Kilgore, located in Section 10, Township 34N, Range 31W of the 6th Prime Meridian, was originally settled in 1883 under the name of "Boulware." The settlement consisted of four dwellings and two section houses for the railroad personnel, and was named in honor of a surveyor, Ira Boulware, who was working for the establishment of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad. This railroad would eventually cut across the northern Sandhills, bringing new life to the area of tall grasses and abundant water. Eventually three or more families would be employed by the railroad, making it one of the larger employers in Kilgore.
In 1885, only a few years after the railroad was completed to this point, the town was renamed "Georgia." At that time, Ira Boulware moved to Valentine to become its postmaster. On February 16, 1893, the Village of Georgia was incorporated, and included the one-room school, built in 1888, a grocery store in 1891, a post office, a set of stockyards for shipping cattle by rail, and several additional dwellings.
In 1903 the postal department objected to the town's name because of confusion with the state of Georgia, and recommended that the name be changed. So in 1904 the name of the little settlement was changed to "Kilgore" in honor of the pioneer family of Henry Kilgore and Alice Kilgore, a pioneer teacher. Incidentally, the more-famous city of Kilgore, Texas, is named for this same family.
By the year 1905 Kilgore had become a bustling village with many new homesteaders who both farmed and ranched. The town boasted a Methodist Church, followed in a few years by a Baptist church, and a two-story four-room school that housed kindergarten through 10th grade.
The first bank was established in 1908 by Mr. Holt, a native of Johnstown, NE. Two years later, it was bought by J.C.Snyder, who had established the Kilgore State Bank and erected the brick building which still houses the bank. The Farmers' State Bank was established in 1919 by Harry Campbell. By 1920 it had absorbed the Kilgore State Bank, building and all. The Farmers' State Bank continued as a community corner stone by the Campbell family for 49 years until it sold in 1968. Since then the ownership has changed several times until October 23, 1984 when it was closed by the State Banking Commission and reopened the next day as the First National Bank of Kilgore.
During the good years from 1905 to 1929, the community boasted a post office, a medical doctor, a pharmacist, four general merchandise stores, two hotels, a livery stable, a lumber yard, hardware store, a harness and blacksmith shop, two new car dealerships, a hair dresser, pool hall, barber shop, bulk oil plant, three filling stations, a well driller, a livestock trucker, a full-time railroad depot, and a grain and feed elevator. There were two passenger trains each way each day, a town dray wagon, a small dairy, a meat market, two saloons, and several bootleggers who sold liquor to the Indians.
The community also built a brick K-12 schoolhouse in 1929 when the population was over 250. With the advances in automobile transportation and the decline in railroads, the population has dwindled to about 80 persons in 1988.
At the present time, Kilgore has about 30 occupied dwellings, an active church, and the school, which houses Kindergarten through grade 6 of the Cody-Kilgore Unified School District. The business district consists of a filling station, garage, mini mart, bar, welding shop, bank, and the post office. A number of people who live in Kilgore teach on the Rosebud Reservation.
Kilgore recently lost an old land-mark. Shortly after 1 a.m. on New Year's morn, 1989, the bar built in early 1900s, caught fire, and by 7 a.m. it had burned to the ground. Plans are being made to replace the building.
Even though much has been written and said about the "disadvantages of small town Nebraska," for those of us who have been raised here and currently live in Kilgore, it is still an environment that is hard to beat when a place to raise a family is considered.
By Wesley and Phyllis Rothleutner (a family of 100 years residence in Kilgore) Drawer 88, Kilgore, NE 69216-0088.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Kilgore Area Heritage Book, by Orthello Van Winkle Kudelka.