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Nebraska Counties Explorer

Thurston County

Communities and Development

Thurston County Seat: Pender

Total County Population (2020): 6,773

  • Villages (pop.): Emerson (840), Macy (1,045), Pender (1,115), Rosalie (159), Thurston (116), Walthill (682), Winnebago (916)
  • Unincorporated Pop. (% of county pop.): 3,679 (54%)

Land Development (2022) (% of total land in county):

  • Agriculture: 69%
    • By method: Dryland (row crop/grain/forage) (60%); Irrigated (row crop/grain/forage) (5%); Pasture (pure grassland) (3%) • Neb. Dept. of Rev. - total equals agriculture's %
    • By commodity: Corn 40%, Soybeans 32%, Livestock (grassland) 7%, Alfalfa 4%, Other Hay 1% • USDA - equals agriculture's % plus some wetlands (2%) and minus public grassland/wetlands and reserve
  • Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Conservation Reserve & Exempt (combined): 29%
  • Timber: 2%

County Offices

Courthouse Address and Hours:

106 South 5th Street
Pender, Nebraska 68047
M-F 8:30 am - 5:00 pm

County Board Chairperson: Glen Meyer

Complete list of county board members

County Board Meetings: Every other Monday

View the County's Government Maps

Visit the County Fairgrounds

NACO District: Northeast

President: Lisa Lunz, Dixon County Supervisor 

Vice President: Sandy Zoubek, Stanton County Treasurer

Secretary: Katie Hart, Burt County Assessor

Treasurer: Krista Nix, Knox County Deputy Clerk 

NACO Board Representative: Bill Tielke, Holt County Supervisor 

Click for a live look at Thurston County (south of Winnebago)


Population: 6,620
Land area (sq. mi.): 393.58
Population per square mile: 17.2


White: 36.1%
African American: 0.4%
American Indian: 57.5%
Asian: 0.1%
Hispanic: 3.8%
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 0.1%
Two or More Races: 1.8%


0-17: 36.0%
18-64: 51.9%
65+: 12.0%


Personal income per capita: $57,406
% of Population in Poverty: 18.2%
# of Housing Units: 2,283
Owner-occupied rate: 62.8%
Median home price: $91,780


Access to broadband (100 Mbps via fiber or cable modem): 19.0%

Sources: National Association of RealtorsNebraska Library Commission, U.S. Bureau of Economic AnalysisU.S. Census Bureau

Employment, Schools, and Child Care

Unemployment rate: 3.0% (as of September 2022)

County Employment Website:

High school graduate or higher: 89.5%

School Districts: Emerson-Hubbard Public Schools, Homer Community Schools, Pender Public Schools, Umo N Ho N Nation Public Schools, Wakefield Public Schools, Walthill Public Schools, Winnebago Public Schools

Bachelor's degree or higher: 18.9%

Community College Service Area: Northeast Community College

Countywide child care capacity: 9 providers; 437 children

Find child care: For a list of child care providers in your zip code, visit Nebraska DHHS or the Nebraska Resource and Referral System.

Thurston County Economy

Annual Gross Domestic Product (2020): $439,321,000

Cattle Producers: 69

  • Pastureland Cash Rent (avg.): $66/acre

Crop Producers: 48

  • Dryland Cash Rent (avg.): $246/acre
  • Irrigated Land Cash Rent (avg.): $288/acre

Dairy Producers: 1

Local Grain Market: Click for today's grain prices in Thurston County

Electricity Providers: Burt County PPD, City of Emerson, City of Pender, Cuming County PPD, Nebraska PPD, Northeast Power, Village of Walthill

Rail-served Communities: Rosalie, Walthill, Winnebago

Well Locations (Irrigation/Livestock), Soils, Groundwater & Surface Water

Total Irrigation/Livestock Wells: 154

Surface Water Diversions (Irrigation): 13

Click for real time:

Streamflow data on South Omaha Creek at Walthill

Sources: National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA), Nebraska Cooperative Council, Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary EducationNebraska Department of TransportationNebraska Office of the CIO, Nebraska Power Review Board, U.S. Bureau of Economic AnalysisU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau

2022 Levies and Valuation

County levy rate: $0.4022 per $100 of taxable valuation

County property taxes levied: $4,144,858

Total local government property taxes levied: $16,533,461

Total countywide taxable valuation: $1,030,550,086

Federal PILT payment to Thurston County (FY2022): $1,304 regarding 444 federally-owned acres

Click here for all levy rates in Thurston County

County Levy and Taxation Laws

Levy limits

Since 1996, counties and other political subdivisions have been subject to the levy limits listed in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-3442 and Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-3443.

