Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Morrill County, Nebraska, Indian Battles pt ll

With the Indians returning to their camp, the beleaguered men at Mud Springs welcomed a night of sleep, however restless it was. In the meantime a detachment of 145 soldiers, after marching almost non-stop from Fort Laramie, in Wyoming, neared Mud Springs.

When the soldiers arrived, early the next morning, they collapsed in exhaustion, but awoke a few hours later to the war hoops of 500-1000 warriors, who returned to the stage-station ready for battle. The warriors saw more horses in the corral, crept within bow and arrow range, and began to shower volley after volley of arrows into the corral, which a few soldiers guarded. The volley’s killed and wounded a few horses, along with wounding one soldier.

Nevertheless, buoyed by the extra troops that brought their number to 170, a number of soldiers firing rifles attacked the Indians, who had only bow and arrows. A few rifle rounds into their midst and they returned to the main body of warriors. As the soldiers braced for an onslaught, the Indians had other thoughts and again returned to their camp. By their actions they seemed to say the small force at Mud Springs didn’t bother them. They felt they could return and finish them off, anytime.

Excited the Indians left, and the news 50 more reinforcements were on the way, the troops at Mud Springs planned their next move. They decided to pursue the Indians and surprise them, rather than wait for another attack on Mud Springs. When the additional 50 men arrived, 185 soldiers left the stage station to track the Indians, while 35 remained.

The soldiers tracked the Indians to their campsite and found it large enough for 4000 to 5000 men, women, and children, but abandoned. They continued to follow the Indians trail to Rush Creek, which is about 4 miles southeast of today’s Broadwater.

There, the 185 Army soldiers faced off against about 1000 warriors. The troops circled the wagons, while the Indians split up and approached them from two directions. A long-distance engagement of sniping began because the soldiers had a howitzer, which the last group brought to Mud Springs, and kept the Indians at bay. The barrage continued for several hours, until the Indians retreated.

The next morning, though, they returned and the long-distance sniping resumed, along with the howitzer as the enforcer. After another several hours of sniping, the Indians left a few warriors to keep the soldiers pinned down, while the rest helped break camp and the entourage headed north towards the sand hills.

When the remaining Indians left, the soldiers chose to head back to Mud Springs and to their respective forts, rather than follow the Indians. The Indians managed to cross the sand hills, in the dead of winter, and into today’s South Dakota.

Thus, the conflict at Mud Springs and Rush Creek, in today’s Morrill County, ended.







Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chronicle of Morrill County, Nebraska

In December of 1812, Christmas Day dawned bleak and blustery for Robert Stuart and his six traveling companions. The seven men, who worked for a fur trading company, sought a more efficient route through the center of the United States. A new route would facilitate fur trading with the Indians, speed delivery of supplies to outposts on the frontier, and improve efficiency in marketing furs to the eastern United States. Stuart, a disciplined man, wrote a descriptive journal their travels, which gives a firsthand account of early events in this area that led to the formation of Morrill County.  

On the way back to St. Louis, after months of exploring western United States, the hardened wayfarers traveled through the territory that would become Wyoming and Nebraska. Presumed the first white men to explore this region, Stuart and his group chose to follow the great wide river, which is now known as the Platte. However, they would not find it an easy route to traverse, especially during the winter. They struggled through craggy, snow covered terrain that physically wore them down, while the brutally cold weather and blizzards callously broke their countenance.  

On Christmas Eve they camped between Bayard and Bridgeport, in what would be part of Morrill County. When they awoke Christmas morning, exhaustion hovered over their camp, like a descending fog, while their last horse showed signs of stress. Hurriedly, they held a short, but animated, meeting, and the group elected to go back west to the vicinity of present day Torrington, Wyoming, where they camped three days before. They knew, if they arrived alive, the cottonwood copse they camped in would shelter them from the elements. In addition, they knew the wilderness surrounding the area had an abundant supply of wildlife that would feed them until spring, when they could resume their return trip to St. Louis.

They made it back to their previous campsite and built a makeshift shelter of downed branches, which became home until spring. While there, with ferocious winter weather clamoring about them, they discussed the river route they chose to follow. Everyone agreed this route provided a shorter and more convenient itinerary, for their trapping operations.



