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Nebraska County Countdown: #60 - Frontier County And The Stockville “World Fair”

I’ll probably never be able to go home again...

Holy cow... that is one nasty looking courthouse.

Frontier County is home to my hometown of Curtis. Suffice it to say that I have plenty of stories I could tell from my childhood and on, but I’m not going to talk about Curtis today. I realize some may find this disappointing, as you might have tuned in to hear tales of my juvenile delinquent behavior growing up. I’m sorry. Sometimes those stories involve other people and I’m still not 100% sure how far you can go and not be sued.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the town of Stockville. Stockville, Nebraska is the county seat of Frontier County. In all the years of growing up in Curtis, I remember that the population sign of Stockville read 60 people.

This might lead you to ask, “How did Stockville end up the county seat?”

Good question, reader. My understanding is that Stockville was given the county seat because that was where the railroad was supposed to go many years ago.

When it came time for the railroad actually come through, it went through my hometown of Curtis. According to this site, the railroad came through Curtis in 1886. This irritates the people of Stockville to this day. (Or maybe not, let’s just say it does, because it’s a lot more fun.) I remember reading a letter to the editor of our local newspaper, The Hi-Line Enterprise, from a Stockville native who was still angry over 100 years later that the railroad did not go through Stockville because the people of Curtis were deceptive in some way, probably like knowing how to read.

The county courthouse in Stockville was the last County Courthouse in the nation to get indoor plumbing in 1962. I don’t know if that’s 100% accurate, but that is what I was told while growing up. Perhaps it was just another shot at those Stockville residents, because you know how they are.

One great thing about Stockville occurred every August. Stockville was home to the county fair. During the county fair, the town of Stockville would swell to two or three thousand people. It was a huge affair, so much so that my friends and I referred to it as the “Stockville World Fair”. It was a massive transformation. There were decent country music acts. There were dances. There was a demolition derby. There was probably a rodeo.

There was a lot of alcohol to be had and fights all around. A story I heard as a youngster had a certain defensive coach for Nebraska getting into a fight with a resident of Curtis. The coach was going to beat up the Curtis guy with a chain. As he swung the chain, the Curtis dude snatched it out of the air and in a single motion swung it back at the coach, wrapping it around his head and knocking him unconscious.

When I was a wee lad, my mother sent me down to a hotel room in Curtis to get a man’s autograph. It was Gene Watson, who is a famous country singer. “Paper Rosie” is the biggest hit of his I remember. Mom handed me his album, told me to go down and knock on a specific hotel room door and ask the man who answered for an autograph. I thought she was goofy. I did as I was told, however and was shocked. A man answered the door. I looked at him. I looked at the album she gave me. They were the same person. Gene Watson took that album and autographed it for my mother. Gene Watson was playing at the Stockville World Fair.

There are many other stories I could tell you about Stockville, such as the guy who woke up one morning and his entire housed had moved several feet on its foundation, how I did 135 MPH in Mom’s van at the age of 15 on the highway between Curtis and Stockville, or about how you could sometimes buy alcohol from the bar in Stockville on a Sunday if you happened to be there at the right time.

Frontier county wasn’t named for a person, but because it was “on the frontier.” I never thought about this growing up there, but then again, I never thought about what the counties around us were named after either. Frontier County was formed in 1872.

There are several towns in Frontier County:

  • Eustis - full of miscreants and evil-doers. Population as of 2010 was 401.
  • Maywood - another town full of hoodlums and no-gooders, so bad they might shoot you in the back while you were walking to church on Sunday morning. Maywood is only 6 miles from Curtis, and to this day the two towns have not merged their schools. In 2010 there were 261 people in Maywood.
  • Curtis - my hometown and the largest. When I lived there, it was about 1,100 nice, decent, hard-working, church-going people (and then there was me). Now there’s around 940. In order for Curtis residents to get out of the county, we typically had to drive through either Maywood or Eustis. We kept our guns at the ready as you never knew when gangs of toothless, Chevy Nova without-a-muffler-driving sonsofbitches would come after you as you passed through those communities.
  • Moorefield - 32 people lived here in 2010. Heidi and I had our wedding reception in the Moorefield hall.
  • Stockville - I’ve said enough already about Stockville.

There two places in Frontier County in the National Register of Historic Places, the Mowry Bluff Archeological Site, and Red Smoke Archeological Site. I never heard of either of these before looking up Frontier County for this article, but apparently they are important native archaeology sites. Who knew?

Husker Stuff!

#60 is Tom Novak. His nickname is “Trainwreck”, and he is the only Husker football player to be named first-team all-conference four times. I wrote a story about Novak back in 2011, and then there’s this bit from 2012 by Mike Babcock, who knows more Husker history than anyone else alive.

There is no current #60, nor will there ever be. Novak was so good his NUMBER is permanently retired.

And that’s the only #60 I’m writing about right now.