NHT Auto Tour Guides

Nebraska and Colorado

brochure NHT Auto Tour Guides - Nebraska and Colorado

The National Historic Trail route from Nebraska through Northeastern Colorado. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

National Trails System National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior National Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska and Northeastern Colorado “Approaching Chimney Rock” By William Henry Jackson Chimney Rock, in western Nebraska, was one of the most notable landmarks recorded in emigrant diaries and journals. Photograph is courtesy of The Wagner Perspective. NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAILS AUTO TOUR ROUTE INTERPRETIVE GUIDE Nebraska and Northeastern Colorado Prepared by National Park Service National Trails System—Intermountain Region 324 South State Street, Suite 200 Box 30 Salt Lake City, Utah 84111 Telephone: 801-741-1012 www.nps.gov/cali www.nps.gov/oreg www.nps.gov/mopi www.nps.gov/poex NATIONAL PARK SERVICE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR August 2006 Contents Introduction • • • • • • • 1 The Great Platte River Road • • • • • • • From Path to Highway • • • • • • • “A Whiz and a Hail” — The Pony Express • • • • • A “Frayed Rope” • • • • • • • The Platte Experience • • • • • • • Natives and Newcomers: A Gathering Storm • • • • • • • War on the Oregon & California Trails • • • • • • • Corridor to Destiny • • • • • • • 2 4 8 11 15 18 21 24 SITES AND POINTS OF INTEREST • • • • • • • Auto Tour Segment A: Odell to Kearney • • • • • • • Auto Tour Segment B: Omaha-Central City-Kearney • • • • • • Auto Tour Segment C: Nebraska City-Central City-Kearney • • • • • • • Auto Tour Segment D: Kearney to Wyoming Border • • • • • • • 25 For More Information • • • • • • • 61 Regional Map • • • • • • • 26 35 41 43 inside the back cover Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska Introduction M any of the pioneer trails and other historic routes that are important in our nation’s past have been designated by Congress as National Historic Trails. While Auto Tour most of those old roads and routes are Route not open to motorized traffic, people can drive along modern highways that lie close to the original trails. Those modern roads are designated as Auto Tour Routes, and they are marked with highway signs and trail logos to help today’s travelers follow the trails used by the pioneers who helped to open a new nation. This interpretive publication guides visitors along the Auto Tour Routes for the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails as they approach and parallel the Platte River across Nebraska and cut across the northeastern corner of Colorado. Siteby-site driving directions are included, and an overview map is located inside the back cover. To make the tour more meaningful, this guide also provides an historical overview of the four trails, shares the thoughts and experiences of emigrants who followed those routes, and describes how the westward expansion impacted native peoples of the Great Plains. Individual Auto Tour Route interpretive guides such as this one are in preparation for each state through which the trails pass. In addition, individual National Park Service interpretive brochures for the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails are available at many trail-related venues, and can be requested from the National Trails System Office at 324 South State, Suite 200, Box 30, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111. These brochures provide more detailed information about each of the trails. Additional information on each trail also can be found on individual trail web sites. Links are listed on the title page of this guide. 1 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska The Great Platte River Road “Too thick to drink, too thin to plow, too pale to paint.” “A mile wide and an inch deep.” “A stream flowing upside down.” C overed wagon pioneers of the 19th century liked to joke about Nebraska’s Platte River, a stream unlike any they had known back East. But the Platte, strange as it looked, was no joke. A summer shower could send it raging over-bank and through camp; its soft quicksand bottom could swallow up an ox team. River crossings were ordeals to dread. The river’s setting, too, seemed strange. Surrounding prairie, frequently cleansed by wildfire, was burned bare of trees right up to the water’s edge, and a line of low sand hills, looking like a storm-wracked beach, rimmed much of the river valley. Yet the yellow Platte, that treeless “Coast of Nebraska,” was an emigrant’s lifeline—a water source that snaked 800 dusty miles between the Missouri River and the uplands of central Wyoming. Though a choked and sandy disappointment of a stream, the Platte always was and still is a natural east-west corridor across the central plains. Migrating game and moccasin-clad feet wore paths through the “Fort Kearny & the South Platte River” by William Henry Jackson. 