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Nebraska County Countdown 18: Dawson County

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Wanted: Young skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.

Welcome to Dawson County! The population (2015, estimated) is 23,886 and the county seat is Lexington.

Hey look! A map.

Additional communities located in Dawson County include Gothenburg, Willow Island, Cozad, Farnam, Overton, Sumner, and Eddyville. Unincorporated communities include Buffalo, Darr, and Josselyn. The county was formed in 1860 and named after Jacob Dawson, the first postmaster in Lincoln.

From the Virtual Nebraska website:

The town of Cozad was the dream of John J.Cozad from Ohio, who saw it as “...clean and peaceful, with no drinking, gambling, or carousing...full of hard-working, energetic people.”

Interestingly, when he needed funds, he would “seek out a Faro game” somewhere, and was known to make $50,000 in a gambling room in Omaha between trains.

One thing I’ve learned in this series is that most early towns in Nebraska experienced a grasshopper plague. Cozad’s turn was in 1873. They also all burned down at one time or another. Cozad’s turn was 1876. Blizzards also were a prominent part of early Nebraska history. Cozad’s turn was 1888 (along with the entire state and most of the upper Great Plains.)

OH look! A picture of a courthouse!

The town of Gothenburg is the home to the Pony Express Station and Museum. The recruitment posters for the Pony Express said: Wanted - Young skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.

Lexington was originally known as Plum Creek and won the county seat with a grand total of 13 votes. From the Virtual Nebraska website:

A boost in population came in 1872 when the Philadelphia Colony, under the charge of F.J.Pearson, arrived with 65 men, women, and children. These people, whose descendants still live here, witnessed first hand the unpredictability of Nebraska’s weather, and the grasshoppers, prairie fires, and blizzards...

There’s the grasshoppers, fire, and blizzards again.

Other things to see and do in Dawson County

Husker “18” and Dawson County trivia:

  • Current Huskers to wear “18”: Tre Bryant (RB) and Guy Thomas (OLB). Current freshman wide receiver, Bennett Folkers hails from Gothenburg and junior WR Conor Young hails from Cozad.
  • Notable Huskers to wear 18: Brook Berringer, Jim Anderson (cornerback on Devaney’s championship teams of 70-71),
  • Quincy Enunwa, currently a wide receiver with the NY Jets wore 18 at Nebraska (and switched to 81 in the pros).
  • Former Husker defensive lineman Jared Crick hails from Cozad, NE. He played in the pros with the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos.
  • Mick Tingelhoff graduated from Lexington High School, was a Husker team captain in 1961, played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1962 to 1978, and was elected to the pro football Hall of Fame in 2015.
  • Ted Harvey from Lexington was a cornerback for Nebraska in 1976-77. He is a member of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame as a standout three-sport athlete at Lexington.
  • Jay Novacek, former Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys tight end graduated from Gothenburg High School (and went to college at Wyoming). He won three Superbowl rings with the Cowboys.
  • Chris Dishman, offensive guard, was from Cozad and played at Nebraska from 93-96. He went on to play in the NFL with the Cardinals and Rams.
  • Milan Creighton was born in Gothenburg in 1908. He went on to be a three-time letterwinner in football with the Arkansas Razorbacks. As a professional, he played seven seasons for the Arizona Cardinals and coached them for three years (sometimes at the same time!)
  • The 1918 Nebraska football team, coached by Bill Kline, posted a 2-3-1 record and 0-0 in the MIssouri Valley Conference. Due to WWI and a flu pandemic, many games were postponed and/or cancelled that season. On that team was Clarence Swanson, who played end for the Cornhuskers. He hailed from Wakefield, NE and was elected to the national College Football Hall of Fame in 1973.

All right, what did I miss? Add your Husker ‘18’ trivia or Dawson county players, memories and sights in the comments.