No state in the Great Plains Belt is richer in treasure and artifact sites than Nebraska. The great movement of westward migration touched Nebraska more than any other state because it more or less followed the natural path of its great central watercourse, the Platte River.
It has been said that the entire length of the Oregon Trail was a vast campground. While there were established campsites that wagon trains tried to reach before nightfall, there were many reasons why they were not always able to do so.
Under these conditions, they had to camp wherever they happened to be.
The treasure hunter will have no trouble finding sites that can be profitable in Nebraska.
A treasure hunter with a metal detector has a good chance of finding one cache of coins in a specific place, but at the following site, he could find anywhere from one to 100 caches, each worth between $100 and $1,000. They are mainly in coins, although several could be in gold dust.
Three miles west of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, is a field of about ten acres that was a camping ground where gold seekers stopped for over twenty years on their way to California and other gold fields, also on their way back east from these gold fields.
Gold was discovered on Cherry Creek, in Colorado, in 1850. During the next few years, a steady stream of hopeful men passed through Plattsmouth, going west and coming back east. This was one of the last places to stop for supplies. Thousands of men outfitted here before going on to the gold fields.
Merchants of Plattsmouth helped to fire the greenhorns’ gold desire by telling them, “A month out there and you can come back with a fortune.”
The easterners listened with open mouths and paid in coins for supplies to mine large amounts of gold in Colorado. For most of the greenhorns, the hard work of mining and not making over $3.00 a day proved too much. True, several were lucky, but the majority only wanted to save enough to get home.
By 1859, several thousand disillusioned miners were returning to the eastern states. One such group of about 1,000 men camped at the usual place, three miles west of Plattsmouth. Those who had gold or coins buried them near their camping spots.
During the evening, several ex-miners decided to rob and burn Plattsmouth because of what the merchants had told them about the easy riches to be found in the gold fields so that the eager greenhorns would buy supplies.
By the following day, over 1,000 men had gathered, intending to sack the town. Before leaving the campground, those who had not buried their gold and valuables the night before did so. But someone had tipped off the townspeople, so armed citizens were waiting for them when the miners reached the edge of Plattsmouth.
Before the ex-gold-seekers realized what had happened, they were being driven to the Missouri River, where they were told to “swim to Iowa and don’t come back.” The miners crossed the river any way they could because they had no choice but to swim.
They were told, in no uncertain terms, not to return.
After all the miners had crossed the river, many of Plattsmouth’s citizens went to the campground. One of them described the scene later. “The miners left wagons, horses, mules, mining tools, and camping equipment. This litter could be seen for years, what the citizens didn’t gather up and take home.”
A few people knew of the miner’s caches of gold and coins, but they didn’t know where they were buried. A few searches were done, but so far as is known, none of the gold or coins was found. Today, with a metal detector, a treasure hunter’s chances of finding one or more of these caches are excellent.
In the summer of 1869, a 12-man surveying party drove its wagons out the gates of Fort Kearney and headed for the desolate Republican River country in southwest Nebraska. Among them, the party carried over $3,000 in gold.
Later, Pawnee Killer, the leader of a group of Indian warriors, said that the surveyors had attacked and killed a group of his warriors. The surveyors were near a range of hills south of the mouth of Red Billow Creek when they spotted the small bank of Indians. They cached their gold, dug in, and opened fire at the surprised Indians.
In the first round, three Indians were slain. Then, over 100 others came riding up after they heard the gunfire. The surveyors, now vastly outnumbered, dashed for a timber stand near Beaver Creek. They were all killed.
The army later pinpointed the party’s last stand as being on Beaver Creek in Red Willow County but thought the gold had been buried a short distance away, where the surveyors first spotted the Indians. None of the gold, the surveyors’ wagons, or equipment were ever found.
In 1850, Fort John was built in Helvas Canyon, nine miles southwest of Gering on State 92 in Scottsbluff County. Used by the American Fur Company, the fort was visited by Father Desmet and Prince Paul of Wurttemberg. It would be a good place for relics.
