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History

Cozad DepotThe town of Cozad, located on the 100th Meridian 247 miles west of Omaha, was the dream of John J. Cozad from Ohio. In 1872, when John J. Cozad was traveling through the Platte valley on the Union Pacific, he saw a sign on the right-of-way bearing the words “100th Meridian.” This particular location impressed him as being a favorable site for a town. He therefore purchased 40,000 acres of land from the Union Pacific Railroad and organized a campaign to encourage people to move to Cozad. A railroad boxcar was the first building, with the name “COZAD” painted on each end.

Cozad Early DepotSoon the railroad company erected a depot at Cozad and Mr. Cozad built a hotel and several other buildings to improve the town. Circulars extolling the merits of the new settlement were sent far and wide, especially to the states of Ohio and Indiana. By 1876, the new town boasted a population of five or six hundred.

By the time the colonists were settled, along came the grasshoppers and everything green was destroyed. The colonists tell the story of the hoppers eating the pitchfork, hoe and shovel handles as well.  The vast majority of the colonists gave up and returned east, leaving only five families behind.

Though the grasshoppers, drought and hot winds continued over the next six years, the little colony never lost heart and Mr. Cozad built an additional three business buildings and erected a school.

Mr. Cozad, while known as a haughty, aloof man with a violent temper, spent thousands of dollars building a school and a temporary “sod bridge” across the Platte River in order to give the settlers work and to improve the chances for his town to succeed. Interestingly, when he needed funds, he would “seek out a Faro game” usually back east, and was known to make $50,000 in a gambling room in Omaha between trains.

A newspaper, “The 100th Meridian,” was published and its copies were sent far and wide throughout the nation, bringing many people to settle in Cozad duringEarly Cozad the years of 1880-1882.

One day when Mr. Cozad returned to town from a business trip, Alfred Pearson confronted him and the argument soon became physical ending with Mr. Cozad drawing his gun and shooting unarmed Mr. Pearson who died two months later.

Mr. Cozad left town immediately leaving his wife to sell his property and other assets. She sewed the money in her skirts and in in the coat pockets of her son, Robert’s coat, and the Cozad family left the town. Changing their names, the Cozad family moved to Atlantic City. Robert changed his name to Robert Henri and became a famous artist and teacher of art in New York.

Cozad Alfalfa CapitolIn the early days, the Cozad area was primarily an agricultural community. Alfalfa, the Platte Valley’s “green gold,” was once the dominant force in Cozad’s economy, earning the community the title “Alfalfa Capital of the World.”

When World War II ended, alfalfa dehydrating plants came to the Platte River Valley and agriculture and livestock production continued to flourish.

The Cozad Telephone Company was established in 1902. Owned locally by Marcus D. Young, the company continues to offer the residents of Cozad telephone, wireless, internet, and email services.

Nebraska Plastics, Inc. began manufacturing irrigation pipe during World War II. Due to the war effort, aluminum was impossible to get. New, experimental plastic materials were available and they became a plastics company. In 1979, they discovered that the technology used in our irrigation tubing had an even greater future as the most advanced, innovative, and cost-effective fencing material ever produced bringing about the beautiful Country Estate Fence, Deck & Railing. Country Estate sells and ships all across the United States and to foreign countries as well.

Paulsen Building and Supply opened for business in Cozad Nebraska after moving from the Blair Nebraska area in 1946. They started out as a homebuilder and Downtown Cozada hollow block supplier. Today they handle asphalt and concrete paving, building construction, redi-mix and aggregate supply and currently have ten locations throughout Nebraska. Larry Paulsen is the Corporate President and the third generation Paulsen to run the company.

Hunt Cleaners, Inc. began production in 1951 in Cozad by Fran and Jo Hunt as a small retail dry cleaner business. During a visit to a large local manufacturer in the early 1960s, Fran noticed a pile of oil and grease soaked gloves. He asked if he could attempt to dry clean them at no cost to the company. This first successful trial order led Fran to invest time and attention to the field of industrial dry cleaning. Today Hunt Cleaners, Inc. currently maintains a vast inventory of hand protection, eye protection, respirators, hearing protection, protective apparel and oil absorbents. They also serve customer accounts in over 40 states and multiple Canadian provinces.

In March of 1961, VVS Inc. (Valley Vending Service) was founded when Wayne Davis, a Cozad, Nebraska truck stop and café owner, and Gale Evans, a local bakery owner joined forces in the automated food business. Within six months they purchased 100 percent of the company and in 1968 VVS expanded into the amusement device business with its first pool table on location. In June 2001, VVS Inc. signed with Canteen, the largest vending company in the world, as a member of their Franchise Group. With Canteen’s guidance and VVS’s deep roots in quality service and innovation, the company has continued to acquire business in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado and Texas.

New businesses continue to migrate to Cozad and we are excited with our more recent business additions, Colorado Biolabs and Industrial Skins bringing with them diversity and innovation to our community.

Cozad owes much of its continued success to the hardworking farm and ranch businesses and families who are committed in feeding our nation and our world through agriculture and livestock production. Cozad is committed to continued progress and development while offering excellent quality of life to all within our local area.

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