the Northern Plains; that was Ogallala from 1870 to 1885.
Hard-bitten Wyoming and Montana cattleman met in Ogallala's
hotel and saloons with Texas Cattle kings and bargained over
cattle prices. Gold flowed freely across the table, liquor
across the bar, and occasionally blood across the floor as a
bullet brought some unlucky cowhand to his death on the
floorboards of "Tuck's Saloon."
The first white men to
come to this country were the trappers from St. Louis. The
trappers were able to get along with the Pawnee Indians who
lived along the Republican River. The Sioux Indians
to the north, however, were not
friendly and were a constant menace to
The next people were those
who followed the Oregon Trail. To protect those people, the
government established forts at interval along the trail.
Then came the Union Pacific Railroad. It is assumed that
Ogallala had its beginning about 1867. Settlers started to
follow the railroad west and cattlemen started driving their
cattle to Ogallala to be shipped east or to be sold to Montana
and Wyoming ranchers.
Ogallala's early history
was unspectacular; it promised to be nothing but a section
house and water tank for the railroad. Then, in the spring of
1868 appeared three men to set the destiny of Ogallala. These
men were the Longergan brothers and Louis Aufdengarten. The
Lonergan brothers came to do construction work for the Union
Pacific Railroad, but they found the plains to their liking,
subsequently then became interested in Ogallala.
By 1876, Ogallala had
changed from its infant days in1868. The stores were all
south of the railroad tracks. The stores fronted what was
called Railroad Street. Aufdengarten's general store was on
the corner of the intersection of this street and the trail
leading south to the Platte River. Along this trail extended
the rest of the town. The town consisted of saloons with such
names as "The Cowboy's Rest" and the
"Crystal Palace." The
last building on the street was the "Ogallala House"
dining room was widely patronized because of its excellent
fare. SS Gast ran it.
The military campaign
carried out by General Crook and Colonel Miles during the fall
and winter of 1876 brought an end to the Indian troubles in
this part of the territory. These campaigns made sure that
the Sioux Indians would be confined to their reservations.
By 1880, Ogallala
consisted of one courthouse, on school, one hotel, two
dwelling houses, and twenty-five permanent residents. The
tempo of living in early Ogallala changed with the seasons.
During the months of winter and early spring life was drab and
dreary. Shortly after the first of June the town began to hum
with activity as the first Texas trail herds started to
arrive. During the three summer months business boomed
twelve herds, each of two thousand five hundred head could be
located south of town. The presence of a hundred or more
trail hands taxed the facilities of Ogallala. Sleeping rooms
and meals were hard to find when the trail hands were in
town. Activities in Ogallala continued at a fever pitch until
the end of August, by then the Texans were heading back to
Texas. By November, Ogallala had settled back in quiet and
Ogallala's population of
floaters, gamblers, trades-people and dance hall hostesses
drifted to Omaha or Cheyenne to spend the winter. One hotel,
one supply house and a single saloon remained open for the
winter. The community sank into a state of inanimation until
the next spring.
In 1882-1884, the settlers
and farmers reached Ogallala. These men were encouraged
by the Union Pacific Railroad to sell their land at quite low
A serious epidemic of
Texas fever swept over Nebraska during the summer of 1884.
The disease first appeared near Ogallala in July,
apparently brought in by Texas cattle. The disease spread quickly
and it caused very heavy losses to the cattlemen. The
ranchers had started to put expensive blooded bulls in their
herds. These ranchers demanded that Texas cattle be excluded
from Nebraska. This ban of Texas Cattle was a damaging blow
to the Texas trail herd business. This was the end of the
romantic period of Ogallala. The cattle industry no longer
existed and the wild-violent town was reduced to a peaceful
The cattle industry rose again but in a
modified form. Once again Ogallala became the commerce center
of the Platte Valley, but it was never again to lurid
"cattletown" it had been from 1870 to 1890.
Ogallala received its name from the
OGALA Sioux Indian tribe. The Indians spelled the name
Ogala and they pronounced it Oklada. The word
means "scatter," or
"to scatter one's own." Ogallala has been
spelled in a variety of ways such as Ogallalah,
Ogallalla, and the present spelling