Another fort that would also be worth checking is Fort McPherson, established in 1863 in Lincoln County on the South Platte River, about two miles west of Cottonwood Springs and eight miles above the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers.
The fort was built to protect travelers, but it was also where General Custer, General Sheridan, Buffalo Bill, and the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia went on a fancy hunting trip. The fort was abandoned in 1880. The site is one-half mile east of a national cemetery on State Road 107.
There are two points of rock in western Nebraska. There is a treasure story connected with one of them. The one with the treasure story is located in Box Butte County, about 18 miles west of Alliance. This was a favorite camping place for the freighters and wagon trains on the old Deadwood-Sidney Trail.
When a wagon carrying an undisclosed amount of gold from the Black Hills to the railhead at Sidney camped here one night in the 1880s, a member of the three-person crew stole the gold and buried it nearby.
Since the theft wasn’t found until the following day, the man kept going with the wagon and planned to return later to get the stolen goods. But before the wagon got to Sidney, the gold theft was discovered, and the man who was thought to have done it was killed in the fight that followed. So far as is known, the stolen gold has never been recovered.
In December 1866, while Fort Kearney was under siege by the Sioux Indians after the Fetterman Command Massacre, a howling snowstorm accompanied by below-zero weather hit the fort. Colonel Carrington feared the Sioux would get into the fort by using the snow drifts to climb over the walls.
He issued orders for the few women and children to gather in the powder magazine, where they would be blown up before being allowed to fall into the hands of the savage Sioux. He also told his paymaster to bury two chests that held an unknown amount of gold.
A soldier named Portuguese Phillips made a long ride under cover of the storm to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for help. Soldiers arrived to reinforce Fort Kearney before the Sioux decided to attack.
The paymaster dug up one chest but, for some unknown reason, did not retrieve the second. It is thought that Sioux snipers killed the soldiers who buried it, so no one knew where it was buried.
In 1865, the Sioux went on the warpath and ran rampant over Colorado and Nebraska, attacking wagon trains and stage stations, killing and burning them with abandon.
Unfortunately, only five civilians and nine soldiers could defend the stage station at Mud Springs when scores of Indians attacked it. Reinforcements came from Camp Mitchell and Fort Laramie, driving off the Indians, but not in time to save the station attendant, who had buried the station’s money at the first sign of trouble.
No one else knew where he had cached the coins. It is believed that the coins, hidden over 100 years ago, are still there at the site of the old Mud Springs Station, north of Dalton and west of U.S. 385.
William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, reportedly hid between $17,000 and $20,000 in $20 gold pieces on his ranch in Nebraska. As the story goes, Cody came home to his ranch late one night, about half-loaded, and one of the hired hands watched him unload a heavy chest from the buckboard wagon.
Cody walked several paces, stopped, turned around, and slowly made his way back to the wagon and placed the chest on the wagon once more. He looked in all directions as if to make sure he was alone. He eventually got back on the wagon and drove out into the pasture.
About 45 minutes later, Cody returned without the chest. He was still staggering around a little and had black dirt all over his body. Cody is said to have forgotten where he buried the gold when he needed it later. The ranch is located just northwest of North Platte, Nebraska.
One of the main questions many treasure hunters ask is, “Did pioneer families bury their money when camping at night?” Yes, it was very common for pioneers to bury money at night when they camped out while traveling.
When camping at night, pioneers frequently buried their money under the wagon or nearby as a safety measure. Sometimes they were killed before the cache was reclaimed, and at other times they couldn’t find it the following day and had to move on with the train or become the prey of Indians.
One wagon train family is said to have buried their money near Nebraska City and had to leave the following morning without recovering it.
Ash Hollow is located across the North Platte River, just south of Lewellen. People going west on the Oregon Trail usually camped there the night before crossing the river, and Indians often attacked them there. Many travelers buried their money at night, and two families on their way to Oregon did the same thing. The Indians killed them before they could get their money back. It is still believed to be there.
