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A Brief History

Photo courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2183.PH001949-000901-11 copy and reuse restrictions apply. (

The Niobrara Valley Electric Membership Corporation filed its Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State of Nebraska on August 13th, 1945. The Articles, in brief, say that the non-profit organization do such things necessary to bring electricity to its members. The cooperative formed as the result of many people living in Boyd, Holt, and Knox Counties working long hours and driving many miles at their own expense. The result of their effort was the creation of an organization that could borrow money from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to finance the construction of an electrical distribution system to bring electricity to their farm and ranch homes.

On September 12, 1946, the Rural Electrification Administration authorized a loan for $520,000 to the Cooperative for the construction of electric lines and substations. Because of the war and the difficulties in securing priorities for material, it was impossible to start immediately. In early 1948, it appeared as though this restriction on material would let up and it was time to get started. In March of 1948, Ed Wilson was selected as Manager of the Cooperative. The staking of lines and the accumulation of material started and in August the first contract for the construction of lines was signed with Griffin Construction Company. Because of the severe winter of 1948-49, the original contract was not completed until the summer of 1949.

In August 1949, the first farmer was connected to lines of the Niobrara Valley Electric Membership Corporation in Boyd County. A second contract for construction of lines was let and the first farm in Holt County was connected in February 1950. Today the Cooperative serves over 5,600 meters on 2,680 miles of line. The total electric plant investment to serve these customers has grown from $520,000 in 1946 to over $30 million today.

Niobrara Valley EMC’s present headquarters, located at 427 North 4th street in O’Neill, was originally built by contract in the summer of 1956. In 1972, an addition was built that doubled the size of the building.

NVEMC Time Line

  • August 13, 1945: Articles of incorporation are filed.

  • August 24, 1945: The first meeting of the Niobrara Valley Membership Corporation was held in Spencer, Nebreska. Wm. Balkkolb (President), Ray Fellows (Vice-President),Carroll O’Neill (Secretary), Carl Schmidt (Treasurer), D.L. Peacock, Louis Hall, Harry Peppel, Thos. Courtney, Albert Schlinder, and Walter Soulek, signed the minutes as the original directors of the cooperative,

  • January 22, 1945: Holt county was added to the cooperative service territory, and at the request of Directors Louis Hall and Ray Fellows of Keya Paha county, and D.L. Peacock of Rock county, requested that those counties wished to withdraw the cooperative and form their own rural electrification district with the Rural Electrification Administration. This effort was the beginnings of the KBR Public Power District. Directors Hall, Fellows, and Peacock resigned from the cooperative board. Holt county requested that their county be included in the Niobrara Valley EMC service area.

  • February 1946: Holt county was formally included in the cooperative. Harry Russel, Vern Sagaser, and Wm. Wesfo were elected to replace the directors that had resigned.

  • April 1946: Knox County was added to the cooperative.

  • August 1946: Henningson Engineering of Omaha, Nebraska is hired as the first system engineer for the cooperative.

  • October 1946: J.T. Murray of Spencer is appointed as counsel of cooperative. A request for a loan of $520,000 from the Rural Electrification Administration for the “construction and operation ” was made.

  • November 1946: The first contract for line materials was approved.

  • May 1, 1947: The first annual meeting of the cooperative was held in the Boyd County Agriculture Conservation Association office in Spencer, Nebraska. There were eleven members attending the meeting – all were directors of the cooperative.

  • June 1947: The village of Naper loses their town generator to a fire, and is unable to borrow funds to replace it. The cooperative finances the purchase of a 60 kW 240 volt Cummins Diesel Generator, and four 15 KVA transformers for “the purpose of stepping up the 240 volts generated by said unit up to 2,300 or 2,400 volts.” The village will pay the cooperative for the use of the generator.

  • January 1948: On a vote of six to five the cooperative headquarters is moved to O’Neill, Nebraksa.

  • February 1948: Directors approve Mr. Ed Wilson as manager.

  • July 1948: Authorization is given to lease a brick building on north 4th Street in O’Neill to be used as an office. One carload of conductor wire has arrived in O’Neill, approximately 125 miles of line have been staked in Boyd County.

