If These Bricks Could Talk 

by Donna Henton

Blair, Nebraska celebrates 150 years in 2019.  Our town is steeped in history and interesting stories.  The Carter brothers, railroads and robust businesses helped form our town.  Let's not forget the famous people and the political shenanigans in our history.             

 If these bricks could talk...

BLAIR 1908 


John Insley Blair.jpeg


Blair was named by one of the nation's wealthiest men,    John I. Blair

Henry Ford made many trips to Blair to visit two friends.   They all enjoyed fishing in the Missouri River. 

Who were his friends? 

From 1869 to 1871,

 a Blair resident served as

Washington County Sheriff.  

He was at Ford's Theatre the night President Abraham Lincoln was shot and he witnessed the event.

A pioneer clothing merchant from Norway decided Blair needed squirrels.  He purchased many and turned them loose in the parks.  The City Council passed an ordinance - no one could bother or harm  the squirrels - what happened next?

2 stoy.jpg

1874.  This is the first two-story brick building in Blair.  Do you know where it was located?

Through pictures, maps and a history of each downtown building lot, If These Bricks Could Talk is a colorful 375-page, hard-bound book, filled with interesting tidbits about the buildings in Blair.  It will give you a unique insight into the lives of the families and the people who founded Blair and the businesses they created. 

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Volume One

Through pictures and stories you will learn of the early years of Blair.   

Washington Street is rich in history.  Starting at 15th and Washington, you will read about John Aye and his seed corn center of the world!   Gus Rathmann and his blacksmith shop that turned into his Ford car dealership.  Jehu H Hungate built his bank building at the corner of 16th and Washington and he was the only pioneer to build two brick buildings on main street, both of which are still standing today.  The Castetter family, very prominent in the early development of Blair and then suddenly the Castetter Bank closed in 1921.  There was the druggist, the Honorable William Haller, and all his home remedies.   EC Pierce bought lots at the March 10, 1869 lot sale and started his undertaking and furniture business.  Joe Marks, the traveling peddler, and later he built on Washington Street.  PZ the shoe man was a flamboyant merchant.  LF Hilton and his 1869 newspaper, his wife Teresa and her millinery shop.  Blair had photographers, many grocery stores, harness shops, boot makers, very early on there were implement dealers and livery barns on Washington Street.   Volume 1 is 375 pages starting with the Carter Brothers, John I Blair, and Washington Street.

Volume Two

 It features 405 full color  pages.  You will learn of businesses that were not on Washington Street.  There are many sections: hospitals, schools, courthouse, the statue, the firehouse and city hall, the jails, streets, railroad bridge and the car bridge, celebrations, Blair’s trees, and so much more.   Also included is pioneer family history and numerous tidbits.  

My family and I have had two
walking tours.  For those of you that attended either of these tours, my grandchildren played the parts of some of the early pioneers and all of us walked from place to place.


I am offering private tours.  If you are interested please contact me.  A private tour is myself, and two to three others traveling in a car.  

BOOKS AVAILABLE LOCALLY  at Country Gardens, 1502 Washington Street, Blair.  



Saturday, November 20

First Lutheran Church Craft Fair, Blair

9 am - 3 pm

There will be many vendors, lunch will be served, and a great venue for Christmas shopping. 





     Lifelong Blair resident, Donna Henton began researching the history of Blair, Nebraska, three years ago.  Hundreds of hours later, the final product is ready to help commemorate and celebrate Blair's 150th birthday!  

     Donna is married and lives in Blair.  She spends her free time attending the activities of her seven grandkids, and reading and working in her yard.