Based on the number of stories about it, this location may be worth visiting for anyone interested.
In Thurston County, on the side of Holy Fireplace Point, is Robber’s Cave, now only a tiny recess in the bluff but once the hideout of river bandits.
When an unsuspecting trapper was seen floating his season’s catch down the river, the bandits would attack his barge, kill him, and take his furs and other valuables.
At one time, the cave’s opening formed a right-angle turn, and it was necessary to crawl on hands and knees to enter. Now erosion and the destructive work of vandals have changed it.
Frank and Jesse James, who tried to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, are said to have gotten away from the police by hiding in this cave.
In June 1720, the Spanish government sent an expedition of forty men and supplies on a trip to the Platte River in Lincoln County, Nebraska, to set up a mission and fort. This caravan carried over $50,000 in gold, silver, and trinket jewelry for the French and Indian trade.
What is now Nebraska had long enticed the gold- and silver-hungry Spaniards. They thought it was full of valuable metals, which they wanted to put in the king’s bank accounts and their velvet-lined pockets. Also, French trappers were deriving huge profits from furs, and anything that looked like wealth lured the Spaniards.
The only mistake the Spanish government seems to have made was in selecting a leader for this venture. Lieutenant General Don Pedro de Villazur was a nobleman who was better at court politics than exploration. At the first campsite, he ordered the mules unpacked.
As the wide-eyed soldiers stared in disbelief, he carefully began removing the priceless, solid dinnerware. He planned to dine in high fashion.
They stopped about 110 miles north of Santa Fe. This is where the officer made his second mistake, which was much worse than eating with silverware.
The expedition had come upon a band of Apaches. The Spanish thought the Apaches were friendly in the southwest, so Villazur asked several of them to travel with him. They were to scout, to warn him of Pawnees, whom the soldiers were concerned about.
The force came to the Arkansas River, crossing at a point in present-day Hamilton County, Kansas. Marching east, they turned north toward the Platte River.
At about mid-morning on August 15, 1720, they climbed a hilltop near the Platte. In the distance, they saw a large Pawnee village, the site of their future settlement. The Apache scouts had not reported this to the Spanish.
Villazur was prepared to placate the Pawnees. He had brought several pack loads of trinkets such as mirrors, beads, combs, and pocket knives. When he distributed these among the Pawnees, he hoped they would become friends. If all went well, he’d be able to enlist them in building the settlement.
But the Pawnees were not to be so easily won over. They felt no love for the Spanish. They had heard too many tales of their cruelties from other tribes they had met. The Pawnees felt only hate for the soldiers.
The Spaniards went down the hill toward the South Fork of the Platte River.
At a distance of one to two miles east of the junction of the South Fork and the North Platte, they made camp soon to be their last. Villazur’s men unloaded the animals, buried the gold, and prepared the camp.
The next day Villazur awoke early; soon afterward, 150 screaming Pawnees and a handful of French trappers raided the ill-prepared camp.
In less than 30 minutes, all but six or seven of the soldiers were dead. Villazur had been one of the first to fall.
The six or seven who escaped concealed themselves in the grass on the plains and watched the Indians snatch up the sacks of goods and trinkets and ride off. The survivors looked at one another in fear. The caches of valuable cargo, the gold, had gone undiscovered, but they didn’t care. They were interested only in saving their own lives.
Many weeks later, the survivors reached Santa Fe. They were hurried to the Governor’s palace, where they told of the disaster and the loss of all the valuables.
The Spanish government never tried again to set up a colony in Nebraska or find the gold buried on the plains. Somewhere on a low hill near the South Fork meets the North Platte River, a cache of $50,000 waits for a lucky treasure hunter.
In 1855, a hard-working blacksmith named Al Medley came to the tiny settlement of Peru in southern Nebraska. Before many months passed, he could put a few gold coins into the bank. In this instance, the bank was the ground. The cache, estimated at $2,000 to $3,000, is still there.
