The contemporary celebration of Presidents’ Day brings to mind the two Nebraska counties named for the two presidents, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, whose birthdays are commemorated in February.
The older of the two, Washington County, is located in eastern Nebraska on the Missouri River. It was explored as early as 1739 by Paul and Pierre Mallet, who were on a trapping expedition to Canada. In 1804 Lewis and Clark reported the establishment of the new United States government to a council of Indian leaders near the present site of Fort Calhoun. As a result of this council, Fort Atkinson was established in 1820 and served as a key outpost until its abandonment in 1827. The county was organized as one of Nebraska’s eight original counties in 1854, with its boundaries defined by an act of the Legislature on February 22, 1855, Washington’s birthday. The county seat has been located in three different towns: Fort Calhoun, DeSoto, and finally at Blair, its present site since 1869.
Lincoln County is located in west-central Nebraska about 250 miles from the Missouri River and was first organized as Shorter County in 1860. The general election for its re-organization as Lincoln County was held in September 1866. The county seat, first located at Cottonwood Springs, in 1867 was removed to North Platte. Many parts of Lincoln County were settled by persons taking advantage of the Homestead Act and Timber Culture/Preemption laws. Settlement was also encouraged by the Union Pacific and Burlington railroads building through Lincoln County.
Several other Nebraska localities were named for presidents Lincoln or Washington, the most prominent of which is the state’s capital city, the largest one in the U.S. named for the nation’s sixteenth president. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications