Stone buildings stir memories of the past

Pure Nebraska
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 10:06 AM CDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2022 at 11:33 AM CDT
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HAMLET, Neb. (KOLN) - Just north of the community of Hamlet in Hayes County, you’ll find a unique limestone house that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

We caught up with Zac Richards with Richards Land Company to talk about what’s known as the J.M. Daniel House and the J.M. Daniel School District Number 3. Both are historic sites north of Hamlet. “This is a two-story stone house, it was built in 1881 by the Daniels family,” Richards said. “They lived upstairs, and they used the main floor as a trading post, and the basement was actually used to sort mail, and was the post office.”

“There were were several outbuildings here, that are no longer used,” Richards said. “There is a one-room school that is still standing. That was finished in 1886. The founders of this area actually wanted this to be a resort town. The official name of the town was Estelle. It actually lost to Hayes Center when they did the vote for the county seat. I think it lost by two votes is what they said. We ended up with Hayes Center as the county seat. Oddly enough, there is no railroad and no river running through Hayes Center. We have a little creek that runs through here. In an effort to make this a resort town, they actually dammed up the “Stinking Water” creek, and they collected water and were trying to make a lake. But the area flooded, it blew out the dam, and that messed up the plans.”

Cattle came through the area, and they were part of the Texas Trail coming from Texas up to railroad heads in Ogallala. “Southwest of here, there was the Corral Canyon,” Richards said. “It’s a steep box canyon, where they would drive the cattle in there, and bed them down overnight. There was a narrow opening where they could block it off with wagons. Then, they would head on up to Ogallala.”

The limestone house is now a private hunting get-a-way. “It’s kind of our man cave and hunting camp,” Richards said. “We hang out here. Friends and family use it, and it’s a neat little spot. We don’t to really commercialize it or advertise it.” If you’d like to see the area once known as Estelle, just head about a mile or two north of Hamlet. “There’s only one road, and there’s only one limestone house, so if you head north out of town, you’ll see it.”