2 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska valley thousands of years before any white man ventured there. Like those first travelers, covered wagon emigrants and their slow, plodding oxen found water, grass, and fuel along the river. They also found the valley floor to be fairly level and smooth, a fine setting for roads in the 21st century as well as the 19th. When you drive the riverside routes of today’s Highways 26, 30, and I-80 across Nebraska, you are following the footsteps of native explorers, hunters, traders, and fighters, and of mountain men, soldiers, and countless pioneers. This broad highway along the Platte River was known in the 19th century by a variety of names, depending on a traveler’s purpose and destination. Some native peoples called it the Great Medicine Road; other travelers called it the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Route or the California Road. But taken all together, the footpaths and wagon ruts that flanked the roiling, yellow Platte into Wyoming now have one name in common: The Great Platte River Road. [The Platte River] was fearful to look at, - rushing and boiling and yellow with mud, a mile wide, and in many places of unknown depth. The bed was of quicksand – this was the worst difficulty. — Margaret A. Frink, emigration of 1850 “Buffalo Stampede” along the South Platte River by William Henry Jackson. 3 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska From Path to Highway S upply caravans hauling supplies to the annual fur trappers’ Rendezvous began following Indian paths along the Platte River and into the Rocky Mountains in the 1820s. Their pack trains and wagons wore rough tracks, or “traces,” along both sides of the river across Nebraska and up the North Platte into Wyoming. In May 1840, as the profitable fur trade in beaver pelts drew to an end, emigrants Joel and Mary Walker took four children and two wagons to join up with the last supply caravan leaving Independence, Missouri, for the final “Trappers’ Rendezvous.” From the Rendezvous site in western Wyoming, the Walker family continued westward with, a group of missionaries and trappers, reaching Oregon’s Willamette Valley in mid-September. They were the first emigrant family to cross the continent on what would become the Oregon Trail, and their trek marks the beginning of the overland emigration era. In 1841, the first full wagon train of west bound settlers, known to history as the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, headed up the Platte. More wagons set out the following spring, and the next, and the next, gradually beating a well-defined wagon road along the south side of the river and into the Rockies. Maps of the emerging emigrant trails were published in 1843 and 1845 government reports prepared by explorer John C. Fremont, who was delighted to encounter pioneers using his work to guide them west. Fremont’s mapping expeditions for the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers made him a national hero, and the dashing young officer inspired many Americans to start across the Nebraska prairie. The neglected old teamsters’ trace along the Platte’s north bank was revived in 1847, when a purposeful party of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) began developing its own road, apart from the main Oregon and California migrations. Thus began a distinct and separate current of the westward overland movement along Nebraska’s Platte River. After years of conflict with anti-Mormons across several states, church leaders decided to move their people West to live and govern themselves according to their beliefs. Church President Brigham Young led the first phase of the Mormon emigration from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Winter Quarters (Omaha), Nebraska, in 1846. (The Nauvoo-to-Omaha trek is described in the Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide for the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail Across Iowa.) 4 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska Mud and hardship dogged the Latter-day Saints across Iowa in 1846, leaving them exhausted, sick, and hungry by the time they reached the Missouri River. Unable to go on, the Mormon pioneers built temporary shelters and settled in for the coming winter. At Winter Quarters and scattered settlements in Nebraska and across Iowa, more than 700 Mormon emigrants perished from exposure, malnutrition, and disease over the winter of 1846-47. During those brutal months, Brigham Young and his advisers prepared carefully for the final push over the Rocky Mountains, studying maps and reports and gathering equipment and supplies. Young left Winter Quarters in mid-April 1847 with a handpicked company of 143 young men, three women, and two children. For safety and efficiency, the group formed two large divisions, which were later divided into companies of fifty and ten. This well-disciplined lead party would trek across the prairie and through the mountains to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake to begin preparing a place for the thousands of faithful to follow during the coming summer. …we found that the River we had seen in the distance was none other than the celebrated “Platte,” the highway of our future journey, which caused joy & rejoicing in my Soul… —Thomas Bullock, 1847 Mormon emigration Keeping to the north side of the Platte River was key to Young’s emigration plan. The trail along the south bank would be easier and grass for the cattle seemed to grow thicker there, but the Mormon leader wanted to avoid further clashes with anti-Mormons who might be emigrating along the Oregon and California road. Young’s north-bank trail remained the primary route taken during the ongoing “Gathering of Zion” that spanned the next two decades, although many later Mormon