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Nebraska...Our Towns

Blue Springs -- Gage County

The water, healing medicine to the redman, meant power to the pioneer. Now the millpond reflects an abandoned hydroelectric plant in its quiet waters. [Harris]

Indians called this place "Blue Springs" for the healing waters that bubbled from the ground said to be "...a generous amount of the purest water the year around."

Early settlers -- people of "very good character and with great ambition" included Johnson, Post, and Elliot. Later the names Woodward, Anthony, Graham, Stearns, Tyler, Hazen, Knight, Lott, Armstrong, Fisler and Viney appear. Because Blue Springs was located just north of the Otoe and Missouri Indian reservation, settlers often "ran for their lives to Fort Anthony," (a kind of stockade built on the Davis place). It was said that many a good pony or a kettle of beans would "disappear," and cattle lived "a precarious life." It was not uncommon for them to come home with arrows sticking in their sides.

The settlers at Blue Springs "challenged the right of people of Beatrice to organize a county government," and despite the fact that they were nearer the center of what was then a 24-square-mile Gage County, they lost in their efforts to the "stronger politicians" in that city. Even so, the people at Blue Springs found many opportunities to build up their settlement, on the much-travelled road from Marysville, Kansas, to Beatrice. Incorporation papers were filed in 1857.

In 1859 Ruel Noyes and John Chambers, returning from played-out mines near Pikes Peak, borrowed money from R. A. Wilson to build a bridge over the Big Blue River -- the first in Gage County. Established as a toll crossing, the venture failed and the bridge was sold to Samuel Shaw. It washed out in high water in 1861. A King Bridge was built in about 1890.

A Methodist cemetery, founded in 1860, was used by all denominations. Part of what is now the Blue Springs Cemetery, it is thought to be the oldest "recorded cemetery" in Nebraska.

During the Civil War (1861-65), the little village struggled. The status of the town's plat changed hands several times. Without local stores, staples had to be purchased from Brownville, Nebraska City, or St.Joseph. In 1866 a dam was built across the Blue and a burr-grist mill was established. Robert Wilson built a large stone home north of the town, and a few businesses set up shop.

In 1871 H. S. Barnum built hotel-house and the "Pioneer Livery" to accommodate travelers. "The Weekly Motor" newspaper was founded by M. A. Farr in 1876, with several others succeeding it.

In 1879 a railroad line was built from Marysville through the reservation to Beatrice, and as a "spur track" into Blue Springs. The first telephones were established in 1880. With the sale of Indian lands, the town burst forth, becoming "a bustling little city."

A bank opened in the early 1880s lasted only a short time. A state bank was organized by the Black Brothers from Beatrice in the mid 1880s who also built a large flour mill in 1886 on the site of the old burr mill. The mill operated until 1928.

A horse-drawn street car, complete with a wood-burning stove for heat, made its first trip to Wymore, located less than a mile away, in 1885. That project did not last long. The rivalry between these two towns was both healthy and hurtful. By 1890 Blue Springs recorded a population of 963, and by 1894, it was said to have been over 1,000. Wymore's population was, by then, well over 2,000. Businesses, churches, and schools all vied for the lion's share of the action.

The first school, known as Bornegasser School, was a two-story frame structure built in 1875. In 1886 a brick schoolhouse was completed, and in 1920 a fireproof three-story school was built. After a long and heated battle in the 1960-70s the school systems Blue Springs, Wymore, and several other districts merged to create "Southern School District 1." Now serving over 500 students in this part of the county, with the collective valuation of over $91,000,000, an economical Class 3 system has emerged.

Electricity became available when the hydroelectric plant was built in 1923. Main Street, paved in 1936, is one block south of the original "main," and the whiskey sold for snake bite had to be purchased for other reasons, as rattle snakes are no longer a common sight. Blue Springs is still very much "its own town," reflecting the high standards set by its pioneer citizens.

 

From material gleaned from Blue Springs story in the 1988 Gage County History; the History of Gage County, 1918, by Hugh J. Dobbs; Blue Springs Centennial, 1992, Peckman Printers; and the Gage County Historical Society.