Mile 190: George Winslow Grave Site

The George Winslow Grave site is located nine miles northwest of Rock Creek Station and is one of the famous gravesites on the Oregon Trail, Although historians have estimated that 30,000 persons died on the trail between 1842 and 1860 (an average of 15 per mile), the actual number of marked and identified gravesites remaining today is quite limited. Thus each positively identified and marked gravesite which has survived is respectfully honored. The George Winslow grave is one of these. Winslow died on June 8,1849, and his grave was marked by others of his company. Window’s sons returned to Nebraska in 1912 to erect a more permanent monument at the site, and the Winslow family still makes periodic pilgrimages to the grave.

George Winslow wrote a letter to his wife from Independence, Mo., May 12, 1849. Mrs. George Winslow gave it to her grandson, Carlton Winslow, in whose name it was presented to the Nebraska State Historical Society, together with an excellent copy of a daguerreotype of George Winslow, taken in 1849. In the letter he writes:

“My dear Wife: We have no further anxiety about forage: millions of buffalo have existed for ages on these vast prairies, and their numbers have been diminished by reason of hunters, and it is absurd to think we will not have sufficient grass for our animals. We have bought forty mules, which cost us $50 apiece. I have been appointed teamster, and had the good luck to draw the best wagon. I never slept better in my life. I always find myself in the morning on my bed, rather-flat as a pancake. As the darn thing leaks just enough to land me on the terra firma by morning, it saves me the trouble of pressing out the wind; so who cares?

My money holds out very well. I have about $15 on hand out of the $25 which I had on leaving. We engaged some Mexicans to break the mules. To harness them they tied their fore-legs together and threw them down. The fellows then got on them and wrung their ears which is the tenderest part. By that time they were docile enough to take the harness. The animals in many respects resemble sheep; they are very timid, and when frightened will kick like thunder. They got six harnessed into a team, when one of the leaders, feeling a little mulish, jumped right straight over the other one’s back.
I do not worry about myself then why do you for me? I do not discover in your letter any anxiety on your account; then let us for the future look on the bright side and indulge in no more useless anxiety. It effects nothing, and is almost universally the bugbear of the imagination.
The reports of the gold region here are as encouraging as they were in Massachusetts. Just imagine to yourself seeing me return with from $10,000 to $1,000,000.1 do not wonder that General Taylor was opposed to writing on the field, I am now writing on a low box, and have to ‘stoop to conquer’.
Your Loving Husband, George Winslow.”

On May 16 this company of intrepid men, rash with the courage of youth, set their hearts and faces toward the west and began their long overland journey to California, and by night had crossed “The Line” and were in Indian country. Though slowed by frequent rains and mud they made their way up the Kansas River. With mud sometimes hub deep, and broken wagon-poles as a hinderance they reached the lower ford of the Kansas, just below the Rock Island Bridge at Topeka on May 26th, having accomplished about 50 miles in 10 days. The wagons were driven onto flat boats and poled across by 5 Indians. The road then became dry, and they made rapid progress until the 29th, when George Winslow was suddenly taken violently ill with cholera. Two others of the party also suffered symptoms of the disease. The company remained in camp three days and with the sick seemingly recovered, it was decided to push on. Winslow’s brothers-in-law, David Staples and Bracket Lord, or his uncle, Jesse Winslow, were in attendance of George Winslow, giving him every care possible. His condition improved as they travelled and on June 6th they reached the place where the trail crosses the Nebraska-Kansas state line, Mr, Gould wrote:** “The road over the high rolling prairie was hard and smooth as a plank floor. The prospect was beautiful. About a half-hour before sunset a terrific thunder shower arose, which baffles description, the lightning-flashes dazzling the eyes, and the thunder deafening the ears, and the rain falling in torrents. It was altogether the grandest scene I have ever witnessed. When the rain ceased to fall the sun had set and darkness closed in.” (Their location was just east of Steele City, Jefferson County.)

