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Big Springs

Deuel County

Big Springs 1886. One of the reasons Nebraska's small towns continue to keep going is with the help of families such as the Dorns who have had businesses in Big Springs for 102 years.
J.W.Heidemann and Sons. A family business for 65 years. (l to r) Loren, Kenneth, J.W., Leo, John Jr. and Wade Heidemann. Coming to town in 1917, J.W. started his repair shop in 1922. Three generations have served a large trade area, keeping equipment of all kinds in operation.
Big Springs, Nebraska, April 1984. Photographer Ed Miller, pilot, Scott Wright, both of Chappell.
The Farmers State Bank was instituted in 1906 by B.F.Clayton, H.C.Babcock, and Ed C.Wolf, with a capitol of $12,000. In 1916 the bank was purchased by Andreas and Carl Kjeldgaard who erected a new building in 1918. (This presently houses the Big Springs Public Library.)It was in this building, June 4, 1965, that Duane Earl Pope shot four people, killing Andreas, Glenn Hendrickson, and Lois Ann Hothan. Frank Kjeldgaard's legs were permanently paralyzed.
A beautiful new bank was built in 1882 under the presidency of Frank Kjeldgaard.

"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