Establishing a New County called Brown County, Nebraska

In December, 1882, Frank Sellors and Merritt Griffiths circulated a petition asking that the coming legislature pass an act establishing a new county from unorganized territory lying west of Holt county. The boundaries as set forth in the petition included what is now the three counties, Brown, Rock and Keya Paha, and was a tract forty-eight miles from east to west and sixty-four miles north and -south. It had been under the jurisdiction of Holt County for some years.

Two bills defining the boundaries of Brown County were introduced; one in the senate by Moses P. Kinkaid of the twelfth district; the other in the house by Frank North of the twenty-third district. The bills were practically the same and both were introduced on January 9, 1883. Kinkaid’s bill passed the senate on January 24th without a dissenting vote, but was lost in the house, that body having already passed North’s bill on February 8. The senate passed this bill on February 14 and it was approved by Governor Dawes on the 19th. From the fact that there were not less than five members of the legislature of ’83 by the name of Brown, and that the petition mentioned no name, it was decided to call the new county “Brown.” Loup and Cherry counties were organized the same year.

A committee consisting of Ed Cook, T. J. Smith and Leroy Hall went to Lincoln in the interests of the new county. The result was the appointment by Governor Dawes of the following named special officers on March 17:
Clerk -D. B. Short.
Commissioners –
D. D. Carpender, Thos. Peacock, I. N. Alderman.

Ainsworth was named the temporary county seat. I have been told that when the news of this action reached Ainsworth, the rejoicing was strenuous and pronounced. These special officers met April 5th and took the oath of their respective offices. In May the county was divided into three commissioner districts and the following precincts were organized and voting booths established in each;
Long Pine,
Johnstown and
Keya Paha.

J. L. Harriman was appointed superintendent of schools and the Western News

T. J. Smith, was made the official organ.
A special election was called for July 19, when county officers as follows were elected:
Clerk-C. W. Stannard
Judge-S. G. Sparks
Treasurer-John Staley
Sheriff-John Sullivan
Superintendent of Schools-W.G. Townsend
Coroner–Albert Palmer
Surveyor-R. Strait followed by Dennis Collins, then W. S. Collins.
Commissioners-First district, P. A. Morris;
Second district, D. B. Short
Third district, D. D. Carpender
At this same election Ainsworth was made the permanent county seat.
John Sullivan having failed to qualify,
Jasper Stanley was appointed sheriff.
John Sullivan and Ed. Cook were appointed stock brand inspectors.
On August 9th, the commissioners rented the east ten feet of Reed’s hall for the use of the county officers for $10 per month, with the privilege of using the balance of the hall when necessary for a court room. This hall was the second story of the old Snell building, on the east side of Main Street, which was destroyed by fire a few years ago. A few pieces of furniture were purchased for the use of the new officers, also a safe costing $550, books for county records, material for bridges and a few roads were laid out. February 28, 1883, the sum of $300 was set aside to build a bridge over the Niobrara River at Mead’s ranch. The balance of the cost of the bridge was to be met by subscription and the site was donated. J. S. Carnahan was appointed foreman of the work. A similar plan was adopted for bridges at Brinkerhoff’s and Morris’ bridge and the same amount of money set aside for each. The bridge at Mead’s ranch was accepted and opened for use December 9, 1885: in the meantime the county had purchased from Mrs. Osborn a ferry boat for which they paid $96.70. This ferryboat was sold soon after to Mead and Stokes who did a thriving business.


Brown County NE,

Jones, Lillian L. Days of Yore: Early History of Brown County, Nebraska. Ainsworth, Nebraska. November, 1937.

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