parties did follow the Oregon-California Trail on the south side of the valley, instead. Despite a tense encounter with Omaha Indians, the loss of two horses to Pawnees, and a prairie fire that forced the travelers to seek safety on a Platte River island, the Nebraska leg of the 1847 Mormon journey went smoothly. Along the way, Young’s party improved the road, set up trail markers every 10 miles, built ferries, and measured and made notes of the route to aid those who would follow. When the first Mormon wagons arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 23, 1847, the tired travelers immediately began breaking ground to plant potatoes 5 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska and turnips. Over 2,000 Latter-day Saints were expected to arrive in the valley that summer. They would need food to survive the winter. In the spring of 1848, a third company of nearly 2,500 Mormon emigrants set out along the Mormon Trail across Nebraska and Wyoming to the settlement that would become Salt Lake City. Although the Mormons abandoned Winter Quarters at that time, later Mormon emigrants would continue to “jump off” at Missouri River crossings near today’s Council Bluffs/Omaha through early the 1870s. Brigham Young’s hope of keeping Mormon emigrants safely segregated from other travelers was soon disappointed, though. Discovery of gold in California in 1848 opened the floodgates of emigration the following spring, when tens of thousands of men and women, the “49ers,” rushed westward along both sides of the Platte River. …When we left the Missouri River we followed the Platte. And we killed rattle snakes by the cord in some places; and made roads and built bridges til our backs ached. —Church President Brigham Young, 1868 For an indefinite number of miles there seemed to be an unending stream of emigrant trains….It was a sight which, once seen, can never be forgotten; it seemed as if the whole family of man had set its face westward. — William G. Johnston, emigration of 1849 It was alarming to see the long strings of wagons that were on the road….It would appear from the sight befor us that the Nation was disgorgeing its self and sending off its whole inhabitance.— James Pritchard, emigration of 1849 6 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska G old-seekers swarmed the trailheads, or “jumping-off places,” in the spring of 1849. They competed in frenzy for oxen, gear, and supplies, and those without wagons or draft animals set out on horseback or on foot —some even pushing wheelbarrows—to find their fortunes in California. The 49ers stampeded up the trails, mobbed the established river fords and ferries, and crowded into trailside campgrounds. Their livestock stripped the corridor of grass, and starving oxen dropped dying in their yokes. Travelers abandoned dead animals, extra food, all sorts of belongings, and sometimes even their wagons, turning the Platte River Valley into a long, stinking junkyard. The trail also became a cemetery: cholera, a deadly intestinal disease spread by contaminated water, raced the 49ers up the Platte, taking hundreds, maybe thousands, of victims to their graves. Oh! The sacrifice of wagons, clothing, fire arms, beds, bedding, Buffalo skins, trunks, chests, harnesses, and in the loss of life. The road to gold is strewed with destruction, wretchedness and woe; and yet, thousands and tens of thousands follow on in the way with the hope of securing the wealth of this world. —Orson Hyde, Mormon emigration of 1850 Despite these troubles, some 25,000 Americans went West in 1849—more than the previous nine years combined! The next year, nearly 50,000 souls set feet and face toward the Pacific, lured by the hope of riches in California and the promise of prime farmland in Oregon. The flow of emigration peaked in 1852 when some 60,000 people hit the trails, and then continued in fits and starts—surging during economic hard times and during later Western gold and silver rushes, and dwindling when wars loomed. The one-time Indian footpath had become a permanent highway, with the Platte River for a centerline. The trail was nearly a quarter of a mile wide- that is, a row of wagons fifteen-hundred feet across, and extending in front and to the rear, as far as we could see…a vast sea of white flapping wagon covers, and a seething mass of plodding animals.—John K. Stockton, emigration of 1852 7 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska “A Whiz and a Hail” — The Pony Express A dding another strand to the twisted braid of trail along the Platte was a crack team of young saddle-toughs who carried mail across the continent for the Pony Express. The Pony Express was a cross-country relay of horses and riders carrying letters and dispatches in both directions between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. In those pre-telephone, pretelegraph days, news going to California via regular mail could take up to six months to arrive. For a premium fee (about $85 per half-ounce in today’s money), “the Pony” could deliver that letter in ten to sixteen days, depending on weather conditions. This was a private business venture launched in 1860 by partners William Russell, William Waddell, and Alexander Majors, who together also ran a freighting operation out of Nebraska City. Hoping for a profitable federal mail-delivery contract, the partners established a string of stations across the