Cities, Towns, Villages
Garfield County lies at the gateway to the Nebraska Sandhills. Although the very southern portion of the county is part of the rolling plains where farming flourishes, the majority of Garfield County is considered part of the Sandhills region and ranching is the economic mainstay.
Once part of Wheeler County to the east, the 570-square-mile area became a separate county as a result of an election held in 1881. This new county would be named in honor of President James A. Garfield, who had been assassinated earlier that same year. The county was officially organized three years later under a proclamation signed by Gov. James W. Dawes.
A settlement known as Willow Springs became the original county seat by virtue of the county's first election. But as the 1880s progressed, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad pushed through the county and headed toward Burwell. This spelled the demise of Willow Springs and in February 1890 county residents overwhelmingly voted to make Burwell the permanent county seat.
Garfield County's first courthouse opened in Burwell 10 months later. The wooden two-story building would be used for the next 73 years. In the 1962 primary election it was decided on a 672 to 276 vote that the county was in need of a new courthouse. Bonds were issued in the amount of $140,000 to build a modern one-story structure. On Sept. 1 construction began and on April 1, 1963, the county offices moved into their new home. The following Nov. 11, in conjunction with Veterans Day, the county formally dedicated its new courthouse. Delivering the dedication address that was U.S. Sen. Roman Hruska, who 12 year earlier had served as president of the Nebraska Association of County Officials while a member of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
In the early days Garfield County boasted as many as nine townsites. A look at a 1994 state map reveals that only one of those remains -- that being the county seat of Burwell.