|Valley County is located not far from the center of the State of Nebraska and is in extent twenty-four miles square.The first actual settlement in the county was in April and May, 1872, when a small party of Danes from Wisconsin settled on the west side of the North Loup River, about two miles north of the present town of Ord, on what is now known as Dane Creek. In making an examination of lands for selecting a location, they first contemplated settling in the southern part of the county, near the present town of North Loup, but they learned that this location had already been selected by a colony of Seven Day Baptists from Wisconsin.The next settlement was formed at and around the present village of North Loup, in the Loup and Mira Valleys, by the Wisconsin colony of Seventh Day Baptists above referred to. This colony had been organized about a year before under the leadership of their pastor and a committee sent out to find a suitable location. The first party, numbering about fifteen families arrive in May, 1872, only a few days after the Danish settlement mentioned. The winter of 1872-73 was passed quite pleasantly in these lonely settlements. There was some fear of Indians, but they did not prove dangerous.Ever since the settlement of the county there had been frequent Indian scares, but there were no hostilities shown until the year 1874, when the settlers had several fights with them, but even then in the fights they engaged in, only one was killed. He was Srgt. Donahue of the United States Army. Owing to the Indian troubles, Gen. E. O. C. Ord, then in command of the Department of the Platte, determined to station a company of soldiers in the northern part of the county. This was done, and a military post called Fort Hartsuff was established, and work on the buildings and fortifications was commenced at once.In the summer of 1874, while the crops looked prosperous for a large yield and a brighter future for Valley County seemed apparent, the grasshoppers came, and they completely destroyed all growing crops. Now, indeed, the future looked dark for the settlers of the county, and a great number of them were unable to stand the loss of their crops. They left the county, never to return, but the number remained through starvation and suffering stared many in the face. Those who remained had to practice the strictest economy and endure great privations, and even then many of them would have been driven to intense suffering, if not starvation, were it not for food and clothing having been contributed by their friends and by aid societies that had been formed in the east.During the winter of 1872-73, steps were taken by the settlers to secure the organization of the county. Early in the year 1873, an act passed the Legislature permitting its organization. The county seat was located on the site of the present village of Ord, though the name was not selected until some time after.
On August 25, 1974, a special election was held for the purpose of voting on a proposition to vote $6,000 bonds for the building of a bridge across the North River, at Ord. The proposition was carried by a vote of 45 for, and 36 against. The bonds were issued and the bridge commenced soon after, and in due time was completed. Before the completion of this bridge almost all communications between the settlers on the east and west sides of the river was cut off, as the fording of the North Loup was very difficult and dangerous.
No history of Valley County would be complete without the stories of the blizzards of pioneer times. Blizzards are just as frequent and as fierce today but methods of communication and transportation, home conveniences and proximity of neighbors alleviate the suffering.
The blizzard of April, 1873 lasted for three days. Snow drifted into the dugouts. Farmers tunneled their way through the snow to get out to care for their stock and back into their living quarters, meager as they were.
In October, 1880, a bad snow storm occurred which filled the canyons with snow. In some cases horses could walk across the snow from canyon to canyon, and some perished from falling through the crust on top. The most noted blizzard was in 1888. Because of the mild weather on that January day and the suddenness of the winter’s fury, people were not prepared for the storm. Children and teachers were isolated at their schools. The famous Minnie Freeman story comes from that storm. She is credited with saving the lives of eleven of her students by leading them through the blizzard to a home a half mile away. As a result of the rescue Miss Freeman was hailed nationwide. Gifts and letters poured into her, poems were written proclaiming her heroism. She received eighty offers of marriage. As the years go by there are a few facts and much legend connected with this event.
The grandaddy of all blizzards occurred in the winter of 1948-49. The first storm was on November 19, 1948; from then storms of blizzard proportions appeared periodically all winter until the first of April, 1949. Farms were so isolated that “Operation Snowbound” went into action. Feed for cattle and humans was dropped from helicopters. Drifts from ten to fifteen feet high remained across highways all winter. Tunnels were dug for automobiles to pass through. The Union pacific rotary plow clearing the tracks was a common sight. They cleared some drifts that were 21 feet high. Some people survived by burning their furniture, eating oatmeal for a week and writing messages calling for help in the snow to helicopter pilots. These continuous blizzards were the worst Nebraska has ever seen.
Today Valley County boasts of four towns; Arcadia, Elyria, North Loup and Ord. Because of the fertile land farming is still the principle industry. The best scenery, surrounding lakes for fishing and camping, and historical Fort Hartsuff attract visitors to this area.
Suggested Valley County Website: Valley County Visitors Bureau
Valley County online http://www.co.valley.ne.us/