Oregon Trail in Jefferson County

category : Historic Trails
Oregon Trail in Jefferson County

The Oregon Trail goes through Jefferson County in a nearly-diagonal pattern from southeast to northwest and almost follows the path of the Little Blue River, always remaining to the north of the river. Visitors get the feel of the long-past days of wagon trains and settlers heading west by viewing the visible ruts. In many areas, distinct trail ruts are visible as a broad "swale" across a hilltop. Along the state and county roadsides, many trail markers exist to point the way and explain the local history.

"The Oregon Trail was perhaps the first route across the plains to the Pacific slope, being traveled many years before the old Santa Fe Trail. While the eastern terminus was St. Louis, the real starting-point by wagon was at Westport or Independence, Missouri as the journey to these points was by boat. As the travel grew in volume, Leavenworth, Atchison, St. Joseph and Nebraska City became, in turn, outfitting points in the North Platte County." (1.)

The earliest use of this natural pathway was as an Indian Trail. In 1829, William Sublette used the trail commercially, via pack train, to haul goods and supplies to the fur traders' rendezvous in the Rockies, ending at Pierre's Hole (Idaho).

The resources of the Great Northwest appealed not only to the trapper and trader but also to the agriculturist and rancher. Due to fears of the American residents living in the Oregon territory that England had intentions of forcibly adding that country to her domain, it was thought that sending many colonists would solve the situation. Lt. John C. Fremont was commissioned to find an official route from the Missouri River to the Oregon country. Fremont arrived at St. Louis on May 22, 1842 and fitted out with 28 men, 8 carts, mules, saddle horses and 4 oxen for food. Kit Carson was selected as the guide.

Both Fremont and Carson's names plus the date, June 22, 1842, appeared on a steep sandstone bluff about one-half mile south of the Rock Creek Station. Locally known as Quivera Park, this area was very popular until high water in the early 1970s undercut the bluff and the historic carvings sluffed off the bank to be lost. A photograph of the carvings was taken during the 1930s.

After Fremont's expedition, emigration settled and claimed the Oregon territory for America. The Gold Rush period of the late 1840s and early 1850s, marked a dramatic increase in trail traffic. Due to the traffic, Road Ranching became an important business along the trail through Jefferson County. This private enterprise encouraged freighters and stagecoach traffic along this route due to the road improvements and provisions available at the "ranches" or stations. For 18 months, the Pony Express carried the mail through Jefferson County, utilizing four stations enroute.

By the fall of 1866, the transcontinental railroad had reached the Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska, and traffic on the Oregon Trail through this area began to diminish, as travelers would go as far as possible by rail, then "fit out" for overland travel.

(1.) Charles Dawson, Pioneer Tales of the Oregon Trail, p. 20.

Visitors can follow the trail through the county with help from maps available from the Fairbury Chamber of Commerce: Box 274, Fairbury, NE or : 402-729-300.

Come visit us in Fairbury, Nebraska

Attractions and Upcoming Events

Fairbury City Park

Tourists, outdoorsmen and nature lovers have plenty of opportunities to take full advantage of the great outdoors while in Fairbury.

Fairbury has acres and acres and acres of parks.

The City Park, located on the southwest edge of town, is over 42

Fairbury, NE Recreation

Rock Creek Station State Park

Rock Creek Station State Park is a Pony Express and emigrant station where James Butler Hickok gained his famed name, "Wild Bill", when he shot and killed the station attendant, D.C. McCanles, in 1861

Fairbury, NE Historic Sites

Frontier Fun Park

Nebraska's first community-built playground was built in 1995

Fairbury, NE Recreation

Campbell Bros. Circus Mural

The Campbell Bros. Circus and other highlights of historic Fairbury are captured on this mural on the side of Globe Rexall Drugstore in downtown Fairbury.

The picture was created by Echo & Jeff Easton & Greg Holdren. The scene is 140 feet long & 38

Fairbury, NE Arts

Four Corner Survey Marker

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of May 30, 1854, created the territories of Nebraska and Kansas, which had to be surveyed before settlement of the prairies could proceed. On May 8, 1855, Charles A. Manners set a cast-iron monument on the bluff west of the Missouri river at 40-degrees north latitude. In 1855

Fairbury, NE Historical Markers

Things to do Historic Trails near Fairbury, NE

Ox-Bow Trail

The Ox-Bow Trail started at Nebraska City, went northwest to the Platte River and then southwest to Fort Kearney. The trai...

Frontier Trails Across Gage County

The Oregon Trail enters Nebraska and crosses the southwest corner of Gage County. In ...

Historic Forty-Niner Trail

During the 19th century the United States underwent a dramatic westward expansion, but perhaps no single event stimulated thi...