The early settlers of Boone County had not lived in the county long before they became anxious to get the machinery of law and order into operation, and the act of the Legislature providing for the organization of Boone County was speedily taken advantage of. July 28, 1871, is the date of the first sign of corporate existence, for on that day John Hammond, Harvey Maricle and S. P. Bollman were sworn in as Commissioners by I. N. Taylor, Judge of Probate for Platte County. On the 26th day of August following, they met at Harvey Maricle‘s house and decided upon the first Tuesday in January, 1872, as the day on which the first election should be held, and Elias Atwood, Sr., Edward Dwyer and M. E. Stevens were appointed Judges of Election; A. W. Dyer and Sylvester Kinney, Clerks. At the third meeting of the board, which was held at John Hammond‘s house, a county seat was chosen, and, by a two-thirds vote, was located on Section 22, Township 20 north, of Range 6 west, Mr. Maricle dissenting. No definite part of the section was designated, but it was left to be determined afterward where the exact location should be. It was also ordered that the election should be held at the county seat. When January came around, the election took place. The voting took place at the Frontier House, then the only one in the town, and resulted in the choice of S. P. Bollman for Probate Judge; Sylvester Kinney, County Clerk; T. H. Bowman, County Treasurer; Need Myers, Sheriff; William Evans, Coroner; S. P. Bollman, Superintendent; A. Crites, T. T. Wilkinson and Ed. Dwyer, County Commissioners. During this first year of county existence, much difference of opinion arose as to the proper place for the county seat, and the maneuvering which preceded and followed the election, held on the 8th of October, 1872, to settle the question, gives a good insight into the native shrewdness which was characteristic of the early settlers in this section. The struggle was between Albion and Boone, then only post offices, with a decided majority in favor of the former. Loran Clark, who owned the site of Albion, did not feel enough confidence in the strength of the party, however, to go to the expense of platting his town without some guaranty of its becoming the county seat. He therefore drew up a plat on paper and placed it before the people, agreeing that if they should choose his site for the county seat, that he would then survey and record as provided by law.
When the election took place, it was found, by a canvass of the ballots, that Albion had sixty-seven votes, against twenty-one for Boone and another point. The Albion people were happy. Their sense of calm security was soon disturbed, however, for the Boone people, seeing that, legally, no such town as Albion was in existence, immediately had their town surveyed and named it Albion. But “the biter was bit,” for, while the proprietors of the new town were chuckling in their sleeves at the new turn of affairs, Loran Clark was on his way to Lincoln. Soon the august power of the Legislature was brought to bear on the question, and Albion was finally determined to be where the traveler now finds it. This incident leads the centennial historian of his county to remark:
“It has been said there is nothing in a name; but that must mean under some circumstances, and perhaps it may be true in regard to some names, but our citizens familiar with the location of our county seat will always think there is something in a name, and particularly the name Albion.”
From that time, the meetings of the board were held regularly at the hotel until the court house was erected, and the Clerk, who lived about four miles from town, came up to attend the deliberations, carrying his books under his arm and his seal in his pocket The next transaction of the Commissioners was the contract with H. T. Clark for bridges, which was made November 8, 1872. This leads us to the consideration of what Rev. Mr. Bollman has designated as the bridge era of Boone history. The contract was for five “straining beam” bridges, which were to be put up in the county for $6,000, which sum was to be paid in warrants. In addition to this, it was stipulated that the work on the bridges should be done by men appointed by the Commissioners. When the work actually began, instead of giving it to the Boone County men, Mr. Clark proceeded to build the bridges with his own help.
The board remonstrated, and finally rescinded the contract on their part, and proceeded to make a new contract with Boyd, of Omaha, for five bridges, to be put in at the same price. Mr. Clark, not at all discouraged, proceeded to put in his bridges, and for a time the county was flooded with them. They became so plenty that there were two across the Beaver near the town, side by side, and one of the Commissioners was afterward heard to lament that he “didn’t have one put across the ravine between his house and barn.” A spring freshet relieved the county of all of Boyd’s and two of Clark’s structures, however, and they were seen floating from the mud-sills on which they had been placed, and sailing down the streams like ships. Boyd was then engaged to replace his bridges upon piling, and nearly as much money was again expended as the bridges cost originally. In the meantime, Clark had sued for his $6,000, and the county contested his claim. The question was settled by the opinion of M. B. Hoxie, Attorney for the Third District of Nebraska, who advised the county that the contract was valid, and that it would be compelled to pay the debt.
“As a result,” says Rev. Mr. Bollman, in his Centennial History, “of bridge contracts and expenditures, we have seven bridges at various points on the Beaver, one on the Bogus, and one on the Cedar, and a bonded indebtedness for these improvements of $25,000.”
Another of those unpleasant occurrences which have injured the county financially and produced much dissension was what may be properly termed the Burlington & Missouri war. Shortly after settlement in the county, in 1871, the Secretary of the Interior withdrew from the gross amount of land to be pre-empted and homesteaded every odd section and fraction of section of public domain in Boone County, in order that the Burlington & Missouri road might select lands to fill a bonus made to them by the Government of the United States. This transaction had the effect to withdraw about half of the lands of the county from the market, to separate settlements, and to drive away many looking for locations, and the feelings of the people were much aroused over the matter. As soon as the lands were patented to the road by the Government, they were assessed and taxes levied. Probably the Assessors were influenced by the popular feeling, and a general determination was expressed to make the most of a bad thing, and get in taxes what they lost in land. The road took no notice of the taxes until in 1874, when the Treasurer offered the lands for sale. An injunction was obtained by the road, and thus began an expensive litigation, which was continued until a settlement was reached in 1877. This was finally affected through the agency of Adam Smith, whose name figures prominently in the history of Boone County. Mr. Smith, who had contracted with the railroad company for 60,000 acres of land in the county on the condition that he should obtain a release from the taxes, which had accrued, then began his negotiations with the Commissioners. His first proposition was that if they would release the road he would open a big farm, bring out a colony and introduce blooded horses and cattle into the county; and he finally, in addition to that, agreed to construct a graded wagon road from Albion to the Union Pacific Railroad at Silver Creek.
The Commissioners were getting tired of the continued struggle with the company, and, despairing of ever being able to collect anything by law, concluded to accept the propositions of Mr. Smith, and, for the purpose, went to Lincoln, engaged a lawyer who would not fight, and allowed the company to carry its point on the tax question. By this means, about $80,000 was lost, and the loss fell heavily on the county, which had been depending on this money to pay up the many outstanding claims against it.
Mr. Smith‘s improvements were made in what is now known as Cedar Rapids, and his road was constructed as agreed. It was used at first, but the bridge over the Loup was washed out in 1879, and the railroad coming in 1880 rendered it of no farther value.
Nothing was done by the county toward building a courthouse until 1874. In December, 1873, and May, 1874, elections were held to vote bonds to build one, but both times the project was defeated Finally, in July, 1874, the Board of Commissioners ordered one built, and advertised for bids. W. J. Nelson was the lowest bidder, and got the job of erecting a building 20×32 feet for $1,200. Nothing farther has been done in the line of county buildings, except to add a vault to the courthouse.
In August, 1879, $33,000 bonds were voted to the Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills Railroad, and in October 1879, $20,000 bonds were issued to pay the outstanding warrants.
The present officers of the county are: John Peters, Clerk; S. P. Bollman, Treasurer; W. B. Daniels, Sheriff; F. B. Tiffany, Judge; A. A. Cressman, Superintendent; T. N. Skinner, Surveyor; W. S. Anderson, Robert Cummings and A. Young, Commissioners.