Cities, Towns, Villages
Alda; Cairo; Doniphan; Grand Island; Wood River
When Maj. Stephen H. Long, a Union government engineer, passed through this area in 1820 while returning from an expedition in the Rocky Mountains, he reported the area was "wholly unfit for cultivation and uninhabitable by a people depending on agriculture for their subsistence." Long's harsh observation would prove to be erroneous, however.
Agriculture in the lush Platte River Valley dates back to the days when the Pawnee Indians located their villages along the south bank of the river. The Pawnee would depend more on their crops of corn and pumpkins than they would on the buffalo that roamed the area. Early white settlers lived off the land as well, selling corn to nearby Fort Kearny.
Hall County was created by the Territorial Legislature on Nov. 4, 1858. The county's original boundaries would be redefined again in 1864 and 1871. This new county was named in honor of Augustus Hall, who was Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court at the time the county's original boundaries were created.
The Mormon Trail brought many of the first settlers to the Hall County area. But like so many other counties that border the Platte River, the westward advancement of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1860s can be credited with contributing to the most significant development.
One of the sidings located along the rail line was approximately two miles north of a settlement on the north bank of the river. The settlement was relocated to the site of the siding and renamed Grand Island City. Within six years it would be incorporated and become the county seat. The name, later shorted to simply Grand Island, was derived from a large island in the river.
The stately courthouse that today serves the county was completed in 1903 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1980 the county added an Administration Building directly across the street. The courthouse is used primarily for the courts and county corrections, with the other county offices housed in the Administration Building.