Cities, Towns, Villages
Although the original boundaries of McPherson County were established by the Legislature in 1887, settlement of this area in the southern Sandhills was relatively slow. The first settlers were primarily cattlemen who arrived in the 1870s and established large, free-range ranches.
McPherson County was officially organized in 1890 and named after Civil War Gen. James McPherson. At that time the county included the area that is today neighboring Arthur County, which was then known as Arthur precinct. For many years, a sod courthouse was used by McPherson County officials. Constructed in 1890, the sod building would be used until 1926.
Passage of the Kinkaid Act in 1904 is credited with an increase in the number of settlers who came to McPherson County. By 1910 the county would reach nearly 2,500 inhabitants, which would be its peak population. But within five years the sparse resources and the lack of a railroad forced many "Kinkaiders" to sell their holdings to some of the larger ranch operations. From that point on the county's population declined.
McPherson County encountered a stiff conflict in July 1912 when two jail cells were purchased at a cost of $1,300. Arthur precinct residents strongly objected to the expense and also to the location of the county seat in Tryon. Efforts to move the county seat to Flats were unsuccessful. The following year residents of Arthur precinct initiated steps to secede from McPherson County. Within a year the process was completed and successful, with McPherson and Arthur Counties being created and the current boundaries established.
Tryon, the McPherson County seat, is one of only two unincorporated villages in Nebraska to serve as a county seat. The other is Harrisburg, in Banner County. In 1916, efforts were begun to replace the sod courthouse with a modern building. Ten years later this dream became reality as a two-story brick building was constructed. The courthouse is now among those listed on the National Register of Historic Places.