Johnson County, NE

Johnson CountyLong before Johnson County had any settlers, early travelers passed through the area on one of many early-day trails which contributed to its reference as the crossroads for Seven Trails. Prior to the white travelers, the Oto Missouria occupied this area and probably initiated most of these trails. Evidence of Indians from the Prehistoric Farmer Period, 1200 - 1450 AD, were unearthed near Tecumseh in the 1930s and a few items are on display at the Johnson County Museum in Tecumseh.

Johnson County was originally part of Forney County when Nebraska was a territory, but in 1855 it was divided and the western part became Johnson, the remaining became Nemaha County. The county was named after Col. Richard M. Johnson who was a prominent army officer in the War of 1812 and Vice President of the United States from 1837 to 1841. The legend is that Johnson surrounded and killed the famous Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh, in 1813 during the Battle of the Thames in Canada.

Johnson County authors include Eugene Manlove Rhodes, Hal Borland, Col. Barney Oldfield, Izma Buethe Seeba and Sharon Ocker. William Lawrence worked for the Lincoln newspapers and went on to New York, where he was with the Washington Bureau of the New York Times, appeared on "Face the Nation," was elected President of the National Press Club and also worked for ABC. TV and screen personage, Roy Barcroft, played the villain in many western movies, including those starring Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Tim Holt, plus being in the TV show, "Have Gun - Will Travel." TV's "Mrs. Baxter" in the show, Hazel, was played by Whitney Blake. All of these were born in Johnson County.

In addition to the County Museum, Tecumseh is also the birthplace of Col. Barney Oldfield and houses the Nebraska State Exhibit of "Believe it or Not - The Life and Times of Vada and Col. Barney Oldfield." The exhibit features Barney with Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan, and George Foreman, a Hitler book and the Longest Running Publicity Stunt ever! The exhibit is very educational and relates history of World War II and other events that Col. Oldfield has been involved in since his birth.

Other sites to visit while in Johnson County include the old covered bridge in Cook that has been repaired to working condition. Cook was first known as "The Artesian City" because of the numerous artesian wells in the area. One of the wells is located in Windmill Park just west of town. Crab Orchard is a small village of which many of its historical landmarks have disappeared except for three of the wild crab apple trees for which the town was named. They still stand north of the Crab Orchard Cemetery.

Elk Creek is a small town of 115, but very active in community improvements and projects and proud of the safe and enjoyable atmosphere to live and raise their families. Sterling is a thriving community with over 40 businesses, and is the birthplace of renowned author, Hal Borland, and the Martin Luther Home. Sterling offers overnight camping at the City Park. The annual Deer Creek Sodbusters Antique Machinery Show held in August has grown into a "Local Legacy." Held as a "real working farm," the event has expanded to field demonstrations that allows a better educational opportunity for children and interested adults to see first hand how life on the farm was for their grandparents and great grandparents. Buildings have been brought in to complete the historic atmosphere including the barn with antique tools and household items, the 1883 Chapel with original artifacts, the Jail, the Saw Mill, the Rusty Iron Museum, and antique working machinery used in the demonstrations.

Explore Johnson County

Johnson County Courthouse

Established in 1857, Johnson County is one of the earliest counties in Nebraska. Tecumseh, which was designated the county seat, was platted in 1856. The present courthouse dates from the 1880s period of

Tecumseh, NE Historic Courthouses

Barney Oldfield Exhibit

Johnson County has a very well-known citizen in the person of Col. Barney Oldfield. Col. Oldfield started his military career with an ROTC membership when he was attending the University of Nebraska where he graduated in 1933

Tecumseh, NE Museums

Chief Tecumseh

The town of Tecumseh, Nebraska was named after the great Shawnee (Shawenese) Indian Chief Tecumseh born in 1768. At the moment of his birth a comet flashed low across the sky. His father, who was a respected Shawnee warrior named Puckesinwa, named his son "Tecumseh" or "

Tecumseh, NE Indian Heritage

Carnegie Building

The first public libraries for Tecumseh were not pretentious. They were kept in private homes, at the city hall and elsewhere, with such books and magazines as could be secured through contributions and otherwise. The women of the city carried on the work of librarians. June 6, 1907

Tecumseh, NE Carnegie Libraries

Tecumseh Historic District - NHR

Overlooking the north fork of the Big Nemaha River in southeast Nebraska's Drift Hills region, Tecumseh has been the county seat of Johnson County since the county's organization in 1856-57

Tecumseh, NE National Register

Colonel Barney Oldfield

Colonel Barney Oldfield was born in Tecumseh, Nebraska on December 18, 1909, and graduated from Elk Creek High School in 1928

Tecumseh, NE Famous People

Old Johnson County Jail

The historic Johnson County jail was constructed in 1872 of native limestone. The huge blocks for the jail proper were secured from a quarry on Yankee Creek, 4 1/2

Tecumseh, NE Pioneer Life

Johnson County Historical Society Museum

The Johnson County Historical Society Museum complex consists of three historic buildings with the main building and the rural schoolhouse located at one site and the Old Jail standing on its original location nearby. The main museum is housed in the historic Christian Church that was built in 1888

Tecumseh, NE Museums

Historic Schoolhouse

In addition to the main Museum, just to the north is the District #73, Hedge Corner Country School. It was originally located about 2 miles west of Tecumseh. In the 1970

Tecumseh, NE Museums

Soldier's Memorial Statue

This soldier's memorial statue was erected "In memory of all soldiers and sailors of Johnson County" by the Heckathorn Post No. 47, Nebraska GAR in 1903

Tecumseh, NE Memorials

Tecumseh City Hall

Tecumseh's city hall was erected in 1890, at the cost of just over $4,000, and is another of the fanciful architectural treasures of the historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Tecumseh, NE National Register


The gazebo on the southeast corner of the Courthouse Square was built as a prop for the TV mini-series, "AMERIKA,"

Tecumseh, NE Landmarks

Explore Johnson County