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Nebraska...Our Towns

Arthur

Arthur County

The historical old log cabin used by Cody and North in their ranching operations in the Sandhills near the Dismal River, and later by John Bratt at his bull ranch called "Mill Camp," in the 1800s. It was donated to the Arthur Lions Club by Reynold Macomber in 1977 to move into Arthur and restore as a museum. Present location is at the north end of Main Street in Arthur.
Old Arthur County Courthouse, built in 1914, is now the Arthur County Historical Society Museum. Featured in Ripley's "Believe It or Not" as the world's smallest courthouse, it was the seat of government in Arthur County until a new courthouse was built about 1960.
Baled straw home built in 1925, privately owned and occupied. One of the unique sights one can see in Arthur.
Not every town of 100 has a bank, but its status as county seat and only incorporated town in the county carries some consideration. The Bank of Keystone reflects the fact that many early settlers came from Pennsylvania, the "Keystone State." [Harris photo]

Arthur, in the vast Nebraska Sandhills, took a long time to get going. While county lines had been designated in 1886, there were not enough people in the region until after the Kinkaiders arrived in the 1900s to become "a county." First as part of Logan County, it was later under the jurisdiction of McPherson County. Steps to organize Arthur County were finally taken in 1913.

Governor Morehead appointed temporary county officers to do the necessary work. He also designated the southwest quarter of Section 34, Township 19 North, Range 38 West, as a temporary county seat. Here all the county business was to be transacted until such time as the voters, at a special election, could choose a permanent county seat.

While there were several postal addresses, there were still no actual towns within the county. After considerable discussion and arguments for other locations, it was decided that the temporary site was really the best since it was nearest to the center of the county, thus accessible to all. That quarter section was withdrawn from settlement, and the county judge, acting for the county, filed homestead rights to the land. The town site, to be called "Arthur," was surveyed, platted, and streets named.

In the spring of 1914 M.G. Twidwell erected a general store, the first building in the new village. By the end of the building season, 1914, quite a little village graced the Arthur town site, including a fine new courthouse.

From 1914 to the late 1920s, Arthur continued to grow, with many business places established. Two disastrous fires destroyed the buildings, once on the west side of Main Street and then on the east side, but they were soon rebuilt, bigger and better.

Arthur was not only the county seat but also the center for shopping and community activities such as fairs, 4th of July celebrations, rodeos, churches, ball games, and schools. During the 1920s, the population of Arthur County was said to have been as high as 2,500.

Arthur continued to develop and grow but it was not an incorporated village. The town had to rely on the county commissioners for any street improvements and governmental services. An exodus from this area started during the drought years of the 1930s and continued through World War II as people sold out to go to work in defense plants or enter the service. The Sandhills were reclaimed by the cattlemen, but the town just sat there.

In 1944 several Arthur businessmen, concerned for the welfare of their town and dissatisfied with the way things were being done, met with the county commissioners to discuss the problem. Considering the available options, the Village of Arthur was duly incorporated and a temporary board was named on March 1.

On March 17, 1944, Carl Crouse was named chairman, S.J. Mowery, clerk, and R.W. Harvey and Henry Swanson, board members. After some delay due to legal questions, a new Board of Trustees was named that included Swanson, Crouse, U.T.Wade, Wm.B.S.Hill, and Joe Monhart.

The board's first official action was to request the State Highway Department to extend the paving of Highway 61 through the village. In years since, the village has opened up the streets (previously just ruts and mudholes), graded and graveled them, and later paved some of them.

When the REA came into Arthur, the village had street lights installed. In 1952 the airport was developed and the village now bears half the cost of operating a swimming pool. It maintains a solid waste dump and built a 40 by 60 foot building to house village equipment.

During the Christmas season, the town decorates the main street with colored lights. Arthur maintains the east half of the Courthouse Park, has added tennis courts, and also maintains the softball park with lights for night play.

Throughout the summer months the village keeps the whole town mowed and the trash picked up. During the winter, the village uses its road grader to clear the snow from the streets. For a time, Arthur had a town marshal and justice of peace, but now with less than 500 people in the entire county, the village board contracts with the county for these services.

Arthur has two active churches, a Lions club, American Legion Post and Auxiliary, Extension clubs, 4H clubs, a grade school and the county high school, and about 25 business places and professional people. While Arthur is a very small town with only about 100 people, we are proud its accomplishments throughout the years and are happy to claim this village as our home.

By Robert J. Crouse, Box 165, Arthur, NE 69121

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Arthur County's 75 Years of History Homesteaders and Homemakers, 1913-1988. Copies available at the NSHS and Arthur County Library.