West, stocked them with fast, hardy horses, and hired around eighty skilled riders to relay the mail between stations. Each rider would carry the mail pouch (called a mochilla) along his leg of the route, thrilling emigrants and stagecoach passengers with a “whiz and a hail” as he galloped past them. Driving slow oxen seemed pretty tame compared with jumping on spirited ponies and going full tilt along the old trail, past the emigrant trains and freight outfits, or even bands of Indians. —William Campbell, Pony rider in Nebraska The Pony Express riders would head out with the post as soon as they received the mochilla, any time of the day or night and in all weather. Pony Expressman Richard Cleve rode seventy-five miles across eastern Nebraska through a raging blizzard, only to find that his relief rider at the next station was too sick to sit his horse. Cleve remounted and floundered on through whiteout conditions, snowdrifts, and sub-zero temperatures for another seventy-five miles. Man and horse stumbled into their final station after thirty-six hours on the trail. Other riders completed similar death-defying runs, and stories of their bravery and endurance were repeated across the nation. 8 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska I…found it impossible to find the road. I would get off the horse and look for the road, find it and mount the horse, but in five yards I would lose it again.—Pony Express Rider Richard Cleve Despite their one-time celebrity, those riders are known to few today. Only two names still loom above the unsettled dust of Pony history: James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Hickok was a Pony Express stock-tender at Rock Creek Station, Nebraska, where he launched his career as a gunslinger in a brutal shootout over a Pony Express business debt. Cody, on the other hand, was a showman who told exciting tales about his adventures as a teenage Pony Express rider, and even re-enacted those events in his touring Wild West show. His stories seem unlikely, though, and it is doubtful that Cody ever worked for the Pony at all. Accurate or not, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performances captured the spirit of the Pony and branded its legend deep into the nation’s identity. These days it is hard to separate truth from the myth of the Pony Express. The enterprise was so short-lived that it left little in the way of business records, and most of those – letters, receipts, payroll logs, etc. – have disappeared. History is further muddled by romanticized accounts, faulty memories, and outright hoaxes. Researchers today disagree on who was the first rider to leave St. Joseph with the first mochilla full of mail, and where exactly he left from, and whether he ended his trip in Sacramento or San Francisco. Students of the Pony debate trail routes, argue the authenticity of “original Pony Express stations,” and even “Pony Express Rider Chased by Indians” by William Henry Jackson 9 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska wonder if some Pony riders were women disguised as boys. Serious researchers are still sifting through the lore, sorting sweet fables from sweaty reality and discovering long-lost nuggets of factual Pony history. But this much is sure: The Pony Express ran its owners into scandalous financial ruin within 18 short months. The operation quickly racked up expenses while the hoped-for government contract shyly stayed beyond reach. Completion of the transcontinental telegraph system on October 26, 1861, made the debt-ridden Pony obsolete. Riders finished their last run on November 20, 1861. Ere long, the “Pony Express” must give place to the telegraph, and not many years can elapse before the Pacific Railroad will supersede the overland express to California. —George Ellis Baker, 1860 Completion of the transcontinental telegraph system on October 26, 1861, made the Pony Express obsolete. Illustration is courtesy of the Library of Congress from Harpers Weekly. 10 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska A “Frayed Rope” T he Great Platte River Road was no neatly engineered lane where prairie schooners rolled prettily in single file, but an evolving, rowdy free-for-all of multiple ruts scoring the river valley. Traffic went both ways as emigrants, commercial freight caravans, stagecoaches, and postal relay riders moved back and forth between East and West. New tracks were created as ox-drawn wagons and mule trains passed each other and spread out three, six, or more abreast to escape the choking dust kicked up by those ahead. New cutoffs were developed as travelers sought out the shortest, safest, and fastest ways into and through the Platte River Valley. On maps, the road’s eastern end took on the appearance of a frayed rope, with strands funneling traffic into the Platte Valley from numerous “jumping off places” along the Missouri River. Several strands of the rope brought overland traffic from the southern departure points at Independence, Westport, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Atchison, St. Joseph, and Amazonia. These feeder routes, heavily used in the early years of the migration, led across northeastern Kansas and into the valley of the Little Blue River. The main trail followed that stream northwestward into Nebraska, crested a 20-mile-wide divide, and then dropped to the Platte. “Crossing the Missouri” by William Henry