Cities, Towns, Villages
Archer; Central City; Chapman; Clarks; Palmer; Silver Creek
Merrick County could literally be called a "panhandle" county, but not because of Nebraskans' general reference to the 11 counties which are located in the state's Panhandle region. Rather, a series of events at the time Merrick County's boundaries were created resulted in the county having narrow "panhandles" on both the northwest and northeast corners.
When the Legislature laid out the county in 1858, the northern boundary was a straight line. The preceding year a reservation had been established for the Pawnee tribe and Merrick County took in about half the reservation. As the Pawnee tribe gradually moved to Oklahoma, the Legislature adopted an act to create Nance County from the southern 180 square miles of reservation, all of which were located within Merrick County. Since the Pawnees had wanted both banks of the Loup River included in their reservation, the boundary line was jogged to roughly parallel the Platte River. Thus, Merrick County today has a jagged northern boundary, with narrow "panhandles" on both corners.
The county's history dates back to the pioneers who were headed west along the Oxbow Trail. The Western State Company used this route to carry mail between Omaha and Fort Kearny. It established a station about three miles southwest of what today is Central City. Known as "Lone Tree Station" because of a lone cottonwood tree, it became a welcome resting point for weary travelers.
When Merrick County was established, it was named in honor of Elvira Merrick, wife of territorial legislator Henry W. DePuy of Dodge County. At the same time, a settlement name Elvira was named the county seat. The advancement of the railroad contributed much to the development of Central City, a town given this name because it was centrally located in the agriculture region of the state. With its development, Central City became the county seat and eventually Elvira ceased to exist.
Before a courthouse was built in the 1870s, county offices were housed in the residences of various officials.