Merna is a village in Custer County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 391 at the 2000 census.
In 1972, Gerald F. Merna, the Executive Assistant to the Postmaster General at the U.S. Postal Service Headquarters in Washington, DC, learned there was a Third Class Post Office named Merna, in Custer County, Nebraska. Curious as to his “namesake” Post Office, on Feb. 16th Mr. Merna wrote a letter to Kenneth L. Bergstrom, then the Postmaster of Merna, Nebraska 68856, inquiring how the town got its name "Merna."
Postmaster Bergstrom sent Mr. Merna a small pamphlet, “STORY of MERNA and AREA.” Selected excerpts from that pamphlet disclosed the following information:
“Merna is located in Kilfoil Township of Custer County. The first Merna Post Office was located about one-half mile north of the present townsite and was established on March 2, 1880. It was located in a home built of cedar logs, rather than sod, occupied by the first Postmaster, Samuel N. Dunning. Postmaster Dunning and a few neighbors petitioned the United States Government at Washington to grant them a mail route from Kearney and a Post Office, to be called Clifton. The name Clifton was rejected but the mail route was granted. The Post Office and town were later named for Postmaster Dunning’s daughter, Merna.
In 1881, W. G. Brotherton and his wife took a claim where the town of Merna now stands. He built a small sod house and this became a Post Office and a store, he being the second Postmaster.
In 1883, the Post Office and store, which comprised the town, was moved about two miles west and north, and a townsite, company formed. In 1886, the Lincoln Townsite Company purchased Postmaster Brotherton’s claim, relocating the Post Office and town back in the former location.
Early in April, the year 1883, a small train of prairie schooners came from Iowa and Illinois looking for the valley which was already settled by a few earlier settlers. The Post Office was already established and being operated by Sam Dunning as postmaster. Drouths, blizzards and even grasshoppers didn’t daunt the courage of these pioneers, and by the turn of the century the village of Merna was a busy town. Many homes, the school and churches were all signs of progress. About this time there were two hotels, two livery stables, three banks, three eating houses, three general stores, a meat market, two drug stores, a newspaper, a bakery, a telephone office, a millinary store, two barber shops, a dentist, two doctors, two repair shops, a railroad depot, and three large grain elevators.
At the present time (1967), Merna’s business houses aren’t as plentiful, however we still have three elevators, many storage bins, a meat market, a bank, two filling stations, one grocery store, a repair shop, two truck lines, four churches, a library, and a tavern.
New life is showing up with our new Post Office one new home nearing completion, several under construction, a new filling station underway, and the new Junior-Senior high school nearing completion. We feel our town is taking on new life."
Recently, Merna was at the center of a geological controversy regarding a depression in the land several miles west of town in the loess hills. Originally called the Bartak Depression after the owners of the land, it was redubbed the Merna Crater by University of Kansas geology professor Mark Dort. Further research showed the crater to be more likely formed by wind and water erosion, but memories of the flurry of importance in the small town remain.
Merna is located at 41°29′5″N 99°45′44″W / 41.48472°N 99.76222°W (41.484618, -99.762293).
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