No Bryan County for Nebraska

The West Hotel on Ravenna's Main Street

The West Hotel on Ravenna’s main street. NSHS RG3213-5-3


Although all of Nebraska’s counties had been organized by 1913, not everyone was satisfied with their existing boundaries. County division schemes, such as the one to divide Cherry County in 1911, were proposed in several parts of the state. In 1913 editor C. B. Cass of the Ravenna News proposed formation of a new county composed of territory from southern Sherman and northern Buffalo counties. The new county would be named Bryan in honor of William Jennings Bryan, named U.S. secretary of  state by President Woodrow Wilson in March. Ravenna would be the county seat.  In a lavish, illustrated booster edition of the News on October 17, 1913, editor Cass described the proposition under the head “Taking Liberties with the Map.” Township maps of Sherman and Buffalo counties were included, with the proposed Bryan County map superimposed on those of the two existing counties. The new county would include about 468 square miles with a population estimated at six to eight thousand people. It would contain thirteen townships and seven towns and villages.

Samuel Clay Bassett Carlton B. Cass. From Samuel Clay Bassett, Buffalo County, Nebraska, and Its People (Chicago, 1916)


As county seat of Bryan County, the paper argued, Ravenna would be more accessible to many residents than the existing seats of Buffalo and Sherman counties. “To reach Kearney, the county seat of Buffalo County, from Ravenna, requires a railroad journey of more than seventy miles with a change of cars and a layover at Grand Island. To make the trip overland involves a journey over none too good wagon roads of about thirty-five miles. . . . By rail, the people of southern Sherman County are almost as remote from Loup City, the county seat of that county.”  However, Cass acknowledged that Bryan County would probably exist only as a “pleasant daydream.” Existing state law that required a majority of voters in a county to consent to the surrender of county territory, would have to be amended, and the editor saw little chance of that happening. The map in his booster edition, he said, “is shown as an interesting exhibition of a geographical arrangement as it should be to meet the convenience of the greatest number.” – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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