and transportation, whose impetus is the desire for the
exchange of ideas, personal impressions, and material goods,
have always been the prime factors of civilization; and
where travel and trade have been freest, civilization has
reached its highest plane. There is as yet but scant
knowledge of Indian or prehistoric routes of travel in
Nebraska, and the subject is in the main a future field for
students. One class of investigators insist that, on their
longer journeys, Indians traveled by a sort of instinct and
irregularity, and not by fixed or definite routes. Mr.
Edward A. Killian in a discussion of the subject1
quotes T. S. Huffaker, of Council Grove, Kansas, "who came
to the frontier in 1846, as a missionary and teacher," as
1 The Conservative, August 8, 1901, J. Sterling Morton, editor.
2 September 5, 1901.
rious work of special students to trace these Indian
routes of travel, which undoubtedly existed well-defined and
of various lengths, from the local trails radiating from the
more or less permanent villages to those of an extent of
several hundred miles, such as the well-known Pawnee routes
from the habitat of that tribe along and north of the Platte
valley to the hunting grounds of the Republican river
country and even to the rivers farther south. When Major
Long arrived at the Pawnee villages on the Loup river, he
noted that the trail on which he had traveled from the
Missouri had the appearance of being more frequented as he
approached the Pawnee towns, and here, instead of a single
pathway, it consisted of more than twenty parallel paths, of
similar size and appearance.3 Again he observes
that the path leading to the Pawnee villages runs in a
direction a little south of west from the cantonment (Long's
winter quarters), and leads across a tract of high and
barren prairie for the first ten miles. At this distance it
crosses the Papillion, or Butterfly creek.4
3 Long's First Expedition, vol. i, p. 435.
4 Ibid., p. 427.
5 Travels in North America, vol. i, pp. 282-283.
6 Ibid., pp. 273-274; vol. ii, p. 32.
by Indians in the general sense indicated by the name,
before it was surveyed under authority of the federal
government, not long after 1820, is a mooted question. The
first wagon train over this trail started from Westport,
Missouri, its initial point, in 1828. This road was
established for communication between the Missouri river and
the settlements of New Mexico.
South Platte, 493 miles; Chimney Rock, 571 miles; Scott,
Bluff, 616 miles. Adding the distance from the northwest
boundary of Nebraska to Fort Vancouver, the terminus, yields
a total of 2,020 miles. The trail crossed the present
Nebraska line at or very near the point of the intersection
of the 97th meridian and about four miles west of the
southeast corner of Jefferson county. It left the Little
Blue at a bend beyond this point, but reached it again just
beyond Hebron. It left the stream finally at a point near
Leroy, and reached the Platte river about twenty miles below
the western or upper end of Grand island. Proceeding along
the south bank of the Platte, it crossed the south fork
about sixty miles from the junction, and touched the north
fork at Ash creek, twenty miles beyond the south fork
7 Long's First Expedition, vol. i, p. 463.
8 What I Saw in California, p. 94.
9 Adventures of Captain Bonneville, p. 53.
10 Journal of Travel Over the Rocky Mountains to the Mouth of the Columbia River, p. 22.
Nineteen miles from the forks, "the
road between the two forks strikes across the ridge toward
the north fork. Directly across, the distance does not
exceed four miles; but the road runs obliquely and reaches
the north fork nine miles from our last camp" -- the place
of leaving the south fork. "At Ash Hollow the trail which
follows the east side of the south fork of the Platte from
where we crossed it connects with this trail." Palmer's
itinerary has this record: "From lower to upper crossing of
south fork, forty-five miles."
11 What I Saw in California, p. 97.
12 Stansbury's Expedition, p. 272.
13 Ibid., p. 289.
14 Across the Rocky Mountains, p. 106.
15 Stansbury's Expedition, p. 272.
the Independence trail, striking it ten miles west of
Blue river, is about 100 miles; from the forks of these
roads to the Big Sandy, striking it near its junction with
the Republican river, 42 miles; from the Big Sandy to the
Republican fork of Blue river,16 18 miles; up the
Republican river, 53 miles; from the Republican to the
Platte, 20 miles; up the Platte, to the crossing of the
south fork, 120 miles; from the lower to the upper crossing
of the south fork, 45 miles.
16 The Republican river is not a fork of the Blue but of the Kansas; moreover, he mistook the Little Blue for the Republican.