Except for the occasional Indian or white hunting parties, the scenic Blue River valley was seldom visited prior to 1860. The establishment of the Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff in 1861 brought through the region thousands of overland freighting outfits. Road ranches were soon established along the trail, and scattered settlement began shortly thereafter. “Immigrants who come hither with a view to permanent settlement, can find no better locality than the valley of the Blue River, West and South-west of this city,” reported the Nebraska City News on June 7, 1862.
“Although there is an abundance of vacant land between that stream and the Missouri, a great deal of which is well-timbered, the Blue region offers unexampled inducements. The main stream, which directly West of us is 66 miles distant, is West Branch and Beaver Creek (emptying into the West Branch) which heads about 75 miles farther west and run[s] nearly due East, Turkey creek, the Little Blue and the Big Sandy, are all heavily timbered with wide bottoms and pure water. The timber abounds with game; and the water with fish. The soil is of unexampled fertility. The Salt Springs of Lancaster county are within convenient distance. The Great Central Route to Denver–a road thoroughly bridged and opened–crosses the Blue, directly west of this city, and runs out to the Platte on the divide between the West Branch and Beaver Creek.
“For stock raising–the most profitable business the settler can go into, the valleys of the Big Blue and its tributaries are unequalled. For cereal crops, the soil is adapted in every respect; and the numerous ranches, and constant trains of emigrants and traders will afford a never failing market at the very gateways of the farms. For sheep and especially fine breeds–the high rolling prairies and the dry equable climate, are in every way superior to any other part of this continent. Southern Nebraska will undoubtedly, ere long, be celebrated as the most successful wool-growing country in the world.
“There are a good many settlers along the Blue, already. A score or more of families have gone there this spring; several of them, those who had started for the mountains, but who found sufficient attractions on our beautiful western prairies and groves, to cause them to abandon the prospect of a life of never-ending toil among the wilds of the gold-digging regions for the more bountiful prospect of ease, comfort and wealth near the Blue River. We advise every immigrant to seek a home upon that stream, and after a year or two, if he is not content to remain, we will acknowledge ourselves sadly mistaken [in] our estimate of the value of the country.”