Newport, platted in 1884, was once the largest prairie hay-shipping center in the world. Stand at the west edge of Grandma's Park and picture with me the street filled with flat-bed wagons (called hay racks) loaded with square bales of hay and pulled by four head of horses. The drivers are waiting for a train to pull into the town so that they can load the hay on the rails and send it to other parts of the country. As many as 25 train car loads of hay were shipped out in one day.
The lumber yard south of Grandma's Park was established in 1900. The office in front was their hay office along with other business. Across the street is another hay office. Hay was often stored in large hay barns-ten of them in town at one time. Across the street was the train depot-busy with carts of cream cans on the platform, mail bags that had been delivered by the train, dray wagons that hauled supplies to businesses from the train, perhaps a team and buggy to carry train passengers to their destination.
Picture with me the street to the north filled solidly with business places, two hotels, a bank, drugstore, 3-4 stores, a hardware, bowling alley, ice cream parlor, meat market, barber shop, newspaper ofice, saloon, livery stable, all the businesses that a town of 700 might need. A two-story city hall and fire station stood where Grandma's Park is now. Board sidewalks outlined the streets and hay covered the streets to combat mud and debris. A band stand stood in the middle of the main intersection.
Times do change. Many of the old buildings were destroyed by fire. Economy slowed when gas vehicles replaced horse drawn vehicles. But Newport is still prairie hay country. To the south toward the sandhills, during harvest time, see meadows covered with big round bales of hay, the newest means of preservation, and with stacks of hay like those harvested in the early days. If hay is sold it is shipped directly from the meadows to the buyers. Much of the hay, however, is moved to stack yards to be used as winter feed for the many herds of cattle in the area. To the north of Newport, where soil is heavier, you will find alfalfa fields and irrigated fields of corn, soybeans and sunflowers.
Newport still boasts of an excellent school, grocery store, community building and Post Office. So long as those conveniences can remain other businesses in the town will survive. Small town living is pleasant in many ways. Those living in it feel a strong loyalty.
Information compiled by Audrey Olson.
Interested in learning more about Newport, Rock County and the surrounding area? Visit these links:
- Newport Fast Facts
- Newport Trend Study
- Newport Demographics
- Rock County Demographics
- Newport Fact Sheet (Census)
- Rock County Fact Sheet (Census)
For further economic development information, visit the following websites:
- Nebraska Public Power District Economic Development
- Nebraska Department of Economic Development
- Community Information
The tennis court and volleyball sandlot are on the lots south of the Post Office.
Services are held at the United Methodist Church each Sunday morning at 8:30 AM.
One-fourth mile west on Highway 20 is Spring Valley Park, one of the oldest rest stops in the state. The park has been kept as natural as possible. Water and rest room facilities are avialable, along with space to set up your tent.
Newport is a small village with 136 population. Find Grandma's Park on 2nd St. in the center of the village.
Myrna's Market is a short walking distance north of the park on 2nd St., where you will also find Tom Slattery's antique hand tool collection. The U.S. Post Office is located across the street.
On Highway 20 and 2nd St. find H & H Lounge, a bar and cafe. In the same area find the Tri-County Bank's ATM and Loan Production Office.
Sunny's Cafe and Truck Stop is found at the intersection of Highway 20 and 137. Twenty-four hour credit card gas service is available.