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Nebraska County Countdown #41: Polk County

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Polk County has a very Swedish history.

Stromsburg is the largest city in Polk County
photo by Christian Berck

Polk County is named after a US President. James K. Polk was the 11th President of the United States (1845-1849) and the county itself was formed in 1856 (152 years old). It’s current population is estimated to be 5203 (2016 estimate). It’s population during the Roaring 20’s was 10,714 so Polk County experienced quite a significant population decline.

The county seat, Osceola, is named after the famous Chief of the Seminole tribe. The biggest city is, Stromsburg, is named after a neighborhood in Ockelbo, Sweden, where the group of settlers were originally from.

In 1966, Stromsburg was given the title “Swede Capital of Nebraska” by then Governor Frank B. Morrison. On the third full weekend each June, Stromsburg organizes a Swedish Festival to celebrate their heritage. There are plenty of meatballs and pickled herring to go around along with a delicious Smörgåsbord of Swedish treats to try. It’s a great festival for people of all ages. I was invited to this festival by Colton, a college friend of mine from Stromsburg, and had a really great time.

Anyone visiting Stromsburg needs to stop at 4th Street Coffee House. Really spacious place in the heart of town serving coffee, smoothies, hearty meals and many other delicious sweet treats. There are a variety of board games you can chose to play in a relaxing atmosphere.

Now onto the Football stuff. Former NFL Lynn Ray Boden is from Stromsburg but he played football at South Dakota State. The offensive lineman was drafted in the 1st Round by the Detroit Lions in the 1975 NFL Draft. He played in 67 games over three years in Detroit and one year in Chicago.

George Flippin, Nebraska’s first African-American football player, also spent part of his live in Polk County. His parents moved to Stromsburg in 1900 to establish a medical practice. His father actually owned was the first Stromsburg resident to own an automobile. Flippin later moved there in 1907 and helped build the first hospital in Stromsburg. After getting divorced in 1910, he quickly fell in love with a local Stromsburg resident, Miss Mertina Larson, which causes quite a scandal back in the day. Although I imagine most people these days wouldn’t have trouble falling for a Swedish lady. George Flippin remains the only African-American buried in the Stromsburg cemetery.

There is one Polk County native on the current Nebraska football roster. Stromsburg’s Hunter Miller is a red-shirt freshman offensive lineman and wears #66.

There are two players wearing #41 on the current Nebraska football roster. Justin Holm a freshman WR out of Lincoln Southwest and Deontai Williams a sophomore DB from Jacksonville, Florida.

The 1941 Nebraska football team was coached by Biff Jones who left to take the Athletic Director position at his Alma Mater (Army) the following year. The team went 4-5 that year with wins over Iowa State, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma respectively. One of their defeats was 9-0 loss to eventual national champions Minnesota. Beating your rivals and playing the national champs close. I guess you can call that a good season.

Here are some famous Huskers that wore #41.
Marc Munford (born in Lincoln but went to high school in Littleton, CO) was an All-Big 8 linebacker in 1986 who all played four season in the NFL as a Denver Bronco.
Grand Island native Phil Ellis was an honorable mention All-Big 8 linebacker in 1995 and also a mention of Nebraska 1994 and 1995 National Championship teams.
Lincoln native Dane Todd was an All-Big 12 fullback in 2006. He currently works as an orthopedic surgeon in Lincoln.

After a highly successful 1940 football season, Nebraska also made it’s first bowl appearance in January 1, 1941 at the Rose Bowl but the #7 Huskers fell 21-13 to the #2 Stanford Indians. Yes they were called the Indians back in the day.

When was the last time you visited Polk County? Have you ever been to Stromsburg’s Swedish Festival? Share your Polk County stories in the comments below!