County History


his section of the website will attempt to aid you in obtaining information on the history of Dakota County. Please find below some links that will assist you in your research.

History of Dakota County - booklet prepared for the Nebraska Centennial (1867-1967)

Dakota County Historical Society - a non-profit organization with the purpose of preserving and showing sites and artifacts of historical value in Dakota County.

Wikipedia - Dakota County Nebraska

Warner's history of Dakota County, Nebraska, from the days of the pioneers and first settlers to the present time, with biographical sketches, and anecdotes of ye olden times (1893)

Historical information on Cities in Dakota County

Dakota County is located in the extreme northeast corner of Nebraska, with the Missouri River flowing on the north and east borders. It contains approximately 165,120 acres (255 square miles), bounded on the north by South Dakota, on the east by Iowa, on the west by Dixon County and on the south by Thurston County. Its major industry is agriculture and ag related businesses. There is a major beef slaughter and packing plant in the western part of Dakota County. At one time there were ten town sites platted on the river banks in Dakota County. All but one of these original towns (Dakota City) are now extinct. Dakota County now has two cities—Dakota City and South Sioux City; three villages—Hubbard, Homer, and Jackson; one unincorporated village—Willis; and a portion of another village—Emerson, that lies in three counties. The county had a total population of 16,573 by the 1980 census. The total population in the 2010 census is 21,006.

The first human inhabitants in this area were the American Indians, probably Omahas, one of the many tribes within the Sioux Nation of Indians. The Fernando Cortez directed the first European exploration of the area, which was later ceded by Spain to France. The land was finally sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Dakota County became part of the Missouri Territory and finally the Nebraska Territory on March 4, 1854. Dakota County was issued a charter on March 7, 1889 and included parts of Dixon and Thurston Counties. In 1889 Dixon and Thurston Counties separated and the current boundaries of Dakota County were established. Dakota County was named after the Dakotah Indians, another tribe of the Sioux Nation.

Long before the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Malette brothers -- two French Trappers -- explored the area. They came down from Canada in 1739 and crossed the Missouri just below what is now Dakota City, Nebraska. In 1793 the English hired an Irishman, MacKay, to set up trading posts along the river. He left St. Louis with 33 men in August of 1795 and arrived Nov. 11, 1795 at Chief Blackbird's village east of what is now Homer, and established Fort Charles. It was later named Blyberg.

After the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to chart the purchased land. In April of 1804, Lewis and Clark left St. Louis with 43 men on their well-documented expedition. They arrived at Dakota City in August and sent a party to explore Maha (Omaha), a ruined Indian village and burial ground near Homer.

Shortly after moving on the expedition again halted, this time on the high bluffs above the river in what is now Iowa. There they suffered the only casualty of the entire expedition when Sgt. Charles Floyd died. The white stone obelisk erected in his honor in 1901 is the first site to be registered by the government as a National Historic Landmark.

In 1855 Father Trecy left Gerryowen, Iowa with 60 pioneers and settled north of Jackson where they established St. John City. Almost half of the settlers died during the following, severe winter. Some of their descendants still live in this area. St. Patrick's Catholic Church was built at St. John in 1856 and destroyed by a tornado in 1860. Because of the unpredictable river it was rebuilt about one mile south. The church is now located in the town of Jackson. St. John city has since disappeared.

Willis, a small unincorporated village lying just west of Jackson, sits at the crossroads of Highway 20 and Highway 12.

The Blyberg area was probably the location of the first white settlement in Dakota County. Sitting in the southeast corner of the county, the settlement was originally called Fort Charles and began as a trading outpost. Blyberg succumbed to the capricious movements of the river and is now wilderness with some old buildings remaining. The settlers moved further west to what is now called Homer.

Emerson is in the extreme southwest corner of the county and was platted in 1881 as a railroad town and has the distinction of existing in three counties. Like many other railroad towns, Emerson's fortunes took a downturn when trucks and planes began to take more of the railroad's shipping.

Another town laid out by the railroad was Hubbard. It was established in 1885 with some of the population coming from the town just north, Jackson, to work for the railroad.

The County seat, Dakota City, is the only town of the original ten laid out on the river front that is still in existence. Established in 1856, this prosperous frontier town boasted a hotel, store, school, churches, and a pottery works. It used the river to export grain, pottery, and timber; and to import coal, gravel, and concrete until the railroad took over the shipping of goods. Dakota City is the site of the oldest church built in the Nebraska Territory. Emanuel Lutheran Church was built in 1860 and on July 19, 1964 "The Little White Church on the River" was dedicated as a historical landmark.
Today, the largest city in Dakota County is also one of the youngest. South Sioux City was incorporated in 1887. The settlement has had seven names, and because of the erratic river, fire, tornadoes, and floods, almost as many sites, though always located in the extreme northeast corner of the county. The earlier names were Harney City, Newport, Stanton Places, Pacific City, Logan and Covington. Some of the earlier versions of the towns became extinct, at least one was submerged when the river changed its channel. The remaining ones combined to form South Sioux City. For many years the communication between Sioux City, Iowa ad South Sioux City, Nebraska was a ferry boat in the summer an ice in the winter. The combination bridge, erected across the Missouri in 1895, finally provided a vital link to the larger city. Later, the bridge was widened to four lanes and eventually torn down and replaced by Veteran's Memorial Bridge, a concrete and steel four lane interstate bridge.

The Missouri River forms the boundary between Nebraska and Iowa on the east and between Nebraska and South Dakota on the north. Historic floods occurred in 1881, 1943 and 1952. A series of six dams were built in an effort to keep the river in check so that businesses and homes could be near the river. The flood of 2011 was precipitated by above normal snowpack in the mountains which began to melt at the same time as record amounts of rain fell in parts of the Missouri River drainage basin resulting in record high releases from the upriver reservoirs. Those conditions hadn’t aligned at this level for 59 years, since the flood of 1952, and before the dams on the Missouri River were completed.

There are many churches in the county that were established in the last half of the nineteenth century and that still have active congregations. Because of fire, floods and tornadoes, the original sites have often changed but many still have their original charters and can boast continuous memberships for 100 years or more.

Dakota County continues to grow and change, though the stability of the county's strong agricultural heritage has proven a bedrock in times of need and disaster.