Nebraska's state motto is "Equality before the law."
Red Willow County, Nebraska, has a rich history that dates back to its establishment in the late 19th century. The area was first inhabited by Native American tribes, mainly the Pawnee and Sioux, who utilized the fertile land for hunting and agriculture. European settlers began arriving in the mid-1800s, attracted by the promise of free land offered by the Homestead Act of 1862.

Red Willow County was officially formed on March 16, 1873, and named after Red Willow Creek, which flows through the area. The county seat was initially located in Indianola but was moved to McCook in 1882 due to the railroad's presence. The arrival of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad in 1882 played a pivotal role in the county's growth and development, connecting it to larger markets and facilitating the transportation of goods and people.

Agriculture played a central role in Red Willow County's economy from its early days. Farmers grew a variety of crops, including wheat, corn, sorghum, and alfalfa, taking advantage of the fertile soil and favorable climate. The county also boasted a thriving livestock industry, with cattle and hogs being raised on the vast grasslands. The development of irrigation systems, such as the Frenchman-Cambridge Canal in the early 20th century, further enhanced agricultural productivity.

Red Willow County was not immune to the challenges faced by rural communities in the 20th century. The Great Depression of the 1930s hit the region hard, with many farmers experiencing financial difficulties and a decline in population. However, the county rebounded in the post-war era with the growth of industries like manufacturing and services, which diversified the local economy.

Today, Red Willow County continues to be primarily agrarian, with agriculture remaining a significant economic driver. Its history of resilient pioneers and the rich agricultural heritage have contributed to its enduring charm and sense of community.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Red Willow County, Nebraska.

  • 1867: Red Willow County is established on February 20.
  • 1871: First permanent settlement is established.
  • 1873: The first courthouse is built.
  • 1878: First newspaper, the McCook Tribune, is established.
  • 1882: McCook becomes the county seat.
  • 1883: Burlington and Missouri River Railroad reaches McCook.
  • 1891: McCook Public Library is founded.
  • 1939: Memorial Hospital is established.
  • 1960: Red Willow Reservoir is completed.
  • 1988: "The Spirit of Nebraska's Wilderness" statue is dedicated at Red Willow State Recreation Area.
  • 2010: Population of Red Willow County reaches 11,055 residents.