Chronicle of Morrill County, Nebraska pt 2

After spending the winter in the Torrington, Wyoming area, Robert Stuart and his fellow trappers returned to St. Louis, Missouri, on a new and shorter route. This provided faster service, for both fur retailers and their customer’s, and an earlier payday for trappers. However, they had no idea that in a little over twenty years the route would become the Oregon Trail, in which over 400,000 settlers would travel through the Morrill County territory, on their way to California and Oregon.

Initially, not many trappers used the new route because it was too rugged for a covered wagon, and the route became a second thought. As the trapping industry grew, though, trappers rerouted some of the trail, in order to accommodate a covered wagon. With the trail able to accommodate wagons, it became a trapper’s main route to and from the west, until the 1840’s when trapping lost its luster.  

In 1830 a two-wheeled wagon carried a small cannon through the Morrill County region, which was the first vehicle on wheels to travel through this area. Then, in 1836, Mrs. Marcus Whitman and Mrs. Spaulding, who were wives of missionaries going to Oregon, became the first white women to travel through the territory that is now Morrill County.   

In the 1820’s and 1830’s, because of its lack of water, the Federal Government dubbed western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming the “Great American Desert,” and for the most part it remained unsettled. In fact, from 1840 to 1846, despite settlers traveling through the territory, the Federal Government forbade homesteading in the region. Nonetheless, with pressure from the ongoing exodus to the west, the government rescinded the no-homesteading ban for the Great American Desert.

With or without a no-homesteading ban, those traveling the Great American Desert encountered rugged territory. As a result, unmarked graves of those who succumbed to hardships still lay undetected, along the route the Oregon Trail traversed.  

As more hardy souls made the Great American Desert their home, civilization began to infiltrate the area. First, a type of mail service appeared that wasn’t either fast or regular, but it did deliver mail. The service used either Pack trains, which were horses or mules attached by ropes, or wagons to carry the mail to delivery stations.

Following that, for 16 months, the Pony Express delivered mail, until the transcontinental telegraph system reigned supreme. An office at Mud Springs, in Morrill County, served as a delivery station for all three mail services.

Because durability was a prerequisite to settle this region, many did not survive. Therefore, by the late 1800’s, just a few owned most of the land that would become Morrill County. Some of the more familiar large ranch owners were Adams, King, Reddington, Sheedy, and Hart, among others.

Then, the discovery of gold in the Black Hills brought more people through this region, which called for the territory to feature more conveniences and culture.







Chronicle of Morrill County, Nebraska pt 3

In 1874, around Custer, South Dakota, General George Custer and a military expedition he led discovered gold. However, the Sioux Indians had privy to that area, through a treaty with the United States Government. Nevertheless, when news of gold leaked out, the area became overrun with gold-seekers, while the Army did nothing to stop it. This led to a Sioux Indian uprising, during which General Custer and his troops lost their lives, at the infamous battle at Little Big Horn.

In 1875 the discovery of a larger vein of gold found in Deadwood, South Dakota, led to a greater influx of gold-seekers into the Black Hills. As a result, although 250 miles from Deadwood, Sidney, Nebraska became the place gold-rushers would forsake the railroad and head north on horseback, covered wagons, or on foot. The trail took them through the middle of what is now Morrill County.  

Taking advantage of the gold-rush, industrious entrepreneurs opened supply stations along the trail for the hordes of people heading north. Along the trail, through today’s Morrill County, supply stations were found at Greenwood, Pumpkin Creek, in the Courthouse Rock area, and west of Angora and Bridgeport.

In addition the construction of two toll bridges across the Platte River occurred, one west of Bridgeport, at a place called Clark’s, and another built later closer to Bridgeport.

When, for the majority of people, the gold rush turned into a fool’s rush, some of the disappointed homesteaded in the Morrill County area, rather than return to the east. Then, too, some who arrived in Sidney from the eastern states decided not to seek their fortune to the north, but instead homesteaded in the area. This trend, though, signaled the end of the big ranch era, because homesteaders laid claim to the meadows and land next to streams of water. This heretofore unclaimed land is what the big ranchers used to water and feed their livestock.

