Skip to main content

Nebraska Counties Explorer

Red Willow County

Cities, Towns, and Villages

County Seat: McCook



Courthouse Address and Hours:
502 Norris Avenue
McCook, Nebraska 69001
M-F 8:00am-4:00pm

Chairperson: Earl McNutt

Senator: Dave Murman

Board Meetings: every Monday of each month

Population: 10,623
View Additional Census Data


Red Willow County received its name from Red Willow Creek, which runs through this area of Southwest Nebraska. It has been reported, however, that the name is actually a mistranslation of the Dakota Indian name "Chanshasha Wakpala," which literally means Red Dogwood Creek. The Dakotans referred to the creek as such because of an abundance of the red dogwood shrub that grew along the creek banks.

Before this area would become a county, an exploration company was formed in Nebraska City for the express purpose of establishing a settlement somewhere in the Republican River Valley. In 1871 the party decided on an area at the mouth of the Red Willow Creek. A surveyor was hired to lay out a town patterned after Lincoln, with large, wide streets.

The county was officially organized in 1873. That same year the town of Indianola was laid out along Coon Creek. Indianola and Red Willow each wanted to secure the greatest number of settlers and become the county seat. Following an aggressive campaign, the Indianola ticket was victorious over the Red Willow ticket.

The election results were quickly contested by Red Willow supporters and the case went before a justice of the peace in neighboring Furnas County. Indianola supporters would not recognize the justice's authority and refused to appear. The justice declared the election was illegal and Red Willow immediately sought control of the county. Red Willow supporters went to Indianola and took the county records and county seal by force. Tempers eventually subsided and the records were returned to Indianola, which remained the county seat until it was moved to McCook in 1896.

The residents of McCook constructed a courthouse that was "sufficient in all respects at the time for the demands of the county." Continued growth and development in the area forced the county to raze the building in 1926 and construct the current courthouse. In 1990 an extensive remodeling project was set into motion and the building was rededicated by county officials last year.