History Nebraska Blog

Marker Monday: The Watson Ranch

Welcome to Marker Monday! Each Monday we will feature one of Nebraska’s hundreds of historical markers. If you’d like to see a specific marker featured, send an email to jill.dolberg@nebraska.gov. Nebraska's farmers are busy in the fields, so this week we remember a historic farm and ranch in Buffalo County.

Location: 6411-6467 Lincoln Hwy, Kearney, Buffalo County, Nebraska; 40.699488, -99.16328

Marker Text: In 1888, H. D. Watson established the historic Watson Ranch, at one time containing 8,000 acres, reaching from the fertile Platte Valley on the south to the rolling hills on the north and from downtown Kearney to a point five miles west. During its existence, the ranching operations were devoted to grains, poultry, vegetables, and a 250-acre fruit orchard primarily of cherry, plum, and apple trees. Watson planted thousands of other trees of numerous varieties. Resembling a huge experiment station, the ranch included such crops as wheat, rye, barley, corn, potatoes, sugar beets, squash, and asparagus. In the 1890's, Watson introduced alfalfa into the Platte Valley. In part to demonstrate the value of alfalfa as a feed, Watson constructed a dairy barn in 1900. Standing 650 feet northwest of this sign, it measured 500 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 56 feet high. Attached to an immense silo, it contained stanchions for 400 cows, huge hay lofts, and wagon and machinery storage. Because it was located 1,733 miles from both Boston and San Francisco, it later became known as the "1733 Ranch," and the huge barn remained a landmark until it was torn down in 1935. 

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