The area known as Cuming County had people living in it nearly a thousand years before Christopher Columbus discovered America. Archaeologists discovered remnants of nomads who roamed the land way back in 6,471 B.C. These early inhabitants were followed by the pottery makers who occupied the plains about 500 A.D. and after. Much later came the Indians, with the Omaha Tribe well-acquainted with the Elkhorn River Valley.
In 1851, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed by President Franklin Pierce, opening up the Nebraska Territory. Prior to 1855, Thomas B. Cuming took over as acting governor of the new territory for Francis Burt, who passed away. Cuming County boundary lines had been established by an act of the territorial legislature and approved in March 1855.
The Benjamin B. Moore family left their claim at Dead Timber in Dodge County and settled at what was known as DeWitt, the first white settlement in Cuming County. Around a dozen others soon followed, but all left the area shortly after. The entire countryside and west of Cuming County was prairie and bare of timber. It was considered at the time a hazard to settle on prairie, away from timber that was necessary for building homes, cattle sheds and for fuel.
The current county seat of West Point (originally named New Philadelphia) was established in 1857. It was so named West Point because, when it originated, it was the most westerly point of settlement in the Elkhorn River Valley.
The contentment of the early settlers was short-lived as the Pawnee Indians made a raid on the settlement under their chief Petaleshara. One written collection of the time estimated the number of Pawnee moving up the river valley to be around 4,000. They appeared in half-starved condition. Following several incidences, and a retreating by the early settlers to Fontenelle, a party was later organized to travel back to DeWitt and see what the Pawnee were up to.
Soon after, martial law was declared and General Thayer was in immediate command of the militia. The expedition of 200 men and a Howitzer cannon overtook the Pawnee near where the town of Battle Creek is now located in Madison County. The Pawnee were soon attacked in their own camp and, rather than fight back because they knew “the great Father in Washington would just send more white men,” council was called and the Pawnee agreed to pay all damages and surrender its ringleaders to the expedition. The acts of the Pawnee frightened away many settlers. The depopulation of the county was seen when a census was taken in the summer of 1860 and only five legal voters were enrolled.
The first land patent was issued to Patrick Murray in 1860. J.C. Crawford was given the first recorded bill of sale in June of 1862 and Benjamin Moore made the first homestead entry in February of 1863. The first business in the county was a general store opened in West Point in 1865.
The first lawsuit commenced in 1866 to recover $20 and costs for a malicious killing of a dog. The defendant in the case, however, was overtaken in a drifting, blinding snowstorm and perished before judgment could be made.
Among the other firsts were the first hotel, “The West Point House,” opening in 1867; the first warrantee of deed given by Matthias Schumacher to Catherine B. Neligh in 1867; and the first church building erected by the Catholics in the St. Charles precinct in 1867.