Rock Creek Station

Rock Creek Station is the name for two stations or road ranches on either side of a ford of Rock Creek on the Oregon-California Trail in extreme southern Jefferson County, NE. The ranches were occupied from 1857-1867 and served many roles including: as a pony express station, stage station, general store, blacksmith shop, and likely a post office. The station became famous in 1861 when James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok shot and killed David McCanles over an unpaid debt owed to McCanles. A complete description of those events can be found in Nebraska History Magazine Volume 49 Issue #1.



Development of Rock Creek Station State Historical Park began in 1980. Archeological work undertaken in 1980 and 1981 uncovered foundation remnants of some buildings as well as building related artifacts. This information was used to reconstruct some of the ranch buildings as close to their historic nature as possible.



In more recent years History Nebraska has done further work at Rock Creek Station State Historical Park and the adjoining campground. In 2016 portions of open grassland at the park were subject to a controlled burn, and archeologists from History Nebraska surveyed those areas before and after the burn. Several archeological sites and isolated artifacts were found around the park away from the reconstructed ranches. Two scatters of Native American artifacts were found that predate the site’s use as a station. The survey allows for a more complete story of park to be told.



Most recently, in 2021 History Nebraska has surveyed two projects, an electrical upgrade to the camp ground and a bank stabilization project. During the trenching for the electrical line logs or planking was found in the ground. The wood may relate to the trail and could have assisted wagons navigating the steep grade up from the ford. These efforts showcase the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and History Nebraska’s commitment to maintain and improve the park while preserving its historic features.



Map of Rock Creek Station in 1870.

Map of Rock Creek Station in 1870



 



Excavation of the “Main House” at the West Ranch

Excavation of the “Main House” at the West Ranch



 



Photo of the East Ranch in 1860 from the Piecing Together the Past exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum

Photo of the East Ranch in 1860 from the Piecing Together the Past exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum



 



Reconstructed Buildings at the East Ranch

Reconstructed Buildings at the East Ranch



 



Reconstructed Buildings at the West Ranch

Reconstructed Buildings at the West Ranch



 



Wagon Wheel Rim Found in the Post Burn Survey of 2016

Wagon Wheel Rim Found in the Post Burn Survey of 2016



 



Electrical Line Installation in 2020

Electrical Line Installation in 2020

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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.
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