Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nebraska's Fort Kearny

It’s time for another history lesson about our fine State. I’m going to delve into the history of Ft. Kearny, in Kearney, Ne.
Ft. Kearny was named after Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, of the U.S. Army, and there have been two Ft. Kearny’s in Nebraska.
Ft. Kearny was conceived because protection was needed for settlers heading west, between 1843 and 1868. The vast majority of these settlers either traveled the Morman Trail, which entered Nebraska through Omaha, or the Oregon Trail, which entered Nebraska from the south, thru Jefferson County, and went northwest. The two trails met in what is today Kearney and went west following the North and South Platte Rivers.
Colonel Kearny scouted eastern Nebraska and decided the area around what is today Nebraska City would be the place to build the fort.
The Army began building in 1846, using soldiers from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and only a two story blockhouse had been built when they realized they were not building in an area to protect the most settlers. So, after a few more huts were built to house Army troops who were to winter there in 1847-1848, construction was discontinued. Before they left the blockhouse and huts were christened Ft. Kearny, in honor of Colonel Kearney.
In 1847 Colonel Kearny sent Lt. Daniel Woodbury west along the Platte River to find a better place to build the fort. Lt. Woodbury recommended the place where the Morman and OregonTrails intersected, today’s Kearney, and received permission to build there. The175 men at the Nebraska City site were transferred to the new site to build the fort.
The completed fort consisted of wooden buildings built next to the parade grounds, and cottonwood trees planted along its perimeter. It was originally called Fort Childs, after a well known soldier from the Mexican-American war, but the War Department later ordered the named changed to Fort Kearny, after the other Fort Kearny was disbanded.
The city of Kearney is named after the fort. The spelling was supposed to be Kearny, but a writing error included the extra ‘e’, and it was left that way.
Fort Kearny became a well known stop for pioneers headed west. It’s recorded that 4000 wagons stopped at the fort in the first half of 1849. The fort sold goods to pioneers at cost, and in the case of severe hardship would give the goods away. Then, in 1850 as the area around the fort became populated, the Pony Express began delivering mail there once a month.
In 1864 the Indians began hostilities against both those who settled in the area and those traveling through. Soldiers, from the fort began traveling with the wagon trains for protection, and those who lived in the area would seek protection at the fort when attacks seemed imminent. By the end of 1865, though, the action had moved farther west, so, hostilities ceased.
In 1867 the railroad began construction, in Nebraska, and Fort Kearny no longer had travelers to protect, so, in 1871, it was abandoned. In 1875 its buildings were torn down, the barracks went to North Platte and Sidney and its stores went to Ft. McPhearson, outside of Maxwell, Ne. The troops were transferred to Omaha.
Several years later only the cottonwood trees and the earthwork fortifications built during the Indian hostilities, in 1864, remained.
In 1928 Nebraska citizens raised enough money to buy and restore 40 acres of the original forts land, and in 1929 the
State of Nebraska purchased the land from them. The area is now operated by the Fort Kearny State Historical Park, and is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
Archaeological evacuations have found and marked all important buildings on the site, including the main headquarters, officer and troop headquarters, parade grounds, storage and livestock stockade.
The park is open during the summer and has R.V. and trailer parking.

Ft. Kearny @

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