“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ogallala in Keith County, Nebraska — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Boot Hill Kiosk

Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 1 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
1. Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 1
Inscription. [The Boot Hill Kiosk contains 5 panels each dealing with an aspect of the history of Boot Hill.] [Panel 1]
Boot Hill Chronicles
1803 – The United States buys land from France known as the Louisiana Purchase including the future state of Nebraska
1813 – Fur trader Robert Stuart is the first white man down the river valley, coming from Astoria, Ore. to St. Louis.
1819 – Lt. Stephen Long exploring the South Platte, calls the area “The Great American Desert.
1836 – Missionaries Narcissus Whitman and Eliza Spalding become the first white women to follow the Platte route to Oregon and the Rocky Mountains
1842 – Lt. John C. Fremont follows and maps the South Platte and North Platte River valleys on his way to the Rocky Mountains.
1859 – The Colorado gold rush brings increased travel down the South Platte.
1860 – The pony express has three stations in Keith County: Alkali Lake or Alkali Station west of Paxton; Sand Hill, Sand Hill Station or Gill’s south of Ogallala; and Diamond Springs at Brule.
1866 – From 1843 to 1866, more than 350,000 pioneer, gold seekers, fur traders and religious groups had used the Platte River Road,
1867 – Union Pacific Railroad construction reaches the (future) site of Ogallala , May 24, 1867.
Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 2 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
2. Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 2
On May 24, Sioux Indians attack the train at the end of track killing three men who may have been the first burials at Boot Hill.
1867-- Lonergan brothers became first area ranchers.
1868 – A Company of the U.S. Cavalry Second Regiment is assigned to the Ogallala outpost.
1869 Louis Aufdegarten opens a trading post store, Ogallala’s first permanent structure. E.M. Searle is appointed U.P. Agent at Alkali Station.
1873 – Keith County is officially organized.
1874 – Union Pacific constructs cattle pens and a loading chute west of Ogallala. Between 50.000 and 75,000 cattle reach Ogallala bin 1875 with 100,000 to 125,000 arriving each year between 1879-1884.
1875 -- A cowboy shot while bathing in the river is first confirmed burial at Boot Hill.
1875 – A stone jail is built. S.S. Gast builds a hotel. The Crystal Palace and Cowboys Rest saloons and dance halls open. The first school is built. Wm. Paxton establishes Keystone Cattle Company.
1877 – Sam Bass and Joel Collins rob the U.P. Train at Big Springs, a heist plotted at Ogallala’s Crystal Palace Saloon.
1878 Dull Knife and his band of Cheyenne Indians, fleeing from Oklahoma Territory back to Montana, ford the South Platte just east of Ogallala, evading General Crook and troops seeking their capture (Cheyenne Outbreak or Trail of Tears).
1879 –
Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 3 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
3. Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 3
Sheriff Joe Hughes and deputies furnished three rowdy Texas cowboys with one way tickets to Boot Hill. Two others found safe refuge in flight.
1884 – Ogallala is officially incorporated on November 25 and is named after the Ogalala tribe of the Teton Sioux Indians.
1884 – Last year of the great drives. Ogallala’s career as “the Mother of All Cowtowns” ends.
1884 – A fire burns most of Front Street. The first newspaper is established.
1884 – Rattlesnake Ed Worley is buried on Boot Hill, killed by another gambler over a $9 monte (card game) bet.
1885 –Last confirmed Boot Hill burial. A new cemetery is established west of town.
1887 – Ogallala’s Mansion of the Hill is built. A brick school is constructed.
1888 – A new brick courthouse in constructed, replacing wood structure (The 1888 courthouse replace in 1963).
1913 – By 1913 most of the bodies at Boot Hill had been removed to other cemeteries.
1913 – Ogallala is on route of U.S. 30, the first transcontinental highway. A volunteer fire department is established.
1941 – Kingsley Dam, keystone of the state’s largest irrigation system, is completed.
1961 – State Historical Society designates Ogallala as Nebraska’s Cowboy Capitial.
1964 – Jaycees spearhead establishment of Boot Hill as a park.
Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 4 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
4. Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 4
– Ogallala is named an “All-American City” by Look Magazine and the National Municipal League.
1978 – Three bodies are uncovered on Boot Hill by construction workers and are reinterred at Boot Hill in 1993.
1985 – Time capsule in buried at Boot Hill.
1989 – Ogallala is featured in television series “Lonesome Dove” based on the Larry McMurtey novel about Texas Trail cattle drives.

