OUR HISTORY

OUR HISTORY

living history of the west’s Pioneering spirit

As the gateway to the subtle beauty of the Nebraska Sandhills, Valley County and the Loup River Valleys introduces visitors to the Nebraska Great Plains. With it comes a variety of exciting outdoor adventures, relaxing beauty and comforts of small-town life.  Valley County earned its name from the beauty of the North and Middle Loup River valleys, and of all the numerous valleys found throughout the prairie hills.  The valley is an important part of westward expansion, with history of tragic stories, hardships, heroism and spirit.

Our corner of the world was first homesteaded in 1871 by Danish immigrants and Seventh Day Baptists. Later, waves of Bohemian and Polish homesteaders settled in Valley County to start a new life on the prairie. These two central European influences can still be found in the local area today. The Nebraska state Legislature organized the county just two years later in 1873 with the development of the capital in Ord, where it remains today.

In 1874, population in the area continued to rise and the U.S. established a military post known as Fort Hartsuff.  The fort provided protection to the area’s settlers from the threat of Indian attacks.  The danger soon subsided, but the fort continued for a bit as it provided jobs and wages for the area farmers. The patrolling soldiers pioneered a new trail through the area to the Black Hills for those searching for gold.  The fort was abandoned as a military post in 1881 and in 1961 was restored as a historical park to recognize its important position in Nebraska history.

In 1880, settlers gained greater access to rail transport when the Union Pacific Railroad completed a line from Grand Island north to St. Paul.  The rail connection from St. Paul to North Loup was completed in 1882.  The railroad’s completion led to a population boom in North Loup four a few years until the line continued on to Ord.

By 1877, local residents had begun mining lightweight rock, or chalk, from the Happy Jack Chalk Mine.  Originally used as structural stone for the buildings, in more recent years it became used for other purposes, particularly as a filler in paints.  The mine is no longer in active use, but can be toured, especially exciting during Halloween when Haunted Hollow is a set as a popular ghoulish spot for teens and adults.

The area’s primary use was for agricultural land, which experienced its first set of hardships in 1890 with a series of droughts.  During those years, farmer’s tested new crops in their fields, including popcorn.  One of the Loup Valley’s primary crops continues to be popcorn, which is celebrated every August during Popcorn Days.

The Evelyn Sharp Airport in Ord recognizes the memory of the youngest person in the U.S. to earn a transport license to fly a plane.  During World War II, Evelyn Sharp enlisted in the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.  She was killed taking off from a Pennsylvania airport in 1944 and the airport was built in the 1950s.

Today, Valley County comprises the 15 townships of Arcadia, Davis Creek, Elyria, Enterprise, Eureka, Geranium, Independent, Liberty, Michigan, Noble, North Loup, Ord, Springdale, Vinton and Yale.  The towns are bustling centers of commerce for the area that revels in its position with abundant wildlife, scenic vistas and serenity.

Order Travel Guide