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Norfolk, Nebraska

Location of Norfolk within Madison County and Nebraska
Location of Norfolk within Madison County and Nebraska
Country United States
State Nebraska
County Madison
Founded 1866
 • Mayor Sue Fuchtman
 • Total 10.78 sq mi (27.92 km2)
 • Land 10.69 sq mi (27.69 km2)
 • Water 0.09 sq mi (0.23 km2)
Elevation 1,522 ft (464 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 24,210
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 24,332
 • Density 2,264.7/sq mi (874.4/km2)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 68701-68702
Area code(s) 402
FIPS code 31-34615
GNIS feature ID 0834976[4]

Norfolk is a city in Madison County, Nebraska, United States, 113 miles northwest of Omaha and 83 miles west of Sioux City at the intersection of U.S. Routes 81 and 275. The population was 24,210 at the 2010 census,[5] making it the ninth-largest city in Nebraska. It is the principal city of the Norfolk Micropolitan Statistical Area.


  • History 1
    • Settlement and early history 1.1
    • Railroads and growth 1.2
    • The automobile age 1.3
  • Geography 2
  • Climate 3
  • Demographics 4
    • 2010 census 4.1
    • 2000 census 4.2
  • Economy 5
  • Education 6
  • Media 7
  • Notable people 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Settlement and early history

In late 1865 three scouts were sent from a German Lutheran settlement near Ixonia, Wisconsin, to find productive, inexpensive farmland that could be claimed under the Homestead Act. From the Omaha area they followed the Elkhorn River upstream to West Point. Finding that area too crowded, they continued up the river. On September 15 they reached the junction of the Elkhorn and its North Fork, and chose that area as a settlement site.[6]:1–2 On May 23, 1866, a party of 124 settlers representing 42 families from the Ixonia area set out for northeast Nebraska in three wagon trains. They arrived at the new site on July 15.[6]:8 A second group of settlers from Wisconsin arrived in July 1867.[6]:19

The original name of the colony was a variant of "North Fork", but accounts differ on the exact name: "Northfork",[6]:32 "Nor'fork", and "Nordfork"[7] are all suggested. The name was submitted to federal postal authorities, and at some point was transmuted to "Norfolk". The pronunciation "Norfork" is still used by many Nebraskans.[8]

The North Fork settlement had been named the county seat in 1867.[6]:22 In 1875 a series of elections changed this. In the first of these Norfolk, which at the time had 45 voters, was eliminated. In a subsequent election Madison was chosen over Battle Creek.[6]:56–7

Railroads and growth

The Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad was built after the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in South Dakota. It ran from the Omaha area up the Elkhorn valley, then across northern Nebraska and into South Dakota.[9] Its arrival at Norfolk in 1879 connected the city through Wisner to Blair on the Missouri.[6]:60 The Omaha, Niobrara, and Black Hills branch of the Union Pacific ran north from the railroad's main line at Duncan to Norfolk;[10] it reached the city in 1880.[11]:14 The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad was completed to Norfolk in 1882.[11]:14

The development of these railway connections led to significant growth in the city. In 1886 Norfolk's population reached 1000, making it a city of the second class.[6]:80 A street railway system and a public water supply were established in 1887.[6]:81–83 In 1888 a franchise was granted to the Norfolk Electric Light Company, and the Nebraska Telephone Company was given a right-of-way for "general telegraph and telephone business".[6]:85

The Nebraska legislature created the Insane Asylum in Norfolk in 1885;[12] it accepted its first patients in 1888.[6]:84 In 1920, the institution's name was changed to the Norfolk State Hospital; in 1962, it became the Norfolk Regional Center.[12] It is presently a 120-bed institution providing the initial phase of treatment to sex offenders.[13]

The automobile age

In 1900 the city had a population of 3,883, nearly quadruple its population of a decade earlier. By 1910 it had more than 6,000 people, comprising roughly one-third of Madison County's population of 19,101.[11]:14 In 1915 petitions were filed for an election to move the county seat from Madison to Norfolk. The measure, however, failed to secure the necessary number of votes.[14]:20

