One of my middle installments of this series, the details behind how Counties K-M were named in Nebraska!
Kearney: Both the county and the town were so named because of Fort Kearny, a major Oregon Trail stopping point. The fort was named in honor of Major General Stephen Watts Kearny who lived from 1794-1848. In 1857, the post office made a mistake in the spelling of the town, and they refused to correct their error. So, there you have it – two spellings of the same last name.
Keith: Morrill C. Keith of North Platte was given this honor. His grandson, Keith Neville, would actually be the Nebraska governor (1917-1919). While Morrill did not happen to live in Keith County, his Lincoln County is at least adjacent.
Kimball: A railroad man. Thomas L. Kimball was vice president and general manager of the Union Pacific Railroad. (Former name of this county was Cheyenne).
Knox: Renamed for Major General Henry Knox who had served in the Continental Army and became the country’s first secretary of war. (Ironically he died from infection after he swallowed a chicken bone. Oh those little tidbits of history that are often glossed over!) But for 16 years, the county had a different name. According to Andreas’ History of Knox County, 1882, this is meaning behind the original name.
Knox County was organized by the Territorial Legislature in 1857, and named L’Eau Qui Court, that being the French name for the river named by the Indians Niobrara–both names meaning, in English, Running Water. The name was changed to Knox by a statute passed February 21, 1873, which took effect April 1, 1873.
(More information can be found on the Knox County Nebraska GenWeb project).
Lincoln President Abraham Lincoln was of course given this honor in 1866 after his death. The county’s original name: Shorter County. An odd name for such a large county. Lincoln County has a rich history including Buffalo Bill and Fort McPherson.
Logan: Union General John A. Logan is the recipient. This was one of the later Nebraska counties as its boundaries were not defined until February 1886.
Loup: Taylor was the original name in 1855 (could not discover who that was for?) Renamed for the Pawnee Loup Indians in 1883.
Madison: Possibly President James Madison. Or possibly for the German settlers who moved into the area from Madison County, Wisconsin.
McPherson: Famous from the Civil War, Union Army General James B. McPherson had this county named in his honor.
Merrick The only county named for a woman. Elvira Merrick was the wife of a Dodge County legislator. Since she probably shared his last name, was not the county named for him as well? Of course his first name is not mentioned in the Merrick County Nebraska Historical Society Document, so maybe it truly was for her? Hmmmmmm …
Morrill A University of Nebraska Regent, Charles Hentry Morrill, not only got a county named for him but also the name of the building that houses the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History. Maybe the fact that he donated the building helped with that decision. He participated in the Civil War as a musician (didn’t realize that was a possibility). But later he did travel across Nebraska gathering up land, Indian artifacts and dinosaur remains, contributing much to the collections of our state.
More to come thanks to Perkey’s Nebraska Place Names!
P.S. You may have noticed a few counties have not been mentioned (including Lancaster) because they are actually “Places Behind the Places,” being named for locations rather than people. So, they will be mentioned eventually. If I do forget a county named for a person, please let me know. I have still been referencing Perkey’s Place Names.