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.
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 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, 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 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.
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.
|Series||This marker is part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects series|
|Placed By||Keith County Visitors Committee|
|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Friday, October 17th, 2014 at 8:48am PDT -07:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||14T E 271214 N 4557084|
|Decimal Degrees||41.13283333, -101.72568333|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 41° 7.97', W 101° 43.541'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||41° 7' 58.20" N, 101° 43' 32.46" W|
|Driving Directions||Google Maps|
|Closest Postal Address||At or near 1009 Parkhill Dr, Ogallala NE 69153, US|
|Alternative Maps||Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap|
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