Moving the Courthouse

Virtually every county in Nebraska has had a county seat fight. In Box Butte County Nonpareil was designated the first county seat after the county was formed in 1886, but lost the prize to Hemingford in 1891. When the county seat was later removed to Alliance, the county had a problem: what to do with the courthouse at Hemingford. The solution involved the Burlington Railroad, which had reached Alliance in 1888, platting the town on a school section purchased from the state by the Lincoln Land Company, an auxiliary of the railroad. The Nebraska State Journal, on July 4, 1899, reported:

"About five years ago the Lincoln Land company erected a commodious court house in Hemingford and leased it to Box Butte county. Last year the county seat was removed from Hemingford to Alliance and early in the spring of 1899 the county officials removed all the records.

"The Lincoln Land company then conceived the object of moving the court house to Alliance, a distance of about twenty miles. The most successful house mover in Lincoln entered into contract with C. H. Morrill, president of the Lincoln Land company, to move the building. His contract gave thirty days to complete the job. After a trial of ten days he notified Mr. Morrill that he could not perform the work in the time specified. Mr. Morrill then went to Hemingford and found that the building had not been moved twenty feet. The land company was under contract with the county commissioners to have the building in Alliance on a stone foundation and ready for occupancy by July 15th.

"J. R. Phelan, the superintendent of the Wyoming division of the Burlington, proposed to move the building on the railroad. His proposition was submitted to General Manager [George W.] Holdrege and Mr. Phelan was authorized to go ahead. The following letter explains the results:

"ALLIANCE, Neb., July 1, 1899. C. H. Morrill, President, Lincoln Land Co.-Dear Sir: Referring to your message of June 30th asking for information concerning the moving of the court house-The building was safely hauled from Hemingford to Alliance and is now on the way from the track to its permanent location. As you know the building is fifty feet long by forty wide[,] two full stories in height with a heavy truss roof and constructed with a heavy hard pine frame. As there were two cuts to pass through the building was raised on timbers high enough to clear the banks and when ready to start it was fifty feet from the railroad track to the top of the deck on the building. The weight of the building was estimated at 100 tons. . . . Six hours after leaving Hemingford the building was clear of the track in Alliance. . . . Yours truly, J. H. Phelan, Superintendent."

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