Nance County is a rural, agricultural community whose primary economic activities include row crop farming and livestock feeding operations, large and small. In addition to the ag economy, the tier-one economic drivers in the county are the two public schools systems, the nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Genoa Medical Facilities, and Preferred Sands, which is a large sand refinement operation located approximately midway between Fullerton and Genoa.
Nance County was fortunate to escape much of the national pain of the past decade derived from the recession, rising unemployment, and the housing crisis. That said, county leadership recognized that our three communities (Fullerton, Genoa, and Belgrade) would have to pull together to combat the problems typical of small, rural communities, problems such as population decline, housing shortages among certain demographics, the loss of our best and brightest to metropolitan areas, struggling retailers, and the need for business succession planning and transfer of wealth programs. To that end, the Nance County Development Agency was established in 2009.
Nance County has a total area of 448 square miles of which 441 square miles is land and 7 square miles is water. There are 10 creeks and 2 rivers in the county. Approximately 740 acres of the county are a part of the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program. Roughly 77,000 acres are irrigated land, 70,000 acres are dryland, and 114,000 acres are grass land.
The 2020 Census identifies Nance County as having a population of 3,380.
For more information, view the Nance County Census Data.
Nance County is governed by a seven-member Board of Supervisors. Other elected officials are represented in the Clerk’s office, the Treasurer’s office, the Assessor’s office, the County Attorney’s office, and at the Sheriff’s Department. Appointed officials are represented in the Highway Superintendent’s office, the Extension office, the Weed Superintendent’s office, the Emergency Management office, the Veteran’s Services office, and the Planning & Zoning office.
Nance County, formerly a Pawnee Indian Reservation, was designated a county by Nebraska governor Albinus Nance in 1879. Within one year’s time, the county seat of Fullerton and the surrounding area were experiencing a boom, in spite of a Congressional Bill stipulating that the former reservation lands should be sold for the benefit of the Pawnee – making “Nance County … unique in that almost no homesteading was to take place here. All land had to be purchased by settlers or by investors for resale.” (Fullerton’s First 100 Years, p. 6).
For many years the Pawnee nation lived at peace on the rolling prairie lands along the Loup River. The Pawnee sustained themselves by raising crops and hunting wild game that thrived in the area. In time, this area was designated as a Pawnee Reservation.
The first white settlers to come to this area were a group of Mormons led by Henry James Hudson in 1855. One hundred families established a colony on the site that today is Genoa. The colony prospered, but in 1860 the Pawnee claimed the territory as part of their reservation. The Mormons attempted to stay on the land, but the danger resulting from conflicts between the Pawnee and Sioux tribes forced them to move on in 1864.
Twelve years later Randall Fuller came through the area with a cattle herd on his way to the Black Hills. By this time the reservation land was being parceled off and Fuller bought two sections. He laid out the town site of Fullerton, today the county seat.
When the county was organized and its boundaries defined in 1879, it was named in honor of Albinus Nance, who was governor at the time. In his proclamation, Nance, who was a mere 30 years old, selected Fullerton as the temporary county seat until an election could be held. At the time, Fullerton, which was located in the fertile valley between the Loup and Ceder Rivers, consisted only of rows of stakes marking the town site. Fuller pledged six acres of land to the county in exchange for it being named the county seat.
When the county was organized, it sold the lots to build the first courthouse. Two years later, Fuller donated 10 acres to Nebraska Wesleyan University when it relocated from Osceola to Fullerton. The university operated in Fullerton for several years before moving to Lincoln in order to be closer to the center of the state’s population.
In a special election in 1894, voters approved a $17,000 bond issue to build a new courthouse. Within a year, the Board of Supervisors met in the building for the first time. This building served county residents until the present $440,000 courthouse was built in the 1970s.