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County History

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Saunders County is in eastern Nebraska. The Platte River forms the northern and eastern boundary of Saunders County and played a role in the development of the area. South of the river, the Burlington Railroad controlled, while the area to the north belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad. At one time, the river flowed across the county from the northwest corner diagonally to the southeast corner at Ashland. Today this old river bed is called the Todd Valley. The land is fertile and settlers drew lumber from the trees which lined the river, as well as fish and wildlife.

A Brief History:

Native Americans inhabited the area as many as 6000 years ago. Contact with European fur traders in the 1700's brought contagious diseases such as small pox to these people and their population reduced. The Otoe and Pawnee lived in the area until they were forced to relocate by the government in the 1850's.

Nebraska became a territory in 1854. The first Territorial Governor was Frances Burt of Saunders County and the fifth was Alvin Saunders, whom the county was named.


The Ashland Courthouse:

Ashland was the first county seat and the first courthouse was built there in 1870. On October 15, 1873, residents voted to move the county seat to Wahoo. And as the story goes, in 1873, a group of men from Wahoo came during the cover of night, stole the records, and took them to Wahoo. (Ashland Courthouse photo was kindly provided by the Saunders County Museum.)

Today's courthouse is a treasure. Select an image below for a larger view.

Ashland Courthouse 1878

Former Communities:

Several communities no longer exist as they did in their early days.  Rescue, Touhy, Swedeburg and Wann are some that are no longer incorporated.  

Great Values:   

If you are looking for some printed material on Saunders County History, there are a couple of really terrific items just waiting for you!  The Saunders County Historical Society has just published a pictorial history book filled with images of yesterday and today.  Contact the museum to order a copy.  

Also, the Mead Public Library has historical note cards and a directory of Mead graduates available for sale.  You may contact Vera at the library, 402-624-2043, for more information.