The History of Hooker County, Nebraska
Despite the fact the Middle Loup and the Dismal Rivers cross what today is Hooker County, for many years the area was not as well suited as other counties in the Sandhills for farming or livestock grazing. This led to the county developing at a much slower place than some of its neighbors.
For many years the area was a hunting ground for the Sioux Indians and home to buffalo and other wildlife that roamed the rolling hills and deep valleys. The area remained government controlled land and was not open for settlement.
The first permanent settlers in the area homesteaded along the Dismal River in 1884. Other homesteaders slowly moved in and filed claims on both sides of the two rivers. A trading post was established just west of the the present site of Mullen.
In 1877 the Grand Island and Wyoming line of the Burlington Railroad advanced from Broken Bow to near Whitman in neighboring Grant County. Since the railroad was having difficulty obtaining the land it wanted near the trading post for a switching yard, crews laid a switch siding about a mile to the east. A boxcar was used as a depot and it was named Mullen, in honor of one of the contractors building the rail line.
Eleven years later, Amos Gandy and George Trefren purchased land near the depot and laid out the townsite of Mullen. They designated one block of the original town to be used for a courthouse once the county was formed. That would occur the following year when the Legislature established the boundaries for a new county to be named Hooker, in honor of Civil War Gen. Joseph Hooker. During that year the first election was held, county officers conducted their first meetings, taxes were levied, and bonds were sold in the amount of $1,521 for the construction of a courthouse and jail. The two-room structure was completed by the following November.
By 1920 Hooker County reached a peak population of 1,300 and three years later a larger brick courthouse was built.
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