Cities, Towns, Villages
Champion; Enders; Imperial; Lamar; Wauneta
It was once said that excluding ranch owners, their wives and their cooks, at the time Chase County was organized in 1886 it was populated entirely by cowboys. Part of the reason for such a statement may have been the fact that at one time the Frenchman River, which traverses the county, was used as a watering stop for cattle drives that traveled from Texas to Ogallala.
But being situated on the broad, fertile plateau once referred to as the "Great American Desert," early settlers quickly discovered Chase County's dark sandy loam soil was excellent for farming. Today, records indicate that more than 30 percent of the county's 576,000 acres are irrigated. Another 25 percent are involved in dryland crop operations. The remaining acres are range land. Wheat, corn, beans and beets are today the principal crops, with livestock production being of equal importance to the county's economy.
The organization of Chase County began in 1886, but it was not until Feb. 27, 1873 that the county boundaries were officially established by the Legislature. Previous to that, Chase and Hayes County were one. The county was named after Champion S. Chase, who served as mayor of Omaha for seven years and was Nebraska's first Attorney General.
A Canadian emigrant, Thomas Mercier, settled on the site that would eventually become the county seat. It is said that Mercier laid out the town and gave it its name, presumably after the British Imperial government.
Several towns within the county competed to become the county seat. It took three elections before any town received a majority of the votes. That town was Imperial and in 1889 the first courthouse was built. For more than 20 years the courthouse was the social center of the community. The building was home to church services, school programs and social balls, in addition to housing the local government offices. But in 1910 the building was destroyed by fire. The following year a new brick and cement courthouse replaced it. That building is still in use today.