The history of Big Springs, northeast of here, has been closely associated with the Union Pacific Railroad since 1867, when a station was established at that point. A nearby spring, from which the station derived its name, provided an abundant water supply for the railroad's steam locomotives.
On the night of September 18, 1877, Nebraska's most famous train robbery occurred at Big Springs. After capturing the station agent and destroying the telegraph, Sam Bass and five companions stopped a Union Pacific express train and escaped with a reported sixty-thousand dollars in gold and currency.
No permanent settlement occurred at Big Springs until 1883, and the townsite was platted by the Union Pacific Railroad the following year. One of the first structures in the community was the Phelps Hotel, opened in 1885 by Edwin A. Phelps. Little changed since its construction, the hotel has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Despite drouths and severe winters, settlement of the area continued in the 1880's and 1890's. On May 15, 1917, the village of Big Springs was incorporated by act of the Deuel County Commissioners.
Department of Roads
Nebraska State Historical Society
Big Springs Rest Area I-80, east bound