Early Grant County Hotels

By Melody Moorehouse

The first hotel in Sheridan was a building on Oak Street constructed by James A. Wallace shortly after Grant County was created in 1869. 
This structure provided lodging for newcomers when other shelter was not available. The local hotels were often called boarding houses 
and were large buildings with simple fixtures and accommodations.

The early hotels in Grant County brought a stability to the business base and provided sleeping quarters to the weary traveler, a 
comfort to those in a time when travel was not an easy task, according to Elwin Goolsby, director of the Grant County Museum in Sheridan.

“First of all, the presence of a hotel provided solidarity for a community and gave it a business base and then served as a temporary 
home for travelers passing through,” Goolsby said. “Hotels gave a town more credibility, more stability, more class. The hotels also 
provided business for other businesses in town through services and shopping. Earlier, people would linger longer, primarily because it 
took longer to get here and longer to leave due to the transportation of the time.”

The hotels changed hands frequently and were often operated by someone other than the owner. Changing the name of the building each time 
it was sold seemed to be a common practice as well.

T.W. Quinn, Grant County’s first sheriff, built a hotel in Sheridan in 1873. Dr. H.C. Stockton and Daniel Johnson were hotel managers 
during the 1870s and Johnson is said to have operated a hotel from 1877 to 1883. Trimaghan Thompson was proprietor of a hotel in 1889.

By 1890 Sheridan had two hotels — the Sheridan Hotel, operated by Calvin H. Carson, and  the Rhoden House, operated by R.C. Rhoden. The 
Hicks Hotel advertised its services in 1891.

In 1893 and 1900 W.J. Nixon operated a hotel in Sheridan. Known as the Hotel Nixon and later as the Commercial Hotel, the structure was 
subsequently owned or operated by Tom Faulk, J.F.H. Wilson, John Koon and Ella Baker.

On Jan. 5, 1894, the Sheridan Headlight reported:

“Messrs. H.H. Way and J. Lemons are stopping in Sheridan at the Hotel Nixon. They are looking for a location with a view of starting a 
vineyard and fruit farm. They are highly pleased with the climate and country. They hail from northeast Nebraska. We hope they find a 
suitable location and become permanent citizens.”

The Commercial Hotel was a large frame structure on the northwest corner of Center and Main streets. The building had two stories with 
two double bedrooms and seven single bedrooms upstairs. The rooms were lit by gas lights and heated by gas stoves.

Herhsel Koon, in statements found in museum archives, noted his mother, Ella Baker, rented the hotel from J.F.H. Wilson and paid about 
$50 rent per month for about five or six years.  Each of the upstairs rooms had its own washstand and bed and the double rooms had two 
beds.

The downstairs, according to Koon, contained a lobby, dining room and kitchen, the family’s living quarters, two bedrooms and a living 
room. The lobby also had a soda fountain at one time that served ice cream and drinks.

“Mother cooked for the guests and served them in the dining room for 50 cents per meal,” Koon stated. “Once the gas lines broke during an 
eight or ten inch snow. There was no heat or fuel for a week. Mother would go down the street to her brother’s, Charlie Harris’, and cook 
meals there, then bring the food back to the hotel and serve it. Because it was so cold guests at the hotel would go to bed immediately 
after eating.”

Frequent guests at the hotel, Koon noted, included salesmen, called drummers, and mill employees. Two employees helped in the kitchen and 
a maid and Koon’s two sisters kept the guest rooms.

“When J.F.H. Wilson built the brick hotel, that put us out of business,” Koon concluded.

The brick hotel constructed by Wilson was the Hotel Wilson, located on the southeast corner of Center and Rock streets in Sheridan in 
1925-1926. The contractor for the two-story hotel was Tom Ashcraft. The building cost $22,000 and contained 12 rooms upstairs, a 21-step 
staircase with polished handrails, a large lobby, kitchen, dining room, soda fountain and downstairs living quarters. A third story was 
planned but never built.

The Hotel Wilson officially opened on Feb. 24, 1926 with a Washington’s Birthday banquet. The event was reported in the Sheridan Hi 
Booster:

“The Sheridan Home Economics girls had charge of the banquet. The lobby and the banquet hall were elaborately decorated with red, white 
and blue. Streamers of colored crepe paper were draped from the ceiling to the light fixtures and the tables were decorated with beautiful 
red flowers...,” the Booster noted. “As more than one hundred guests filed into the banquet hall, the Sheridan High School Orchestra 
played ‘The Red, White and Blue.’ The Orchestra furnished music throughout the evening. The guests were given favors of red, white and 
blue hatchets. Mr. Ed F. McDonald was toastmaster for the occasion and all through the evening the banquet hall rang with impromptu 
speeches, music and laughter.”

