Cities, Towns, Villages
Axtell; Heartwell; Minden; Norman; Wilcox
The Kearney County courthouse in Minden is known statewide for the tens of thousands of lights that adorn it each Christmas season. The three-story structure and its 100-foot dome are so brilliantly illuminated each season that Minden is often referred to as "The Christmas City."
This annual ritual actually dates back to 1915 when a group of citizens requested that lights be strung up around the courthouse square and along Minden Avenue to the city auditorium where the state encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic was to be held in May of that year. The request was approved, but inclement weather prevented this illumination tribute from taking place. The city's light commissioner then suggested that the 100 bulbs be colored and strung around the courthouse that December. The idea proved to be so popular that more and more bulbs were added over the years. In addition, a holiday pageant was incorporated in the annual activities.
Kearney County was organized and its boundaries defined by the Territorial Legislature on Jan. 10, 1860. Its roots and development date back to Fort Kearny. Kearny City was located just west of the fort and for a while would serve as the county seat. Since it was located on the Oregon Trail, Kearny City was primarily supported by travelers.
The difference between the spelling of county and fort names occurred when someone in the federal government inadvertently added an "e." The error became so prevalent that it was never corrected and the county's spelling would remain Kearney.
An election in 1872 moved the county seat to a townsite named Lowell. Eventually the demand came for a more centrally located county seat and in 1878 construction began on a frame courthouse in Minden. This building soon became antiquated and in 1906 the present courthouse was officially opened. The Bedford stone, three-story structure features marble floors and stairways, and that well-known 100-foot dome from which they began stringing holiday lights roughly 10 years later.