Historical Details

Niobrara County Beginnings

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 07/09/1986

Snyder suggested "Niobrara" for county name

Harry C. Snyder and E. B. Willson led the action to divide Converse County and create another county called Niobrara. Home government, a centrally located county seat, lower taxes and better roads were their reasons for another county. The name "Niobrara" was suggested by Mr. Snyder, according to Robert F. Burhoop.

In January, 1911, a delegation of local citizens went to Douglas, then the county seat, to discuss county division. They had a very pleasant reception, during this harmonious meeting of taxpayers it was agreed that the "east-enders" were only asking for what they were entitled. Two ranchers living north of Lusk were constantly fighting. A commissioner from Douglas remarked that if these two ranchers would be in the new county he was definitely in favor of division.

Better be quick
A signed petition for county division was mailed to the Legislature, then in session. Harry Snyder went to Cheyenne to lobby for the new county. The following quote is taken from the "Story of Pioneer Life" by Emma Cinklaw:

"Nat Baker threatened Mr. Snyder's life over the county division. Snyder's daughter heard the rumor and dashed to the railroad station the day he (Snyder) left for Cheyenne. She did not voice her fear, but tried to stand between her father and Mr. Baker, for she was sure he would not wish to kill her. Mr. Snyder is said to have remarked afterwards, "If Nat Baker had shot me, it would have been only because he was the quickest man."

On Harry Snyder's return with the news that Niobrara County was formed, he was greeted by a large crowd of enthusiastic citizens. The Lusk band did its best to vice a suitable greeting. Lawrence Johnson headed the parade on horseback. There was some argument on the pronunciation of Niobrara. Was it Nee-o-braw-a or Nio-bra-ra? The Lusk Reading Club and the school superintendent took the matter up for discussion.

Governor Joseph M. Carey appointed Eugene B. Willson, Albert Rochell and Thomas H. Thompson to act as Commissioners and complete the county organization. Their first meeting was held in the office of Sol J. Weil, a young attorney, on March 30, 1911. Mr. Willson was chosen as chairman. At a special election Lusk was chosen county seat over Manville and Jireh.

The first regular election was held November 7, 1912. Thomas Bell, Robert F. Burhoop and E.A. Cook were elected commissioners. (Mr. Willson did not run). W.C. Irvine was chosen as State senator; G.M. Winkelman, state representative; A.L. Miller, county clerk; Harry R. Rogers, sheriff; P.E. Barber, treasurer; C. C. Browning, superintendent of schools. The IOOF Hall served as a temporary courthouse. A joint meeting of the commissioners of Converse and Niobrara counties was held in Douglas January 20, 1913, to make the final adjustments for division.

Niobrara County as established is 42 1/2 miles wide, 61 1/2 miles long, and contains a total land area of 1,672,320 acres, or 2,613 sections. The highest elevation is about 5280 feet at Keeline. The lowest elevation of about 4,000 feet is on Cheyenne River in the northeastern part. When it is noon where Highway 20 crosses the State line and enters the county east of Lusk it is 11:57 a.m. where Highway 20 leaves the county west of Lusk. It takes about 3 1/3 minutes for the earth to turn the width of Niobrara County.

Jail Was built first
One of the first actions of the county commissioners in 1913 was to build the jail where it is today. Funds for the construction of the courthouse were not voted on and passed until 1918. The building was completed in 1919 and officially opened on February 2, 1920. Fred S. Runser, M.J. McCormick and Charles R. Calhoun were county commissioners. Dud Fields was then county treasurer; George Howes, assessor, E. M. Phillips, clerk; Chris Joss, sheriff; Mrs. Della Abbott Grete, superintendent of schools; C.C. Browning, clerk of court; A.E. Hyde, agricultural agent; and Miss Olea Sands, home demonstration agent.

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