To this storm is attributed George Winslow’s death. The next morning he appeared as well as could be expected, but by 3 o’clock his condition worsened, and the company encamped on Whiskey Run. He failed rapidly, and at 9 a.m. the 8th of June, 1849 he died. For George Winslow the trail ended here.

The Oregon Trail, Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p. 1-2
Mile 238: The Narrows

“Forty-two miles west of the George Winslow grave the emigrants approached a troublesome portion of the trail known as “The Narrows”. Just northwest of the town of Oak (Nuckolls County-approximately 1 3/4 miles). Here the Oregon Trail was squeezed between the Little Blue River and a stretch of high, rugged bluffs which were impassable for wagons. The trail became so tight through portions of this area that there was room for only one wagon at a time to pass through this narrow strip between the bluffs and the river. Until the Indian Wars of 1864 the area was only a minor Oregon Trail landmark but in 1864 the NARROWS suddenly assumed a much more sinister meaning, for the geography presented the Indians with an ideal spot to ambush an emigrant train, a freight train or a stagecoach.

“In August of 1864 the telegraph line into Fort Kearny crackled with messages of depredations up and down the Platte Valley. But here, there was no telegraph communication and that August, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians of Nebraska seized the opportunity presented by the withdrawal of Federal troops from the west during the Civil War to make a concerted effort to drive the encroaching white settlers from their land. During August, 1864, nearly every settlement and way station between the Big Sandy and Julesburg (400 miles) was attacked. Settlements and isolated farms were abandoned or destroyed, and travel ceased on the Oregon Trail for several months. A local family name Eubanks was attacked in the vicinity of the Narrows.”

“(Note: A present day visitor will find viewing the site quite difficult due to a combination of restrictive terrain and lack of access. Alterations in the course of the river and the subsequent erosion along the bank have cut into the Narrows and obliterated the Oregon Trail. Dense vegetation now lines the river bank and bluffs, and unlike the Oregon Trail days, there are now few vantage points from which a visitor may view the Narrows. The best place from which to see the Narrows is located at a point along the Oregon Trail, just off the graveled county road one-half mile west of the little town of Oak.)”

The Oregon Trail, Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p. 4-5
Mile 275: "Snow's Corner" Oregon Trail Stone Marker

Snows CornerSometimes this stretch is referred to as “Nine Mile Ridge.” The stone marker was erected by the State of Nebraska in 1912. Located at https://goo.gl/maps/EHArEhZmXwpZRR4EA.

 

Mile 282: Simonton-Smith Freight Train Gravesite OCTA Marker

simonton-smith-trainA freight train consisting of eight wagons loaded with hardware for Denver, was attacked Sunday morning, August 7, 1864, by a party of Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians. Five men were killed instantly, a sixth was mortally wounded, and the wagons were burned. (Brown, 2007) The bodies and smoking wagons were found by two young couples out for a Sunday morning ride from Thirty-Two Mile Creek station and on Monday morning Overland Stage Line employees from the station arrived. The wounded teamster was able to give a few details of the attack before he died. The men were buried beside the trails 140 yards south of the OCTA marker. This is the only known burial site of white men who met death in Adams County due to hostile Indian activity. The Nova-Color OCTA marker was installed in 1996 on the south side of the road at the edge of a broad and deep ditch. Franzwa’s Maps of the Oregon Trail shows ruts southeast of the markers, but with the installation of a center pivot irrigation system several years ago, they are no longer visible. The next image shows the flat marker indicating the burial site.

Located at https://goo.gl/maps/nH9RrrYcgmxoKiyC8 (about Mile 282.5)

Mile 283: Oregon Trail Marker

oregon-trail-marker-1912The trail angled northwest across this steep drainage and must have been a hard pull after rains. This quarter section has been cultivated for decades and swales are not visible. D. W. Kingley, Jr. and Will Locke flew the trail in June in 1985 looking for faded color in the crops due to soil compaction from the trail traffic, but no crop color contrasts were observed. In steeper areas that had been left in native pasture swales were clearly evident. This marker was erected by the Niobrara Chapter of the DAR in 1912.

