Many of Nebraska’s ninety-three counties are named in honor of U.S. presidents. More than eighty years ago one enterprising editor proposed creating a new county to be named for would-be president William Jennings Bryan, the losing Democratic candidate in 1896, 1900, and 1908.
Although all of Nebraska’s counties had been organized by 1913, not everyone was satisfied with existing county boundaries. That year the Ravenna News proposed formation of a new county composed of territory taken from southern Sherman and northern Buffalo counties. The new county would be named Bryan County. (Bryan had just been named U.S. secretary of state by President Woodrow Wilson.) Ravenna would be the county seat.
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. The organization of a new county as above outlined, and the establishment of a county seat at Ravenna, would make the county seat easily accessible from Sweetwater, Hazard, St. Michael, Pleasanton, Poole, Boelus, and Rockville.”
The editor acknowledged that the legislature was unlikely to create the proposed county and prophesied, correctly as it turned out, that “it is quite likely that Bryan County will continue to exist as but a pleasant daydream.”