history of arnold

Richard Allen established Arnold after his family headed west from Iowa by covered wagon in the 1880s. They decided to settle between two big cattle companies, the Henry Brothers and Arnold and Ritchie in central Nebraska. Allen arrived about the time when a violent winter killed hundreds of cattle and the ranchers were forced off the land. 

Mail delivery for this part of the country was addressed “Arnold and Ritchie Ranch, c/o Postmaster.” George Arnold was acting postmaster, so our town became known as “Arnold.” 

Key dates in our history:   Old_Hotel_up_web_resized.JPG

1909—Arnold was incorporated as the Village of Arnold.  

1912—Arnold became a railroad town. With supplies readily available, the town really grew. 

1913—Arnold State Bank was erected.  

1916—Arnold received electricity.

1924—Finch Memorial Library was built. 

1930—State of Nebraska purchased 40 acres south of town for a state park.

1933—Oliver Forrester completed construction of a new garage for his Plymouth dealership and battery store. This dealership was later sold to his son Robert Forrester in 1954, who is still running it today.

1940—A roller skating rink and dance hall was constructed in the former Dierks Lumber & Coal Company’s lumber storage.

1945—A gristmill built in 1882 producing “Pride of Arnold” flour was torn down as it was vacant and crumbling. To mark this historical site, the Old Mill Park was developed.

1952—Nine hundred fifty miles of rural electrical lines were constructed in the surrounding area.

Early 1950s—An apartment building was erected (later to be known as the Arnold Motor Court). The Masonic Temple was also completed. In a dispute between the community and its two physicians, Arnold lost the hospital and both physicians.

Late 1950s—Rural schools consolidated with Arnold District 89. The country schools were sold at auctions. Arnold reached its peak population of about 1,000.

Old_Railroad_celebration_web_resized.JPG1962—Arnold residents voted and passed a bond issue for a swimming pool. The first modern cafe was built (later to be known as the Model Cafe). The Assembly of God Church was erected primarily with donated labor.

1964—A new telephone building was built when we received a dial telephone system.

Late 1960s—A city hall with a new jail, marshall’s office, and a polling place was built.

1970s—Two historical buildings were lost—the Palace Hotel built in the early 1900s and the depot built in 1912. Union Pacific Railroad abandoned its Arnold-to-Kearney line. Various businesses were closed: Hughes Drug Store, Spargo’s Hardware, and the Arnold Theater.

1979—A second grocery store opened, Reed’s Jack & Jill (later to be known as Reeds Food Center).

1980s—Riverview Apartments was built. Forrester’s Dodge City was built. 

1985—The Arnold-Kearney branch of the Union Pacific Railroad ended after 75 years of service. 

Forresters_Boats_1960.jpg1986—The Nebraska One Box pheasant hunt was hosted in Arnold.

1991—The Masonic Temple closed in Arnold. Members consolidated with the Broken Bow chapters. 

1992—The New York Times featured an article titled “A Town Fights to Live.” 

1993—A new bowling alley was built.

1994—The first annual South Loup River Rock & Blues Barbecue was held in Old Mill Park. This is an annual event with thousands of blues fans attending each year.

1995—Meyers Market, formerly known as Watson Grocery, closed, leaving one grocery store in town.

1990s—The Hotel Custer and Economy Department Store erected in 1928 was renovated to include apartments, a laundromat, and offices.

1998—Walnut Groves Antiques (later to be known as Nebraska Farmhouse Antiques) opened in a building built in 1914 for T.L. Jones General Store.

1999—Grass greens replaced sand greens at the Arnold Golf Course.

2001—Common Grounds Coffeehouse opened in the same building as Nebraska Farmhouse Antiques.

2001—Inaugural run of the Sandhills Open Road Challenge. Arnold welcomed 30 entrants this first year. Word spread within the road racing community and led to a sold-out venue with over 100 cars in subsequent years. This event quickly became well-known across the nation as the “friendliest” racing event in the country. Participants are lulled to Arnold for the unique racing events, but the community’s hospitality keeps them coming back year after year. The SORC is a nonprofit organization and has donated over $175,000 back to the community since its inception.

2002—Arnold Economic Development Corporation formed. This corporation is comprised of volunteers committed to Arnold and its continued growth.

2002-Present—The complexion of downtown Arnold changed with the advent of the following new businesses:

Winfield Inn & Suites, Grandma’s Sweets & Eats (bakery/deli), Round Two Clothing & Etc. (a consignment shop and Alltel distributor/service center), Classic Coyote (new and used clothing, accessories, and home décor), USTA-B-A-LBR Yard (a consignment shop) located in the former Arnold Lumberyard, and Mills Hardware relocated to a much larger building.

2006—Arnold Community Center was built. This center was a wonderful addition to the community. It has a gymnasium, kitchen, and a meeting room. It’s used for family events, school events, etc.


The future is uncertain. Population decline squeezes the village and school budgets. Our businesses struggle, our ability to remain an independent, self-sufficient community diminishes. Our people need a doctor, a dentist, and a drug store. Our infrastructure, though good enough at the moment, lacks adequate cash reserves and revenues for proper maintenance. Despite the challenges, we remain convinced that ours is a special place. We demonstrate, as we hope your visit to this web site confirms, a certain pride, a desire to preserve this piece of small town America for our children who we hope can raise their families in the same safe, secure, communal, and beautiful environment that we now enjoy and cherish. Much, nay, everything depends on what we do now. In another thirty years, it will be too late. Help us turn the corner. Let’s grow great things together. Consider moving to, investing in, developing on, or pulling for Arnold.


Special thanks to Norene Hall Mills, author of One Hundred Years on the South Loup. Norene has preserved our story. We hope to honor and improve this history in our next one hundred years.


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