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

Guiding Landmarks

Courthouse and Jail Rocks

Guiding Landmarks Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 22, 2014
1. Guiding Landmarks Marker
Inscription. Court House Rock was first noticed by explorer Robert Stuart in 1812 and quickly became one of the guiding landmarks for fur traders and emigrants traveling to the California, Oregon and Utah Territories. It is a massive monolith of Brule Clay and Gering Sandstone that was likened to a courthouse or a castle. A smaller feature just to the east was the Jail Rock. From this location, Courthouse Rock has an obvious resemblance to the familiar building with a dome or cupola in the city square back home. This could be anybody’s courthouse from Maine to Iowa, but most thought it resembled the famous old courthouse in St. Louis.
While these two landmarks are located south of the North Platte River, they could be seen by the Mormons as they passed this way. Many wrote journal entries recording their fascination with land formations from Ash Hollow to Scott’s Bluffs. Their journals described the “awesome space and empty openness” as well as their interest with the rock formations that seemed to rise out of nowhere. Some called Courthouse Rock “castle like” and for some, it reminded them of a temple.

Side bar, lower right:
William Clayton, May 24, 1847 - “Opposite the camp on the south side of the river is a very large rock very much resembling a castle of four stories high,
Guiding Landmarks Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 22, 2014
2. Guiding Landmarks Marker
Courthouse and Jail Rocks are in the background.
but in a state of ruin. A little to the east a rock stands which looks like a fragment of a very thick wall. The scenery around is pleasant and romantic.”
Henry Pugh, clerk of the Joseph Young Company, Sunday, August 21, 1853 “Meeting held at 1:15 p.m. at which Pres. Joseph W. Young exhorted the Saints to diligence, constancy in prayer, union, etc. Some discord having existed, he found it necessary to speak plainly to the camp and scold them somewhat which, however, was done in an amiable spirit. At 4:45 p.m. the company moved on, traveling 5 miles and camped for the night at 7 o’clock on the side of the road opposite Court House Rock.”
William Henry Branch, Sr. - Wilford Woodruff Company, Mon. August 12, 1850 - “Today we passed Temple Rock, This is a curious work of nature. It is a stupendous rock some eighty feet in diameter at its base. It rises some 40 feet perpendicular, or nearly so. On the top of this is a dome or steeple 15 feet in diameter and 20 feet high running to a point at the top. Beside this there are smaller rocks from 15 to 20 feet high.”

Many explorers, emigrants and pioneers kept diaries and journals of their 4-5 month trek across the prairies and mountains that provide us with insight into their experiences.
Erected by Mormon Trail Heritage Foundation & National Park Service.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mormon Pioneer Trail marker series.
Location. 41° 39.953′ N, 103° 3.417′ W. Marker is near Bridgeport, Nebraska, in Morrill County. Marker is on Route 26 near Road 103, on the right when traveling west. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Bridgeport NE 69336, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Mormon Pioneer Camp (approx. 2.2 miles away); Bridgeport, Nebraska (approx. 2.2 miles away); Oregon Trail (approx. 2.3 miles away); Courthouse and Jail Rocks (approx. 5 miles away); Camp Clarke Bridge and Sidney-Black Hills Trail (approx. 5.8 miles away).
Additional keywords. Mormon Trail
Categories. Roads & VehiclesSettlements & Settlers
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 206 times since then and 68 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. 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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