In addition to his blacksmith shop, Medley ran the O. K. Store. Medley disappeared while on one of his trips to St. Joseph, Missouri, to purchase supplies. When he left Peru, he was supposed to return in about a month.
Weeks passed, and a few people began to worry about the blacksmith. Still, there was no great concern. Travelers were often delayed by storms or business matters. Then one morning, a wagon rumbled in off the trail. It stopped in front of the O.K. Store, and everyone realized that something had happened to Medley.
The wagon was loaded with merchandise. Medley had purchased in St. Joseph. Such freight moved slowly, so Medley should have been back days before the wagon arrived.
A hastily-formed search party rode out seeking traces of Medley but returned a few days later after finding nothing. In time, it was concluded that bandits had waylaid and killed him.
Friends looked around his store and blacksmith shop, hoping to find his cache so they could turn it over to his family. So far as is known, not a single coin was found.
If blacksmith Al Medley’s trove seems small, remember that those coins would bring many times their face value today. A good place to start is around the old blacksmith shop and store. Also, you should check the river bank near where he operated his ferry. Wherever the cache is, it has eluded searchers for over a century.
In 1876, a buffalo hunter named McGuire sold a load of hides at Fort Kearney. After purchasing supplies, he had $800 left. Leaving the fort, McGuire returned to his campsite, buried his gold, and prepared supper.
Shortly after he had eaten, two men rode in. They knew he had the money and followed him from the fort. The old hunter offered them food, and while they continued to eat, he walked to the spring to get water. As he bent over the pool, he was clubbed from behind and killed. The two men searched the campsite without finding McGuire’s money.
They then took his team, wagon, and supplies and left.
The murderers were caught near Haigler, and a fight ensued. One man was killed, and the other was sent to the penitentiary. This man said that no money was found at McGuire’s campsite. The money is buried near the old campground, a short distance from Fort Kearney. The cache would be worth much more today than it was in 1876.
For those who like to search old trails, some of the best relic sites in the country exist along the ancient routes through Nebraska. For two-thirds of its way through Nebraska, U. S. 30 closely follows the Mormon Trail, and for one-third of its distance, it roughly parallels the Oregon Trail, which, west of Grand Island, ran along the south bank of the Platte River.
Several feeder routes led into the Oregon and Mormon Trails from a dozen or more points on the Missouri River. These pioneer roads bore various names through the decades. In about 1848, both the Oregon and Mormon Trails were sometimes called the California Trails. After Ben Holliday’s stagecoach line was in operation, parts of the Oregon Trail became known as the Overland Trail.
The history of the old trails in Nebraska had four phases. The first was the period of trailblazing, which began in 1813. The second was the significant Oregon migration, which started in 1841. The third period was the California Gold Rush, and the fourth was when people moved west.
During this time, the Oregon Trail was called the most traveled highway in the world. It was broader and more worn down than a city street, and hundreds of thousands of people used it.
In many places, these old trails are still visible through ruts left deep in the original sod, and many campsites, if not marked, are not too difficult to find. Although most of the surface material has now been found, these old trails would be rich in relics for someone with a metal detector.
For those interested in scuba diving, the following sunken ships, some of whose cargos would be worth the expense of salvaging, lie along Nebraska’s eastern border, the Missouri River, and should be interesting.
The ships sank starting southeast and ending northwest at the town of Fort Randall, along the Nebraska state line; they are as follows: the Lily, General Custer, Dells, St. Mary, Dallas, Ben Johnson, Bishop, Ontario, Kansas, and Little Campbell. These were all south of Nebraska City.
There were the following sinkings between Nebraska City and Omaha: the Glencoe, Pocahontas No. 1, W. W. Walker, Mary McGee, General Grant, Mollie Dozier, Pirate Edgar, General Terry, and Cady Grace.