Jackson 11 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska More strands of trail led directly into the Platte Valley from Omaha/ Council Bluffs, Bellevue, Plattsmouth, Old Wyoming, Minersville, Nebraska City, and other northern “jumping off places.” By the early 1850s, most emigrant traffic set out from the northern Missouri River ports, cutting off nearly 200 miles of overland travel across Kansas. Commercial and military traffic, much of it from St. Joseph and Fort Leavenworth, continued to use the Kansas feeder routes into the Platte Valley. Parties setting out from Council Bluffs and Omaha on the Mormon Trail (also called the Council Bluffs Road) north of the Platte had to ford the Elkhorn and Loup Rivers and cross some broken country, but overall found easy traveling. Where the river forks near today’s city of North Platte, those travelers kept to the north, following the Mormon route along the North Platte River into today’s Wyoming. . . . You would be surprised to see the ways of travel. Large trains of carts with one ox on a cart, some wagons with 8 yoke, wile go hundred horse teams, mule teams, sail wagons goes by wind and steam wagons and hand carts and whele barrows. So wags the tide of life. —Squire Lamb, Nebraska stage station operator, 1862 Trail strands coming into the south side of the Platte Valley braided together into a single main road just east of Fort Kearny, a military “Sand Hills of the Platte River” by William Henry Jackson. 12 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska outpost established in 1848 to aid the Oregon emigration. South-side travelers continued from Fort Kearny along mostly smooth and level terrain to the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers. Some parties crossed to the north bank of the South Platte somewhere near the confluence, but most continued on the south side to O’Fallon’s Bluff. That three-mile-long obstacle at the river’s edge forced wagons up and over the bluff, where they wore ruts that are still visible today. [The sand hills are] broken into separate and rugged peaks and elevations, like some gigantic ocean breaker dashing its immense volume into a hundred different waves. —James Meline, emigration of 1866 From O’Fallon’s Bluff, travelers continued along the South Platte a short distance to one of several river fords. There, wagons could cross over to the North Platte and follow its south bank—paralleling the Mormon Trail on the opposite side—to Fort Laramie. Two of these South Platte crossings forced wagons on a steep, difficult climb up California Hill and then a steep, dangerous drop down Windlass Hill—and all three routes dipped into pleasant Ash Hollow, where the unwary sometimes were confronted by Indians. By 1860, most travelers, including Pony Express riders, avoided those hazards by following the South Platte all the way to Julesburg, Colorado, and then cutting northwest to rejoin the Great Platte River Road near Courthouse Rock. “Through Mitchell Pass” at Scott’s Bluff by William Henry Jackson 13 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska From Courthouse Rock, the south-bank road continued northwest toward the spectacular spire of Chimney Rock, the most famous landmark on the combined emigrant trails. The route then went around (later, through) Scotts Bluff before continuing into Wyoming. Many travelers paused to explore, sketch, and carve their names into these features. Those following the Mormon Trail on the north side of the river also could see Courthouse Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scotts Bluff, and often described them in their journals. “Old Fort Mitchell” near Scotts Bluff by William Henry Jackson. 14 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska The Platte Experience O toe Indians called this region “Nebrathka,” meaning “flat water,” and the French word “Platte” means the same. The defining flatness of the broad Platte River Valley, which averages five to seven miles wide, made it ideal for animal-powered travel on both sides of the stream. Besides being “good wheeling,” the long Platte River stretch of trail also provided plenty of water and native grasses for game and livestock. Many emigrants later recalled it as the easiest, most pleasant part of their westering journey. …As prity a rode as I ever saw….it is level and smooth as a plank floor. —Dr. A. H. Thomasson, emigration of 1850 We traveled through the most level plains I ever saw in my life. Here is such a scenery of beauty as is seldom witnessed. — Joseph Williams, circa 1842 The sight of a tree is out of the question. It is seldom we see so mutch as a bush.—Levi Jackman, Mormon emigration of 1847 North or south of the Platte, travelers shared similar experiences. Some were delighted by the open, treeless expanse while others were dismayed by it. Many wrote of the flowers, animals, sand hills, and rock formations they encountered along the trail. Nearly everyone complained about the dirty water, the quicksand, and the swarming, biting insects. Most were thrilled by their first sighting of bison and their first taste of buffalo steak, but not so happy about having to collect and cook over “buffalo chips” due to the scarcity of firewood. Bison, or American buffalo, had been hunted out of their range in the eastern United States by the early 1800s. In the first decades of the emigration, Easterners saw their first buffalo along the Platte in vast numbers, herds of thousands and tens of thousands that covered the plains like a brown, woolly blanket. The massive herds sometimes blocked wagon trains for miles, and occasionally charged through a wagon train or trail side camp, frightening livestock and wrecking wagons. Professional buffalo hunters slaughtered bison to sell their hides for industrial uses, soldiers killed them to provision their forts, and emigrants shot them for food as well as sport. By the early 1860s, travelers saw few buffalo in the Platte River Valley. 