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Hear The History Of North Shore

History of North Shore - Western Cattle Trail Association
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The Western Trail, the longest of all the cattle trails in miles and time, brought an estimated six million head of cattle and one million horses north from Texas to the northern Plains.  The buffalo were disappearing and these cattle could utilize the abundant grass.  The destination of the trail in Nebraska was Ogallala, NE, where cattle could be put on railroad cars and shipped to markets in the East.  These cattle were also used to feed the Indians on the reservation around Ft. Robinsons and on to the fort at Belle Fouche, SD.  Additional cattle were used to stock ranches which helped populate the Sandhills of Nebraska and points west and north.

This North Shore marker is a mile and a half west of the original marker put up by the Hitchcock County Historical Society in 1934.  (continued below photos...)

From the Western Trail marker before you, looking southeast, from 1874 through the 1880’s, thousands of cattle could be seen coming down Black Canyon, just west of what is now Trenton Dam and to the hills to the east.  2500 to 3000 longhorns crossed the Republican River where Trail City was located.

In the show Lonesome Dove, cowboys at Ogallala said they almost drown getting across the Republican River and this is where they crossed.  The Republican River had high sides from Hardy, NE, to Benkelman, NE.  Quicksand was prevalent.  Getting across the river was perilous.  

After crossing the river, many of the cattle went up Elm Creek which was just east of this marker.  They then went northwest on the fingers that were flat all the way to the crossing at the Frenchman River near the current Kenny Ham farm west of Hamlet.  

As the cattle ate off the grass and the settlers moved in, the herds moved west and  many of the cattle  went west to what is now under Swanson Lake water and  went up Dry Canyon where the best evidence of the cattle trail can still be seen on the Harold and Pam Potthoff ranch.  The first marker to the west of this North Shore Marker can be located just north off Highway 34 at mile marker 358.  Evidence of six dugouts and two barns can be seen along Dry Creek.  


Meeting up at Hamlet they joined the trail from earlier years that went just north of Trenton on Bush Canyon and then went northwest to Hamlet.   

The cattle crossed the McPherson Trail (the main military route where Custer can through in 1867) south of Hamlet.   From there the McPherson Trail went just north of Stratton and west through what is now Benkelman.

On the McPherson Trail the forts were Ft. McPherson, near North Platte; Ft. Sedgwick (of Dance With Wolves Fame) at Holyoke, CO;  and Ft. Wallace, south of Goodland, KS.  These were the outposts that protected the settlers from the Indians.   

General Custer came from Ft. McPherson to Palisade.   Custer had six troops of 100 soldiers each, the same number he had at the Little Big Horn.

Through south of Loren Cushing’s to the Goodenburger Ranch north of Stratton (which is now part of Potthoff land) and then to Benkelman north of the Gavilon Elevator near Richard Ham’s place and camped there for two weeks.

The Kidder Party of ten soldiers, an Indian scout and their commander were sent to deliver instructions from Ft. Sedgewick to General Custer.  They missed Custer at Benkelman and continued south toward Ft. Wallace but they were massacred by Indians in Kansas.  General Custer went down and buried them and then went back to Benkelman and continued up the south fork of the Republican River and went up to Sedgwick, CO.  This was nine years before the Battle of Little Big Horn, which was three years after the last Pawnee/Sioux Indian battle in Nebraska which occurred at Massacre Canyon, north of Trenton.

An historical marker is located south of Benkelman on highway 34/61.  It says, “General George Armstrong Custer, commanding troops A, D, E, H, K, and M of the 7th Calvary camped near here June 27 to June 30, 1867, after a march from Fort McPherson, NE.  They were campaigning against the allusive Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.  

On June 24th Pawnee Killer led a dawn attack on Custer’s camp wounding a sentry.  There followed a parley between Custer and his officers and Pawnee Killer, Pole Cat, Fire Lightning, and Walks Underground.  Neither side was able to learn the plans of the other and an Indian effort to separate the officers from their command was thwarted.  Later Captain Hamilton and forty troopers, pursuing a decoy war party, road into an ambush seven miles northwest of the camp but fought their way out, killing two warriors.  

Custer’s supply train of sixteen wagons, were returning from Ft. Wallace, KS, was attacked near Black Butte Creek, and killed several Indians.  Lt. Kidder, ten troopers and scout Red Bead, carrying orders from Ft. Sedgwick, CO, missed Custer’s camp and they were killed near Beaver Creek.  Their mutilated bodies were found and buried by Custer on July 12.  

The flamboyant career of General Custer ended on the Little Big Horn, MT, June 25, 1876.”

According to Benkelman Historian E. S. Sutton’s books Southwest Nebraska and Teepee to Soddies, a fort at Stratton, NE, was proposed in 1864, two years before the end of the American Civil War.  This proposed fort would have been called Ft. Mitchell.   At the time, the North was short of troops and money and the fort was never built.  If it had been there, it might have avoided three sad events, the Massacre Canyon battle of the Sioux and Pawnee, the Kidder Massacre and the Beecher Island Massacre on the Rickere Creek. 

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