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Surprise, Nebraska
Downtown Surprise: Center Street
Downtown Surprise: Center Street
Location of Surprise, Nebraska
Location of Surprise, Nebraska
Surprise, Nebraska is located in Nebraska
Surprise, Nebraska
Surprise, Nebraska
Location in Nebraska
Surprise, Nebraska is located in the United States
Surprise, Nebraska
Surprise, Nebraska
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Nebraska
County Butler
Township Read
 • Total 0.40 sq mi (1.03 km2)
 • Land 0.39 sq mi (1.02 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.02 km2)
1,578 ft (481 m)
 • Total 43
 • Estimate 
 • Density 104.59/sq mi (40.38/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 402
FIPS code 31-47850
GNIS feature ID 0833956

Surprise is a village in southwestern Butler County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 43 at the 2010 census.


Surprise is located at 41°6′16″N 97°18′32″W / 41.10444°N 97.30889°W / 41.10444; -97.30889 (41.104403, -97.308948). It lies on the Big Blue River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 0.40 square miles (1.04 km2), of which, 0.39 square miles (1.01 km2) of it is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water.


White people began settling southwestern Butler County in about 1866. In 1881, George Miller built a gristmill on the Big Blue River. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that so much waterpower was available so close to the river's headwaters, and this led him to name the mill "Surprise". Businesses and homes were established near the mill; and in 1883, a post office was established under the name "Surprise". The town plat was registered in 1884. In 1887, the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad established a depot in Surprise, resulting in further expansion of local businesses.

In 1913, chautauquas began to be offered at Chautauqua Park on the river. In the same year, the Surprise Opera House was built. Events held at the latter included local gatherings, lectures, musical performances, and moving pictures. The opera house's role in the community declined after about 1917, as increasing automobile ownership enabled residents to attend events at larger facilities in David City, Seward, and Osceola. Chautauquas continued to be held into the early 1930s; at their peak, the population of Surprise expanded to 1,500 during its week-long Chautauqua Show. The last performance at the opera house took place in 1954; the building is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The population of Surprise reached its peak of about 350 in the early 1920s. Its businesses included a brick factory and two grain elevators; it was an important shipping point for livestock, and exported ice cut from the millpond in the winter.

Surprise, Nebraska opera house from SW 2
Surprise Opera House

In 1924, Surprise's school was expanded to provide K–12 education. This continued until 1953, when Surprise and four other districts consolidated their high schools; Surprise Public Schools now ends at the eighth grade.

The railroad line through Surprise was abandoned in 1942. The Surprise post office was discontinued in 1988.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 323
1920 279 −13.6%
1930 257 −7.9%
1940 228 −11.3%
1950 120 −47.4%
1960 79 −34.2%
1970 77 −2.5%
1980 60 −22.1%
1990 55 −8.3%
2000 44 −20.0%
2010 43 −2.3%
2019 (est.) 41 −4.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 43 people, 17 households, and 11 families living in the village. The population density was 110.3 inhabitants per square mile (42.6/km2). There were 22 housing units at an average density of 56.4 per square mile (21.8/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 100.0% White.

There were 17 households, of which 23.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.8% were married couples living together, 5.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 29.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.27.

The median age in the village was 44.5 years. 23.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 21% were from 25 to 44; 13.9% were from 45 to 64; and 34.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 51.2% male and 48.8% female.

See also

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