Cities, Towns, Villages
Culbertson; Palisade; Stratton; Trenton
In the late 1860s and early 1870s an influx of cattlemen began moving into the area between the Republic and Frenchman River Valleys in Southwest Nebraska. By the spring of 1873 the population had increased so dramatically in this area that settlers sent a petition to Gov. Robert B. Furnas requesting that a county be organized.
The settlers' request was honored by the governor, who on July 5, 1873, signed a proclamation ordering an election be held to select county officers and a county seat. The area would become known as Hitchcock County, named after Phineas W. Hitchcock, a United States senator from Nebraska at the time. The first county seat was located at a site just west of the present town of Culbertson. Instead of building a courthouse, county officials' offices were located in the upper story of a store.
Early development of what is today Hitchcock County can be traced back to the days of the Texas-Ogallala Cattle Trail, which cut across the area diagonally. Years later the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad would have an even greater impact.
The summer of 1874 took its toll on the county, as a drought and an infestation of grasshoppers forced many settlers to pack up and move on. Eventually the county began to recover and in the early 1880s a series of townsites sprang up. One of these was Trenton, which was established near the center of the county in 1884 by the Lincoln Land Company. Trenton, located on the Republican River, would be named the county seat in 1894 and in 1906 the first courthouse was built. This building would house the county's offices until 1969 when the present courthouse was constructed.
With its dependence on agriculture, Hitchcock County realized early on the importance of conservation, flood control and irrigation. This led to the construction of a large dam on the Republican River just west of Trenton. In 1949, state and local officials dedicated the Swanson Reservoir. Today the large lake, named in honor of Trenton conservationist and civic leader Carl Swanson, is a popular recreation area.