Tracks of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad reached Harvard on December 20, 1871. The town was surveyed in March 1872 and platted on a section of land pre-empted by Newman W. Brass, George Van Gilder, Elijah J. Stone, and Levi W. Mosher. They sold this land for $500 per quarter section to Charles F. Morse of the Eastern Land Association, a company which developed town sites along the railroad. Harvard was named by a railroad employee to follow Grafton as one of a series of towns on the line christened in alphabetical order.
Harvard was incorporated as a Village on July 1, 1873. It became a Second-Class City in 1879, and W. J. Turner served as the first Mayor. Because the population was less than 1500, it returned to Village status in 1880, only to become a Second-Class City again in 1886. During the 1870's Harvard vied with other towns to become the county seat of Clay County. After several disputed elections, Clay Center was selected as the location of the Courthouse in 1879.
On September 2, 1942, an announcement was made to the community that a satellite Army Airfield would be built just northeast of Harvard. By September 17 construction began, farmers were removed from their properties, and by November 19, the work was nearly completed with 277 buildings and structures built. It was a major World War II training center for bomber crews of the 2nd Air Force. Complete engine and airframe repairs were available for B-17, B-24 and B-29 bombers at the five hangars on the field. Between August 1943 and December 1945, twenty-six bombardment squadrons received proficiency training at Harvard AAF
In March 1944, the Boeing B-29 Super Fortress made its way to the Harvard Airfield for training. From mid-1944 until May 1946, Super fortresses from the airfield trained aircrews over Nebraska's countryside before they were sent to the Pacific theater.
At its peak about 6,000 officers and enlisted men were stationed at the base for training purposes, and many civilian workers from Harvard and surrounding communities worked at the base in support of this gigantic undertaking.
Harvard if full of history with a total of 6 state historical markers including the founding of Harvard, the Harvard Army Air Field, the Midair Collision of (3) B-17 bombers, the Harvard Jail, the 1915 Carnegie Library, and St. John’s Episcopal Church
Make plans to come explore our town and see what history you can make.