Cities, Towns, Villages
Ainsworth, Johnstown, Long Pine
It is quite possible that no one will ever know for exactly whom Brown County was named. What is known, however, is that the county was named in honor of two members of the Legislature who sponsored the bill to create the county. The first names of sponsors were not designated and during that session of 1883 there were five legislators whose last name was Brown. It has been noted that friends of each of the five men have claimed the county was named for his friend.
Considered part of the Sandhills, Brown County was at one time part of an area known as Sioux County. The only government for the region was administered from military posts. In 1876, Holt County was organized and for taxation purposes the area that would become Brown County was attached to it.
Early settlements of the mid-1870s were cattle ranches, stocked with Texas longhorns that had been driven over the old Chisholm Trail. Rich prairie grass, ample water and firewood, and sufficient shelter in the canyons made the area perfect for raising cattle herds. But the area had yet to be officially opened for settlement and these ranchers had no legal title to the land. The severe winter of 1880-1881 resulted in the starvation of scores of cattle herds and many of the ranchers were forced to abandon their dreams. This meant the land was open for settlement again.
Covered wagons and the westward advancement of the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad brought to the area new settlers, mainly farmers. Taking advantage of the area's 24-inch annual rainfall, these farmers produced carloads of wheat that in 1884 and 1888 were awarded prizes for being the best grades received by the Chicago Board of Trade.
Ainsworth was named the county seat in July 1883 election. The county's original courthouse was constructed in 1887 and used until it was destroyed by fire on Easter morning in 1958. County offices were temporarily housed in buildings along the main street of Ainsworth until February 1961 when the present courthouse was opened.