Moreover, the homesteaders were frugal farmers and managed to survive. In fact the majority of them survived the droughts of the 1890s, and some even dug irrigation canals during that time. Some of those canals remain today, such as the Alliance, Belmont, Browns Creek, and Chimney Rock canals.

In this burgeoning area, the Burlington Railroad became the first to lay tracks, with a route from Alliance to Guernsey, Wyoming. The towns of Angora, Banner, Bayard, Northport, and Vance sprang up alongside these tracks, while just outside the west boundary of now Morrill County Minatare established itself as a track-town.

After the Burlington completed the route to Guernsey, construction crews returned to Northport to begin laying tracks south to Brush, Colorado. Because of the population railroad construction brought in, Bridgeport became an established town, in 1900.

Seven years later the Union Pacific entered the picture laying tracks from North Platte to Gering. These tracks crossed Morrill County territory north of Bridgeport, through Broadwater and North Port.

In 1904 the Kinkaid Homestead Act became law, which gave 640 acres of land to those who would homestead their claim. The population of Morrill County territory grew and prospered, until the coming droughts and depression of the 1930s caused the financial ruin of many.

In 1907 citizens in the north section of Cheyenne County requested county commissioners divide the county in half. The request went to citizens of Cheyenne County for a vote, and it handily won. In 1909, Morrill County, named after Charles R. Morrill the president of Lincoln Land Company, with Bridgeport as its county seat, became a reality.

Morrill County is ideal for farming and ranching. The land on both sides of the Platte River produces abundant crops of potatoes, small grains, and corn. In the northern part of the county, in times of no drought, the sand hills provide abundant grass, which is excellent for raising cattle. The parts of the county that irrigate grow commodities, such as alfalfa and sugar beans.

Now, as over a century ago, for the hale and hearty that make the most of what they have, Morrill County living is exceptional.  

History of Morrill County, Nebraska:  http//,_Nebraska









Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Balance of Life

Pulled by six plodding oxen, a Conestoga wagon travels through God’s creation. Life, the wagons only passenger, grasps the reins of good intentions and struggles to keep the oxen on the straight and narrow, while they trek toward the golden-gates of Paradise.

Yet, Life’s good intentions pale in contrast to the baggage stored in every niche and nook inside the Conestoga, which weigh it down and impedes progress. Also, because of the precarious balance of the stacked baggage, whenever a wagon wheel slips into a rut it disrupts this pseudo-balance and threatens to topple it, which would engulf Life. However, the canvas covering the wagon restrains the baggage, and the wagon continues its perpetual journey.

On the route, Life must sometimes maneuver the oxen around the wreckage of a buckboard, which encountered one of the storms that rage through the roadway. The deep tracks behind the devastation testify that a struggle ensued between the storm and the buckboards collective unit. Unfortunately, the remains affirm the tempest powered the buckboard off the road, thus ending its pilgrimage. The outward slant of its wheels show the weight of the baggage it carried contributed to its collapse.


In contrast trust and faith illume this Conestoga’s pathway, as the map Life uses never digresses. The spiritually-lighted corridor never changes; its diagram plain and simple. It includes no frills of false advertising to confuse its solitary purpose; to guide the way to Paradise.

The wreckage, though, reminds Life of his own vulnerability. So, for assurance, he reminds himself what the diagram of the path to Paradise decrees to him, which is in his heart for moments like this:

Two-thousand years ago the circuit to Paradise received power from a God-man on a cross at Calvary. On that cross, the man Jesus, the Son of God, declared victory when He said, “It is finished,” Jn. 19:30, as His chin rested on His chest, in death. However, three days later, on the “first day of the week,” Matt. 28: 1-8, Jesus conquered death, by rising from the dead. His resurrection completed His directory to Paradise.     

Life recalled the simplicity of His guide, which is love and obedience. Jesus says His yoke is easy, Matt. 11:30 and bears that out with an absolute two-part commandment: … “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 29-31

Life shudders, and turns and glances at the bags of failures his Conestoga carries. “What if they should fall?” However, like a blanket from heaven security covers that thought, as Life looks in assurance at the canvas surrounding the Conestoga. Like the canvas over Life’s Conestoga, Jesus Christ is the covering that balances life.

