The fascinating Logan Creek Valley drew Ford Bella and Deborah (Watson) Barber as they arrived from Maine in 1874 and built a cabin in Bancroft Township. Later the site became the Village of Bancroft.
Six years later, the Barbers deeded 80 acres of their land to the Sioux City & Nebraska Railway in return for an agreement that, in addition to the railroad right-of-way, the company would plat a town. In 1880, a map of the town was recorded in the county seat of West Point.
The town was referred to as “Barberville,” but soon the name “Bancroft” was chosen in honor of George Bancroft, civil engineer for the railroad.
The town’s population peaked to nearly 1,000 in 1909. There were seven churches, an opera house, schools, banks, hotels, and a complete array of businesses. The town also had a planing mill, flour mill, wagon makers, and a gasoline-gas plant. Land was valued at $65 to $100 per acre.
The world’s longest-living poet laureate, John Gneisenau Neihardt, lived in Bancroft from 1900-1920.
Other notes about early Bancroft: George Bancroft, Jr. became a great National League baseball player; John Ammon Stahl, a school principal, married Stella Barber, with their grandson being billionaire Warren Buffet; Susan LaFlesche Picotte, a daughter of Joseph “Iron Eye” LaFlesche (last chief of the Omaha Indians), was the first woman doctor of the area.