The first settlers in Bigelow Township, Ham and Harlan Higgins, arrived there from Platte County, Missouri, in about November 1841. They were assisted in raising their house by another early arrival, Stephen Collins, who was surveyor for Holt County for twenty years. At this time, there were still numerous Iowa and Sac Indians in the area. Other early settlers of Bigelow Township were Joshua Kelso, who became constable; Joseph Scott and his sons William and John; Daniel David from Switzerland County, Indiana; Jeff Campbell, Wade Whitney, John L. Morris and John Stone from Virginia; Jack Chaney, Joel Chaney and Fields Chaney from Ray County, Missouri; Nelson Rodney, C. G. Hopkins and A. Galloway. One of the earliest settlers was a man named Wagle, who settled just west of present-day Bigelow, where he lived until the flood of 1844 forced him to move. Other early settlers were Elijah Duncan, William Farmer, and a large contingent of pioneers from Franklin County, Missouri.
Drury T. Easley and R. J. Poindexter arrived from Franklin County in 1849 and opened the first store, located near the mouth of the Tarkio River. They left soon after for the gold fields of California, but returned to the area in 1852, opening a store on the river bank opposite Rulo, Nebraska. This store was destroyed by fire in 1857. Easley and Poindexter enjoy the dubious distinction of being the first to introduce cockle burrs to Holt County, which they brought in on the tails of their horses when they first arrived from Franklin County. One must wonder if they really did us a favor!
The Mound City Globe, April 13, 1876, reported that the town was originally laid out by Captain William of St. Joseph in 1867. The original town contained 40 acres; J. L. Chuning laid out an additional 20 acres, known as the Chuning’s addition. In 1876 there were 35 building used as residences, 12 used for business purposes, and 2 feed stables. The businesses included two drug stores, two dry goods stores, one saloon, one butcher shop, two hotels, one justice office, one milliner shop, and two houses used for storage and the sale of plows and cultivators. While the town boasted a population of 187 in 1876, the Bigelow school district included territory outside the town, with an enrollment of 107 students. The school was kept open nine months during the year and paid its teacher a whopping $65 per month.
A major enterprise of Bigelow Township was the Hoover Saw Mill, which was moved from Mound City in 1861 and set up on the Big Tarkio, about 1 1/2 miles southwest of the town of Bigelow. The business changed hands several times and at one time was owned by E. A. Brown, who was at one time purported to be one of the largest landowners in Holt County. The yield of this mill was over one million feet of lumber per year; walnut being the most profitable type of lumber sold.
Pictures and information for this article were compiled from information found in internet searches, History of Holt County 1882, History of Holt County 1917, newspaper articles, pictures and personal research housed in the Holt County Historical Society’s Genealogy/Research Center in Mound City, and submitted by Helen Morris Smith.