STEELE CITY – There’s a quiet calm in the village of Steele City, that’s now home to around 50 residents. The only noise you ever hear is the occasional train that passes through. Established in 1873, this little community once boomed.
Jefferson County Historical Society Vice President Megan Sothan says, “The railroad was very central to the economy of Steele City.”
The railroad brought in jobs and families looking to begin a new life. Years later, many historical buildings still stand today. Just across from the railroad, sits the charming Steele City Church. It was was constructed in 1882 from limestone brought over from Hanover, Kansas.
“Steele City was still growing and was not that large of a town, so a congregation of 60 people was pretty solid. In some of the accounts, you know, they talk about that – where they weren’t a large congregation, but a strong congregation.”
In practicing their faith, the congregation took advantage of the town’s layout and a nearby river.
Sothan says, “They actually conducted their baptisms in the Little Blue River until they built a baptismal font in the basement. At that time, the river ran closer to the church than it does today.”
As time went on and new technology emerged, the town’s population dwindled. Eventually, the three congregations in Steele City consolidated. The church was sold in December of 1921. A Presbyterian Church was built up the road and is still active today.
The Steele City Church has its obvious wear and tear and is in need of a new roof. The Jefferson County Historical Society would like the church to remain a standing reflection of Steele City’s history.
Sothan tells News Channel Nebraska, “Maintaining historic structures is an ongoing challenge. These buildings need a lot of TLC (tender loving care). They’ve been here a long time and in order to keep them in good repair, we’re always needing to do routine maintenance. With the big storm that came through and actually did a lot of damage in Beatrice this spring, damaged our main window here on the church. Because it is a custom and unique window, it all has to be replaced by hand.”
Sothan has started a GoFundMe page to help in getting some of the renovations underway. She hopes the community will rally together in this project.
“It’s heartbreaking to see a building in this state. We really just want to bring them back to their former splendor because the residents of Steele City, the members of the Historical Society, throughout the years have put a lot blood, sweat and tears into this building.”