 

Located at https://goo.gl/maps/1JYqD5Q2GatG48pc8 (Just north off the XP Bikepacking Route on Hwy 281, before Mile 283)

Mile 284: Elm Creek Stage Station Marker

elm-creek stationAt the stage station marker look west across the small valley of Thirty-Two Mile Creek to the pasture and you will see several parallel swales climbing west out of the valley. Low angle light of early morning or late afternoon places these swales in shadow and they are easier to see. Light snows will make the swales stand out and during a thaw following deeper snows, snow will linger in the swales and one can see them clearly enough to count. Binoculars would be helpful as the “swales” are a half mile distant. This area must have been one of the tougher pulls of the Little Blue/Platte Valley trail segment. The first problem was the steep descent down into the valley. The brake mechanisms on the wagons were not very effective and the weight of the wagons would have pushed hard on the oxen. They could have run a pole through the rear wheels to provide additional braking action. Crossing the creek would have required the first wagon travelers of the season to dig ramps on both banks and perhaps to double team. Re-digging the ramps would be required after periods of high water. Once the pull out of the little valley was accomplished, the going was smooth until the crossing of the West Branch of Thirty-Two Mile Creek. Elm Creek Station was built by the Holladay Stage Line as a replacement for the Lone Tree Station which was burned during the Indian Raid of 1864. The marker was erected by ACHS in 1973. The granite stone came from the foundation of the old Hastings Post Office.

 

Located at https://goo.gl/maps/egZgmwcawHKbqtF5A.

Mile 290: Thirty-Two Mile Creek Stage and Pony Express Station

32-mile-stationThis location is almost exactly in the center of Adams County and the Thirty-Two Mile Creek Station name indicates the distance to Ft. Kearny. Russell, Majors, and Waddell formed the Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Express company in 1859 and most likely constructed the Thirty-Two Mile Station that year. Samuel Word kept a diary of his 1863 trip across the plains and the following words are from May 28: “We are now 32 miles from Fort Kearny. Am most anxious to reach Kearny for I expect to hear from home. Have just returned from a ranch close by, where immigrants and settlers to the number of 100 are congregated engaged in a genuine old-fashioned back woods dance. . . . The ranche was about 12 by 14 feet square covered with sod. . . . The house had what it would hold, the rest stood outside. . .many of the men were drunk from rifle whisky sold them by the proprietor of the ranche. His grocery was in one corner of the room. I left them dancing.” (Word in Renschler, 1997)

Ted Stutheit (1987) of Nebraska Game and Parks offers the following description: “. . . consisted of one long, low sod building. In 1860 became a Pony Express Station (Nebraska Pony Express Station No. 10). In 1861 it was a ‘Home’ station for the Overland Stage where hot meals were served to travelers.”

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“Thirty-Two Mile Station” is the site of another of the series of way-stations established during 1858 and 1859 along the Oregon Trail to serve the growing numbers of stagecoaches and freighter wagons which were joining the emigrant trains along the great roadway west. Named for its distance from Fort Kearny, Thirty-Two Mile Station never consisted of more than one long, low log-building In 1860 it became a Pony Express Station (Nebraska Pony Express Station No. 10). In 1861 it was a “Home” station for the Overland Stage, where hot meals were served to travelers. The station operated by George A. Comstock was abandoned in August of 1864, its proprietors and visitors fleeing to Fort Kearny for safety, and the Indians subsequently burned the station to the ground. 32 Mile Station, site of Pony Express Station (Nebraska No. 10 — Sec. 6, T.6N, R.10W — Adams County) is now in the middle of a plowed field, just off a county road A small marker at the side of the field commemorates the site. This site is on the National Register of Historic Places as an archeological site.

—The Oregon Trail, Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p. 5

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The location is marked on the XP Bikepacking Route map just before Mile 290.

Mile 291: Oregon Trail Marker on Juniata Road

juanita-road-markerThis section of the trail falls between branches of Thirty-Two Mile Creek and is very smooth. The inscription on the granite stone reads, “Oregon Trail Marked by the State of Nebraska 1912.” Scout troop 192 helped erect this marker.

