In the spring of 1850, William Roggenkamp settled with his family at his 120 acre homestead claim, which in time was to become the site of the Village of Bennet. At the time of his arrival, dense strands of tall, sod forming grasses and scattered woodlands along streams covered the soil.
Building a Railroad
In 1867, soon after Nebraska became a state, a group of men organized an independent company to build a railroad from Nebraska City to Lincoln. A town was needed in Section 10 near the Little Nemaha River, and in 1871 the railroad entered into negotiations with Roggenkamp for right-of-way through his land. He agreed to provide the land necessary, but only if they would plat a town site near his home, north of where the tracks were to be laid. The railroad agreed, and the finished plat was filed with the State authorities on July 29th, 1871. Originally named Bennett's Station for John Bennett, vice president of the line, the last "t" was mysteriously dropped by 1872, and the town was incorporated October 1, 1881 as Bennet.
Bennet grew quickly, and by 1900 became a stable prosperous agricultural town. It was the social and commercial center for the farming population in the surrounding area, as well as for its own residents. Of course it must be remembered that at that time Lincoln was about as accessible to residents of Bennet, as North Platte might be today. At one time Bennet boasted its own telephone company, gas company, hotel and bank. Other businesses filling the business district included:
- Blacksmith shop
- Drug store
- Funeral parlor
- Grocery store
- Hardware store
- Lumber yard
Economic Prosperity Declined in the 1930s
During the 1930's the population declined and the number of businesses dropped significantly. Area farms became bigger, and many of the younger people moved away to the big city in search of employment. Also, as transportation became more reliable and affordable, people began going to other towns for goods and services
Today Bennet is best viewed in its regional setting with Lincoln as the focal point. Lincoln is the seat of city, county, and state government and has over 90% of the total population of Lancaster County. It exerts a major influence on the Village in terms of employment, commercial services and public facilities. Bennet must keep abreast of regional issues and opportunities in order to more effectively advocate its interests within the regional community.
In the past 25 years, the community has grown largely due to an influx of families who commute to work. The community wide attitude survey of Bennet taken in October, 1992, found that 76% of the residents work in Lincoln. It must be remembered that, although they work elsewhere, they have chosen to make their home in Bennet. Of the people moving to Bennet in the last few years, many did so because of the small town atmosphere. They like the lower cost of living, cleaner air, good school system and rural atmosphere.
Many new small businesses have also started in Bennet since 1970. They must compete with the Lincoln market where residents do most of their shopping. To survive they must offer needed products or services at a highly competitive price and must also draw customers from more than the immediate Bennet area.
The future of Bennet depends upon the attitude of the people and the community leaders. It will take a group of hard working local leaders, and a willingness of its citizens to work together, to make Bennet a better place in which to live.