Custer

History

Located in the geographic heart of the state, Custer County features a diverse blend of topography. Nearly three-quarters of the county is in the state's corn belt, while the northwest one-quarter is considered part of the Sandhills. Consequently, corn and cattle production are the dominant contributors to the county's present day economy.

The organization of Custer County was officially approved on Feb. 17, 1877. This came after a group of 13 ranchers and settlers sent to the governor a signed petition asking that the territory be formed into a governmental body. The county was named in honor of Gen. George A. Custer, who was killed the preceding summer.

Only a handful of settlers came to the area in the years leading up to the 1870s. Since the region was virtually uninhabited, these settlers were able to amass enormous ranches. Eventually, more and more homesteaders came to the area, fenced in their land, and planted crops. With the tremendous cattle losses during the winter of 1880-81, the ranchers gave way to thousands of homesteaders coming to the area after the Civil War. Sod houses and small settlements quickly began to replace the vast ranches.

The first courthouse was a cedar log, two-room, L-shaped structure that was built in 1876 on the Young Ranch near the South Loup River. It was used from the time the county was organized in 1877 until Broken Bow was named the county seat after a special three-way election.

People often inquire how the county seat received its unique name. According to historians, Wilson Hewitt was postmaster for the area at the time and had suggested three names. Shortly after the third was rejected, Hewitt's two sons showed him a broken Indian bow they had found on the banks of nearby Muddy Creek. Hewitt suggested Broken Bow and it was quickly accepted by the post office department.

A red brick, ornate courthouse with rounded towers on the corners was build in 1889. It was destroyed by fire in 1910. Two years later, the county's present courthouse was constructed on the same site.