Located in the eastern portion of Nebraska, Johnson County has a rich and varied history that has shaped its identity over the years. Here are seven interesting facts about Johnson County in Nebraska history that you may not have heard before.
1. Johnson County was named after Vice President Richard M. Johnson.
The county was named in honor of Richard M. Johnson, who served as Vice President under Martin Van Buren from 1837 to 1841. Johnson was a prominent Kentucky Senator known for his controversial personal life, but he was also a strong advocate of westward expansion and was a key player in securing the annexation of Texas.
2. The town of Tecumseh was once known as Frances.
Tecumseh, the largest town in Johnson County, was originally known as Frances. However, in 1857, the town was renamed Tecumseh in honor of the famous Native American leader who had fought against white settlers during the early years of the United States.
3. Johnson County was a battleground during the Civil War.
During the Civil War, Johnson County was the site of several skirmishes between Confederate and Union forces. The most notable engagement was the Battle of Rock Bridge, which took place in August of 1864. Confederate troops under the command of General Sterling Price attempted to cross the Missouri River into Nebraska, but were repulsed by Union forces in a fierce battle that left dozens dead on both sides.
4. Johnson County was a major hub of the Underground Railroad.
Thanks to its proximity to Missouri, a slave state, Johnson County was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret safe houses and routes that helped escaped slaves reach freedom in the North. Many Johnson County residents, both black and white, risked their lives to help slaves escape, and the county played an important role in the fight against slavery.
5. The town of Sterling was named after the American missionary Dr. George Sterling.
Sterling, a small town in Johnson County, was named after Dr. George Sterling, an American missionary who traveled to China in the mid-19th century to spread Christianity. Sterling, who was born and raised in Johnson County, is still remembered as a local hero and the town continues to honor his legacy to this day.
6. Johnson County was home to one of Nebraska's first oil booms.
In the early 20th century, Johnson County experienced a brief but intense oil boom as prospectors discovered significant oil reserves beneath the soil. The boom didn't last long, but for a brief period, the county was a center of activity as oil companies rushed to extract the valuable resource.
7. Tecumseh was the birthplace of two notable politicians.
Although it's a small town, Tecumseh has produced two notable politicians in its history. The first was William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate and one of the most famous politicians of his era. The second was Lesley Gore, a singer and songwriter who had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including "It's My Party" and "You Don't Own Me."
Listen On: Spotify | Apple | Google