After Wilson died on Nov. 23, 1931, Florence Wilson operated the hotel, leasing it out for a few years and eventually selling to E.A. 
Posey in 1945. He renamed it the Hotel Posey.

Lois Posey Duncan lived in the Hotel Posey and managed it after the death of her father, E.A. Posey, in 1952. In a 1979 issue of the 
Sheridan Headlight she described hotel life:

“Each Saturday morning, I had to help wax every floor, shine every mirror, and clean every sink. My father, a Justice of the Peace, told 
me that marrying people was the easiest money he ever made. Before stopping for a nap on a slow afternoon, he would say, ‘Don’t wake me 
up unless someone wants to get married.’ Many ceremonies took placed in front of the register desk,” she stated. “You could tell when a 
couple wanted to get married by the way they walked into the lobby. Rooms 10 and 12 were the nicest and served as honeymoon suites.

Duncan added hired hands did the tremendous amount of daily laundry out behind the hotel and employees used a roller iron to press the 
sheets. At least three bus companies served the hotel: Missouri-Pacific, Greyhound and Ford Bus Service. Duncan noted Missouri-Pacific 
and Greyhound had three daily buses north and south through Sheridan in the 1940s.

In 1979 the Wilson-Posey Hotel was sold and in 1980 the building was razed. The site was cleared for a Road Runner convenience store, 
now known as Total.

Another building located one block north of the courtsquare also served as a hotel or boarding house, according to archives. Mrs. J.R. 
Peters of Sheridan recalled the building:

“The old hotel or boarding house faced south on the northeast corner of Oak and Bell streets in Sheridan.

“I walked past that old hotel and went inside quite a few times. It was a long, narrow two-story building with wide, rough, unfinished 
overlapping boards on the outside. There were two porches with rails across the front. One porch for the upper story and one for the 
lower floor. I believe there were seven or eight rooms on the upper floor. The chimneys were at each end of the building and were 
constructed of handmade brick.”

Peters added that a kitchen was built onto the north or back side of the building. A long table with benches served guests in the dining 
room., which was located on the lower floor on the east side of the building.

“It was covered with red and white checked oil cloth,” she said. “They served family-style meals with a buffet on the side.”

An inside staircase led up from a door opening on the front porch. The floors were constructed from wide boards that had been scrubbed 
smooth. Peters stated Jack and Melissa Gober owned and operated the hotel. They, with their children, Gracie and Jackie, lived downstairs 
in the building. Peters said the Gobers moved, possibly to Benton, in the 1920s. The building no longer exists at the site.

Goolsby noted Beatrice Black operated a boarding house near the northwest corner of Oak and Bell streets as early as the 1920s. The two-
story frame building which was torn down once faced Oak Street.

Other hotels operated out in the county included the Poyen Hotel, which was built in Poyen around 1912 by the Miller family. The hotel 
contained 12 rooms. Following the 1920s, the building was converted into apartments, later becoming a residence that was destroyed by 
fire.

A.C. Kennedy operated a hotel in Poyen about 1930. The two-story frame building was located just east of the Rock Island tracks and 
contained a drug and grocery store.

S.R. Parnell, who also owned a general store, built a hotel in Leola around 1906. The two-story frame building had 23 rooms for guests 
who paid $4 per month. The hotel, painted yellow and white, burned about 1947 and was never rebuilt.

“In Sheridan and Grant County, the loss of the early hotels here is more of a sentimental loss. Today, the motels cater to the traveler,” 
Goolsby noted. “Few people were using the hotels due to improvements in transportation. People could travel greater distances and fewer 
were making stops here. Although everyone hated to see the old hotels disappear, and many today can remember when the Wilson-Posey Hotel 
came down, their disappearance hasn’t affected the area very much.”

Today, the only two commercial motel operations in Grant County are located in Sheridan along Highway 167 on Rock Street — The Hilcrest 
Inn and the Economy Inn.

Artifacts from area early hotels have been preserved in an exhibit at the Grant County Museum, located on Shackleford Road in Sheridan. 
Items in the exhibit include several photographs of the hotel buildings; dishes, linens and a desk bell used at Hotel Posey; room keys; 
tableware; and hotel registers.