Located at https://goo.gl/maps/uLX6HFid7PJHAMkV6. Note: The XP Bikepacking Route goes north of this marker. I you want to see it, sty on Oak Ridge to Junaita, then turn right. It rejoins the XP Trail about one mile up, just past the marker.

Mile 294: US 6 Oregon Trail Historical Marker and Pony Express Marker

us-6-oregon-trail-historical-markerThe trail moves from southeast to northwest on gentle ground between two branches of Thirty-Two Mile Creek. Soon the travelers will descend to Muddy Station on the West Branch of Thirty-Two Mile Creek. The inscription on the historical marker reads:

The most traveled of the overland routes passed this point on its way  to the great Platte valley highway to the west. The Oregon Trail  started from Independence, followed the Kansas River west, and then  the Little Blue north into Nebraska. It crossed the divide to reach the  Platte near Fort Kearny.

In the 1830s trappers and missionaries recognized the Platte valley as a natural roadway. The first wagon train followed the 2,000 mile trail to Oregon in 1842.

An estimated quarter of a million travelers used this route in the twenty-five years after those first wagons. Moving slowly, only 10 to 20 miles a day, for the three-month trip, thousands of hooves, shoes and wheels pounded a wide trail into the prairie.

Oregon was an early goal. The ’49ers went through to California. Settlers, stage coaches, freight wagons, Pony Express riders and
military expeditions all used this prairie highway.

With completion of the Union Pacific Railroad this route fell into disuse, but the Oregon Trail has earned a permanent place in our history.

This marker was erected in May, 1963, by Nebraska Historical Markers Council and the Nebraska Roads Department. The National Pony Express Centennial marker, a granite stone with bronze plaques, was dedicated in May, 1966, by the Adams County Historical Society. In mid February of 2006, thieves pried off one of the bronze plaques and a few days later, with the investigation underway, the second plaque disappeared. Plans are underway by ACHS to replace the missing markers.

Located at https://goo.gl/maps/h6gvQ2audvbFWEg56.  Note: This is just of the XP Bikepacking Route. If you want to visit this memorial, turn left onto US 6 (County Rod 73) just past Mile 294. the marker is just west of Roseland Ave. Turn north on South Prosser Ave. to rejoin the XP Trail (about one mile up).

Mile 303: Summit/Sand Hill/Summit Springs Station

summit-stationThis area was possibly the driest and windiest section of the pull from the Little Blue to the Platte Valley. Summit Station may have been established in 1860 for use as a Pony Express Station. Joe Nardone (2008) refers to it as an “added station”. The station was abandoned after the Indian raids and never rebuilt. Frank Root in The Overland Stage to California (in Renschler, 1997)wrote:

The distance between thirty-two Mile Creek and the Platte is twenty-five miles. Summit the first station, was twelve miles. It was one of the most lonesome places in Nebraska, located on the divide between the Little Blue and the Platte . . .From its vicinity the waters flow south into the Little Blue and northeast into the west branch of the Big Blue. The surroundings for some distance on either side of the station represented a region of sand-hills with  numerous deep ravines or gullies cut by heavy rains or waterspouts  and dressed smoothly by the strong winds that have been blowing through them almost ceaselessly for untold centuries. Very little in the way of vegetation was noticeable at Summit or in the vicinity. It was a rather dismal looking spot. . . Necessity compelled the stage men to choose this location however, for the distance from Thirty-two Mile Creek to the Platte, twenty-five miles, was over a somewhat rough and hilly road, and it was too much of a pull for one team.

Because of land leveling for irrigation, the area today appears to be fairly smooth although the pull out of the little valley of the West Branch of Thirty-two Mile Creek would have been hard work.

Summit Station was first marked in 1935 by Hastings Boy Scouts under the direction of A. M. Brooking, Hastings Museum curator. The original marker was cement with a circular bronze plaque. In the 1973 the Adams County Historical Society erected a new marker at the site made from granite from the old Hastings Post Office foundation.

