"Lone Tree" was the first name given the present village of Big Springs because of the huge cottonwood tree on the barren prairie that served as a landmark for emigrants, pioneers, and railroad builders. The tree, believed to be about 100 years old when pioneers first arrived, could be seen by riders of the Pony Express, overland stages, and people traveling the Oregon and California trails. It is said that Sam Bass and his gang divided the $60,000 loot from the robbery of the Union Pacific mail express train at Big Springs under that very tree in 1877.
In 1867 U.P. railroad builders named this stop "Big Springs." Spring water was carried in wooden pipe laid from the nearby spring to the track, where it was used by steam locomotives until 1950.
The town was platted by the railroad company in 1884 and officially recorded at Cheyenne county seat in Sidney. It was not incorporated as a village until May, 1917. The commissioners appointed Andreas Kjeldgaard, August Gehrke, Otto Neilson, William Mack, and J.R.Holcombe as trustees.
The fight for the county seat lasted for many years. (See related county story) During the turmoil, the county fair was held in Big Springs in 1889, and continued at that location until 1932. It is now held in Chappell.
Church services were held in the Phelps house by a Methodist minister, Rev. E.E.Mount, in the spring of 1884. Many church services were held in the schoolhouse until 1894 when the first church was built by the Methodist congregation. The bell from this church is still being used today. The first church building in Deuel County, called Prospect Church, was a soddy built in 1887 nine miles north of town, by ten families using their own equipment. This church was part of the Big Springs circuit of the Methodist church conference.
Big Springs with a current population of 505, would like to be remembered not for the bank robberies but for the spirit of friendliness, cooperation and interdependence that is still as much a part of the community as in the pioneer days.
By Clora A. Becker, Deuel County Historical Society, Chappell, NE 68129