Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

  • Virtual Nebraska Logo

Virtual Nebraska

Nebraska...Our Towns

tryon1j_res.jpg (27737 bytes)TRYON -- McPHERSON COUNTY

Some say that "Tryon" was named for an early colonial governor. Others maintain that when choosing a name, an impasse was reached, and it was said, "Well, let's keep on tryin' (to think of a name)." To which someone said, "That's it, let's name it 'Tryon'!" For whatever the reason, it has served the community well.

McPherson County, organized in 1890 held its first meeting at the D.P. Wilcox's home, which housed the post office. Tryon, located near the southern border of the Sandhills, would be named the county seat. However, the name was to be changed to McPherson. This was done, but in 1892 the name changed back to Tryon.

The unorganized territory to the west voted to become annexed to McPherson County in 1891. In 1913 there was an attempt to get the county seat moved to a more western location, (such as Flats). When this met with resistance, the western area requested to have its own government, and Arthur County was formed.

tryon2j.jpg (12238 bytes)The first courthouse at Tryon was made of sod, with a hip roof and framing overlaid with tar paper and more sod. By 1916 a move was started to build a larger courthouse. Construction started in 1925, with the new building dedicated in September 1927.

A few hardy souls homesteaded this harsh frontier prior to the Kinkaid Act of 1904, which was, by contrast, blind panic -- get-rich-quick wave of settlers. By 1910 the population in McPherson County was at an all-time high of 2,470. However, even a full section of ground proved inadequate to sustain a family, in the Sandhills, and the population has been declining ever since. Many acres of fragile grasslands were destroyed when plowed, the devastation still evident 85 years later. The Depression of 1930s took a heavy toll of ranch families and the recession of the 1980s has been nearly as severe. The county's population is presently less than 600.

tryon3j_res.jpg (15385 bytes)The railroad made surveys into McPherson County in the 1880s but tracks never went beyond Stapleton in Logan County. The lack of a railroad has kept this land-locked village from any real growth. The land, though well stocked with cattle, now supports less than one person per square mile.

Tryon has other distinctions. In addition to being the only town in the county, it has never incorporated. (Only Harrisburg in Banner County has the same distinction.) With a population of 120, Tryon has the only post office in the county. And, since no liquor has ever been allowed to be sold, McPherson is the only totally "dry" county in the state.

tryon4j_res.jpg (15816 bytes)The year 1933 is remembered as one of great devastation. On March 13th, a blizzard struck with an estimated loss of 5,000 cattle. Then on May 22, a tornado traveled the width of the county from south to north, meandering in a queer, circling path. Nearly a dozen people were killed or died of injuries, and the damage to homes, livestock, and ranches was staggering. The blizzard of 1888 and more recently, 1949, among others, inflicted great hardship.

For a little town, Tryon has several claims-to-fame:

-- Glen Miller, of Big Band repute, lived southwest of Tryon as a child, prior to moving to North Platte.

-- Dr. Harriet McGraw, native of Iceland, came to Tryon to practice medicine in 1919, staying nearly 20 years, was honored at the White House by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939.

-- Grace Snyder, whose beautiful quilts have won national acclaim, is known as "Nebraska's Quilt Lady." Nellie Snyder Yost is an author of many western books.

tryon5j_res.jpg (22763 bytes)Among the first businesses were Herb Lewis, general store; Cal Hill, creamery; Jake Crowder, cafe owner; and Mike David, an immigrant from Syria, who "peddled his wares" to the settlers prior to founding his store. Current businesses, in addition to county offices, include the post office, several cafes and motels, a service station, feed store, barber/hair shop, and a print shop.

Tryon loves celebrations. The state's centennial celebration was commemorated in 1967, with photos of the event on permanent display in the courthouse. America's bi-centennial celebration was featured in a mile-long parade in 1976. The Heart Fund Jamboree, held at Tryon annually, brings state-wide recognition for its record-breaking per capita contributions to that fund.

tryon6j_res.jpg (16490 bytes)The McPherson County centennial, coming up in 1990, is already being planned. Tryon will be all decked out to commemorate the good life its citizens have found here.

 

By Joyce Snyder, Rte 72 Box 71, Sutherland, NE 69165, with the help of Cleo Connell, Eva Haddy, and Wayne Connell.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: McPherson County History, Facts, Family, and Fiction by History Book Committee, chaired by Betty Carol Neal Rodewald Schroeder, 1986.