Washington County and its county seat, Blair, developed as a part of the
United States’ push for westward expansion throughout the 19th century.
Shaped on the east by the Missouri River, Washington County became home
to the first U.S. military fort west of the Missouri.
In 1804, the famous Lewis and Clark expedition stopped in what would become
Washington County. After a meeting with the members of the Oto - Missouria
tribe, Lewis and Clark sent word back east of the region’s fertile
land and convenient shipping routes via the Missouri River. In 1819, military
officials established Fort Atkinson. A school, hospital and sawmill were
later constructed in the fort, establishing the roots for all Nebraska’s
culture and economy.
The construction of military forts farther west in the following decades
made Atkinson obsolete, and it was shut down in 1827. Americans maintained
area settlements, however, and the community was bolstered in 1848 when
a group of Mormons, led by Brigham Young, constructed a winter camp in
Florence, just south of Washington County.
1856, Washington County had four cities and it was in that year that the
state’s first college opened. Soon after, the Sioux City and Pacific
railroad companies laid tracks over the Missouri River and through Blair,
instantly creating a local economy orbiting the rapidly developing railroad
industry. This economy was boosted again in 1884 when Dana College was
founded by a group of Danish Immigrants.
Proud of their community’s heritage and careful to document important
community developments, the people of Washington County have always had
a unique place in American history. With an appreciation for the role
of the past in shaping the future, the area’s residents are ready
to build on the foundations laid out in the past 200 years and continue
to be a model community for the entire Midwest.