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[The following article is originally appeared in the FUN GUIDE supplement to the Keith County News, Ogallala, Nebraska. Permission to reprint graciously granted to Susan Anderson and Nebraska GenWeb Project by Mr. Jack Pollack, Editor, Keith County News.]




Mrs. Mary Sleasdale, 1883

Unknown, 1886

Wm. Coffman, Shot 1875

Boot Hill - Tombstone History of Ogallala

by Karyn Stansbery

Even Ogallala folks' tolerance had a limit so after three days of drinking and shooting up the town, they sicced Sheriff "Buffalo Joe" Hughes on the rioting Texas cowhands.

His shotgun felled one going out the barroom door. Another died three days later of a gutfull of shot. A third joined his compadres on Boot Hill later in the summer from wounds suffered that night.

Boot Hill was Ogallala's only official burying ground during the "end of the trail" decade from 1874 through 1884. A hundred or more people were rolled in canvas and dropped into a shallow grave during that time, a remarkable death rate for a settlement that never exceeded 130 permanent residents.

In May, 1867, the first bodies were buried on the hill. They were three Union pacific tracklayers killed in an Indian raid a mile east of what is now Spruce Street.

Robert Webster, a drover, was shot to death August, 1875, while bathing in the North Platte River. Naked and unarmed, he was gunned down by a fellow cowhand traveling under the name of Woolsey, the final chapter in what began as a joke on their Negro camp cook.

Historical Marker

A sage said, "the West was hell on women and horses." Boot Hill records agree--though no horse burials were recorded there. Sarah Miller, the young wife of a local rancher, was buried with her newborn baby. When her body was exhumed 30 years later for reburial in the "new" cemetery, west of town, it had petrified, one of the gravediggers reported.

'Lillie' Miller and Infant Grave
Grave of "Lillie" Miller and Infant
**click on photo for larger image**
However, that gravedigger also called her "Lillie," the name of Bernard Miller's second wife who left town with her husband in good health when the open range era began to shut down.

Other women and children, too, were buried "on the hill": Cynthia McCey died of consumption, four-year-old Ida Alice Aufdengarten died of snakebite, Mary McMurdo Beasdale in childbirth, Joe Hughes' only girl child was crushed by a falling timber, teenagers Gertrude Fisher and Birdie Smith died in the typhoid epidemic of 1884 and 1885.


The county commissioners paid $5 to bury one of Dull Knife's brave band who had died traveling north during the Cheyenne Outbreak of 1878-79.
Joseph Hayden won $100,000 gambling with Texas cattle barons one night and tried to escape east on the 2 a.m. train with a suitcase of gold coins. William Bland and a gang of cowboys took him off the train at Alkali (now Paxton) and somehow Hayden was shot three times trying to escape.

Pedro, "other name unknown," was shot near Roscoe by a Cheyenne County posse that had trailed him driving a herd of stolen horses.

Eastern Row, Boot Hill
Eastern Row of Graves
**click on photo for larger image**

Tom Lonergan, the young brother of Phil Lonergan, superintendant of the Union Pacific (cattle) loading facility at Ogallala, was killed in the spring round-up, 1877, when his horse and the Texas steer he was chasing tangled. Lonergan's neck was broken in the fall.

Western Row, Boot Hill
Western Row of Graves
**click on photo for larger image**
Bill Campbell, who had achieved almost mythical fame for his exploits on the trail, got drunk in Ogallala one day and accused one of the Moy brothers of being a "Yankee bean eater." The Texan-once-removed-from-Georgia took exception to the slur and later killed Campbell in a duel across the dance floor at the Cowboys Rest Saloon.

A 14-year-old cowboy on his first trip up the trail woke up one morning behind the Crystal Palace Saloon, Ogallala's other establishment, lying there between "two fellows with their heads bashed in."

Michael Kearney, who at 82 was still working as a section hand, was found dead beside the railroad tracks one January morning of an apparent stroke.

"Rattlesnake Ed" Worley was killed in 1884 by Lank Keyes in a fight over a $9 monte bet. The following year Lank's brother, John, killed George Ohrmann in a barroom battle.

And some of the bodies buried on Boot Hill were never identified, like the tramp found mugged and robbed on an island in the South Platte River near Brule.

(Haunted?) Monument, Boot Hill
(Haunted?) Monument, Boot Hill
**click on photo for larger image and notes**
Boot Hill Marker
Boot Hill Marker
**click on photo for larger image**
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Three bodies uncovered during excavation near Boot Hill in 1978 were reburied, along with three prehistoric Native American Indian remains found near Lake MacConaughy in 1989 and 1990, on May 25, 1993. The three bodies found at Boot Hill were identified as males between the ages of 16 and 21. One had fragments of a bullet.)


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