Thomas County - Genealogy Trails





      County History





    Thomas County was organized on March 13, 1887 from the unorganized territory west of Blaine County.

    Governor Thayer appointed C. C. Wright, one of the earliest settlers, special commissioner to carry out the county's formation. Wright had homesteaded in Fillmore County in 1871 before moving to Thomas.<

    > The new county was named for Major General George H. Thomas of Civil War fame and its boundaries fixed by a legislative act on March 31, 1887.

    To carry out the new county's business until officers could be elected, Governor Thayer appointed:

    C. E. Callender, County Clerk
    B. F. Dill, Treasurer
    W. W. Cowles, Judge
    Lulu Wright, Superintendent
    J. F. Swain, Sheriff
    J. P. Walters, Attorney
    W. R. Harper, Surveyor,
    C. C. Wright, H. W. Pierson and John W. Carney, Commissioners

    The first homestead claim was filed in 1880.

    The area that became Thomas County was part of the Sand Hills region used by early ranchers as open-range pasture.

    These cattlemen originally brought their herds north from Texas for sale to the federal government. The government had promised the Indians on South Dakota reservations beef cattle as a part of the 1876 treaty. The cattlemen soon discovered that the Sand Hills, region was ideal for cattle production and numerous large free- range ranches were established throughout the Sand Hills

    The railroad was of vital importance to the permanent settlement of the county. By 1887 the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy had reached the settlement of Thedford and soon traversed the entire county from east to west.  The settlement and organization of Thomas County did not progress rapidly until the railroad had established its line through the region. >br>
    The three major communities in Thomas County, Thedford, Seneca and Haisey, are all located on the railroad line.

    Settlement of Thomas County was slow with only 517 residents listed on the 1890 census. The period between 1890 and 1900 was one of drought and economic depression, yet the county's growth remained stable with over 100 new residents entering the area during that decade.

    The passage of the Kinkaid Act in 1904 and its subsequent enactment proved to be a boon for Thomas County which experienced its first major influx of settlers.

    By 1920 the county's population reached an all time high of 1,773 residents. "Kinkaiders" who came to the region in hopes of farming 640 acres of land or establishing ranches, were often unable to make a successful go of it and many left the region in the years following 1930. Some of those who remained bought up the vacated land and the large ranches of today began their formation.

    By 1970 the county reached its lowest population since the Kinkaid Act in 1904; there were 954 residents reported on the 1970 census. In 1980 the county reported a population of 973 residents.

    Five railroad stations were designated in Thomas County; Norway, Natick, Thedford, Seneca and Halsey. The latter three stations eventually became the major settlements in the county.

    Source:  History of Nebraska