Ogallala, Nebraska may not look like much these days, except perhaps as a town off the interstate or a stopping point before heading to Lake McConaughy. Back in the Old West Days, however, it was one wild town.
Named after the Oglala band of Dakota Sioux, it was initially founded in 1873 simply as a stop along the Union Pacific Railroad. From 1875 to 1885, the town was one of the most well-known towns along the Texas Trail (sometimes called the Western Trail), the trail used to drive cattle from Texas to Ogallala. From here, the cattle were either sent East or sold to ranchers from the surrounding states (Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Dakota and Colorado). This beef also was also marketed to Indian agencies and mining camps.
Being the end of the Texas Trail meant that cowboys, gamblers, seasonal saloon girls and prostitutes were attracted to the town. Gold flowed throughout it, and crime came along with the people and hobbies. Within the ten years that the town was active, 17 violent deaths occurred within a population of less than 25, not surprising in a town that attracted both Calvary men and cowboys – two sides that were bitterly opposed to each other during the Civil War.
The wild west days of Ogallala started winding down by 1884 as trail driving came to an end, and the town looked for other ways to sustain itself. Today, while cattle remains important, farming, hydro-electric power and industry have also risen to support the town.
To learn more about the history of Ogallala, visit the Keith County Nebraska website.
Marker location: 41.1329° N, 101.7208° W. Leonidas A. Brandhoefer Mansion, 1004 N Spruce St, Ogallala, NE 69153.