Nebraska Historical Marker: Nebraska City - Fort Kearny Cutoff

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555 17th St, Syracuse, Otoe County, Nebraska

View this marker's location 40.668028, -96.18359 View a map of all Nebraska historical markers, Browse Historical Marker Map

Marker Text

You are near the old freighting trail of the Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff. Prior to railroad construction, thousands of wagons transported supplies to Fort Kearny and other military posts throughout the West. The Mormon War and the discovery of gold in the Colorado and Montana Territories brought Nebraska City to prominence as a freighting center between 1858-1865. Early freighters used the Ox-Bow Trail which looped north to the Platte Valley. It provided abundant grass and water but it was overly long and often plagued by muddy lowlands. Because of competition from other Missouri River towns, Nebraska City freighters sought a more direct route. The Nebraska City-Fort Kearny Cutoff, proposed in 1858 and first traveled in 1860, was first marked by a plowed furrow. Bridges and improvements were added when the famed Steam Wagon was brought to Nebraska Territory in 1862. This experiment failed, but the route continued to be called the "Steam Wagon Road." Freighting from Nebraska City peaked in 1865 when over 44 million pounds of supplies were shipped. Construction of the Union Pacific soon marked the end of major freighting on this road.

Further Information


Lyle E Mantor, “Stage Coach and Freighter Days at Fort Kearny,” Nebraska History 29 (1948): 324-338

J H Sweet, “Old Fort Kearny,” Nebraska History 27 (1946): 233-243 

Marker program

See Nebraska Historical Marker Program for more information.