Greenwood is located at the west most end of Cass County, just four miles south of the Saunders County line and one mile from the Lancaster line. The first resident of this area was Silas Greenwood, a Native American trapper and hunter who lived with his white wife and family in a dugout along Salt Creek in the early 1860s. The village was named for him.
In 1869, when the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad built its line from Plattsmouth to Lincoln, a station was needed in this area. Farmers residing nearby purchased land from Smith C. Bethel, and donated it to the B&MR with the promise that $10,000 worth of improvements would be invested. “The land was subsequently transferred to the South Platte Land Company who [in 1882] still hold it and have not been sold to individual residents…”
Bethel built a store near the rock-grade and was named postmaster of “Greenwood” in 1870. With the tracks completed, the depot opened for business in July of that year. By 1880 the population had reached 200. The town was incorporated in 1883 and by 1885 the population had reached 840.
The Congregational Church organized and a church built in 1873, followed by the Christian Church in 1874. Originally there were three active churches: Methodist, Christian, and Catholic. At this time the Methodist church is currently closed and has been placed on the national registry of historical buildings.
The first school was a mile or more south of town. In 1878 a school with a “seating capacity of 100” was built. The first class to graduate was in 1890, and a new schoolhouse was built in 1907. The town continued to grow, so that in 1920 the elementary students were housed in the Methodist Church until more space was added. In 1957, when the graduating class consisted of only one student, the high school merged with Ashland’s school district, the elementary coninued to operate and was later moved to Ashland in 1985.
Two things happened in the 1920s that not only halted the growth of Greenwood, but hastened its decline. Two devastating fires wiped out much of the early business district, and the D.L.D. (Detroit-Lincoln-Denver) Highway was built. People bought cars and could drive to Lincoln to shop. Then in the 1930s, after Highway 6 was paved, a number of businesses closed and jobs became hard to find, so people moved on. Recently the community, located only two miles west of the interstate between Lincoln and Omaha, has begun to grow again. It recorded 587 residents in 1989, and has nearly that many in 1990.
In 1880 Greenwood had three elevators. In 1919 the Farmers Union Cooperative Association was incorporated with Emmett Landon as manager. It is the largest business in town. Big concrete and steel drying sheds have been built. Today, the current Frontier Cooperative was formed as the result of a merger between Frontier and Midwest Cooperative in September 2019, but its roots date back to February 18, 1915.
The Greenwood Woman’s Club was organized in 1929. Their motto “We Aim to Serve” has been well-practiced, providing such things as food baskets to the needy, and recently a scholarship for a Greenwood senior. Unity Lodge A.F. and A.M., chartered in 1887, recently joined the Lincoln lodge. Order of the Eastern Star was chartered in 1925. A Boy Scout troop, organized in 1951, is still very active. An American Legion post was organized shortly after World War I, and in 1934 an auxiliary post was added. A volunteer fire and rescue department was organized in 1949 and in 1972 new equipment was purchased. In 1970 the village board purchased E.L. McDonald’s building, which had been the grocery store for over 50 years, for use as a community center. An area was set aside in the southeast corner for a public library. Organized in 1975, it is still very active.
During the nation’s bicentennial year, 1976, the Greenwood Historical Society was organized. A big celebration included a parade, the crowning of Miss Greenwood, and a speech by Lt. Gov. McGinley. The Burlington Northern donated its old depot to the Greenwood Historical Society, which had raised money to move it from track-side to the Greenwood Park. Many memberships, fund raisers, generous donations, and lots of volunteer work made the move possible, and Green Thumb workers did much of the repairs. Today the depot museum is available for viewing by appointment during the summer hours.
In the past few years a few of the original homes throughout the village have been demolished with many new homes in the same locations. In addition we have grown a bit to the west with a few new luxury homes and rental properties scattered around town.
In addition to our big elevator, we have Bakers Candies, an award winning candy factory which sells Nebraska made products all over the nation and around the world, and the old high school is currently privately owned for spiritual retreats. In addition to a small business district, we have a recently renovated park with new playground equipment and a gazebo.
Greenwood, small town Nebraska, with a big heart is always happy to welcome new residents and visitors.
A. Carpenter, K. Gerlach