I received the following newspaper clipping from a distant cousin, Annemarie Schoen, who is a g. grandaughter of the Dick Ahern mentioned in the article as working on the first Brayton newspaper, the Brayton Democrat. The "Squire Cadigan" mentioned in the article is Patrick William Cadigan (Cadegan), my GG Grandfather and her GGG Grandfather. He was an original settler in 1877 of O'Connor, a town in Greeley County from the late 1800s to early 1900s that no longer exists.
"Central Nebraska Boasts Real Ghost Town: There's Little Left of Village Brayton"
By Jack Bailey
(From the Grand Island Daily Independent, June 29, 1954)
BRAYTON-Driving along on a country road between Wolbach and Greeley, you come to the ghost town of Brayton. You know it is Brayton because the nameplate which was on the depot is nailed on the chicken house in a very conspicuous place beside the lone home that still remains in the once-thriving community.
Today the town boasts a single resident, Mrs. Tracy Schultz. She lives there in the big home, alone.
At one time Brayton boasted of 60 families. That was back in the late 1800s. At that time the town had three grocery stores, a bank, a blacksmith shop, pool hall, hardware store, filling station, and three or four saloons, in addition to two elevators. It was quite a grain center.
This all faded out of the picture in 1936. The only thing remaining, besides the home, to indicate that a town once exsisted there are sidewalks which lead up to the huge dance hall on the hill. They are overgrown with weeds until they are barely discernible.
Without the sign, and without the sidewalks, you wouldn't know Brayton attracted farmers from miles around. It was a racing center, and fast horses used to race around the mile-and-a-half track located just at the edge of town.
It was an Irish town, and the tales still hold today about the deeds of these Irishmen are almost unbelievable.
It was also the home of Squire Cadigan, one of the most unusual judges in Nebraska. The Squire at one time operated a saloon. They tell the story of how the Squire, who was the justice of that part of the country, decided to try a case one day in the saloon. He told the lawyers to line up at one end of the bar and he selected twelve good and true men who were to act as jurors. He heard the case, which was presented by the late James Lanigan of Greeley, while the jurors ordered drinks as the case progressed.
Finally, when the case was ready to go to the jury, they retired from the building and gathered around the "Chick Sale" at the rear and reached their decision. They returned a few minutes later, gave their verdict, and the Squire set up the drinks on the house for the jurors and for the attorneys representing both sides of the case.
The Squire was also quite a racing man and had many fast horses, and there was much betting on these races.
Brayton was named in honor of one of the directors of the Burlington Railroad, whose track went through the town.
H.M. Thorpe and his brother-in-law, A.H. Floatin, built and opened the first general store in 1888. Thorpe later was appointed the first postmaster. He served in this capacity for many years, until he sold out his store to Charles B. Murphy, who ran the store and post office until the death of his wife in 1944.
Mrs. Charles Callahan was the last postmaster in Brayton. She served three months and until the post office was closed on June 1, 1945.
Editor of the first newspaper, the Brayton Democrat, was Frank Colvin. Dick Ahern pulled the press lever on the first paper and every press day thereafter until he left in 1897.
T.C. Phalan built and operated the first bank, known as the Brayton Commercial. Dave Lanigan was the cashier. Peter Kerrigan later operated the bank until it closed in the late 1930s. It never reopened.
The early church in Brayton was a nonsectarian church, built by the entire community. This, despite the fact that almost everyone in the community at the time was an Irish Catholic.
Stores opened one after another as the town progressed and at one time or another there was almost every type of store imaginable located in the thriving community, including a millinery store, a drug store, modern hotel.
The first elevator was built by Jacques barstow in 1899. William Hynes was the first operator. The elevator was equipped with a gasoline engine which was uncommon because the elevator power up to that time had been horses. The engine was unusually heavy and bulky. It weighed 4200 pounds and developed only 12 horsepower. A 500-gallon tank served as the cooling system. It took a good man with a lot of know-how to start the engine. This fell upon the shoulders of Barney Callahan because he was known as the strongest man in the community.
Whenever there was any dentistry work to be done, the postmaster, Charles Murphy, performed the task.
P.J. Rooney and John McGuire were big cattle feeders in the early days. On one occasion, a gang of cattle rustlers operating in the central part of the state took off with a bunch of their cattle and shipped them to Chicago. Among the cattle stolen was a pet steer. Rooney and mcGuire boarded the next train for Chicago and arrived there before the cattle were sold, and began looking for their cattle. Finally, they spotted the pen where their cattle were located, and in order to convince the livestock men that the herd was theirs, they stood in another pen and called for the pet steer to come to them. This steer did and convinced the livestock men that (the) Rooneys were the rightful owners. The cattle thieves departed hurriedly. They were later captured in Central Nebraska and it cost Rooney and McGuire 160 acres of land to put the thieves behind bars.
All in all, Brayton at one time was the hot spot in the Irish Alps. Today nothing remains of the ghost town except the weed-covered sidewalks and the Schultz home which sits on the hill and overlooks the area."
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