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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Bassett -- Rock County

Early Bassett, all decked out for a celebration [Rock County Historical Society]
Wheels are what you make of them...[Wobig, Cody]
Main street in Bassett, in the 1930s. When all the parking places were filled, cars were parked in the middle of the street. [davis]
Large crowd gathers at the station to see the boys off to war, 1917. [Davis]

"Bassett Station! Bassett Station!," was the call heard from the stage coaches in the 1880s. The stage line was established by George and John Berry because of the demand for transportation to Fort Niobrara and the "upper country." Andrew N. Bassett had come to the Elkhorn Valley with a herd of 600 cattle in 1878. His corrals and facilities were on the west slope of the hill southeast of present-day Bassett. The stage line established its station at "Bassett Hill." While Andrew Bassett stayed less than three years, he left his name forever in upper Rock County.

The Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad extended its line up the valley in 1881, but no depot was built. Later, when a station was needed, it was given the Bassett name, since it was located near the old stage coach station.

Louis Cannenberg and his two daughters were the first permanent settlers, arriving in August 1881 before the railroad was completed. They built the first house on the town site of Bassett, hauling the material from O'Neill. They spent the winter in the warmth and safety of that town, returning to Bassett Station and their new home in the spring of 1882.

Not long after, they sold their pre-emption claim to J.B. Legnard, who in turn conveyed a half-interest in one quarter section to Charles Florence. An application for a post office was made in 1882 with Charles Warren as postmaster, and store was established by a Mr. Ryan.

A school, lumber yard, general store, and hotel were all started in 1883. The town of Bassett was platted in 1884 with Legnard and Florence as proprietors. The town's first newspaper, the "Bassett Herald," was printed, and reported a population of 40.

After becoming "a town" the settlers demanded law and order, so they organized a vigilante committee vowing, "...to curb the horse thieves and cattle rustlers." The most notorious of the outlaws were Doc Middleton and Kid Wade.

On February 6, 1884, the sheriff of Holt County spent the night in the Martin Hotel in Bassett, with his prisoner, Kid Wade. During the night, Wade was taken by masked men and hung from a whistle-post a mile east of town. The citizens of Bassett made their point, and rustlers moved to less-settled territory.

Until November 1888, when the people voted to form their own county, this area was part of Brown County. A special election was called to vote on the location of the Rock County seat.

There were five contenders for the prize, with Bassett winning over Newport by 136 votes to be named "temporary seat." In a second vote -- between the top two contenders -- Bassett won again by a reported 83 votes. (This margin was achieved by omitting the votes cast in Lay and Gracy precincts.) Newport challenged the count, but the recount still favored Bassett by 42 votes.

It didn't end there. A complaint was filed in district court, charging county officials with fraudulent voting procedures. After looking into the charges, the judge decided that, "fraud was about equal on both sides and that Rock County had the right to have an end to the matter." He ordered that the issue be dropped, and that Bassett remain as county seat.

In addition to county government and the business that is generated by official matters, much of the steady growth of Bassett can be attributed to the sale barn. The first livestock barn was operated by Walter Fredrickson in 1930. The Bassett Livestock Association is presently owned and operated by Rich Kinney and Tom Thompson, selling 75,000 to 85,000 head of cattle per year.

Center-pivot irrigation brought much change to the county. With more agri-businesses, many new families are locating in Rock County. The population of Bassett in 1980 was nearly 1,000. The town has an airport, a swimming pool, a 30-bed hospital, a nursing home, a low-rental housing development, and many churches. A Game Commission headquarters is also located at Bassett.

Situated at the junction of two highways, U.S.20 and Nebraska 183, Bassett is the location of the Rock County high school. Its friendly business district provides the basic services for the citizens of the town and a wide trade area.

Compiled by Geneva Davis, Long Pine, NE 69217.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Rock County Centennial Book , 1988, historical research and written by Harold Hutton, Bassett, 68714.