  • March 1949: This is the first board meeting since December due to a severe blizzard which closed all roads during January and February.

  • June 1949: Authorization is given to complete purchase of existing electric facilities in Naper and Verdel.

  • August 1949: Boyd County is to be energized as rapidly as linemen can make connections.

  • October 1950: The cooperative has 550 members including the 11 directors now receiving electric service.

  • July 1951: Authorization is given to purchase Chambers Light & Power Company.

  • January 1955: METERS 2,373; ASSETS $2,947,027.00; ANNUAL REVENUE $277, 327.00; EMPLOYEES 15.

  • Summer 1956: Present office is now occupied.

  • February 1966: Manager Ed Wilson dies suddenly.

  • May 1966: Mr. Al Chantry approved as manager.

  • January 1970: METERS 2,820; ASSETS $3,666,608.00; ANNUAL REVENUE $765,532.00; EMPLOYEES 23.

  • January 1973: Mr. Walter Schmidt approved as manager.

  • October 1981: The cooperative makes first Patronage Capital payment to members.

  • January 1985: METERS 4,300; ASSETS $12,257,039.00; ANNUAL REVENUE $4,620,612.00; EMPLOYEES 24.

  • January 1990: Present Manager John Hoke was hired.

  • June 1995: Automatic Load Control System for Irrigation wells activated.

  • December 1995: Cooperative is now “Debt Free” having paid off all the original debt on the cooperative.

  • January 2000: METERS 5,185; ASSETS $16,736,472.00; ANNUAL REVENUE $6,282,569.00; EMPLOYEES 25.

  • June 2003: Tornado strikes area causing damage to several homes and at least 210 irrigation systems. The cooperative had damage to 274 poles, 285 crossarms and 68 transformers. The total damage cost to the system was $367,692. The cooperative received disaster funds from FEMA of $305,643 that helped to offset a large portion of the cooperative’s losses.

  • November 27-28, 2005: Thanksgiving Blizzard – A Storm to Remember

    On Thanksgiving weekend the cooperative experienced one of the worst ice and wind storms in recent memory. Efforts to restore power were hampered by blizzard conditions and roads blocked by snow. Over 90% of Niobrara Valley EMC members were without power on Monday the 28th and many remained so for several days. Mutual Aid crews from six other rural electric systems came to help with repair efforts increasing our work force from 14 to 48. Nebraska Public Power District sent additional crews which brought the work force to 81 linemen. All residential services had power restored by Wednesday, December 7th.

    Damage cost to the system totaled $800,000. The Federal government issued a disaster declaration for the area and the cooperative received funding from FEMA to help recover a portion of the repair cost.

  • January 2007: 2nd Year of Holiday Storms Caused Millions in Damage

    A holiday ice and wind storm hit the state of Nebraska for the second winter holiday season in a row. Niobrara Valley Electric was quite lucky this time around but much of the southern part of the state was hit hard. The thickest ice many have ever seen clung to everything. Steel transmission line poles collapse in the middle from the weight of the ice. This time Niobrara Valley crews went to the aid of our fellow rural electric systems hit by the damaging storm. Damage to Nebraska Public Power’s transmission reached over 100 million dollars. Once again a disaster declaration was made for areas of the state and FEMA stepped in with much needed funding.

  • January 2015: METERS 6,313; ASSETS $25,675,073; ANNUAL REVENUE $13,226,065; EMPLOYEES 21.

  • March 2019 : Extensive rain storms caused flooding across Nebraska and large ice caps demolished many bridges and took out the Spencer dam.

  • March 2020:  Covid 19 hit and we locked our office door until cases died down around July of 2020.

  • July 2021 : NVEMC invested in a new AMI system where we can electronically read our customers’ meters from the office, saving us time and cost of travel. The install took roughly 9 months to change the majority of the meters out.

  • August 2021:  Our manager John Hoke retires September 1st and our new manager, Matt Fritz, was hired August 16th.

  • October 2022: Changed the office hours from 8:00-5:00 to 8:00-4:30.

Contact Us

NVEMC can be reached by calling
(402) 336-2803 or (800) 967-1987.

Monday – Friday
8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. 

You can also reach us by email at