15 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska Plains wildlife, natural beauty, and minor complaints aside, trudging in the choking dust with ox-team and wagon under the hot Nebraska sun was no picnic. Many noted in their journals the furious storms that raged over the plains, stampeding livestock and terrifying travelers—even killing some. People died from accidental gunshot, slipping under wagon wheels, injuries caused by unruly oxen, drowning during a stream crossing, and from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Cholera took many lives, leaving single parents to carry on alone, hundreds of miles from home, with a wagonload of youngsters—or worse, leaving frightened orphans to depend on the kindness of strangers. Many of the dead were buried in unmarked graves on the wagon trail itself, in hopes that neither wolves or Indians would rob their final resting place. The [buffalo] dung was thick in most places, and like chips and score blocks – for this and the sake of softening a hard word they go by the name of Buffalo chips. —Oliver Boardman Huntington, Mormon emigration of 1847 There came up a storm in the afternoon. The wind blew very hard and on the opposite side of the river a tremendous hurricane. We saw trees flying on the air and water blown out of the River as high apparently as the clouds. —James John, emigration of 1841 . . . instead of a single fork or chain [of lightning] a dozen would burst from the dark mass & rush in every direction like serpents from a rocket….at times the whole heavens would appear to be as a blaze for several seconds during which time the minutest object could be discovered. —William Henry Tappan, civilian draftsman at Fort Childs (Fort Kearny), June 1848 The team behind us stop[ped] in mid-stream…and the treacherous sand gave way under their feet. They sank slowly, gradually, but surely. They went out of sight inch by inch, as the water rose over the moaning beasts. Without a struggle they disappeared beneath the surface. In a little while the broad South Platte swept on its way, sunny, sparkling, placid, without a ripple to mark where a lonely man parted with all his fortune. —Luzena Stanley Wilson, emigration of 1849 Indians were a huge worry for many travelers, though for the most part emigrant encounters with Native Americans on the trails across 16 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska Nebraska were peaceful, even enjoyable. In the early years of the emigration, in particular, native people viewed the “Great Medicine Road” as a kind of grand market where they could trade for goods and visit with travelers. Emigrants and Indians, including the much feared Pawnees, exchanged many acts of personal kindness; and the Sioux, who controlled most of the Platte River Valley, allowed the wagons to pass in peace. Still, most emigrants entered Indian Country expecting the worst. Their fears of Indian attack were fueled by rumors, hoaxes, and lurid halftruths in newspapers and popular books—but also by a long history of very real, very violent Indian and settler conflicts in the East. Rumor, history, and experience likewise gave native Plains people reason to be wary of white Americans. When the first great flood of humanity and beasts rushed up the Platte Valley in 1849, stripping the countryside of grass and driving off the buffalo and other wild game, that wariness began to turn to resentment. “Teepees on the Plains” Lantern Slide by Walter McClintock. Image is courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. 17 Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Nebraska Natives and Newcomers: A Gathering Storm A s American settlers surged westward across the eastern woodlands and prairies in the early 19th century, they pushed Native Americans out of their ancestral homes. The U.S. government resettled many of those displaced Eastern tribes—the Kickapoos, Delawares, Pottawatomies, and others—in congressionally designated Indian Territory west of the Missouri River and south of the Platte. The resettled Eastern tribes were among the first Indians encountered by emigrants passing through northeastern Kansas. Settlements for the Eastern tribes were carved out of territories already occupied by the Kanza, Otoe, Missouria, Osage, Pawnee, and other Missouri River tribes. Those groups, in turn, were forced to move, giving over their traditional hunting grounds and village sites to the Eastern groups. Their relocation often put them closer to enemies such as the Cheyenne and Sioux, powerful Indian nations that had moved out onto the Nebraska plains from their eastern woodland and prairie homelands. The Pawnees of northern Kansas and east-central Nebraska were one of many tribes displaced by white settlement. Pawnees were settled village dwellers who lived in earth-lodges,

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