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Love My Community: Palmyra

The original bank opened in Palmyra in 1907. L to R: Charlie Sweet, Tom Bell, Henry Catron (original bank owner), Albert Castle, Guy Mckee and Unknown.


Thirty-two miles west of Nebraska City, in the extreme western part of Otoe County, sits the tranquil town of Palmyra. On gently rolling hills, near the Little Nemaha Creek, our town was platted in 1870 on land belonging to Rev. John M. Taggart, a Baptist minister who donated half of his farm for the town site.  

By 1881, Palmyra boasted a population of 200 people, two drug stores, three general stores, two hardware stores, two groceries, two hotels (the Garnett Hotel and the Palmyra Hotel), three blacksmith shops and one shoe shop, and an elevator that shipped out 250 car loads of grain and stock that year.  

The People

Almost 150 years later, Palmyra still embraces its small-town feel, although now with more than 550 people calling it home. It’s known as a bedroom community with its close proximity to Lincoln (we do have a large number of people who drive to Lincoln to work every day), but we also have a wonderful group of young professionals and longtime residents who spend most of their time here, making Palmyra a great place to live.  

Marlene Sturdy, a Farmers & Merchants Bank employee, grew up in Palmyra and has lived here her whole life. She was more than happy to offer up insights and stories––even a little bit of history. 

What first sums up the description of the town was Marlene’s walk home from the Bank in the evenings. “I only live five minutes away, but it takes a good 30 minutes because everyone who sees me says, ‘Hi, Marlene!’ and we have to stop and visit for a while. I love living in a small town.” 

Marlene’s mama grew up in Palmyra, as did her grandfather in the late 1800s. She likes the simple things about the town, such as seeing someone’s clothes drying on the line, but she also enjoys one of the big events that makes the town so unique. 

Early days of the Old Settlers Picnic, when people came from Lincoln for the festivities.

Old Settlers Picnic.

The picnic dates back to the 1800s when the community was first started. Back then, the townsfolk gathered across the creek in a pasture, where they’d throw down blankets, share food among the families, enjoy music and conversations, and get to know their neighbors. 

By the 1920s, the picnic had grown in such popularity that people took the train from Lincoln and came in droves for music and ballgames, a carnival and pony rides. That’s when the picnic moved to Taggert Park, where it still takes place today––although now the event is a weekend long and pretty much meanders all over town. It doesn’t bring too many people from the bigger cities, but it does bring out the whole town of Palmyra and many from the surrounding communities. 

District OR-1 Palmyra/Bennet/Douglas Schools Marching Band

This years Old Settlers Picnic in June, put on by the Palmyra Action League, included a Shriner’s car show with vintage Mustangs, Friday night bingo, an impressive fireworks display, live music, a tractor pull for kids, a library book sale, horses, a canine demonstration by the Otoe County Sheriff’s Office, church pie, a meal at the senior center from the Boy Scouts, and a parade early Saturday evening that wound through the town and ended up at the park. The Palmyra Farmers & Merchants Bank team had our display on a pickup truck and threw out candy to the crowd. 

Town Plans

In August of 2018, the Village of Palmyra and District OR-1 Schools were award a $5.4 million grant from The Leland and Dorothy Olson Foundation that will fully fund construction of new athletic facilities to include baseball and softball fields, competition track, artificial turf football/soccer playing field, playground and walking path, as well as concession and restrooms.  

Not only will there be a new facility, but the current ball field, concessions and restrooms at Village Park will be updated, as well. Leland Olson never forgot the wonderful people in his hometown and his family is honoring his name with this wonderful gift. We are all very appreciative, as all the facilities will be available for everyone in the town to enjoy. 

Farmers & Merchants Bank in Palmyra, 2019

The Bank.

The original bank building dates back to 1907. The photo in the header (date unknown) shows the bank interior and its original owner, Henry Catron, and his bank employees. Maynard Dunlap bought the bank on June 6, 1956 and The Bank of Palmyra was established. On October 8, 1992, it was re-named Farmers & Merchants Bank. 

Farmers & Merchants Bank continues to restore the town’s original bank building in Palmyra.

In 2006, the Bank underwent a major remodeling project, and over the years has undergone some updates to try to restore the building to its previous glory. We’ve had new sidewalks put in, new windows installed and even a facelift with tuck-pointing, where the mortar was removed and replaced in between bricks. In addition, although we couldn’t find the bars from the teller area, the interior has been renovated to bring back to life the original copper ceiling and marble counters.  

L to R: Tonya Gott, Mary Powers, Pam Arett, Lance Collier (1970s)

Farmers & Merchants Bank, Palmyra Staff.

Lance Collier, Branch Manager, has lived in the community and worked at the Bank for 18 years. His main area of involvement in the community has been Teammates Mentoring; he’s a founding board member in Palmyra, Bennet and Douglas and has served as treasurer for the last 16 years. Lance has also volunteered with kids athletic programs over the years.  

L to R: Marlene Sturdy, Lana Collier, Pam Arett, Lance Collier (2019)

Pam Arett, Operations, is married to Ralph who just retired from Midwest Farmers Co-op after working there for 39 years. They have two children and two grandchildren. Pam volunteers to put on the Trunk or Treat event sponsored by the Bank each year and has served on the Palmyra Rescue for 24 years. 

Marlene Sturdy has had a Palmyra address for her entire life. She’s volunteered in the community for many years, helping with Clean Up Days, snow removal and yard care for senior citizens, the Library Board, fundraising and whatever else is needed in the town she loves. 

Lana Collier lives in Syracuse yet, as a Bank employee, is very familiar with the Palmyra community. Every year she’s worked for us, she’s helped with our float for the parade at the Old Settler’s Picnic, and she volunteers for the annual Trunk or Treat.