Victoria Springs State Recreation Area History
Tour of the historical buildings and important locations in the history of Victoria Springs State Recreation Area
In the spring of 1874, Charles R. Mathews settled in the Victoria Creek valley. With the help of neighbors, Mathews built two log cabins, one as a residence, and one to house the first post office in Custer County. Cedar logs from Cedar Canyon, located just northwest of the park, provided the structure for the cabins. C.R. Mathews became the first postmaster in Custer County and held that position from 1875-1889. Mathews also served as Custer County judge for a few years, resigning from that office in 1883. The first store in New Helena was in Mathews's log cabin home. The cabins and Mr. Mathews served an essential purpose in the beginnings of New Helena.
The Victoria Mineral Springs Company began its operation on May 10, 1890. The business manufactured, prepared, and shipped mineral water to many points in the eastern United States. The company claimed the mineral spring water was the elixir of life, and that whoever drank it would live forever. The two concrete tubes covering the once-famous springs are still visible today.
The New Helena School District built the frame schoolhouse in 1888-89 on this site. Its location is one mile northeast of New Helena or six miles east of Anselmo. Classes were held here until 1964, after which the building and its contents became the property of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. This one-room schoolhouse is now a part of Victoria Springs State Recreation Area.
Victoria Springs State Recreation Area is the second land acquisition and the third oldest park in Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s history. On August 12, 1925, the Park Board and Governor Adam McMullen opened Victoria Springs Park to a crowd of forty-five hundred people. Improvements over the years include a playground, tables, grills, a large group shelter, two reservable cabins, electric and non-electric camping, and paddleboat rentals.