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Nebraska County Countdown to Kickoff: Rock County Day 81

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Let’s take a trip to Rock County on Day 81!

Welcome to Dwayne Johnson’s favorite county Rock County, Nebraska! Early settlers arrived in the county around 1878 and discovered the area, in the Sandhills next to the Niobrara River, as perfect ranching land. Soon word spread and large numbers of Texas cattle were brought up to Rock County.

The earliest town of Bassett, named after an early settler Andrew N. Bassett, has become the largest town and county seat. Bassett hosts a number of events per year including the Sandhills Ranch Expo and ROCKtober Fest. The former is coming up next week, so go get your tickets soon!

Rock County has three historical sites:

Cafe and hotel built in 1951 to serve cattle ranchers needing a place to stay for the cattle auctions. Both the cafe and hotel are still operating to this day.

To accommodate the increasing demand for lodging from the livestock auctions, Rock County ranchers Floyd and Maude Lackaff purchased the Hotel Crook on October 8,1949. Maude Lackaff was the energy behind the plan for a new hotel. She was originally from Tennessee and had only an eighth-grade education. She taught herself business, typing, bookkeeping and mechanics. She and her first husband operated a ranch in rural Rock County. After his death, she married Floyd Lackaff and they combined their ranches. According to her 1981 obituary in the “Nebraska Cattleman” magazine, “she had a vibrant personality and was very knowledgeable about livestock...

In the early 1900s, the commissioners of Rock, Keya Paha and Brown Counties met frequently to discuss the status of Niobrara River bridges that linked their counties. Among those often discussed was the structure near the small crossroads settlement of Cams. After frequent repairs, the Cams Bridge was finally wrecked by ice in the winter of 1910. That April the Brown and Keya Paha boards resolved unanimously that “the best and lasting benefits to the people of both counties would be the building and erection of a new steel bridge.” The old bridge, meanwhile, was condemned and closed to traffic. Subsequently, in July 1911, plans for two 160-foot steel spans, presented by the Western Bridge and Construction Company, were approved by the State Engineer and adopted for the crossing. But at the August 28th bid opening, all bids were rejected, because, as reported by the State Engineer, “it was evident there had been no competition in the bidding.” The project was stalled until the following May, when the Lincoln Construction Company was awarded a contract to build both the Cams and McCulley State Aid Bridges. (The McCulley Bridge - removed in the early 1980s - carried State Highway 7 across the Niobrara.) Plans for the steel trusses at Cams were abandoned in favor of a concrete structure composed of six 54-foot spans. Both bridges were completed in the summer of 1913; total cost of the Cams Bridge, $23,045.00. But the structure ultimately proved too narrow for the broad Niobrara River, and in 1962 one of the bridge’s six spans, along with several hundred feet of south approach, washed out. This span was replaced, and the bridge extended, by the addition of two steel through trusses, including a Parker truss obtained from the Schuyler State Aid Bridge over the Platte River between Coif ax and Butler counties...

County offices began to move into the new building in May of 1940. Formal dedication ceremonies were scheduled for May 7 but postponed when WPA officials felt the building was not sufficiently complete. Following the delay, the local newspaper made no mention of a dedication ever being held, but it is clear that the courthouse was completed in 1940. The janitorship was awarded in September of that year; eighteen men applied for the position. Also, the county cancelled its insurance policy on the old courthouse on October 1, 1940, an indication that it was no longer in use or had been razed.

In 1940 the county received additional WPA grants, for $3,690 to raze the old courthouse and landscape and grade the grounds and $6,449 to construct the stucco utility or storage building on the site. The county commissioners records suggest that unspecified materials from the old courthouse were re-used for the utility building.

Other Husker 81 things:

  • Willie Harper (All-America and All-Big 8 DE 1971-72)
  • Dave Shamblin (honorable mention All-Big 8 WB 1976)
  • L.C. Cole (honorable mention All-Big 8 DE 1979)
  • Current Husker wearing 81 is...nobody...
  • The Cornhuskers in 1981 went 9-3 under Tom Osborne losing two non-conference games away against Iowa 7-10 and home against Penn State 24-30. Nebraska went 7-0 in the regular season and finished the year with a loss against #1 ranked Clemson 15-22 in the Orange Bowl. Clemson was voted to be the consensus national champion and won their first national championship. Their second national championship would not happen until recently in 2016 against Alabama.