Gage County is said to have had the country's first homestead entered under the U.S. Homestead Act of 1862. According to historical records, Daniel Freeman's claim was recorded on Jan. 1, 1863, the day the act became effective. Freeman's claim, which was located along Cub Creek about four miles west of Beatrice, was recorded as claim 1 on page 1 in volume 1 of the records of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C.
Some have disputed that Freeman could have filed the nation's first claim as there were more than 100 land districts that were opened simultaneously throughout the country. But to this day the honor remains with Freeman and the county in which he homesteaded.
Gage County was established by the Territorial Legislature on March 15, 1855. It was named in honor of William D. Gage, a Methodist minister who served as chaplain of the Legislature at the time the county was established. In addition to having the county named after him, Gage was appointed as one of the commissioners who would be responsible for locating the county seat.
The county would be officially organized in 1857. Within a year the townsite of Beatrice was incorporated in the center of the county and in 1859 it was confirmed as the county seat.
The county's first courthouse was built in 1870, but within 15 years the building had become too dangerous and county offices were moved to a nearby bank building. In 1891 the present Richardsonian Romanesque courthouse was built. Its grand design, once lauded by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was destined to become a landmark. In 1960, however, that nearly changed when a fire destroyed much of the building's interior. Voters rejected a proposal to build a new courthouse. Rather, they favored restoring the 69-year-old building. It turned out to be a wise decision, as the restored building was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The following year the 100th anniversary of the courthouse was commemorated with a rededication ceremony.