[Panel 2]
End of the Texas Trail
The cattle drives had a major impact on Ogallala’s early history and growth. Their legacy is recalled by “Long Horns,” an art-deco style mural in the Ogallala post office. The painting, by artist Frank Mechau, was commissioned in 1938 by the U.S. Treasury’s Section of Painting and Sculpture, and funded by the Works Progress Administration. Although the painting depicts a Caucasian cowboy, two of every seven were African-American or Hispanic.
An etching of Ogallala appeared in an 1878 issue of American Agriculturalist magazine, depicting the town as the terminus of Texas cattle drives. It shows cattle being driven up the trail, across the South Platte River, and into Union Pacific cattle pens. Trains then carried the cattle to markets in the East, or ranches in the West. Some herds were also trailed north to provide beef for Indian reservations.


Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 5 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
5. Boot Hill Kiosk - Panel 5
History of Boot Hill
Boot Hill was the final resting place for many early westerners who helped make Ogallala a booming cowtown in the 1870s and 1880s. These people, the cowboys, settlers and drifters, came to Ogallala when the railroad and the Texas Trail opened a new market for the Texas Longhorn.
Although one of the first burials here was mother and child, many came by running afoul of the law – some for stealing another man’s horse. Others were killed by re-fighting the Civil War or questioning the gambler’s winning hand. In July of 1879 three cowhands were buried in a single day, victims of the sheriff’s guns. Another man, “Rattlesnake Ed,” was buried here after he was shot down over a nine dollar bet in a Monte game in the Cowboy Rest, a local saloon. Despite the efforts of numerous lawmen, Ogallala developed a reputation as a rough-and-tumble cowtown. Between 1875-1885 Ogallala was the site of 17 recorded violent deaths, a considerable number for a community whose permanent population number 100. Most were buried with their boots on, thus the name Boot Hill. Their bodies, placed in canvas sacks, were lowered into shallow graves and marked with wooden headboards. Some bodies have since been removed. Only the unknown or unclaimed remain in this western cemetery.
Boot Hill Displays funded by the Keith County Visitors Committee


