County History


Very few, if any, Nebraska counties can make the claim that Colfax County can. When the Legislature created the county and subsequently established the county seat in 1869, it looked to Washington, D.C. for a name. Schuyler Colfax was vice president at the time, so Colfax was selected for the county name, while Schuyler was chosen for the county seat. Ironically, only 15 years earlier Colfax was a vocal supporter of a group that opposed the creation and settlement of the Nebraska Territory.

The organization of Colfax County came 56 years after the first documented report of white men traveling through the Platte River Valley. Seven members of a John Jacob Astor exploration party are said to have been returning from the Pacific Northwest when they came upon the broad valley that was inhabited by the Pawnee tribe. Over the ensuing 30 years an increasing number of traders, trappers, gold miners, and Mormon settlers passed through the area.

Farmer Daniel Hashberger settled near the future site of Schuyler in 1864. Within two years the Union Pacific Railroad was pushing westward and the Shell Creek station, later to become Schuyler, was established. By 1869, when the site was selected as the county seat, the railroad was the sole owner of the property at the site. Schuyler was incorporated in 1870.

When Colfax County was created it was actually divided from Platte County, whose inhabitants objected to the split. An agreement was worked out whereby Colfax County would assume its proportionate share of county indebtedness that existed at the time of the split.

As Schuyler and the surrounding area began to develop, it became apparent that a courthouse was needed. By 1872 a two-story brick and stone building was completed, complete with a tin roof and an ornamental tower. An interesting note is that the first floor was used for apartments for county officers, as well as for cells for prisoners. The second floor housed the court room. This building would serve Colfax County until 1922, when the present brick and terra cotta trim courthouse replaced it.