North of Omaha, the following occurred: The Emma, Benton No. 1. Bertrand, Cora No. 2, Amanda, Gallatin, Mariner, Damsell, Seitz, Nora, Onawa, Tennessee, Roanoke, Nugget, Louisville, Katy P. Kountz, Don Cameron, Carrie, Sunset, Gus Linn, Eclipse, Bridge Port, Andrew S. Bennett, Penina, Vint Stiling, Hiram Wood #2, Mary E. Bennet, Leadora, Urilda, Kate Sweeney, North Alabama, Fontanella, Senator, Wester, Tempest, Helena No. 1, Antelope, Imperial, and the Livingston.
Information on these wrecks can usually be found in historical societies, river city museums, sailing records, and old newspapers.
There are probably about 2,000 barrels and 10,000 bottles of 100-proof whiskey from before the Civil War buried in the bottomland along the Missouri River in Nebraska. The barrels and bottles came from a steamboat.
The Mary Lou vessel sank south of Omaha, Nebraska, in 1864. The army and people living in the western territory were supposed to eat the goods. The wreck’s exact location is unknown since the muddy Missouri River has changed its course many times through the years.
Early settlers in the barren sandhills region of northern Nebraska went through great pains to hide their valuables. Banks were few and far between. Those that did start up were frequently out of business within a few months. The frontiersman had nowhere to hide his valuables, so he devised ways to hide them.
Some settlers shaved down a cottonwood board until it resembled a shingle, about two and a half feet long, several inches wide, and two or three inches thick. A portion of it they hollowed out with a knife. They put their gold, silver, jewelry, and other valuables in the hollowed-out.
Often, a sliding piece of wood was fitted over the opening. Then it was placed on the roof of a cabin or shed, safe from the most searching plunderer.
In 1879, a German came into the hills behind a team of mules pulling a wagon. He squatted in the vicinity of present-day Valentine, Nebraska. Many settlers soon had a new place to cache their savings after his arrival. Their new hiding place was in the wells the Germans dug with unbelievable speed.
Even though banks were yet to become plentiful, many felt their money was safer hidden away at home. They’d started storing their valuables in their wells!
Settlers had numerous methods of caching a trove in a well. Some cleared out a hole above the water level and used this. Others took gold, silver, and other items that would not rust and put them in a bucket. With a small rope knotted to the bail, it was lowered to the bottom. The free end of the rope was fastened beneath the water’s surface, where it could not be seen.
Others removed stones that lined some of the wells, placing their caches behind them. Some lowered a bucket with valuables and tossed the rope after it, hoping they could fish up the bucket with a hook when needed.
Many caches of early Nebraska settlers are most likely still safely hidden in the bottoms of numerous wells. They will likely stay there until someone learns how to get to them. In the years since the Germans came to Nebraska in 1879, many of the wells have been filled in. The sites of others are little known. Research in the area might well pay off for a diligent treasure hunter.
Even though good gem material is hard to find in Nebraska, there is enough that a knowledgeable collector rarely goes home empty-handed. The following are some of Nebraska’s more popular and reliable mineral-collecting localities.
Cass County: Agate, petrified wood, and jasper can be found in the sand pits near Louisville and Plattsmouth. Fossils are found at Weeping Water. To get to the site, you take Highway 34 and go until you reach Weeping Water. Take Highway 50 north from Highway 34 and go to Weeping Water Corner. Go east until you are almost out of town. You will see a large quarry on the north side of the road. Here you will find the fossils.
Dawes County: Large beds of chalcedony and some iris agate are found in Little Badlands, 20 miles north of Crawford. Quartz concretions can be located at Pine Ridge. They are not of the best quality but are so different that they go well in any collection.
Dodge County: Agate, petrified wood, and jasper are found in the sand pits near Fremont.
Dundy County: Agates, petrified wood, and jasper are found in the sand pits along the Republican River, especially near Sanborn and Haigen. Stop at these small towns and ask for directions to the best area.