The desolate buckboard on the road had no such covering,  

Scripture is from the NKJV



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mothers Evolve into Grandmothers

The mother of my children cut her motherhood molars by devoting herself to five children and loving it; most of the time. Were there bad experiences, of course? Were there the proverbial, “Wait until your father gets home,” of course? However, watching the way her daughters now raise their children, I’d say she had a positive influence on our offspring.

I believe the reason for her successful reign as Mother is the word love, which is more complex than most other four-letter words. To her, the children she bore were gifts from God for her to love, which meant to nurture and treasure. That she did.

When our children were young, my job required I travel, and two or three nights of most weeks she became both mother and father. During my absence, she filled the solitude with her children. She read to them. She read about princes and princesses, horses that flew, and frogs that talked. In addition, a little engine that thought he could became a storybook fixture.

They played board games, card games, and had slumber parties, which ended when all six of them crashed in one bed. Above and beyond the fun, though, through this interaction they learned about each other; often outside their normal roles. Moreover, the process prepared them to know they could lean on each other, when life dealt unforeseen and undeserved blows. It also prepared Mother, for her future role as Grandmother.

As Grandmother, she has the opportunity to kindle the interest of another generation to princes and princesses, along with horses and frogs with extraordinary talents, and a little engine that after all these years still thinks he can.

Equally important, Grandmother can relate to her children as adults. The experience and knowledge she gained from putting forth the effort to learn about them broadened their relationship, and she can bestow advice in ways they understand. She remembers how, as their mother, she encouraged them when they learned there are no knights in shining armor or pumpkins that become a princesses’ chariot. When they understood that horses can’t fly, and frogs only croak.

Thus, in God’s sovereignty, in the form of Grandmother, He provides a pillow to soften the blow when something, or someone, in their children’s lives falls off a white stallion.   





The Founding of Bayard, Ne.

The founding of Bayard, Nebraska occurred in July 1988, which is noteworthy. However, the caliber of people that founded Bayard, and other western Nebraska locations, may be more newsworthy than the fact the locations exist.

In 1872, when describing western Nebraska, the chief of the United States Geological Survey, Ferdinand V. Hayden, said, “The occupation of the area would be indefinitely postponed because of insufficient rainfall, a lack of building material, the scarcity of fuel, and an insufficient number of streams to provide water for livestock.” On the other hand, though, as early as 1813 trappers and explorers recognized the North Platte River as a natural thoroughfare to the west coast.

The summations of Mr. Hayden and the trappers and explorers both contain elements of truth because, between about 1840 and 1866, over 500,000 people headed west and traveled through western Nebraska. Like tsunamis, these waves of people included emigrants to Oregon, the Mormon’s to Utah, and the Gold Rushers to California. They walked, were pulled in carts, bounced along in covered wagons, and rode on horseback, as they passed through. However, that’s all they did; pass through and continue west.

After the mass migration west, the only permanent residents left in the “Great American Desert,” which was the pioneer’s condescending description of western Nebraska, were the loved ones they buried in the forsaken, virgin, soil.

Nonetheless, as the migration west slowed the idea of a railroad connecting the east and west coasts became the topic of discussion. In 1867, the year Nebraska became a state, railroad workers laid the tracks for future trains, in Sidney, Nebraska. The “Great American Desert”, only a two day horseback ride away from the hubbub of activity surrounding Sidney, became but an inspiration away from being explored and settled. Still, that inspiration was 20 years away from fruition.

 Then, about 1865, homesteaders began to infiltrate and investigate the area surrounding the North Platte thoroughfare. Unfortunately, though, most were unaware of the difference in climate and land structure they would encounter from eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas and Missouri. Because of what they found many returned to the familiarity of those areas, but those that remained were a special breed; known for their independence, hardiness, and well-honed survival instincts.

Like Chimney Rock, which became the most recognized landmark on the North Platte thoroughfare, would look out of place elsewhere, so would those who homesteaded western Nebraska. Howbeit, like Chimney Rock, they belonged in western Nebraska and stayed. Some became a little tattered and worn from battling against nature, but they stayed. They became symbols and markers that it could be done.

Information garnered from Leon A. Moomaw: Pioneering in the Shadow of Chimney Rock