Gibbon, on the old Mormon Trail, was the site of a unique experiment in homestead colonization. Originally conceived as a financial venture by Colonel John Thorp of Ohio, the Soldier's Free Homestead Colony was responsible for bringing the first homesteaders to the region. Traveling by Union Pacific, which had reached this point in July 1866, the first group of colonists, representing 80 families, arrived in Gibbon on April 7, 1871.
Thorp had advertised for colonists, charging a membership fee of $2.00, with which they received reduced railroad rates to Gibbon, where it was expected that the Civil War Veterans would purchase railroad land and take homesteads, thus increasing the value of other nearby railroad lands.
When the first colonists arrived at Gibbon siding, named for Civil War General John Gibbon, the only building was a small section house, and, until sod or frame homes could be built, they lived in railroad box cars. Later arrivals increased the original colonists to 129 families from 15 states, all but a few being Union veterans.
The settlers' first view of the area was not encouraging as a prairie fire had recently swept over the region, leaving charred desolation in its wake. Two days after their arrival, a two-day blizzard struck the area. It is a tribute to the perseverance of these hardy pioneers that only one colonist failed to file a homestead claim.
Gibbon Lions Club
Nebraska State Historical Society
U.S. I-80 Windmill Park, 3 1/2 miles south of Gibbon