Antelope County is situated in the northeastern part of the State, in the fifth tier of counties from the eastern border of the State and in the second from the northern. It is bounded on the north by Knox County, on the east by Pierce and Madison, on the south by Boone and on the west by Wheeler and Holt Counties. It is twenty-four miles from east to west and thirty-six from north to south, containing twenty-four townships, 864 square miles, or 552,960 acres of
land. The 42d parallel of latitude very nearly coincides with the northern line of its southern tier of townships
The county is composed of valley and upland, the Elkhorn Valley traversing it in a northwesterly and southwesterly direction and comprising the larger portion of the county. South of this valley is a range of hills, embracing most of the land in the southern tier of townships, and to the north of it is another range of hills, constituting the divide between this valley and those of the Verdigris and Bazile Creeks. These two ranges of hills vary in height from
slight elevations to about 150 feet above the bottomlands of the Elkhorn Valley.
The valley of the Elkhorn itself is composed of "first" and "second" bottomlands. The first bottoms are small irregular tracts, contiguous to the riverbanks, and, in times of high water, subject to overflow. The second bottoms extend back from these to the foot of the hills on either side, at a distance varying from one to three miles, and at an average elevation of about twenty feet.
The uplands are themselves broken up by transverse ranges of hills and valleys, running nearly north and south, and drained by small creeks flowing for the most part into the Elkhorn. As a general thing these hill ranges are gently undulating and easy of ascent, but occasionally they are too steep and rough to admit of cultivation.
The immediate surface soil of three-quarters of the area of the county is a dark clay loam, the remaining one quarter varying from a rich, sandy loam to a worthless yellow sand. The bottomlands are alluvium and modified loess. The uplands are composed of loess and drift. The sandy portions are either drift or modified loess, but the drift is limited when compared with the loess, and makes very fertile land.
The soil of the hillsides average about eighteen inches in depth, and, on the bottom lands, from two and a half to three feet, though the subsoil, after exposure to frosts and atmospheric agencies, becomes pulverized and productive. There are exceptional places at the foot of steep hills, where the accumulation of vegetable mold has reached a depth of eight or ten feet.
Grasses. Prominent among the natural resources of the county must be mentioned its grasses. Of these there is practically an unlimited supply. The most valuable variety is "blue joint," which grows everywhere except on the first bottoms of the Elkhorn. Just as soon as prairie fires are prevented in the fall, and the grass allowed to stand through the winter, protecting the roots from exposure by preventing the soil from being blown away, a thick turf is formed;
excellent pasturage and heavy crops of nutritious hay result. Besides this, there are small quantities of red top and buffalo grass, and, on the bottoms, three or four varieties of coarse slough grass. There is also a species of wild oats growing on the uplands, which affords excellent pasturage early in the spring, and which is second only in value to the blue joint.
The timber found native in this county is principally cottonwood, ash and oak. Cottonwood is most abundant along the Elkhorn, and oak along the smaller streams. Other kinds of timber are the box elder, basswood, red and white elm and willow. There is plenty of wood in the western part of the county for fuel, though the eastern part is not so well supplied. There is but little brick clay in the county, and the brick made of it is not of the first quality, except
that found near Neligh, which is of excellent quality. Wild fruits abound in favorable seasons, the principal kinds being plums, grapes and gooseberries.
Streams and Water Supply
The main stream of the county is the Elkhorn, one of the most beautiful streams in the State. It enters the county from the west, thirteen miles from the northwest corner, and, after pursuing a tortuous course toward the southeast, leaves it ten miles from the southeast corner. Its average width is here about seventy-five feet; depth, eighteen inches; current, rapid; water, clear and pure; bottom, sandy; fall, about six feet to the mile. From the north it has
several tributaries, among them Reynolds, Belmer, Elwood and Hopkins Creeks. From the south seven creeks flow into it, Cedar Creek and Clear Water being the principal ones. The former derived its name from the existence of considerable quantities of cedar timber up its valley, from two to three miles above where Oakdale is located. Both streams have quite rapid currents and considerable volume, and furnish excellent milling facilities.
Springs of hard water are numerous in the creek valleys, and plenty of good well water is obtained by digging or boring on the bottom lands to a depth of from ten to twenty five feet, and on the uplands from sixty to one hundred and fifty feet, according to the elevation above the water level in the valleys.