Another nice article from Mary Penner, County histories offer genealogical gems, in the The Albuquerque Tribune (NM). She gives a nice summary of what you can find, and some of the story behind these histories:
County histories, along with a renewed interest in genealogy, flourished around the time of the American centennial in 1876. Nostalgic Americans were eager to preserve their heritage.
Local historical societies or organizations have published some county histories, but many from the 1800s and early 20th century were actually commercial undertakings. Publishers cashed in on the people’s desire to preserve themselves for posterity.
Most county histories have two basic parts: a section focusing on the general history of the county, and a section devoted to biographies of citizens.
I have come across some county histories from the 1870s and it didn’t click that they were written around the American centennial – more and more I’ve gotten into this mindset of “1876, that’s when such and such moved from Arkansas to Texas and such and such married such and such” rather than “1876, that’s the centennial”. I don’t know if that’s from being into genealogy too much, or just remembering too much, or what.