Our Town Cairo: Prairie oasis

Pure Nebraska
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 12:05 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2023 at 12:16 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - We’ve discovered that every small town has a story, and you can find many stories about the community of Cairo at the Cairo Roots Research Museum.

We caught up Ken Harders, who is a volunteer at the center to talk about the town and the museum. First, we talked about how the town got it’s name. While the town pronunciation looks like “KIGH-ro” in Egypt, locals actually say “KEHR-oh”. “It was named after the Cairo in Egypt,” Harders said. “When the railroad was going to extend west of Grand Island, they sent out survey crews and the land agents out this way. The civil engineer said, this looks like the Sahara desert, why don’t we just call it “KEHR-oh”? He pronounced it that way, rather than “KIGH-ro”, and every has since. Also, the street names all followed the theme of Egypt. You’ll see names like Gerber, Mecca, Suez, and Nubia as street names.” The town even has a camel and pyramid sculpture by the ball fields that plays into the Egyptian theme of the town.

The railroad truly played a key role in the development of Cairo. “Burlington railroad in the early 1880′s extended from Lincoln to Seward, York, and Aurora,” Harders said. “They got to Grand Island, and right away there were plans to extend it further west.”

In the Cairo Roots Research Museum, you will find many unique artifacts. “The building we are in used to be the old elementary school,” Harders said. “We are in the science room. The old high school used to be next door. When Cairo, Boelus and Dannebrog all merged to become Centura, the old school was torn down. But this addition, with the gymnasium, remained and it’s the town community center. The town has been gracious to us, to let us use the old science room, and the hallway for our museum.”

In the hallway, you immediately see a number of exhibits. You see a salute to veterans, and there are old high school graduation pictures on the wall. In addition, you’ll see an exhibit dedicated to Solon Borglum. He was the younger brother of Gutzon Borglum who carved Mount Rushmore. Solon Borglum farmed and ranched just outside Cairo, but also had an affinity for sculpture. Locals say at one time, he carved a face out of an area bluff. That carving has long since vanished, and no one has a picture of it. Also in the hallway, you’ll find more displays dedicated to the railroad. “Cairo was a railroad town,” Harders said. “That was one of the displays we for sure wanted to have here. If it wasn’t for the railroad, the town wouldn’t exist.”