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.

imageBy 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.

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