Gage County: Some very choice white geode specimens can be collected at the quarry southwest of Holmesville, on the west side of the Blue River. Geodes with blue calcite crystals can be found at the Sage County Road Department rock quarry two miles downstream and across the river east of Wymore. Five miles south of Blue Springs, on the Blue River’s east bank, quartz-lined geodes can be found.
Hitchcock County: A famous Indian battle took place near Stratton and Trenton. Indian artifacts can still be found in the area.
Jefferson County: Agate has been found in the many sand pits of the area near Fairbury and Steel City. While not brightly colored, this material polishes beautifully. Petrified wood, moss agates, and jasper can also be found in the sand pits around Fairbury, Steel City, Cozad, Holdrege, and Kearney.
Sarpy County: Agate, petrified wood, and jasper can be found in the sandy pits near La Platta.
Saunders County: Agates, petrified wood, and jasper are found in the sand pits along both sides of the Platte River, especially near Ashland and Morse Bluff.
Sheridan County: Some Fairburn agates are found near Gordon in the sand pits.
Sioux County: Fairburn agates, jasper, petrified wood, and other materials can be found in the Little Badlands at Orella. Some of the petrified wood is very colorful and takes an excellent polish.
For further information on the minerals in Nebraska, write the Nebraska Geological Survey, Conservation and Survey Division, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68508.
In 1541, Spanish explorers led by Coronado are thought to have crossed what is now the line between Nebraska and Kansas and reached the Platte River. They may have followed the Platte River east, possibly to the Missouri River.
Some believe the Republican River Valley in Nebraska to be the most likely location of Quivira, an Indian village that Coronado claimed to have found but whose exact location is unknown.
Spanish artifacts have been found in Nebraska in scattered places, and while the Indians may have killed some of Coronado’s soldiers, there is no record of a fight between the two on Nebraska soil.
In 1881, gold bars from a Black Hills mine disappeared while waiting to be shipped by train. The depot crew, which acted as guards, locked the express safety room and went to eat. When they returned, the room door was open, and the gold bars, valued at $25,000, were gone.
It was believed that the gold was buried on the outskirts of Sidney for later pickup when the head died. However, the robbers were caught and killed, and as far as is known, the buried gold was not recovered.
In 1946, a farmer named Gus Anderson uncovered more than $100,000 in gold while plowing one of his fields near Wood River, Nebraska. It was later learned that this was part of the treasure buried by the Mormons as they moved west nearly a hundred years ago.
The Mormons felt that carrying this treasure in their wagon trains was unsafe and planned to send special guards back later to get the gold. For reasons unknown, the treasure was lost until Anderson accidentally uncovered it.
Anderson was the kind of Midwesterner who distrusted banks and was reported to have buried his Mormon gold on one of the many islands in the Platte River near Wood River, west of Grand Island on U.S. Highway 30.
Anderson’s neighbors said he had cashed in some of the gold before his death in 1950, but they believed most of it was still buried on one of the islands.
Irrigation and dry tributary creeks make the Platte River shallow during the late summer, making this the best time for the treasure hunter to search the islands for Gus Anderson’s gold.
On June 12, 1830, the flooding Missouri destroyed the fort the Sixth Infantry and Rifle Regiment had been building since early October. When the waters receded, they salvaged what they could and moved about two miles south to the top of Council Bluff to rebuild the fort, which was renamed, Fort Atkinson.
The fort is on the north edge of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, in the vicinity of a gravel road leading east and west to the Fort Calhoun Stone Company. Some think the quarry is the real site because quarry workers have found many artifacts over the years.
But 150 years ago, the quarry was a part of the riverbed. According to the few maps of the period and considering the depth at which the artifacts were found, it seems more likely that they were washed into the river.
Although the troops tried to salvage what they could, their diaries indicate that two or three feet of silt covered the post and that hundreds of artifacts must remain there.
In 1867, two wealthy ranchers Bennet and Abernathy, retreated to a cave near Alexandria in Thayer County when Indians attacked them. They were smoked out and killed. A large amount of gold is said to have been buried in another cave nearby.