In the 1910s development began on the Meridian Highway as a direct north-south route across the United States; the route of the highway ran through Norfolk. The 1924 completion of the Meridian Bridge across the Missouri River at the Nebraska-South Dakota border made the highway a continuous year-round thoroughfare. In 1926 it was designated as U.S. Highway 81.[15] A second federal highway, U.S. Highway 275, received its designation in 1939; it follows the Elkhorn valley upstream from Omaha through Norfolk to O'Neill. During World War II, the segment from Norfolk to O'Neill was a portion of the Strategic Network of Highways; as such, it was given a high priority for federal funds for materials and for federal maintenance funds.[16]

Former terminal building, Karl Stefan Airport

Air travel developed in Norfolk beginning with the establishment of a flying school in 1928. The school's field gradually expanded and was improved. In 1942 the WPA began construction of a municipal airport at the site. Although construction materials were limited during World War II, Norfolk received priority as an auxiliary field to several war-related airports, including Sioux City Air Field. After the war Norfolk congressman, Karl Stefan, a member of the Congressional Air Policy Board, used his influence to secure further funding for the airport. Commercial passenger flight through the airport began in the early 1950s.[17]

In the 1970s another attempt was made to move the county seat from Madison to Norfolk. In a 1975 county-wide election the move's proponents failed to secure a simple majority. A 60% majority would have been necessary for the measure to pass.[14]:8

On September 26, 2002, three gunmen robbed a US Bank branch in Norfolk, killing five people in the process. This was the nation's deadliest bank robbery in at least a decade.[18]


Norfolk is located at (42.0283379, -97.4169964).[19]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.78 square miles (27.92 km2), of which, 10.69 square miles (27.69 km2) is land and 0.09 square miles (0.23 km2) is water.[1]


Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 74 76 88 95 103 106 113 107 101 95 83 71
Norm High °F 31.2 37.3 48.5 61.3 72.3 82.3 86.5 84.4 76.4 64 45.5 33.6
Norm Low °F 9.6 15.5 25.4 36.8 48.3 58 63 61 50.4 38 24.7 13.7
Rec Low °F -27 -26 -20 2 24 38 42 40 26 11 -15 -30
Precip (in) 0.57 0.76 1.97 2.59 3.92 4.25 3.74 2.8 2.25 1.72 1.44 0.65
Source: [2]


2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 24,210 people, 9,910 households, and 6,005 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,264.7 inhabitants per square mile (874.4/km2). There were 10,625 housing units at an average density of 993.9 per square mile (383.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.0% White, 1.6% African American, 1.4% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 6.3% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.1% of the population.

There were 9,910 households of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.3% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.4% were non-families. 32.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.00.

The median age in the city was 35.5 years. 24.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 12.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.6% were from 25 to 44; 25.1% were from 45 to 64; and 14.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.0% male and 51.0% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 23,516 people, 9,360 households, and 5,868 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,358.0 people per square mile (910.7/km²). There were 10,072 housing units at an average density of 1,009.9 per square mile (390.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.41% White, 1.16% African American, 1.53% Native American, 0.48% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 4.19% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.61% of the population.

There were 9,360 households out of which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.3% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.9% under the age of 18, 13.4% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 94.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.2 males.

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $34,609, and the median income for a family was $45,460. Males had a median income of $31,445 versus $21,397 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,990. About 7.0% of families and 11.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.6% of those under age 18 and 12.2% of those age 65 or over.


Norfolk is the principal retail center of northeastern Nebraska. Other significant elements of the local economy include agriculture, manufacturing, and services including education and health care.[23]

Major local manufacturers include Nucor, which employs about 900 people manufacturing steel products at three locations in Norfolk;[24] Covidien, with about 440 employees producing syringes and other medical supplies;[25] Veyance Technologies, employing about 350 producing high-pressure and hydraulic hose; Norfolk Iron & Metal, with 320 employees manufacturing steel products; and Wis-Pak, employing about 100 to produce soft drinks and other beverages.[26]

Major non-manufacturing commercial employers include Wal-Mart, with about 410 employees, and Affiliated Foods Midwest, whose distribution center in Norfolk employs about 650. Other major employers include Faith Regional Health Services, a nonprofit with about 1,300 employees, and Norfolk Public Schools, with about 700.[26]

