In July 1885 the north half of the
Nebraska Panhandle was divided into three counties;
Sioux, Dawes, and Sheridan. The next year
petitioners were successful in forming a new county,
Box Butte, out of the lower portion of Dawes County
in November 1886. The county contains 1,080 square
miles and is located in the northwest portion of the
The county was officially organized on March 7,
1887, and the village of Nonpareil was fixed as the
seat of government. The first county courthouse was
completed in June of 1887. At the same time, the
Burlington Railroad's townsite company, the Lincoln
Land Company, had established itself in the town and
made plans for railroad shops and tracks.
By 1888 the railroad had reached Alliance and
bypassed Nonpareil and the county seat issue was
raised in 1890. The contest was between Nonpareil,
Hemingford, and Alliance. Hemingford received the
deciding votes. There were suspicions concerning
that election but the matter stood for two years
until it was reopened in 1898. After several
lawsuits, disagreements, and delays, the matter came
before the State Supreme Court on January 4, 1899.
As a result, Alliance was designated as the
county seat and the records were ordered moved. Even
the courthouse was moved to Alliance by train. In
1913 the old courthouse was replaced and a new one
dedicated in December of 1914. This building is
still in use today.
The county was first settled
through the efforts of the railroads to populate
this portion of Nebraska. The homestead laws were
also instrumental in developing the area. In 1890
the population of Box Butte County was 5,494. In
1980 it was 13,696.
Today Alliance remains the heart of the main
coal train route from Wyoming on the Burlington
Route and the railroad remains as one of the major
employers in the county.
This page was last updated April 15, 2016.
© 2016 by the Box Butte County
for the NEGenWeb Project