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“Sand Hill” was located one and a half miles south of Kenesaw within the (SE corner of NEVi, Sec. 10, T.7N, R.12W), on the crest of the divide between the Little Blue and Platte River drainages. The name refers to the difficult sandy wagon road which called for double-teaming. This station also appears as “Summit Station” (Root and Connelley), “Water-Hole” in (Allen), and “Fairfield” in (Chapman’s interview with William Campbell), In 1863 it was described by Root as “one of the most lonesome places in Nebraska”. This station was another casualty of the Indian Wars of 1864.

—The Oregon Trail, Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p. 5

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Located at https://goo.gl/maps/kHMVZg4XtHRhTyxX6.

Mile 304: Oregon Trail Marker One Mile South of Kenesaw Cemetery

markerJust west of Kenesaw the trail jogged sharply west and then north to avoid a lagoon that is hardly visible today. John Klusman, while taking a break from planting in May, 2008, explained that the land had been leveled and drained in such a way that the lagoon that had previously been so prominent was no longer visible. The writer jogged this section of the trail in the late 1970s and recalls a large lagoon that obviously would have caused the wagons to detour. The goal was to get to Ft. Kearny with as little wear and tear on stock and equipment as possible; they were not going to get bogged down in a lagoon to save a mile. This marker was erected by the State of Nebraska in 1914.

The location is at https://goo.gl/maps/NDVHDwQT6f9278jh6. Note: The XP Bikepacking Trail passes .2 miles north of this marker. To see it, turn left (south) on Smith Lane (Hwy 1A) for .2 miles.

Mile 311: Susan Haile Grave Site

susan-haile-grave-stoneThe following lines rely extensively on the article by Randy Brown in the Spring, 2007, issue of Overland Journal, titled The Grave of Susan C. Haile. When I first visited this area in the late 1960s with Boy Scouts, it was generally known as the “Lone Grave.” Randy Brown writes, “Most assuredly, however, when Susan Haile died in 1852 hers was not a lone grave. This was in the midst of the ‘cholera corridor’, . . . .” Most likely there were dozens even hundreds of graves along the Thirty-two Mile Creek/Platte River Valley stretch, but we know only the Susan Haile grave location. We know of the Haile grave because of the existence of a headstone. Intriguing legends and questions accompany the Haile story. Who was she? How did she die? How was a gravestone transported to the spot?

Often extended family units or clans moved from Virginia and Pennsylvania to Tennessee and Kentucky and then again to Missouri. The Seawells, Susan’s grandparents followed this pattern and eventually settled in Missouri. Susan and R. C. Haile were married in 1836 when she was almost 19. Randy Brown searched for accounts of the journey but concludes, “Unfortunately, there is no contemporary account of the journey. They probably left the Missouri River in the Kansas City area, or they could well have headed northwest . . . to St. Joseph, one of the major outfitting towns of the time. . . . All that is known of the journey is that when they reached the Platte River in south-central Nebraska, Susan C. Haile died.” The legend of the “Lone Grave” began when settlers in the late 1860s discovered the engraved stone marker.

The legends explaining her death are interesting and can be found in many sources. According to the legend, they secured water from the government well approximately six miles southeast of the grave (see images 23, 24, 25). It has been suggested that this water had been poisoned by Indians and thus caused the death of Susan Haile. Scholars take issue with this explanation for several reasons: 1) the Pawnees who traveled in the area were not warlike or hostile, 2) the Pawnees would have used the water themselves, and 3) the Pawnees did not have a poison effective in a well. 1852 was the height of the cholera epidemic on the trail. It is more likely that Susan Haile drank contaminated water that infected her with cholera, a violent intestinal disorder that led to rapid dehydration and then death sometimes in less than a day.

The next part of the legend suggests that the grieving husband returned to St. Joseph and purchased a granite marker which he brought back to the gravesite in a wheel-barrow. Catherine Renschler and Randy Brown have read many sources and conclude that it is most unlikely that R. C. Haile pushed a stone 250 miles across the prairie in a wheel-barrow. But Brown asserts, “Part of the legend may be true. Richard Haile marked his wife’s grave with a headboard and could have returned to the settlements to get a proper marble headstone.. . .The wheelbarrow aspect, however, is undoubtedly an embellishment added in later years by local people.”

