Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

  • Virtual Nebraska Logo

Virtual Nebraska

Nebraska...Our Towns


Butler County

This small Nebraska town, first called "Skull Creek Station," changed its name to "Bruno" honoring the capital city of Moravia, Czechoslovakia, the homeland of many of its residents.

Pictured is a wheat field like those along Skull Creek with two newfangled McCormick "reaping machine" in use, each pulled by teams of four horses. [Valda]

A postcard mailed from Butler County, tells of a story being written about "my life." Perhaps "Miss S." is a school teacher to whom the story was taken to be corrected [obviously a good idea.] The picture is identified as "stacks of grain." [Nebraska State Historical Society]

The Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad began laying track in the northeast corner of Butler County in 1887. They put up a depot in Section 10 of Skull Creek Township, near the crossing on the creek by that name. This stream, flowing in a northern direction to empty into the Platte River in Saunders County, got its name from the large number of buffalo skulls that were found along its banks. A town was laid out by the Pioneer Townsite Company and given the name "Skull Creek Station."

A year later, when the population of the town had grown to 150, a petition was circulated requesting that the name be changed. Since the citizens of the community, for the most part, had emigrated from Czechoslovakia, they chose the name "Brno," the capital city of Moravia in their native land. The petition was approved, but the name was Americanized to "Bruno" for easier pronunciation.

The little town, perched among the hills that are fondly referred to as the "Bohemian Alps," remained a virtual outpost of the old country for several generations. These pioneers, all people of deep faith, walked or traveled by team and wagon to attend Holy Mass in Abie, Plasi, or Brainard. In 1899 a wealthy man, Anthony A. Hirst of Philadelphia, donated $1,000 to be used to build a church "in the Middle West." There was one stipulation on its use: the church was to be named "Anthony" in memory of his deceased son. Bruno's St. Anthony's Church was dedicated that October.

The citizens of Bruno work hard and play hard. Farming in these dry-land hills is not an easy task, but few complain. The economy of Bruno immediately reflects the condition of the crops -- both good and bad. A dance is held once a week, no matter the weather in Joe Hlavac's Hall. The Bruno band usually furnished the music.

The people of the community volunteer with all their hearts. The Bruno Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1913, and take this job very seriously -- including hose contests in neighboring villages. In 1918 they set a record of $1,000 donated in just two weeks.

And, they love to party. In August 1933 the town held a "Legalized Beer Celebration." It started with a funeral ceremony for the repeal of prohibition, followed by a parade and a dance. It was such fun that they continued it as the "Bruno Fall Festival," now an annual event.

In 1946 Bruno held a big homecoming for World War II veterans. The following year a memorial monument honoring soldiers was dedicated, followed by carnival activities and a dance. The town had its Diamond Jubilee in 1963 and celebrated its centennial in 1988.

During the year there are many on-going events. The townsfolk, led by the firemen and Community Improvement Association, hold an annual antique tractor pull and street dance in July. They provide free movies, with pop corn, cool aid, and tea. Santa Claus visits Bruno in December, and there is an annual Easter egg hunt in the spring. Bruno has an annual gun show, and no one wants to miss the fall duck and ham dinner at St.Anthony's.

Bruno's highest population of nearly 500 was recorded during the decade, 1910-20. The present population of 154 reflects many third and fourth generation descendants of pioneer families to the area.

In the past few years, the people of Bruno "saved" their post office, and installed a new water system. Bruno has some interesting businesses. In addition to a filling station and the co-op grain association, there is a taxidermy/gun shop run by Marvin Roubal, and Pat Roubal's beauty shop. Bernie Pabian, the beekeeper, sells honey and is also the town's electrician and runs a sawmill. The lounge and eatery is run by Laddie Svoboda.

You will find Bruno, located on Spur 12B off Highway 15, a fun place to visit. Plan to attend one of its special events. You will enjoy Bruno hospitality.

By Irene O'Brien, 2702 8th Street, Apt 2, Columbus, NE 68601


ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Bruno's Centennial History Book, 1988.