A bag of 58 gold coins thought to be part of this cache was discovered in 1908, but the rest is still missing. Some investigation in Alexandria might reveal the exact location of this cave.
After crossing the Missouri River, a group of pioneers was attacked by Indians near Rulo. All of the party members except a young girl were killed. Many years later, she stated that the trains’ gold had been buried at the foot of a tree just before the attack. It is believed that the gold has never been found.
Five successful prospectors headed back east in the early days of the gold rush. As they reached the area near Chimney Rock, the Indians attacked the camp, killing all the prospectors.
The Indians took the prospectors’ heads, mules, and camp gear but didn’t want the gold. They dropped the numerous little bags of dust and nuggets into a narrow wash that ran through the prospector’s camp, then covered the gold with rocks, brush, and dirt.
About forty years later, an old Ute Indian revealed the secret of the hidden gold to an Anglo-Saxon storekeeper who had befriended him, but they couldn’t find the gold.
Nebraska is littered with old ghost towns and sites. It was crisscrossed with emigrant trails, cattle trails, and military freight roads. Many old Missouri River landings boomed, grew with the emigrant tide, and died when the railroads spread their lines west.
Here are a few you should look into:
Amboy is located about 5 miles east of Red Cloud on Highway 3. It was once a thriving mill town and farm center, but it is now all but a ghost town. A dam, millrace, and mill ruins are evident.
Bloomington is located about 5 miles west of Franklin. It was at one time an important trading center on the Republican River and was the county seat of Franklin County and the site of the Government Land Office. Today, it is just a city with about 100 empty buildings, miles of concrete streets, and very few people living there. The town dates back to the early 1800s.
Brooklyn is located about three miles west of the ghost town of Bloomington. Remains of old foundations and parts of the old mill can be seen.
On the south side of the Platte River, across from the city of Kearney, is where Centuria is located. Nearby is the site of the early town of Kearney City. There is little evidence of either town today, although relics are still being found.
Cottonwood Springs is about one mile east of Ft. McPherson National Cemetery or four miles south of Maxwell. There is a monument on the site, and several treasures have been found there. More are believed to be located there.
The Devil’s Nest is located five miles north of Lindy. It was a notorious outlaw and desperado hideout in the area’s early days. Many infamous outlaws rested and hid here to elude the law. Ruins and evidence of dugouts are visible. It lay along the Missouri River and was mentioned in the Lewis and Clark Journals as Bonhomme Island.
Dobytown is located one mile west of Ft. Kearney on Highway 10. During the 1840s, this was one of the wildest, wickedest towns in the world. Soldiers coming from nearby Ft. Kearney and travelers on both the
Oregon and Mormon Trails made it a wide-open town. Guns and other relics of those days can be found.
Factoryville is located one mile south of Union. Nothing remains but depressions where a flour mill, business buildings, and Factoryville College stood.
Kearney City is located on the south side of the Platte River, about four miles west of Ft. Kearney.
Lowell is located 10 miles south of Gibbon. It was, at one time, a booming cattle shipping center on the Burlington and Missouri Railroad. The town was the terminus of many trail drives and, at one time, had a population of 5,000 living in frame shacks and tents.
Martinville was located on Martin Farm, nine miles west of Doniphan. At one time, a trading post was serving the Oregon and Mormon trailers.
Neapolis was a paper town that never existed. When it was selected as the site for the state capitol by the legislature in 1858, the area boomed, and opportunists buried or cached booze, money, and merchandise in the area to be ready for the big boom. Unfortunately, the legislature reversed itself, and much of the hidden inventory was left where it was hidden. It was located on the south side of the Platte River near Cedar Bluffs and is still known as Capitol Hill.
Newark was located 10 miles north and one mile west of Minden. The town became a ghost town when the railroad left.
Oreapolis was located two and one-half miles north of Plattsmouth on the Platte River, near the bridge approach.
Rylander was located about three miles northwest of Farnham. At one time, there was a trading post and several houses.
