Burt County is in the eastern part of Nebraska. It is bounded on the north by Dakota County, on the east by the Missouri River, on the south by Washington and Dodge Counties, and on the west by Dodge and Cuming Counties. It contains 512 square miles, or 327,000 acres.
The bottomlands along the Missouri vary from no width to eight miles, averaging about four miles wide, and, together with those of Logan Creek, in the western part of the county, compose about one-fifth the area of the county. The remainder of the surface consists of valley and rolling prairie, the average elevation of which above the bottoms is 100 feet.
Burt County is watered by Logan Creek in the western part, having numerous tributaries on either side; Bell Creek, which rises in the northern part of the county and flows southeastwardly into the Elkhorn; Blackbird Creek, in the northeastern part of the county; by Elm, Silver and Tekamah Creeks, and several smaller streams. Silver and Tekamah Creeks lose themselves in a slough, about three miles east of Tekamah, which extends from north to south about five miles, and is half a mile in width. The Commissioners of Washington and Burt Counties, on October 4, 1881, decided ultimately to drain this and other sloughs in the two counties, and thus reclaim and fit for cultivation some fifty thousand acres of land.
The county is as yet mostly covered with the original prairie grasses, blue-joint and other varieties, and they furnish an abundance of pasturage and hay; but, as the county becomes more thickly settled, the tame grasses must be introduced, and will undoubtedly succeed. Timothy and Kentucky blue grass have been sown to some extent.
The native timber of the county consists mostly of cottonwood, elm, and walnut on the Missouri River; and on the smaller streams, elm, walnut, box elder and ash. The farmers have given considerable attention to tree planting, the kinds cultivated being generally cottonwood and walnut.
The soil is exceedingly fertile, not only in the bottomlands, but also in the valleys and on the rolling prairie. The bottomlands are especially adapted to the raising of corn, grass and vegetables. The yield of corn is sometimes as high as ninety bushels of ears to the acre. The Loess formation, as in most other counties in Northeastern Nebraska, underlies the soil, and is from twenty to seventy feet thick, furnishing an inexhaustible substratum of fertility.
Burt County is not rich in minerals. Coal in limited quantities has been found in the northeastern part of the county, near Decatur, but is exceedingly doubtful as to whether it can be profitably mined. There is, however, considerable sandstone suitable for building purposes, both here and at Tekamah. Although quite soft and friable when first taken out of the quarry, it hardens on exposure to the air, and, in a few weeks after such exposure, makes very good foundation stone. The seam at Tekamah, where it is worked, is twenty feet thick, and it crops out on both sides of Tekamah Creek for considerable distance.
Limestone is found in limited quantities in the northern part of the county, and there is also an abundance of clay, from which a fine quality of brick is made, though Milwaukee brick is generally used for the outside of buildings.
Less than one-third of the land in the county has been brought under cultivation, the number of acres reported for 1880 being 79,000, while the number of uncultivated acres was 197,500. The total value of land under cultivation is estimated at about $400,000, while the uncultivated portion is estimated at $620,000. There are 830 village lots with a value of $42,000; and 4,140 unimproved village lots, valued at 81,000.
Unimproved farming lands sell for from $5 to $12, and improved lands for from $10 to $30 per acre.
There have been planted 48,000 fruit trees, 1,500 acres of forest trees, and about 4,000 grape vines.
The fruit trees planted are mainly apple, cherry and plum; forest trees planted, as before stated, cottonwood and walnut; and of the varieties of grapes, mostly Concord, which is here exceedingly prolific.
The extent to which the various crops were raised by the farmers of Burt County in 1880, was, of spring wheat, 15,500 acres; of corn, 30,840 acres; of oats, 4,275 acres; and of barley, 175 acres. There was no cultivated meadow reported. The averages of the above crops for a series of years are very nearly as follows: Spring wheat, 13 bushels per acre; corn 38 bushels of ears; oats, 33 bushels; barley, 20 bushels. Winter wheat is raised only as an experiment, or on a piece of land especially well protected.
There are quite a number of farmers in the county who winter from eight hundred to one thousand heard of cattle, as it is more profitable to feed out corn than to sell it.
In the county there are three steam sawmills, the first having been erected in 1857; and four flouring-mills, two using water-power and two steam. The first of these was erected on Logan Creek in 1864, and the last of the four was built at Tekamah in the fall of 1881, where it was very much needed. The foundation walls of this mill are of the sandstone in the immediate vicinity.