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Columbus is the county seat of Platte County, Nebraska. During the 18th century, the area around the confluence of the Platte and Loup rivers was inhabited by the Pawnee, Otoe, Ponca, and Omaha tribes. During the 19th century, the Great Platte River Road came through the area from Fort Kearny to Fort Laramie, becoming a principal route for westward expansion. Columbus was formed by the Columbus Town Company in 1856, and named for the city in Ohio where many of its early settlers were from. Meanwhile, the townsite of Pawnee was laid out just west of the Columbus site, formed by the Elk Horn and Loup Fork Bridge and Ferry Company, comprised of two companies which had merged in 1856. Columbus was incorporated as a town in 1858, becoming the county seat shortly afterwards. The Pawnee group failed to operate a ferry across the Loup River, so a ferry was installed at the Columbus location instead. Following the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 stirred growth in the community, and the ferry was replaced by a pontoon bridge that operated only in the summer months. Further growth came when the railroad reached the area, and a permanent bridge was constructed.

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