The town of Giltner, while always being at its current location, had a difficult time in finding a suitable name.
Yet whether called Huntington or Bromfield or Giltner it has been a thriving town with a close-knit community.
In 1886 the Lincoln Land Company, whose business was developing towns along the railroad lines, bought land in Union Township. On May 25, 1886, a town was platted and named “Huntington” by an employee on the railroad for his home town in Pennsylvania. There were great festivities when the first rain arrived in September. Promoters claimed that Huntington was “the new pearl on the line and sure to become the best of them all.”
In February 1887, however, the name of the town was changed to “Bromfield” at the request of the post office, because mail was getting mixed up with that going to Hartington in Cedar County. The origin of this name is not known.
By 1890 Bromfield had a large array of stores and services. Bromfield House was owned by William Chisholm, the Commercial House was run by John Smith. There was a newspaper called “The Bromfield Bulletin” which Samuel Figge owned. George Pierce and H.S. Frymire were implement dealers. Frank Malone was a barber, Brock and Simmons were insurance agents, Ehlebract had a harness shop, and Farrand and Walters were the towns’ blacksmiths. The livery stables were operated by Sam Gibbons, Charles Hite, and J.W. Petrea. The drugstore was run by Mrs. Myers and George Moore, the general stores were run by Trobee, and another by Leinbergers. Mrs. Trobee and Mrs. Ehlebracht were milliners, and Sue Harrod had a dressmaker’s shop. The billiard hall was run by Orendorff, and the saloon by John Goos. Charles Harrod and Charles Jewett had butcher shops, and hardware stores were run by Mather and the Wheeler Brothers. Dr. Brown and Dr. Case had offices, and Bell Williams, L.C. Genoway and Albert Ehlebracht were carpenters. In addition there was a bank, a lumberyard, two elevators, a school and a church. The population was just under 200.
The name of the town still did not suit the postal service because of the town of Bloomfield in Knox County. There was constant havoc with the mail, but since their post office had not opened until 1890, there was considerable debate as to which one should yield and choose another name.
In order to move the community ahead, Rev. H.M. Giltner, the minister who founded (established) the Presbyterian Church (in Bromfield) in 1893, was honored by having the town re-named for him. The name “Giltner” became official on September 14, 1895.
The public school started in 1885, also had to change its name. A new brick school building was erected in 1917. A major addition was made in 1956 and a gymnasium and classrooms were added in 1981 when the 1917 building was removed. The largest graduating class was 34 members in 1941.
Giltner’s population reached its peak in 1910 (note: 410 according to US Census). A population decline was experienced in the 1930-40s, as people moved to larger cities in search of work. The number of businesses also declined as people sought greater selection of goods and lower prices in Hastings and Grand Island.
In the 1940s Giltner had four churches: Catholic, Christian, Presbyterian, and Methodist. The shift in population also caused two of these to close. Currently Giltner has the United Methodist Church and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
From Nebraska Our Towns: Central Southeast - article by Gerald E. Sherard 1987
Edits and updates by the Plainsman Museum 2018, to reflect our mission.
OUR MISSION: The Plainsman Museum is a not-for-profit institution, which focuses on the time from 1860-1950, that collects, preserves, illustrates, and works to establish the History of Hamilton County, Nebraska, through education, exhibits, research, and maintenance of relevant archives and collections.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL; “The Giltner Gazette;” The Sun Directory, 1890 & 1897; Adams, Clay, Hall, & Hamilton Counties Memoirs, 1890; Atlas & Plat Book, 1888, 1916, 1903, 1923. Hamilton Co: The Garden Spot of the State, C.L. Hall, 1887; History of Hamilton & Clay Counties, Stough 1921; History of Hamilton County, HSHS, 1936; Centennial History of Hamilton County, B.G. Bremer, 1967; Hamilton County Nebraska Indexes, G.E. Sherard, 1985; Chief - A collection of Early Giltner Stores, 1984; L.C. Haymart: Historical Sketches of Giltner, Nebraska, 1985. Gerald Sherard: And the Centennial Newspaper, September 19-21, 1986, sent by Donna Tobler.