Alliance was first called Grand Lakes due to a great alkali lake which once inhabited the area. The railroad came before the town and was at the end of the line in the early 1880’s. The town was renamed Alliance by the railroad company in anticipation that the town would serve as a major junction since the railroad was already established.
There are many accounts of how Alliance came to be renamed. Some say it was because Alliance was a single word and different from the name of any other town in the state, was short, and would be near the top of any alphabetical list of statewide towns. Another version is that is was to be the junction point of two lines of the Burlington and Missouri railway which made the name appropriate. My personal favorite is members of the small villages and railroad officials met and agreed that they would form an “alliance” and name the town after that agreement. No one knows for sure, but the name has proudly stood the test of time.
Alliance was incorporated in 1888. The Newberry Hardware Company was the first business established in Alliance in 1888. Also in 1888 the “Alliance Times” then owned by W.E. Hitchcock, was one of four weekly newspapers. Even though the town had barely more than 800 residents (840 on record) there was stiff competition as to which of the newspapers would serve Alliance. The “Alliance Times” became the daily newspaper in 1950.
1892 brought the first drug store, Holsten’s Drug, started by the late F. E. Holsten beginning as a jewelry business. Another early establishment was the Famous Clothing House which opened February 21, 1902.
Being quite civilized, the women of Alliance formed the first organized social club in 1902 called the “Cheese and Cracker Club”. A monument of the clubs activities brought the opening of the first public library founded in 1909.
Trappers came to the area from 1810 to 1830. They saw a big square butte to the northeast of the town and christened it “Box Butte Country”. That is how the county got its name. The first county seat was held in Nonpariel, a town that no longer exists. The Box Butte County Courthouse built in Hemingford in 1897 was moved by train after a third vote by Box Butte County residents. Alliance residents wanted the courthouse that went with the county seat designation. It took 45 men five days to move the 45 X 54 feet, and 40 foot high courthouse by the railroad on a flatcar to Alliance, which has remained the county seat ever since.
Saint Joseph’s Hospital was a 23 bed facility established in 1910. The school of nursing was opened in 1920 and had it’s first graduating class in 1923. Box Butte General Hospital was opened October 1, 1976.
The first county agricultural agent was hired in 1916. The first 4-H Club was also started in 1916 with a total of 17 members.
The Alliance Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1927 and continues to be a strong presence in the community today.
At one time during the early 1900’s was a time of staggering growth for “The Fastest Growing City in Nebraska”. The railroad was booming and so were many of the businesses located in Alliance. The Phelan Opera House was one of the earliest buildings constructed in Alliance with it’s first event held in 1893. Still standing today at 321 Box Butte Avenue, its former beauty faded, yet another facility that played a vital role in the enhancement of Alliance during the time Alliance was the largest and most influential city west of Grand Island.
Today we tout our community as “The Best Home Town in America”. Many efforts are being made by both private and public sectors to continue in the path of those that preceeded us to sustain and revitalize what we proudly call Alliance.