The village of Atlanta, situated in the southern part of Phelps County, was laid out in 1883. The next year the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was put through. It was not until 1908 that the town was incorporated with Dr.O.F. Roberts, owner of the first store, its first mayor.
Atlanta probably was named after Atlanta, Illinois, former home of some of its settlers. Some old settlers claimed that the name was taken from the mythical Atlas, since the early pioneers often carried the problems of the world as a burden on their shoulders.
Atlanta had many businesses in the early 1900s. There were three elevators, a lumber yard, three general stores, a restaurant, hardware store, pool hall, implement house, harness shop, two blacksmith shops, livery stable, meat market, seventeen-room hotel, and a barber shop with water and heat. There was also the bank, plus a well and windmill business.
Atlanta was one of the first small villages in the area to have electric lights and a waterworks, this being accomplished three years before its incorporation in 1905. Residents are also proud that theirs is "a temperance town." There has never been a saloon in town, an establishment that is usually a trademark of frontier towns.
The first church was the United Brethren, built early in the history of the community and also used by the Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal congregations. The Baptists were the next builders and in 1899, Rev. Ashpole built a church and gave it to the Free Methodists. A Methodist Episcopal church was added in 1908, with a new one built by the men of the community after the old church burned in 1936.
Facilities for public education included a large two-story, four-room schoolhouse used until fire destroyed it in 1919. There were ten grades in the school until 1922. An eleventh grade was added in 1924 and from 1925 until 1942, twelve grades were taught. During World War II the high school was closed because of the shortage of teachers, with students going to Holdrege and Loomis. The elementary school closed in 1966 and the children now attend R-7, at Holdrege and Loomis.
Atlanta is well known for hosting the Farmers Institute for 50 years. The celebration started in 1904 and was sponsored many years under the auspices of the University of Nebraska, which furnished the speakers. The Beatrice Creamery Company, as was the custom for many years, served a free dinner. Later, the community provided the entertainment, which included ball games, rodeos, parades, competitive games, beauty contests, exhibits, and a free show. The businessmen and people from the surrounding community donated money for the dinners, and the ladies fixed the meal for as many as 600 people. The Institute was discontinued in 1954, but was started again in 1978 and called Industry Days. This celebration provides a dinner and an afternoon of fun and games.
The town held its centennial in 1983 with a two-day celebration that revived many of the old events from past institutes. As a result of the fund raising and donations, the town built a new community building.
During World War II there was a prisoner of war camp one mile north and east of Atlanta. It opened in July 1943 and was deactivated and closed in 1946. Hundreds of German and Italian soldiers were interned there. Records show that 269 enlisted men and 60 officers were stationed at the POW camp. The silo-shaped concrete water tower of the camp is still a familiar landmark of Phelps County. In 1980, a sign giving the camp's history was erected just south of the campsite.
Many residents have moved away over the years but the community of just over 100 people continues to be a "nice place to live." We still have an elevator, service station, several ag and construction-related businesses, a post office, and the First Methodist Church of Atlanta.
* condensed from material found in the Phelps County Atlas by Sue Booe, Box 45, Atlanta 68923