Thayer

History

The area that is known today as Thayer County was first established by the Territorial Legislature in 1856. It would be another 14 years before it would become known as Thayer County, however.

Legislators originally designated the area as Jefferson County, while the present Jefferson County, neighboring to the east, was designated as Jones County. In 1867, when Nebraska was admitted to the Union, Jefferson and Jones Counties were united to become one, under the Jefferson name. Then in 1870 the Legislature once again separated the two. What was originally called Jones took the name Jefferson and retained the old county records. The initial Jefferson became known as Thayer, in honor of Gen. John Milton Thayer, a U.S. senator from Nebraska and later its governor.

The early development of the area was attributed to the great trail period. Nearly 2½ decades before it became Thayer County, the area was crossed by the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express Route. This brought thousands of immigrants through the area and caused the Indians to fear the white man was taking over their cherished hunting grounds. A number of fierce raids and battles took place between 1864 and 1867.

An 1869 circular promoting the colonization of this area resulted in scores of settlers rushing in to file for homesteads. The circular falsely claimed, however, that factories, mills, railroads and flourishing towns awaited for them. None of these conditions actually existed.

When the St. Joseph and Western Railroad built through northern Thayer County in 1872 and the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad crossed the southern portion of the county, new growth resulted. Hebron, first surveyed three years earlier, was named the county seat.

Hardships have not been uncommon in this area. Grasshoppers, drought, prairie fires and blizzards hampered early settlers. But one of the most devastating hardships occurred in 1953 when a tornado tore through Hebron, damaging everything in its path, including more than $70,000 damage to the courthouse.