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From Bradford, Penn., in the early spring of 1883, a colony consisting of sixty-five men, women and children settled along the south side of the Keya Paha river. They played an important role in the early history of the eastern end of the county. Their children and grandchildren are still numbered among Keya Paha County’s leading citizens. Iowa, Wisconsin and eastern Nebraska also sent large numbers of settlers.
Probably no other section of Nebraska has seen more crime and tragedy enacted on its soil than has that section which is now Keya Paha County. It was the battleground between the lawless and the law-abiding elements of its citizens, each faction struggling for supremacy, and each upheld in the belief that their claims were paramount. The story of this struggle will probably never be recorded and Time will erase the thrilling tales of the daring deeds of the horse thief and the cattle rustlers as well as those of the early peace officer and the “Vigilante.”
The Niobrara proved to be an almost impassable barrier between the two portions of what was then from county, and there were many long weary miles to be travelled to reach the railroad or the seat of the county government. The honest people were at the mercy of the thieves and other outlaws. Poor roads, poor bridges and other drawbacks influenced public opinion to such a degree that the belief in county division soon became very strong. A large majority took the stand that the north side of the river should have its own officers and its own seat of government. There was very little opposition to the division and in a short time after the election on November 4, 1884 the new county was in operation.