Bill Sole (1972) wrote about the “Lone Grave” for the Adams County Centennial Year Publication in 1972. The first marker was, he writes, “. . .chipped to pieces by travelers and relic hunters.” In 1900 children of Waterhouse Sunday School raised funds for a new marker and this one fell victim to souvenir hunters as well. The present stone was dedicated July 30, 1933, by members of the Hastings Outdoor Club.

Following communication with the descendants of Susan Haile and extensive research by Randy Brown and the Oregon California Trails Association, a new OCTA Plaque was installed and the Adams County Historical Society organized a program in Kenesaw followed by a dedication of the OCTA plaque at the grave site.

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In addition to the gravesite, this site is important for other reasons. Susan Hail is buried at the precise spot where the Oregon Trail broke over a small rise and came in view of the Platte River. The Nebraska City-Fort Kearny road passed north of this site about a mile and a half, joining the main Oregon Trail a little more than six miles west, There were several alternate roads in this vicinity. This was one of the great moments in the experience of the emigrants, for the first leg of the journey was now almost complete. Arrival at the Platte River meant that they were within striking distance of Fort Kearny, the first sign of civilization in this remote country. The Platte River was broad and flat, with little or no timber, quite unlike its appearance today. Perhaps because the broad flat treeless valley during spring flood once resembled a sandy seashore, early travelers called this spot “The Coast of Nebraska”. (Also it is noted some writers of the day wrote about the white canvas topped wagons moving through the deep prairie grass resembling “Ships at Sea” as they moved across miles of waving grasses).

Both northwest and southeast of the Susan Hail grave (Sections 18 and 19) are fairly extensive grassed over Oregon Trail traces, made by the passage of thousands of animals and wagons as they descended the low sandy hill towards the river.

Note: It has been recommended as early as 1975 by Historian Merrill Mattes and as recently as a March 1981 comprehensive report on historic sites and trail segment status by the National Park Service, United States Department of Interior, that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission should seek adequate funding to purchase approximately thirty acres of pasture land. This site which would be an unmanned park administered from Fort Kearny State Historical Park, fifteen miles to the west would be called “Coast of Nebraska” as proposed by Merrill Mattes and the National Park Service.

—The Oregon Trail, Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p. 6

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The site is marked on the XP Bikepacking Route map.

Mile 312: Sand Hill/Gravesite Markers

sand-hill-gravesite-markerThe Nebraska Historical Marker explaining the Susan Haile story was erected by the Kenesaw Centennial Committee and the Nebraska State Historical Society. The smaller marker is inscribed, “In Search of Pony Express Station Marker. Sand Hill.” It was dedicated June 8, 2002, by James Stretesky, Adams County Bank, Dorlene and Vern Hunt, Family of Leonard Osler, Pony Express Trails Association, and Joe Nardone, Historian.

The XP Bikepacking Route notes a marker for the Sand Hill Station at the intersection of West 70th Street and 44 Road (Denman Ave) (approximately Mile 312.5). Google Street view puts the marker just north of the XP Route on 44 Road at https://goo.gl/maps/s1h7axVuwxib3HeR6.

Mile 312: Sand Hill/Gravesite Markers
Mile 509: Sleepy Sunflower RV Park

Sleepy Sunflower RV Park, NE
Sleepy Sunflower RV Park, NE

“Found a pretty sweet place to stay for the night. I also changed time zones. I also crossed over the 500 mile mark of the route.”

[N.B. More info about Sleepy Sunflower RV Park]

Mile 520: Diamond Springs and California Hill Detour

At this point, the Pony Express Bikepacking Route is still south of the South Platte River. North of the river are two landmarks. To reach these, you’d have to cross the river into Brule (at about Mile 520), and recross to rejoin the route at about Mile 532 through Big Springs (by taking Highway 138, or by taking the dirt road across Highway 30 from the California Crossing marker).