Northeast Community College


Norfolk has a single post-secondary educational institution, Northeast Community College, with over 7,000 students taking courses for credit. Over 18,000 students took non-credit courses; another 1,200 were in adult-education courses, including GED preparation, English as a second language, and preparation for the Naturalization test.[23]

The Norfolk Public School District has an enrollment of over 4,000 students. There are seven elementary schools; one junior high school; and two high schools, Norfolk High School and Alternatives For Success, the latter described as an "alternative high school".[27]

There are several private elementary and high schools in the city. Norfolk Catholic Schools operates a grade school and Norfolk Catholic High School, with a total enrollment of about 700.[23][28] Two Lutheran elementary schools and a high school enroll a total of about 470 pupils. Keystone Christian Academy enrolls about 27 students in pre-school through ninth grade.[23]


The Norfolk Daily News is the city's principal newspaper. It is published six days a week (excluding Sundays).[29]

Norfolk has one television station, KXNE-TV 19 (DTV 16), which is part of the NET Television network.

Norfolk has one AM station: WJAG 780 (news/talk). There are seven FM stations: KXNE-FM 89.3 (public radio); KPNO 90.9 (Christian talk); K219DW 91.9 (Christian talk); KUSO 92.7 (country); KNEN 94.7 (rock); KEXL 97.5 (adult contemporary), and KQKX 106.7 (country).

Notable people


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010".  
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  3. ^ "Population Estimates".  
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  5. ^ Johnson, Nathan. "Many Area Neb. Counties Lose Population". .Yankton Press & Dakotan 2011-03-03. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Pangle, Mary Ellen. A History of Norfolk. Published serially in Norfolk Daily News. 1929.
  7. ^ Perkey, Elton. Perkey's Nebraska Place Names. Nebraska State Historical Socity. 1982.
  8. ^ Koster, George E. .A History of the Principal Executives of the Nebraska State Highway Department Nebraska Department of Roads. 2005. p. 12. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
  9. ^ "Nebraska's Cowboy Trail". Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. May 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
  10. ^ "Welcome to Humphrey, Nebraska". City of Humphrey website. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
  11. ^ a b c "Madison County, Nebraska Historic Buildings Survey". Nebraska State Historical Society. August 2001. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  12. ^ a b "Nebraska Health and Human Services System Chronological History". Nebraska Health and Human Services System. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  13. ^ "Norfolk Regional Center". Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  14. ^ a b Madison County Historical Society. 125 Years of Memories: 1867-1992. Locally published, 1993.
  15. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Meridian Highway". Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  16. ^ Koster, George E. "A Story of Highway Development in Nebraska". Nebraska Department of Roads. 1997. p. 44. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  17. ^ Ebeling, Mary R., and Christina Slattery. "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Karl Stefan Memorial Airport Administration Building". Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  18. ^ "Five Dead In Norfolk Bank Robbery". WOWT-TV website. 2002-09-26. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
  19. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  20. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  21. ^  
  22. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Retrieved October 16, 2013. 
  23. ^ a b c d "Community Facts - Norfolk, Nebraska". Economic & Demographic Information, Nebraska Public Power District. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  24. ^ "Nucor U.S. Locations". Nucor. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  25. ^ Harris, Kathryn. "Covidien celebrates 50 years in Norfolk". .Norfolk Daily News 2011-11-03. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  26. ^ a b "Nebraska Community 'Fast Facts' Profile: Norfolk, Nebraska. Economic & Demographic Information, Nebraska Public Power District. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  27. ^ "Welcome to Norfolk Public Schools". Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  28. ^ "History of Our School". Norfolk Catholic School. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  29. ^ "Subscription/Delivery Information". Norfolk Daily News website. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
  30. ^ "Jeromey Clary". National Football League. Retrieved 2010-02-20.
  31. ^ Granito, Alison (15 October 2005). "The richest man you've never heard of". Crain's. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 

External links

  • City of Norfolk
  • Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Norfolk Daily News
  • Norfolk/Madison County Visitors Bureau
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