Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

  • Virtual Nebraska Logo

Virtual Nebraska

Nebraska...Our Towns

brule1jres.jpg (16143 bytes)BRULE -- KEITH COUNTY

Brule, located on what had been a campsite of the Brule Sioux Indians, is rich in history. The Diamond Springs pony express station was one mile west, on the south side of the river. Beauvais Trading Post was just another three miles west, at the Oregon Trail crossing of the South Platte River. The ruts are still evident where the pioneers started ascending California Hill. Flint and stone arrowheads are often found on the sand bars in the river.

The railroad was the primary deciding factor in establishing a town at this location. The first business was a lumber company owned by Russell and Patten. About this same time Major I.R. Barton contracted to have a store built and announced, " will best anything in Ogallala!"

A post office was granted to the settlement even before it had a name. It was presumed the name would be "Barton" since it was the Bartons that owned most of the property and the business in which the postal service was to be housed. Their wishes, however, were to have it named "Brule" for the Indian tribe which had lived in this area.

brule2jres.jpg (16857 bytes)Bonds to construct a bridge over the South Platte were proposed in 1886. Since it was very important to the further development of the community, the vote from Brule was 20-0. Completed in 1888, the bridge was 2,100 feet long, and ten feet wide, with two "turn outs" for meeting other vehicles.

The "Keith County News" reports that in March 1887 the first emigrant rail car was set off at Brule with its cargo of livestock and household goods. Many homesteaders used this method to reach the location where they had filed and desired to "prove up" their land. All their possessions were loaded into a box car that was transported by rail and left at the siding nearest their new home.

A one-room school was built in 1888 on lots made available by the Bartons. It served until 1910 when a larger one was built.

An attempt at agricultural irrigation was made in 1896. Easements were acquired and miles of ditch were dug by hand. For years parts of the ditch were evident, but it was not a successful venture. While children loved to play in the ditches, the inability of water to run up hill seems to be the prime reason for the project's demise. The ditch only carried water TO the river when it rained.

brule3jres.jpg (16841 bytes)In 1899 the Bartons donated lots to be used for building churches. It was not until 1908 that the Congregational Church was built. A Lutheran Church was built and dedicated in 1928.

A telephone line was run from Big Springs to Brule in 1908, and a similar line on to Ogallala, with central offices in Brule. This was a welcome addition to the area. It helped tie the three communities more tightly together in a spirit of cooperation, and made the area more attractive to settlers.

Until 1922 electricity was restricted to those fortunate enough to have a home light plant system. Other public utilities such as water and sewer were not available until 1951-53. This last improvement brought about the end to the little shanties (often referred to as "two seaters") found in the back yards of many residences.

Brule's population remained constant following World War I, although the town struggled during the Depression. During the recovery days the road north across the hills was a major W.P.A. project in the Brule area. Things were beginning to look up when the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged America into war again in 1941. Again many of our young people went off to do battle with the enemy on two fronts as the older residents of Brule remained at home, working to support the national effort. Post-war years were prosperous, with new innovations and lots of "catching up" to do.

Brule is one of Nebraska's growing towns. In 1970 the population was 423. The 1980 count was 438. Residents of the Brule community enjoy a sense of family and togetherness. This feeling has not changed over the years. Even with the recent down-turn in agriculture, the residents remain constant in their ability to work together.

Life in a small town like Brule can be compared to gardening. What you sow, you reap. Through hardships as well as good times, people in our community show care and concern for one another. Our ancestors have given us a wealth to be harvested. We will plant good seeds for future generations.


By Erma Evert, Brule, NE 69127. Story by Bob Anderson and Cliff Kuskie.


Additional Material: Brule Centennial Book, 1986.