Indianola NE Historical Society

preserving the history of our town…

A History Of Indianola

I just ran onto the below pictures one being a very early and one the last one taken as they were starting to tear down the buildings. About 100 years apart.

Starting to come down 100 years later.

Starting to come down 100 years later.

Very early picture of main street Indianola.

Very early picture of main street Indianola.

Original photo of Earl Allen. Thanks to Janet Bergin.

Original photo of Earl Allen. Thanks to Janet Bergin.


THE PHOTO ABOVE IS LOOKING SOUTH OF HIGHWAY. LORDS IS THE HARDWARE STORE.
THE PHOTO BELOW IS LOOKING NORTH FROM THE RAIL RAOD TRACKS.

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In the fall of 1871, the Republican Valley Land Company was formed in Nebraska City for the purpose of establishing a town site in southwest Nebraska. A surveying party platted the new town, called “Red Willow” for the creek it was on, then prepared it for settlement in the spring of 1872.

When spring came, six men from Iowa also decided to travel west. Their names were E.S. Hill, G.A. Hunter, William and Day Weygent, L.B. Korn, and Henry Madison. They planned to go to the Red Willow area, but six miles east, one of their wagons got stuck when crossing Coon Creek. After looking around they decided to claim land right there. This is where the story of Indianola begins.

D.N. Smith, a locator for the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, was in the area looking for a town site. He found the people in Red Willow quarreling over where to locate the town. Dismayed by their bickering, he left. Upon arriving at Coon Creek, he was happy to find an old friend, Mr. Hill. After telling him of his quest to locate a town site on which the Red Willow county seat was to be placed, Hill offered his homestead for that purpose.

Smith returned in the spring of 1873 and surveyed and registered a plat for the new town on Coon Creek. Indianola received its name at the suggestion of Issac J. Starbuck in honor of his home town, Indianola Iowa.

Indianola was named the county seat of Red Willow County in May of 1873, but its population remained comparatively small. Only after the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad had completed its line into town in 1880 did the population begin to increase. By 1896 the number of people in Indianola rose to over 1,200. The numbers were not enough, however, when a vote was called to move the county seat to McCook. Indianola lost. When the people associated with county government moved out, the population dropped to under 900.

One of the early major businesses was the Indianola Ochre Mills, which mined ochre (a soft, yellow, chalky stone). When refined, it was made into paint and used in the manufacture of bricks. The mill operated from 1890 to around 1910 but closed when higher quality ochre could be shipped from Europe at a cheaper price.

Great Wester Ochre Mills, Indianola Nebraska

Great Wester Ochre Mills, Indianola Nebraska

There have been two train wrecks in Indianola. The first pictured below was in 1898 when a stock train derailed, killing three men and a large number of sheep. A second train wreck occurred on May 29, 1911. Two passenger trains collided head on, killing 18 people and injuring a great many others. (Click on the 1911 Train Wreck tab to see pictures.)

From Alan Lambert

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Indianola has had its share of high water. If the city wasn’t ravaged from the Coon Creek overflowing, then it could watch from a distance as the Republican River over-ran its banks.

The Dirty 30’s were hard on the people of Indianola. The city lost its bank in 1933, people lost farms, and others moved away hoping to find work. Just when the pain of the Depression and dust bowl seemed to be over and the long-awaited rains began to fall, more troubles came. In the spring of 1935 the rain did not stop falling. At one point on the upper Republican, 24 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. This was much more water than the river could hold. Known as the “1935 Republican River Flood,” it will long be remembered by people up and down the river. Indianola didn’t lose anyone in the flood, but it was lucky.

1907 Republican River South of Indianola

1907 Republican River South of Indianola

In 1940-41 Indianola’s bank reopened and things started looking up for the town again. In 1942, during the WW 11, Indianola was chosen for the site of a German Prisoner of War Camp. It was located one mile North of town and many of Indianola citizens were employed there. When completed it housed nearly 2,000 German prisoners. As with all wars some of the soldiers that were stationed at the camp married local girls and still live in Indianola.
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German Prisoner of War Camp Indianola

German Prisoner of War Camp Indianola

At the end of the war when the POW camp was closed, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation used the site from 1946 until the end of 1954. Since then the land was sold and the buildings torn down. All that remains are two brick chimneys, a water tower converted into a silo, and the building foundations. We have almost no pictures of the old camp. THERE HAS TO BE SOME SOMEWHERE! If you have any please please contact a member of the Historical Society. We will copy them and return the original.

IF YOU HAVE ANY PICTURES OF ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS SOUTH WEST  NEBRASKA AREA WE WOULD LOVE TO PUT  THEM ON THIS SITE. WE REALLY NEED ANY KIND OF PICTURES FROM THE PRISONER OF WAR CAMP. PLEASE EMAIL THEM TO ME AT : baumbach@gpcom.net OR MAIL THEM TO Indianola Historical Society, Box 338, Indianola NE 69034

GOD Bless America

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

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One Response to “A History Of Indianola”

  1. admin says:

    Michelle, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. We would love to see your items you have to share. My email address is baumbach@gpcom.net and prefer jpg picture if possible. We are excited to see your information.