Boot Hill Kiosk image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
6. Boot Hill Kiosk
Boot Hill Burials
There are no reliable records detailing when people began using this prominent windswept hill overlooking the South Platte River Valley to bury the dead. Although the valley was the way west for early trappers and traders, Oregon and California migrants, freighters, the Army, Pony Express riders and telegraph and railroad builders, no surviving records indicate that there were deaths among any of these groups that resulted in a burial on Boot Hill. Record keeping was haphazard after Ogallala became the county seat of Keith County in 1873. Only those deaths that required an expenditure (i.e. for inquest fees, digging a grave or room and board for a wounded man until he died) appeared in the county records. Extensive research has resulted in a list of confirmed and probable burial at Boot Hill.
May 1867 – Possible burial of three Union Pacific track layers killed during an Indian raid.
August 1875 – Confirmed burial of Robert Webster, shot by another cowboy while bathing in the North Platte River.
December 1875 – Probable burial of Amos Black, Texas trail herder who died of natural causes.
September 1876 – Confirmed burial of Joseph Hayes who was shot by William Bland after winning a poker hand at a local saloon.
Spring 1877 – Possible burial of Thomas Lonegran, a Ogallala pioneer,
The Entrance to Boot Hill image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
7. The Entrance to Boot Hill
who was killed when his horse collided with a calf during a Spring roundup.
August 1877 – Confirmed burial of William Campbell who was killed by Andrew Moye during a drunken shootout at the Cowboy’s Rest Saloon.
Spring 1877 – Confirmed burial of two cowboys killed at a local saloon by unknown assailants.
August 15, 1877 – Confirmed burial of three-day-old daughter of early Ogallala settlers [sic].
Fall 1877 – Confirmed burial of unknown man at county expense. Probable victim of a gunfight
August 1878 – Confirmed burial of Sarah Miller and infant child who both died during childbirth.
Fall 1878 – Confirmed burial of an Indian at county expense.
July 1879 Confirmed burial of William Shook, Henry Parker and possibly William H. Brewton who were killed by Ogallala town marshal Joseph Hughes during a shootout at a local saloon.
December 1879 – Confirmed burial of Patrick Carroll as a result of tuberculosis.
January 1880 – Confirmed burial of Michael Kearney, a section hand, found lying dead beside the railroad tracks near Ogallala.
January 1880 – Probable burial of a six-day-old baby following a difficult birth.
February 1880 – Confirmed burial of a tramp who was killed and robbed by an unknown assailant.
Spring 1880 – Probable burial of John Roe.
June 1880
Ogallala from Boot Hill image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, December 10, 2011
8. Ogallala from Boot Hill
Confirmed burial of four-year-old daughter of early pioneer of Ogallala.
December 1882 – Probable burial of Alice West.
December 1882 – Probable burial of Joseph Evans, son of homesteaders.
Spring 1883 – Probable burial of Mary Bleasdale and infant child.
May 1883 – Possible burial of E.A. Maler, a Texas herder.
April 1884 – Confirmed burial of eight-year-old who was killed when crushed by a timber dislodged from a leaning position against a wall.
August 1884 – Confirmed burial of “Rattlesnake” Ed Worley, a gambler who was shot by another gambler in an argument.
July 1885 – Confirmed burial of Tamer Irwin who died of blood poising following childbirth.
September 1885 – Probable burial of fourteen-year-old girl who died of typhoid fever.
November 1885 – Confirmed burial of Daniel Irwin, the husband of Tamer Irwin who had died in July.
1913 – Permanent residents of Ogallala for the most part, made arrangements to have their loved dead re-interred in the new cemetery west of Ogallala.

[Panel 5]
Boot Hill Legacy
The legacy of Boot Hill continues to be uncovered. In 1978 the remains of Craig Waxman (identified by an embroidered kerchief) along with three other graves remains were uncovered by a construction company while obtaining landfill dirt. A University of Nebraska anthropologist identified the three unknown remains as those of a young adult female, a young male and an adult male (see photo to the right). All four remains, as well as those from three prehistoric Native Americans found on the southwest shores of Lake McConaughy in 1989 and 1990, were reburied in 1992.
The above [middle left] photo shows artifacts from coffins uncovered in 1978. Artifacts include porcelain nails used to assemble the coffins, a metal nail, scraps of clothing and pieces from the wood coffins.
In 1985 Ogallala’s Centennial time capsule was buried at Boot Hill (see photo bottom left). The official ceremonies began at 84 minutes after 2 p.m. on the 84th day of 1985 – all symbolic of Ogallala’s Centennial year of 1984.
The buried capsule contained catalogues, newspapers, magazines, information of pioneer and present families, artifacts, family brands, family photographs and two bottles of scotch. The two bottles of scotch are to be consumed when the capsule is reopened in 2034 and 2084.
Erected by Keith County Visitors Committee.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects marker series.
Location. 41° 7.97′ N, 101° 43.541′ W. Marker is in Ogallala, Nebraska, in Keith County. Marker is on Parkhill Drive near West 10th Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1008 Parkhill Drive, Ogallala NE 69153, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Boot Hill (a few steps from this marker); The Trail Boss (within shouting distance of this marker); Cowboy Capital (approx. ¼ mile away); Keith County Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); KOGA AM & FM (approx. half a mile away); End of the Texas Trail (approx. half a mile away); Standard Oil Gas Station (approx. half a mile away); The Mormon Trail (approx. 0.6 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Ogallala.
Categories. Cemeteries & Burial Sites

Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 749 times since then and 69 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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