The fragile hills and bluffs along the Missouri River in Nebraska, like these in Burt and Thurston counties , provide an interesting pattern of "steps" and erosion. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
The old school bell of Rosalie, preserved and displayed.
The town of Rosalie began, like many prairie towns, out of need. Located within the Omaha Indian Reservation, the first white settlers came in the early 1900s to the area known as "Blackbird Hill." While towns had formed along the Missouri River in many counties, there were none along this stretch of Nebraska's "eastern shore."
A town was platted in 1906 when the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was building through Thurston County. Many names were considered for the new town, including "Reedville" for Mrs.W.W. Reed, who had cooked for the railroad workers during construction. The railroad people called it "Holt" because when the stop numbers were translated into letters, it spelled H-O-L-T. Since the town was built on the 250 square miles of land known as Farley Pastures, "Farley" was another suggestion, but the favorite was "Rosalie."
Rosalie was the name of Joseph and Mary LaFlesche's second oldest daughter. Joseph "Iron Eye," the adopted son of the Omaha Chief, Big Elk, taught the Omahas the language and ways of the whites, and to live peaceably with them.
Rosalie married Edward Farley in 1880. They both taught at the mission school. In 1884 the Farleys were granted a lease on 18,000 acres of unallotted lands which became known as "Farley Pastures." Upon the death of her father in 1888, Rosalie took over the tribal business affairs. Although she suffered greatly from inflammatory arthritis, she raised ten children and worked to improve education for all who lived in the area. She died at age 39, in 1900. Because of her great devotion to her people, it was decided to name the town in her memory.
It took just three years for Rosalie to meet the incorporation requirements: a population of 200 or more persons residing within its boundaries, measurements platted and subdivided into small tracts, blocks, lots, streets, and alleys, and a board of trustees elected by the people to govern the town. Census records show 220 residents on May 27, 1909, when incorporation papers were signed by the county clerk.
Telephone service was in place soon after the town was established, and other city services followed. Jim Brink, known as a keen-minded, but salty editor, established a newspaper called the "Rip-Saw." (He was known to rip into anyone whom he felt needed the honor.)
In 1912 the volunteer fire department was organized. There was no real good source of water near the town so a bond issue was presented. The issue passed and work was immediately begun on water lines. In 1947 a block building was constructed for the fire equipment. In 1973 a new steel building was needed for the added equipment.
The first school was built in Rosalie in 1905, with a three-story brick building erected in 1911. This building is still in use. Sports came in 1912 in the form of basketball. Seven years later, football was added. Since then a track program for both boys and girls was established, and a girls volleyball program. Additions were made in 1926 and again in 1963, which included a gym,stage, and lunch room. School enrollment has varied greatly, with some classes of only 3-4 and others of more than 20.
Among the things remembered by early residents are: -- the flag pole and flower bed in the middle of Farley and Crescent Streets, -- the old wooden jail house, where most inmates broke-out before morning, -- the Red Selsberry Carnival that "wintered" in Rosalie.
Rosalie's three grain elevators have been kept very busy for many years. Rosalie, tied closely to agriculture, has fluctuated with the ebb and flow of the rural economy over the years. Unlike many communities adversely effected when rail service was discontinued, the Burlington Northern still provides freight service through Rosalie. However, an out-migration started in the 1930s. Continuing during and after World War II, it has effected not only the business district, but also the school. After years of talking about consolidation, the Rosalie and Bancroft schools merged in 1982, with K-5 classes held in Rosalie, and 6-12 held in Bancroft.
Rosalie was an interesting town to grow up in. It is still a very special place to visit.