Cities, Towns, Villages
Burton; Mills; Norden; Springview
One of the most unique names among Nebraska's 93 counties belongs to Keya Paha County in the north central area of the state. It is traced to the Dakota Sioux Indian tribe, which once hunted on the land north of the Niobrara River.
According to historians, the county's name is derived from the Dakota words Ké-ya Pa-há Wa-kpá, which translated means turtle hill river. It is assumed that this was how the Dakotas referred to the area, because numerous small, rounded hills make up the terrain.
Keya Paha County was once part of a much larger county known as Brown. This area included what today are Brown, Rock and Keya Paha Counties. In 1884 it became apparent that the existing Brown County was too large and a petition was circulated to designate the area north of the Niobrara River as a separate county. When the question was put before the voters on Nov. 4, it carried by a wide margin.
Locating the county seat proved to be more difficult than creating the county. Nearly every settlement within the new county sought this important distinction. A committee was appointed to make a selection. But failing to accomplish this, the issue was put to a vote when the county's first election was held in January 1885. Fifteen different settlements were listed on the ballot. The field was pared to two and the newly-elected county officers ordered another election for March 24.
When election day arrived, voters were asked to choose either Burton, located in the northeast part of the county, or Springview, which was more centrally located. When the votes were counted, Springview won by a narrow 494 to 405 margin.
Springview included 160 acres of choice land and a natural spring, for which the settlement had been named. Lots in the county seat were sold for $20 each. Building activity began almost immediately after the election. Until enough lots were sold to accumulate the necessary funds to build a courthouse, county offices were housed in a private residence.