Statutes and regulations

Nebraska Revised Statutes (Chapter 77)

Nebraska Administrative Code (Title 350)

Local tax reductions, exemptions, and credits

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-902(5)(a) (Deed "stamp tax" exemption): "The [stamp tax] shall not apply to: ... (5)(a) Deeds between spouses, between ex-spouses for the purpose of conveying any rights to property acquired or held during the marriage, or between parent and child, without actual consideration therefor."

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-201(2) (Valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land): "Agricultural land and horticultural land as defined in section 77-1359 shall constitute a separate and distinct class of property for purposes of property taxation, shall be subject to taxation, unless expressly exempt from taxation, and shall be valued at seventy-five percent of its actual value, except that for school district taxes levied to pay the principal and interest on bonds that are approved by a vote of the people on or after January 1, 2022, such land shall be valued at fifty percent of its actual value."

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 77-6703(1) (Tax credit for school district taxes paid): "(1) For taxable years beginning or deemed to begin on or after January 1, 2020, under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, there shall be allowed to each eligible taxpayer a refundable credit against the income tax imposed by the Nebraska Revenue Act of 1967 or against the franchise tax imposed by sections 77-3801 to 77-3807. The credit shall be equal to the credit percentage for the taxable year, as set by the department under subsection (2) of this section, multiplied by the amount of school district taxes paid by the eligible taxpayer during such taxable year."

Sources: Nebraska Department of Revenue

State Senator: Joni Albrecht (District 17)

Standing Committees (click for scheduled committee hearings): 

Select Committees:

  • Committee on Committees (chairperson)

Special Committees: 

  • State-Tribal Relations

Map and statistics for Legislative District 17

Map of all districts in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Thurston County History

Number of Registered Historic Places: 5

Year Authorized: 1889

Year Organized: 1889

Etymology: John Thurston (U.S. senator)

Almost a decade before Nebraska became a state, the federal government established a reservation for the Omaha Indian tribe in what today is Thurston County, as well as small portions of Dixon, Burt and Cuming Counties. Eventually the northern half of the reservation was purchased from the Omahas for use as a reservation for the Winnebago tribe. The two reservations are still in existence today and cover the entire Thurston County area.

The county's boundaries were established in 1855 by the Territorial Legislature. For a time the area was referred to as Blackbird County, in honor of Omaha Indian Chief Blackbird. When legislators attempted to formally name the county Blackbird in 1887, Gov. John Thayer vetoed the proposal. Two years later the Legislature adopted an act establishing the county's present boundaries and officially naming it after U.S. Sen. John M. Thurston of Nebraska.

There is an interesting footnote regarding Chief Blackbird. One of his favorite campsites was located on a hill overlooking the Missouri River. According to Indian legend, when Chief Blackbird died his followers seated him on his horse and buried him at this site.

Federal government officials opened a portion of the Omaha Reservation to white settlers in 1884. The following year the area's first village was established. Buildings from the hamlet of Athens were moved to what is now Pender, the county seat, about two miles to the northwest.

With the passage of the railroads through Thurston County in the early 1900s, additional communities began to be established. One of those communities is Emerson, located in the far northwest corner of the county. Emerson is unique in that it is actually Nebraska's only tri-county community, with sections actually platted in Thurston, Dixon and Dakota counties. Visitors who attempt to locate the exact spot where than can stand and be in all three counties have a difficult time, however, since it is located on Main Street, which is also a state highway.

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Local Highlights

License Plate Number: 55

Time Zone: Central

Zoned County: Yes

Number of Veterans: 329

Election Data

General Election Turnout (2022): 31.64%

Total Registered Voters (2020): 4,448

Number of Precincts (2020): 9

Number of Election Day Polling Places (2020): 8

Land Area per Polling Place (avg.) (2020): 49.20 sq. miles

Intergovernmental Data

Emergency Mgt. Planning, Exercise and Training (PET) Region: Northeast

Natural Resource Districts: Lower Elkhorn NRD, Papio-Missouri River NRD

Number of County-Owned Bridges: 113

Sources: Nebraska Department of Transportation, Nebraska Emergency Management AgencyNebraska Game & Parks CommissionNebraska LegislatureNebraska Office of the CIONebraska Secretary of StateU.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (eCFR)