Known for its fertile ground, Paoli was originally established in August 1887, but was not incorporated till August 6, 1929. Even then, there were some who were angered by the incorporation an in 1931 a suit was filed in court requesting that Paoli, not be allowed to incorporate. A trail followed, and a decision in favor of incorporation was handed down on March 26, 1931. The early homesteaders dug wells and built windmills and because of the good native grass, they also raised small herds of cattle. Paoli flooded several times from the run off from Frenchman creek
Paoli, which was named by one of the railroad’s Chief Engineers, received its name from the French patriot Pasquale Paoli who also lent his name to the town of Paoli, Pa, but local lore says the town received its name from a Swede named “Ole” who at the time work for the railroad laying track. The story goes that after he had an argument with his supervisor, he stormed in to the timekeeper’s office and said “I quit, pay Ole”
In 1908 a railroad line that would become known as the “highline” ran from Sterling, Co to Holdridge Nebraska. Towns were springing up every 8 to 10 miles along railroad line, so soon a wooden shed, stockyard and a small siding were built south of the tracks. A boxcar was set off the main track to be used as a depot. The “Highline” passed thru Paoli twice a day once at 9am from the west and again at 4 pm from the east. Later a two story depot was built with the agent living upstairs and the downstairs serving as his office, waiting room and freight storage. Cattle, hogs and sheep were shipped from Paoli to Omaha and Chicago.
In 1909 C.J. Peters ran a general store and post office. The post office which open 1888 closed in1890 then reopened again in 1910 and has served the community ever since. For a while the post office was in the Koerner Store which was south of the Co-op elevator. Cole and Co opened a general store in 1916 and it later became a hotel. Mr. Porter opened a blacksmith shop. Harry Johnson ran a billiard hall and a restaurant from 1912 to 1979. There was one electric light in town and it was in front of the pool hall, because Harry Johnson also owned the first power source in town. There was the Paoli Grain and Trading Post in 1916, the Paoli State Bank which later became the Town Hall and the Central Lumber Co in 1910, the last business in Paoli closed 1976.
By 1917 Paoli had a population of 300 people there were 3 grain elevators, 2 creameries, an implement store, hardware store, general store, land office, lumber yard, a 2 story hotel, a telephone company, an community building along with two churches, the Trinity Methodist which was established in 1918 and a Presbyterian church established in 1917.
Tom Guernsey owned a well; windmill and livery near the center of town. He would regularly filled a galvanized tank with water that he had fastened to the running gears of a wagon and he would then deliverer water to the residents of the town for 50 cents. On many a warm summer’s day, the town’s children could be seen, running along behind Tom’s wagon in their bare feet, playing in the water that splashed from the wagon. Tom’s place also served as a watering stop for the farmers who hauled goods into town.
There were several schools in or around Paoli. There was the Sunny side school which was 3 mile south 1 mile west of town. The Broadway school: 3 miles south, 1mile west of Paoli and the Wild Duck school 2 ½ miles north of town. 1918 3 room school house in south part of town served as a 2 year high school for a while. The last school closed in 1960.
With the invention of the automobile and the need for better roads and highways, Highway 6 was establish and passed thru Paoli in 1933.
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Last updated December 2017