree," which lasted several days. Chagrined and mortified by his conduct, he secretly left the place and did not return.

A postoffice was established at Ayr in 1879. Previous to this date it was kept at a place called Gilson, about two miles north of the townsite. E. H. Scott was postmaster, and it was through his efforts and influence that the office was. moved from Gilson to Ayr. Scott held the position of postmaster up to the spring of 1881, and was succeeded in office by James Bovard.

The first religious services were held by the Rev. J. Fleming, a Presbyterian missionary laboring under the auspices of that denomination. The church was organized in the winter of 1878-79, with a membership of thirty. The services were held in Church Hall, a building erected by Mr. Fleming.

In the spring of 1879 a Methodist congregation was organized under the direction of Elder Lemons, then presiding elder of the district. The Rev. John Holland was their first regular pastor, remaining with the congregation one year.

Dr. S. A. Bookwalter was the first practicing physician to locate in the village, having made his advent in the summer of 1879.

A lumber and coal yard was started in 1879 by William Laughlin and Cyrus McMillan. In 1880 Mortimer Kress and W. S. Moot moved a large two story building from Millington to Ayr, using the first story for a storeroom and fitting the upper floor for a town hall.

The first deaths were those of Henry Harm's twin infants, in October, 1881. The first child born was Harvey Fleming, son of T. C. and Esther J. Fleming.

Notwithstanding the excellent location of the village, its growth, although promising at first, declined rapidly.

Only one attempt was made at journalism at Ayr. A paper called the An Times was established in January, 1882, the first issue of which was made on the 14th of that month. In size, the sheet was a six column quarto, was republican in politics, and had a regular issue of 360 copies. The paper was edited and published by Watkins Brothers, the firm being composed of three brothers - C. L., G. M. and F. A. Watkins. The journal was of patent inside. Besides the editorial work, the firm did considerable job work.

An was incorporated May 1, 1883, the corporation embracing the following territory: The southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 33, the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 34, the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 3, and the east half of the northeast quarter of section 4. The portions in sections 33 and 34 are in Ayr Township and the remainder in Zero.

The first trustees were H. P. Rowe, A. C. Moore, W. W. Char, S. E. McMurry and J. S. Richards.

The grain elevator which Henry Gund & Co. built in 1879 was destroyed by fire in 1902. The building moved by Mortimer N. Kress and W. S. Moot still stands in the town and is the property of the A. O. U. W., who have their hall in the upper story.

The I. O. O. F. have a well appointed hall in the upper room of the brick building in which the general store of C. F. Mathenv is located.

Previously Mr. E. H. Scott and James Board have been mentioned as being the postmasters. Subsequently Mortimer N. Kress was postmaster from 1889 to 1883, Henry Howe from 1893 to 1897, Robert Ratcliffe from 1897 to 1913. The present postmistress, Mrs. Robert Zachary, has served since 1913.

Ayr now has two general stores, one conducted by Henry Howe. who has been in business in the village since its founding, and the other by C. F. Matheny, who was in business in Hansen at one time. Mr. Matheny purchased the business from George Overstreet in the summer of 1916. Mathew Ureling conducts a hardware store and Harley Jeffers has a restaurant and confectionery store. Frank Fehringer has a barber shop and Mr. Ratcliffe a blacksmith shop. John Heimann manages the lumber yard for the Coon Lumber Company, and Lon Davis has a livery barn. The implement business is conducted by H. Roeder, with whom is associated his son, Arthur Roeder. The elevator is owned by the Farmers Grain & Supply Company and is managed by Guy Bonham.

The Methodist Episcopal Church erected a house of worship in 1893 at a cost of about $1,200. George Moore was the contractor. The present church, which was erected at a cost of about $2,200, was completed in June, 1910, Jay Gobel being the contractor. Among the earliest members of the Methodist Church in Avr were Adam Reader, George Eastwood, George Parks, W. W. Philleo, Mrs. Josie Scott, Mrs. Laura Easter, John Giddings and A. M. Jeffers. Rev. Rex Barr is the present pastor.

The brick store building in which the general store of C. F. Batheny is located was built in 1910 by the I. O. O. F., but came into the possession of Sherman Woodworth about two years ago, the lodge retaining a 99 year lease upon the lodge room on the upper floor.

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