Dunbar, Nebraska, population 201, is located now just to the south of Nebraska Highway 2 after the highway was diverted away from one of the "steepest main streets"
in the midwest in 1965. Established in 1856 by John Dunbar, the town was originally known as Wilson but later changed to Dunbar. Located 13 miles west of Nebraska City,
Dunbar was a large freighting depot for goods traveling west out of Nebraska City. By the 1880's the town contained a grocery, general store, restaurant, boarding house,
two hotels, two liveries, five churches, pharmacy, lumberyard, two banks, barbershop, two saloons, dentist, optometrist. In 1884 and 1888 two fires occurred,
prompting the usage of brick and mortar. About one mile south of Dunbar, the Delaware (named for the township) Cemetery was constructed. The earliest marked grave being in 1884.
THE GREAT DUNBAR TRAIN ROBBERY
State vs. Hoffman
The great Dunbar train robbery occurred on January 11, 1887. A passenger train carrying $17,000 in silver bullion was deliberately derailed one-half mile north of Dunbar.
The men responsible for the wreck, which killed the train's engineer and injured many others, were caught the very next day. Called "the Crime of the Century,"
on July 22, 1887 at 10:32 David Hoffman was the first man
to be hanged in Otoe County, Nebraska and James Bell was given ten years of hard labor in exchange for his testimony.
By the early 1920s Dunbar's population was well over 300. There were two or more hotels, banks, and elevators, and numerous shops. There was also a cement plant,
a cheese factory, and "day service" for freight to and from the depot. "The Dunbar Review" was published weekly, there were four churches, and a park where a two-day
picnic was held annually. The dance hall was called "the Hyppodrome." In addition to lodge rooms, the Masonic Hall was used for traveling medicine shows, movies, and the
junior and senior class plays.
Dunbar had a large stockyard next to the railroad and many cattle were driven in to be shipped to market. The story goes that after a successful round-up,
one cowboy decided to ride his horse through the swinging doors of one of the local establishments, which caused a great uproar.
Dunbar experienced a devastating flood on May 8, 1950. Two lives were lost when seven homes, the dance hall, and a gas filling station were washed away. The depot, many homes,
and several Main Street businesses received heavy damage. Most were not replaced, which was a further loss to the town.
In August 1965 the Nebraska Highway 2 bypass was opened around Dunbar. The 1.7 mile curve, which routed traffic around one of the steepest main streets in the Midwest, benefited
through traffic, but caused a hardship for the stores and stations in town. Highway 67, which runs north-south, still carries a fairly heavy line of traffic through town.