Thursday, January 21, 2016

Looking Back: How Did Dorchester Get Its Name?

Just how did Dorchester get its name?

That's been a topic of debate in our community for decades.

According to the Dorchester centennial book, published in 1981, the railroads formed land companies soon after the government gave away “every other section of land for ten miles on each side of any track laid.”  

In December 1870, the South Platte Land Co. received ownership of the section containing present-day Dorchester after the company erected one house in the center of the section -- a step taken to “improve” the land in order to comply with the federal Homestead Act.

The section was originally platted under the name "DeWitt," but that was changed shortly thereafter by an entry in the margin of the land company’s deed book, which noted that the name of the section was indeed Dorchester.

There are varied accounts of where the name "Dorchester" came from.  A staff member of the Times reports that her great grandmother once recounted a story that our village was named after a town in southwest England.  

But a March 1967 account in The Crete News stated that Thomas Doane, the chief engineer with Burlington Railroad, named it after Boston's largest neighborhood in his native Massachusetts. The name continued the alphabetical naming of towns along the new railroad line: Berks, Crete, Dorchester, Exeter, Fairmont, Grafton, Harvard, Inland, etc.

Another account mentioned in the Dorchester centennial book came from William Ferguson of Chicago, who said that C.E. Perkins, president of Burlington Railroad, and his wife named Dorchester and other railroad communities from their parlor in Burlington, Iowa.  Mrs. Perkins was a native of the Boston area and she chose the name Dorchester for our town, according to Ferguson's explanation.

The mystery remains since the stories above are mired in controversy. It seems neither Doane nor the Perkins family had much to do with establishing the other towns along the current Burlington tracks that came to Dorchester in 1871 and runs through our community today.

If you have historical information on the naming of Dorchester, please share it with fellow readers by leaving a comment or e-mailing us at


  1. awesome history. thanks

  2. wish my relatives would have grabbed up some of that land.

    I could be vacationing in Hawaii now

  3. Idea >>>>>> maybe it's time for Nebraska to start a homestead act of its own by incentivizing people from out of state to move into our lower population counties

  4. Hawaii

    Heck it's now Mexico

    Free trips for selling seed corn

  5. I visited your town when I worked in Hastings NE and lived in Overland Park KS. I am from Dorchester MA! A history of Dorchester MA for you all. It was the spot that the City of Boston was founded in June 1630. We have a Dorchester Day celebration and parade down Dorchester Avenue the first Sunday in June to commemorate the day.

    The local paper is the Dorchester Reporter. Interestingly (or not) it is where Mark Wahlberg and his family are from. Another interesting thing that happened is that my neighbors here were talking about the Dorchester Track Club and the husband said he was going to Dorchester this (last( summer. I asked jokingly if he was going to Dorchester NE, figuring that in a town of 370 or so in NE, he would know nothing about it. He said yes. His grandfather whose last name was Auth lived there. So i laughed and said was he gong to fly into Crete and visit Wilbur, Czech Capital of the Midwest. I could have knocked him over. He was stunned I knew about your town and had actually been there.


Village Dweller checks all reader comments to determine if they are appropriate for print.