Bertrand was platted by the Lincoln Land Company in June 1885, and the tracks of the Burlington Railroad soon reached here from Holdrege. The village was named in honor of Alonzo Bertrand Minor, a railroad official and later secretary of the Lincoln Land Company. Bertrand was incorporated on December 11, 1885, and the articles of incorporation were officially adopted by the Board of Trustees on December 22.
Swedes and Germans were the predominant ethnic groups who settled here beginning in the late 1870s. Many settlers claimed government land while others purchased farms from the railroads. Their deep religious faith led to the establishment of seven churches in and around Bertrand. A frame school was built in 1888; it was replaced by a brick structure in 1909. A new school building was occupied in 1958. Over twenty rural districts were consolidated to form present District 54.
Although Bertrand lies in a rich agricultural region, drought caused major crop failures during the 1890s and again in the 1930s. The completion of the Tri-County Project in 1941 brought irrigation which has become a mainstay of the area's agricultural economy.