Cities, Towns, and Villages
County Seat: St. Paul
Courthouse Address and Hours:
612 Indian Street
St. Paul, Nebraska 68873
Chairperson: Kathy Hirschman
Senator: Tom Briese
Board Meetings: 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month
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The roots of Howard County can be traced back to a pair of government surveyors. After years of surveying throughout the country, J.N and N.J Paul became interested in the central part of Hall County. At the urging of the Pauls, the Legislature adopted an act in March 1871 to divide Hall County and establish boundaries for a new county to be called Howard. The name was selected to honor Civil War Gen. Oliver Otis Howard.
As the 1870s progressed, Howard County began to grow. Settlers coming to the area were said to be young, well-educated, adventurous Easterners seeking to make their fortune in "The Great American Desert."
The first permanent settlement in the county was made by the Pauls in the spring of 1871. When it came time to name the settlement, N.J. Paul suggested Athens. A petition was sent to the Postal Department in Washington for the establishment of a post office called Athens in the settlement. The petition was returned because there was already a post office by that name in the state. Phineas W. Hitchcock, and U.S. senator from Nebraska, suggested the name of Saint Paul, in honor of the settlement's founders. It became St. Paul and eventually the county seat.
As with most county seats, the courthouse in St. Paul was the focal point of the community. When the cornerstone was laid for the building on June 5, 1913, an all-day celebration was planned. It included a parade, ball games, races, fireworks, speeches and ceremonies. It was estimated that more than 6,000 people attended the celebration. The three-story Bedford stone "pride" of St. Paul still serves the residents Howard County today and in 1988 a 75th anniversary celebration was observed.
Over the years the courthouse has been home to more than just county offices, a jail and the courtrooms. At one time the community's public library was located on the third floor and the Grand Army of the Republic once occupied one of the first floor rooms. In return, the latter agreed to build a monument on the front lawn of the courthouse in honor of veterans of the Civil War. The monument still stands today.