NEBRASKAland July 2016

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 11 of 79

ne incorrect map led to more than a decade of confusion regarding six nonexistent counties in western Nebraska. How did such a mistake happen, and why did it take so long to fix it? The mystery has been solved by Brian Croft of Scottsbluff, an English instructor at Western Nebraska Community College and avid map collector. Croft's research shows not only how maps were compiled in the frontier days, but also how little known the Panhandle was to mapmakers, and even to many Nebraskans. The story begins in 1855, when Nebraska's first territorial legislature began organizing counties. Nebraska's original eight counties grew to 40 by 1861. County creation slowed during the Civil War, then picked up again when Nebraska became a state in 1867. During this time commercial mapmakers strove to keep up with all the changes. In mid-1867, the well-known Colton mapmaking company of New York published Colton's Township Map of the State of Nebraska, which showed the counties of Lyon, Taylor, Monroe, Harrison, Jackson and Grant. Collectively, the six counties covered almost one-fifth of the state's land. There was just one problem: the counties didn't actually exist. Most people didn't know that. Even Nebraska's genuine boundaries were new, and many people had only a vague idea of what was actually out there. General Land Office A Brief History Western Nebraska's "Ghost" Counties By Joy Carey and David Bristow, Nebraska State Historical Society O One of the many maps that copied the mistake, New Rail Road and Township Map of Nebraska shows the nonexistent Lyon, Taylor, Monroe, Harrison, Jackson and Grant counties, and mistakenly places Julesberg, Colorado, inside Nebraska. Croft Collection. 12 NEBRASKAland • JULY 2016

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