North of Alliance and Scottsbluff, the Nebraska panhandle is a pretty lonely place. Towns are few and far between, and when you finally do find one, there isn’t a lot to hold your interest. Hemingford is one such place.
From Carhenge, take Nebraska Route 87 north, then Route 7E west. Route 7E ends at Route 2, in Hemingford. Beyond Hemingford, continue to follow Route 2 — it will intersect with Route 71, and turn north.
There are a few small businesses in Hemingford’s very small downtown…
… but the most dominant features on the skyline are the grain silos.
Hemingford served as the county seat of Box Butte County from 1890 to 1899, when residents voted to move the courthouse to Alliance. The area is a big potato producer, and around 1930 earned the title of “Potato Capitol of the World”. (And you always thought it was Idaho.)
A few miles outside of town, where Route 2 meets Route 71 and turns north, I found this old building by the side of the road. It probably once served as a church, or maybe a school, but those days are long gone. Since there were no signs warning trespassers to stay away, I naturally assumed that trespassers were welcome, so I let myself in.
Karen Joyce writes: This is not a church. It is a Z.C.B.J. hall. I’m not sure what that stands for but I know it was a hall where. Bohemians met. The only thing I know about it. Is they used to have parties there, lots of dancing and lot of drinking. A place where they brought the whole family. The kids played outside or even danced inside with the adults. They had food (potlucks) in the basement. Was a pretty wild place. My parents who were not Bohemians. Forbid me to go there. But as I was dating a Guy whose parents were there a lot I would sneak out there with him. I was always afraid my parents. Would find out that I snuck out there cuz it was a very small community where every one knew each other. This was in the 50s. There were 2 outhouses on each side of the building. Everyone always looked like they were having a great time. Would be a few drunks outside hanging around their pickups drinking. Probably didn’t have dates! That’s about all I know. Sad to see the history being lost.
After a terrifying encounter with an owl that was living in the rafters, I checked out the inside of the building, where the ceiling is slowly collapsing. The floor didn’t feel terribly solid either, and since my heart was already racing from the welcome I received from the owl, I got the heck out of there.
After making the turn north, Route 2 continues across the prairie for a while, then suddenly becomes more interesting. A few miles before reaching the town of Crawford, the road drops down from the flat farmland into a valley where erosion has added a lot of photo opportunities. This land is the home of the Hudson-Meng Bison Kill site, as well as the odd formations of Toadstool Park, both of which require a little dirt road driving (which begins on the next page).
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.