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Nebraska County Countdown 13: Cedar County

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Russ Hochstein, Vic Halligan, a tornado, a massacre, and more!

Welcome to the bluffs of the Missouri River and Cedar County in northeast Nebraska.

The population of Cedar County is 8,852 and was formed in 1857. It was named after trees. Yes, trees. The county seat is Hartington.

As you can see from the courthouse pictures, Cedar County took a slightly different approach to their need for expanded space for staff. Rather than tear down the old courthouse, built in 1891, and replace it with a institutional-looking brick building, they just attached a new wing to the old building (2009).

El Mapo

In addition to Hartington, other cities include Laurel and Randolph. Villages include: Belden, Coleridge, Fordyce, Magnet, Obert, St. Helena, and Wynot. Census-designated areas include Bow Valley, Aten, South Yankton, and St. James.

The western edge of Cedar County (along with Knox and the eastern part of Boyd County) is part of the Shannon Trail, named after Private George Shannon of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Shannon, who was 19 years old at the time, was separated from the group for a little over two weeks. Tired, starving, and about ready to give up, he sat down along the Missouri River. Much to his surprise, the expedition came around the bend of the river and he was able to re-join his company. He had been ahead of the company, not behind.

One entry from William Clark’s diary:

… Shannon had the horses ahead and that they Could not overtake him This man not being a first rate Hunter, we deturmined to Send one man in pursute of him with some Provisions.

Wiseman Massacre

Near St. James is the site of a gruesome massacre in which five children of the Henson and Phoebe Wiseman family were killed by Indians. Their father was serving in the military at the time and their mother had traveled to Yankton overnight for supplies. The children ranged in age from 4 to 16 and the blame for their murders placed on a rogue group of Indians.

A Very Slow Tornado

Living near the area, I spend a fair bit of time in Cedar County for different activities and events. The most memorable is when we were at a baseball game in Laurel for one of the ranchhands. As we were watching, everyone’s cell phones starting buzzing at once. A tornado warning had been issued with a confirmed twister down near the Coleridge/Hartington area.

At first, it appeared that it would move away from us, but having that many people out in a city park with severe weather that close made it an easy call to cancel the game and get everyone out of there. This storm was the day after the deadly tornadoes that destroyed Pilger.

The route back home for our team, Highway 20, was closed because of a bridge under construction. The detour would have taken us north around that bridge and right into the supercell. Most of our group chose to take to gravel roads south of Highway 20, keeping a close eye on weather radar. Once it was clear that we were in safe territory, most of us stopped on a hilltop and watched the storm.

Our cell phones buzzed every 30 minutes as the National Weather Service kept re-issuing the same tornado warning. The storm essentially parked itself and moved incredibly slowly for about three hours. It did damage to the areas around Coleridge and moved to the north edge of Laurel before finally decreasing in intensity and moving east.

Fortunately, no one was killed in this storm. I’m not aware of any serious injuries either, which is remarkable given how long some people were directly under this cell.

Football Stuff

One famous Cedar County resident (in football terms anyway) is Russ Hochstein. Hochstein is a graduate of Cedar Catholic in Hartington and went on to play guard for the Huskers from 1997-2001. He played center in the NFL, winning two Superbowl rings with the Patriots. From his huskers.com bio:

Pancakes Served:
1997 - 6 (1.2 per game)
1998 - 71 (5.9 per game)
1999 - 126 (10.5 per game)
2000 - 143 (13.0 per game)
Total - 346 (8.7 per game)

Finnish football player, Seppo Evwaraye, spent a year at Laurel-Concord high school on an exchange program. He was offered a scholarship to play defensive tackle for the Huskers. During his career at Nebraska (2001-2005) he switched to offensive lineman. He did spend some time in the NFL on practice squads and had a nice career with the Porvoo Butchers (a Finnish club). He is currently head coach for the Wasa Royals.

Current Huskers to wear #13: JoJo Domann (Sophomore defensive back) and Justin McGriff (Freshman wide receiver).

Who wore it best? Zac Taylor, QB and 2006 Big 12 offensive player of the year. Currently, Taylor is the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams.

The 1913 Nebraska Cornhuskers posted an 8-0 record (3-0 in the Missouri Valley conference). That squad included Nebraska’s first All-American selection, Vic Halligan. Halligan played left tackle and fullback. He was also a three-time all-conference selection (1912, 13, and 14).