Boot Hill, Cowboy Country, Nebraska

We stopped in Ogallala, Nebraska, to see Boot Hill. I thought that was a place made up for cowboy movies, but it exists. In fact, there are many Boot Hills in many western towns. They were named because cowboys were often buried with their boots on.

Ogallala is a small town in western Nebraska that was named for the Oglala Lakota tribe. The Union Pacific railway reached Ogallala in 1867 and the town became the endpoint of massive cattle drives out of Texas from 1870 to 1890. Cattle was brought there to be shipped East. Plus, ranchers from Wyoming and Montana came to Ogallala to buy cattle.

During the summers, herds of up to 2,500 heads arrived in Ogallala, sometimes there were up to ten or twelve of them at one time south of the town. The trail hands hit the town looking for recreation after all that time on the trail. The town was a pretty wild place and the action sometimes ended violently.

Boot Hill was begun in 1870 on a hill north of town. One weathered grave marker where you can’t read the name includes Age 19 – shot. But not everyone buried there died violently. I was struck by the grave marker for Sarah Miller + infant, August 1878.


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