  • Diamond Springs Station landmark (marked on the Pony Express Bikepacking Route)
  • California Hill (Not marked on the Route map. A marker stands a few miles west just before the intersection of Road West MF.

“When snugly dry and in order again, the pilgrims left the South Platte for good and all and began to climb the rough, high land between the forks. They called the first steep pull ‘California Hill.’ Deep ascending ruts still mar its surface. A tiny school sits squatly on the rounded hillside like a flea on an elephant [in the 1930s-40s]. Not much else has come to change its look from the days when the drivers cracked their whips like rifle shots to urge the dragging ox trains up the slope.”

“[California Hill] necessitated a climb of 240 feet in just over 1½ miles in order to reach the plateau between the North and South Platte Rivers. Imposing trail ruts are still plainly visible most of the way up the hill. The Nebraska State Historical Society, who owns the resource, invites you to get out of your car and walk in the footsteps of the pioneers. The panoramic views back toward California Crossing are spectacular.”

Irene D. Paden, The Wake of the Prairie Schooner, p. 112-113
Mile 550: Jules Stretch

“Old Julesburg was a very busy place, primarily because it was at the junction of the main roads up the South and North Platte rivers, respectively called the Pikes Peak or Denver road, and the California Road or Overland Trail. The stages and Pony Express used the latter route, here fording the south Platte (wide and rough during spring runoff) to a point just above Lodgepole Creek, then following that stream westward to a point three miles east of present Sidney, then crossing Lodgepole and heading north. This route was surveyed by Lieutenant Bryan of the topographical engineers in 1858 and was called ‘Jules Stretch.'”

The Oregon Trail: Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, p.10 (http://npshistory.com/publications/oreg/oregon-trail-nebraska.pdf)

 

“Before we started out in the morning, we gave our horses all the water they would drink, for it was said to be fully thirty-two miles across the ridge from water to water. This was the short line which Jules [Beni] had laid out, so as to change the route and bring the pilgrim travel past this ranch. This particular strip of road was called ‘Jules Stretch.’ The road became considerably rocky as we ascended.”

— The Indian War of 1864, Eugene Fitch Ware (1911), p. 264

 

“Leaving Fort Kearny, the surveyors’ route lay along the valley of the Platte, the usual way traveled by Oregon-bound trains, to a point sixteen miles beyond the much used Laramie crossing. Here was located a new ford where the river was reported to be 610 yards wide, with a gravel bottom and water scarcely covering the axle trees of the wagons. Like all previous explorers, Bryan realized that bridging the Platte was out of the question and trains must take their chances in locating a good ford.

“From the Platte crossing the party ascended the south fork of that stream and its tributary, Lodgepole creek, to the Pine Bluffs, just across the present western Nebraska boundary in Wyoming. This area was known as a favorite winter residence of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. The members of the expedition gathered dwarf pine for several days’ use because fuel, even buffalo chips, was reportedly scarce at the headwaters of Lodgepole creek.”

— The Army Engineers as Road Surveyors and Builders in Kansas and Nebraska, 1854-1858, W. Turrentine Jackson, Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (February 1949 (Vol. 17, No. 1), pages 37 to 59.) https://www.kshs.org/p/the-army-engineers-as-road-surveyors-and-builders/13089

Mile 550: Jules Stretch
Mile 625: Mud Springs Station

“The springs represented the first significant opportunity for obtaining water in a 24-mile stretch of barren overland trail. In 1860, the Pony Express established a line along the Jules cutoff and created a station at Mud Springs. In 1861, shortly before the Pony Express operations ended, a transcontinental telegraph station was positioned at Mud Springs, along with a daily stage coach service.”

Mile 690 - Robidoux Pass

“The emigrants, however, found certain types of country and certain situations to be laborious or dangerous, and these they therefore avoided. Co-called ‘badlands’ where the terrain was nothing but a maze of ravines, had to be detoured. At Scott’s Bluff, for instance, a stretch of land pushed the trail away from the bank of the Platte, and sent the wagons through Robidoux Pass.

George R. Stewart, The California Trail, p. 116