Springranch was located about five miles west of Fairfield on the Blue River. The town is still shown on some maps. Ruins of an old depot, stockyard, and business section remain. The Pony Express and the stage stations are gone.
Stockville was located on Highway 23, about 28 miles southeast of Wellfleet. At one time, it was a booming frontier town; now, it has less than 200 people. Yankton, located one mile south of Rulo, only has holes and depressions in the earth to mark its spot.
Kenosha was located three miles down the Missouri River from Rock Bluff. It was an old steamboat town that, at one time, bid well to become a leading town in the state. It had large stores, a schoolhouse, wagon and blacksmith shops, saloons, doctors, and many residences. In 1855–56, a ferry boat was operated here, and the traffic was very heavy. Kenosha died with the rerouting of the railroad and the decline of Missouri River traffic.
Omadi was located in Dakota County, at the mouth of Omaha Creek, five miles south of Dakota City. A sawmill was constructed nearby in 1855, the first in Dakota County. The town was started in 1856, and before long, it had two sawmills, a schoolhouse, a store, and by 1857, 400 inhabitants. In July 1857, the Enterprise, the first newspaper in the county, was started in Omadi. There was also a shingle mill and a boarding house.
In the spring of 1858, the waters of the Missouri River began to wash away its west bank and undermine the town site. So the town buildings had to be moved, and the town scattered. By 1865, every house was gone.
Wyoming, in Otoe County, was laid out in 1855 and had grown so fast that by 1856, a weekly newspaper was begun. Wyoming’s citizens imagined it to be the leading town of upper Missouri in its early days. Before the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad, the Mormon emigrants bound for Salt Lake City were brought from St. Louis by boat, and Wyoming was the point of debarkation.
From where they landed, travel commenced. Two large houses were erected for the use of the new converts. One of them, a two-story basement building, was still standing in 1882. About 3,000 Mormons wintered in the town at one time or another.
Arago, in Richardson County, was situated on the bank of the Missouri River near the center of the county from north to south. It was founded in 1858 by a colony of Germans from Buffalo, N.Y., and was named for a French astronomer. It was the first town incorporated in the county.
In Arago, there were three general stores, one hardware store, one drug store, one implement store, a hotel, a coppersmith shop, three blacksmith shops, a wagon-making shop, a pork-packing plant, a shingle maker, a tin shop, two harness shops, a shoe factory, several saloons, a furniture factor, and a newspaper. There were also several schoolhouses and churches. In addition, on the edge of town, there was also a distillery and several saw and flour mills in Arago.
At its height, the town had a population of about 1500. Arago was one of the several river towns that were ports of entry for many pioneers who either remained here or made their way west into the interior or to the mountains.
However, when the railroad passed the town by, it gradually began to decline.
Pleasant Hill is located very near the center of Saline County. It was founded in 1869 when a store was opened by William Engles, who also ran the post office. The town was on Turkey Creek, which gave it good water power. In the spring of 1870, a grist mill was finished. Nearby were good-sized limestone quarries.
In 1871, Pleasant Hill was made the county seat of Saline County, and its growth was rapid until it reached a population of 500 and had three good stores, two hotels, county government buildings, etc. The county seat was moved in 1878 to Wilbur, and by 1882, the town had declined to a population of 150. Again, the railroad bypassing the city caused the town to decline even further.
Desoto is in Washington County. It was laid out in 1854 and became a town in March 1855. It was named after the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. During the summer of 1855, 30 frame and log houses were built. The town flourished as a riverboat stop during the late 1850s, and by 1857 Desoto had 15 to 20 businesses and perhaps 600 to 700 inhabitants.
Three banks were founded during Desoto’s early days.
The town prospered until the Pike’s Peak excitement broke out in 1859, when it was suddenly almost deserted. Desoto was the county seat of Washington County from 1858 until 1866. Four miles to the northwest, Blair became more popular, and Desoto gradually faded away.
By 1880, it was only a village of about half a dozen houses and about 20 inhabitants.