Box Butte County History

Source: Nebraska State Historical Society

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 state.
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 Coordinator
for the NEGenWeb Project