History of Jefferson County

Present day Jefferson County officially came into existence in the fall of 1871.  Prior to this, the area now known as Jefferson County followed a complicated path to its creation.

Initially, Jefferson County may have been included in the domain of Richardson county since Nebraska’s first counties bordered the Missouri River.  The western boundary of the state was in the unknown wilds of the Rocky Mountains.  Richardson County, which was directly east of the river, claimed the right to levy and collect taxes in all of the territory west of it.

According to research done for “A Pictorial History of Jefferson County Nebraska,” Prior to the formation of Gage and Jefferson counties, a strip of land 24 miles wide directly north of the 40th parallel (Kansas-Nebraska line), lying west of  the Big Blue River, was called Jones Country on territorial maps.  However, Jones County had no legal existence and caused confusion for many years.

Jones County existed for only a few years, since few settlers lived in the area prior to 1860.  It is the first pioneers that deserve the credit for shaping the territory into the condition to later be developed by the people residing here.  Before the first white men came, the county was populated by Otoe Indians and wandering tribes of Pawnees and other Indians reveling to and from their hunting grounds.  Jones County held its first election in the spring of 1861 and organized in 1862.

At a point in 1867, the legislature passed an act to enlarge Jones County by adding to it the county on the west and calling it Jefferson.  For nearly five years, the present counties of Thayer and Jefferson were mapped and governed as Jefferson County.  This proved unsatisfactory for its residents.

In 1871, D.C. Jenkins introduced a bill in the Legislature to divide Jefferson County with the Sixth Principal Meridian being the division line.  This was finalized in the fall of 1871, and two complete sets of country officers were elected, with the establishment of Thayer County to the west of the line and Jefferson County to the east.

For close to 130 years, Jefferson County has been home to generations of individuals and families who built a life on the plains.  Despite the struggles face by every age in this time span, its citizens have been able to create towns and villages; excited about its possibilities  committed to its success and secure in its sense of place in history   This is the legacy, which will be passed tn to future generation who also call Jefferson County home.