Cherry 

History

There are many attributes which make Cherry County unique, not only among the counties in Nebraska, but also among the nation's counties.

First, of course, is the county's size. With 6,048 square miles, Cherry County is by far the largest in total land area of all Nebraska counties and ranks as one of the country's largest. And because of its 96-mile-by-63-mile dimensions, it is the only Nebraska county dissected by two time zones.

Also unique to Cherry County are the natural waterfalls located along the rivers that traverse the area. Snake River Falls ranks as the largest in Nebraska, while Smith Falls is said to be the tallest. Also located here is the well-known Shlegal Creek Falls.

Finally, the county seat of Valentine makes the news reports each February 14 when literally thousands of cards and letters from across the United States are received by the local post office, which in turn places a special Valentine stamp on each before re-mailing them to the addressee.

The first settlement in this area can be traced to 1878 when the government located about 5,000 Sioux Indians on the Rosebud Reservation, which borders Cherry County on the north in South Dakota. The government agreed to provide beef for the reservation and, as a result, large herds of cattle were brought into this northern Sandhills area for grazing in the expansive open range and along the Niobrara River. Also, Fort Niobrara was established along the river, about four miles east of the present day Valentine, to provide protection for the settlers and cowboys.

Cherry County's boundaries were established by the Legislature in 1883. It was named in honor of U.S. Fifth Cavalry Lt. Samuel A. Cherry, who had been murdered north of Fort Niobrara two years earlier.

The county's first courthouse was an abandoned military building brought into Valentine from Wisconsin. In 1901 a new $15,000 courthouse replaced it. The present courthouse was constructed in 1954.

Today, this Sandhills county is often referred to the "Heart of Cattle Country," "Home of a Million Cattle," and "God's Own Cow Country."