If you are traveling along Highway 20 between Ainsworth and Valentine, you'll definitely want to visit the friendly community of Johnstown.
"John Berry was from Chicago," L-Bow Saloon owner Ruth Trobee said. "He was in a race from Chadron to Chicago in the late 1800's. When he got this far, he loved this area. When the race was over, he came back and started Johnstown. That's why our town park is called 'Berry Park'." Trobee says in the old days, cattle ranchers brought their cattle to the railroad in town, and there were many businesses. "There were two grocery stores, two lumber yards, a livery stable," Trobee said. Later, a lumber yard burned, a grocery store closed, and over time many businesses dwindled.
Now, there are not many businesses in town, but there is plenty of heart and creativity. "We have the Brown County Fair," Trobee said. "And with the Sandhills Sage store being here, and that being open four times a year, it brings a lot of people to town. They get to know our small area, and they want to come back." Trobee says that "Sandhills Sage" is a seasonal home decor boutique housed in a historical building on main street. The owners feature re-purposed furniture and items you won't find anywhere else.
"We have many people who are going canoeing coming through here," Trobee said. "We have some great hunting and fishing opportunities nearby. People that come in my business say this is the friendliest place they've been in." Trobee runs the local restaurant, and she is always looking to serve. "My mission statement is if the door is open, the grill is on," Trobee said.
"The Cowboy Trail is used a lot, too," Trobee said. The Cowboy Trail is a bike and walking trail that goes right by the town and parallels Highway 20. The community of Johnstown was also featured in a Hallmark move called "O Pioneers!" that was based on the book by Willa Cather. Many of the buildings were used as backdrops for the movie. If you are in the area, pull into Johnstown for a good hamburger and a look around this great Nebraska village.