Banner County (bordering Wyoming between the towns of Scottsbluff and Kimball) was created in 1888 out of a part of Cheyenne County. Its founders chose the name because they hoped it would someday become the “banner” county of Nebraska. Today it has fewer than 900 residents. Its only town, Harrisburg, has a population of 100.
The first white residents came in the 1870s to open cattle ranches. Homesteaders followed in the 1880s. By 1890 the population peaked at 2,435.
In the 1880s and 1890s a number of post offices were established and villages began to spring up, especially in the valley of Pumpkin Creek. The first post office, established in 1886, was on Lee D. Livingston’s ranch. A year later another post office was opened at the small community of Randall. Because of its location in the county the town’s name was changed to Centropolis and finally to Harrisburg.
Settlement along Pumpkin Creek left residents a long way both from the Union Pacific railroad route through Kimball County to the south, and from the North Platte Valley to the north. To much of the state’s population, Banner County was little known.
Discovery of oil in the twentieth century started to change that. By the 1950s, when Banner County reached its height as an oil-producing area, the settlers’ dream of being a “banner” county seemed within reach.
Today the area is best known for its rugged scenery. The Wildcat Hills, the bluffs along Pumpkin Creek, and other breaks in the high tableland give the county a number of notable formations and scenic areas. Lovers Leap is perhaps the best known. Big Horn Mountain, Wildcat Mountain, and Bull Canyon are among the points in the county which in name and appearance seem exotic to Nebraskans who only know the eastern parts of the state.