Sidney, 1877

Sidney, Nebraska was prosperous enough when it was laid out in 1867. But once gold was discovered in the Black Hills, hundreds of people descended on the town, bringing prosperity and more than a little chaos.

Sidney in Cheyenne County was laid out in the fall of 1867 at the time of the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad. Though prosperous as a frontier town, it had a population of only about five hundred until the discovery of gold in the Black Hills. In the great rush to the new gold fields, hundreds of people passed through Sidney, which became a major outfitting point for the gold rush. The raucous atmosphere produced by travelers and soldiers from nearby Sidney Barracks was described briefly by a correspondent for The Daily State Journal of Lincoln on March 29, 1877.

The correspondent, identified only as Jack, described several amusements of Sidney that he had recently visited:

The first place we were steered to was one that is visible to any and all passengers from the windows of the cars on the track of the Union Pacific, and situated on Front street, known as the SENATE. Entering this famous resort and saloon, we find at all hours of the evening the proprietor, whose cognomen is ‘Texas,’ gracefully perched behind the bar, waiting upon his many customers. . . . A large archway divides the saloon into two separate rooms, and in the rear one we find almost every kind of a gambling game played. There is a constant uproar there all the time every dealer of the games endeavoring to rope in the many gazers on.

The next establishment Jack visited was

Joe Lane’s Centennial Dance Hall. Upon arriving, we thought that it was indeed a ‘Lane,’ and moreover, one of those that has no turning–a long one. Filled to a red hot capacity, and still a ‘hotting’ . . . . To stand and look on at a pack of intoxicated men and dancehouse women endeavoring to dance, was not what we desired to see, and consequently we left the ‘centennial’ a better and wiser man.

Jack, however, had only praise for the next Sidney entertainment he visited.

Thiele & Wagner have the finest concert Hall in the State, and they are receiving a large share of patronage. Unlike the other places mentioned, this is a pleasant resort to pass away a few spare hours in the evening. Becoming somewhat fatigued (we do not mean ‘boozed’) we left for home, concluding to take in the remainder of the town at some future time.

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