Cities, Towns, Villages
Cook; Crab Orchard; Elk Creek; Sterling; St. Mary; Tecumseh
A national television audience received a good look at the Johnson County courthouse in 1987. It served as a backdrop in the much-heralded, 14½-hour ABC miniseries "Amerika." What viewers saw of the courthouse, however, was a much different scene than one would find today. For the miniseries, a barbed wire fence surrounded the building and movie sets and props covered the lawn.
When the film crew left Tecumseh in May 1986, the courthouse square quickly returned to normal. But as a result of the filming, the Victorian Style brick building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, had received a fresh coat of paint on the trim, new window blinds, and a large gazebo on the front lawn. The year after the movie aired, the county celebrated the courthouse's 100th anniversary.
Johnson County was originally part of Nemaha County to the east. In 1857 the Legislature redefined the boundaries to set apart the western portion of Nemaha County and create a new county, named in honor of Col. Richard M. Johnson, a former Army officer and United States vice president. At the time the county was created, a settlement named Frances was chosen to serve as the county seat. Frances was the name of Col. Johnson's wife. A year later, the name was changed to Tecumseh in honor of the Indian chief who was killed by Col. Johnson at the battle of the Thames in 1813.
With completion of the Brownville to Fort Kearny and Nebraska City to Fort Kearny Roads in 1857, the county saw an increase in development. Settlers who came to the area found rolling hills and an abundant supply of water, making it ideal for farming. With passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, much of the land still available in the county was claimed. Prosperity in the area continued through the years that followed the Civil War. By 1875 the population had grown to nearly 5,000 residents. During the 100-plus years that have followed, the population has remained about the same and farming continues to provide the county's economic base.