publications

Omaha-Fort Kearny Road

Territorial Governor Mark Izard reported in December 1855 that $50,000 had been appropriated by Congress to construct a road from Omaha to Fort Kearny. Lt. John N. Dickerson, First Artillery, was assigned the task. He took his surveying crew north from Omaha to the old Mormon “Winter Quarters Trail,” where they turned west across broken country cut by the Big and Little Papillion creeks. These two difficult streams would require extensive grading before they could be crossed without undue difficulty. Once across the Elkhorn the party entered the Platte valley and continued upstream into the Loup River valley for a short distance where they crossed on the Mormon ferry. An old trail continued up the south side of the Loup, but Dickerson concluded that the best route to the fort would be to go south from the ferry to the Platte and follow that stream.



Dickerson’s survey took him near the villages of the Pawnee, and he met some of the chiefs at Fort Kearny. Tribal leaders complained bitterly about the road because the emigrants cut timber for firewood and frightened away all the game in the area. The chiefs also complained that the Pawnee were often blamed when emigrant stock was stolen even though other tribes were usually guilty. The Pawnee assured Dickerson they would not attack a road-building party, but they wanted him to be aware of their opposition to it so the government could not later claim they had given their approval.



At the end of the survey Dickerson made a number of recommendations for bridging small streams. The Elkhorn River would require a large and expensive bridge. Dickerson also suggested that the Loup River be channelized so the ferry could operate more efficiently. The whole project would have cost $110,000, but the U.S. Congress could not be convinced and apparently a smaller amount was authorized. Governor Izard reported in January 1857 that contracts for some bridges had been let but that it would require an additional $30,000 to complete the road. It seems these extra funds were not entirely necessary because by the end of the year it was reported that the road was nearly finished. The cost of a bridge over the Loup River was estimated at $80,000, but Congress would not appropriate the funds. The Union Pacific Railroad spanned it in the fall of 1866.



The Platte River was the only remaining barrier on the road from Omaha to Fort Kearny. Bridging the Platte would have been very expensive and before funds could be acquired, both Fort Kearny and the Omaha-Fort Kearny Road were largely obsolete.


Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.