THE INFORMATION BELOW WAS OBTAINED FROM THE 1917 S.H.S. TRAIL
Cheyenne County Court House - Sidney
Sidney from the Beginning
"In the beginning, after the glacial period, when a torrent, bearing rocks and ice, had worn for itself a channel, later known as the Lodgepole Valley, Sidney was an imaginary speck on an imaginary line due west of the sixth principal meridian, itself likewise and imaginary line through space. So you will readily see that it was a very frail foundation upon which to rear a great city.
A thousand little prairie dogs whisked their happy tails in their home town; they were the sold inhabitants of the earliest Sidney. Unmolested and unafraid, they did their household duties, going head foremost into their cozy homes of earth cuddled among the wild grasses, the sago and the cacti. The occasional long horned, long legged cattle scarcely created a ripple of excitement among the little beasts; Indians roamed among their tiny streets, and except for the snares of the arrow which struck one of their number here and there for the basis of a stew, the little dogs did not skurry from the soft footed red men.
In 1871, Uncle Sam sent some of his soldiers to protect the little hamlet at this place, the few pioneers who first came to do the work of the railroad and the added few who came to supply the needs of the first.
Those were stirring times. The first Fort Sidney occupied in tents, the block which is occupied now by Tobin's and Brewer's buildings and others. A "Look-Out" was posted on the bluff about where the reservoir now stands. Only too often the "Look-Out" gave the warning and the little garrison would make a valiant stand to protect the life and property from the picturesque but fearful foe, the wicked savages.
In 1875, the Black Hills gold fever broke out and Sidney blossomed in the boom. Almost over night, frame buildings sprang into being. Twenty-three saloons, constructed with back room annexes suitable for California Jack and stud poker, were the pride of our city. White House Hall was build across and East from the present U.P. freight depot. It was two stories and it was theatre, dance hall, city hall and convention room. It was the scene of many a night of revelry, some times ending in tragedy.
Then came a boom for farmers and they, too, helped the town, until that nation-wide drought of 1893-94 which proved a temporary reverse for older states but almost a permanent black-eye for this new, unproved land. And then, Sidney slept. Her wild, open-handed gold seekers were gone; her small experimental farmers were starved out; her Indians were chased to the reservations; cowboys were merely college students gone wrong.
Thus Sidney's glory departed; her prosperity waned; her egotism was crushed. And Uncle Sam dealt the final blow, when in 1895, he removed his soldiers to a less peaceful zone in New York state. Sidney was no longer on the frontier. She had arrived, but, alas and two alacks, she had arrived dead.
In 1898 there were more empty houses than occupied ones. You could rent any one of two score for four dollars a month, unlike today when you wander up and down our broadway pleading to be allowed to pay twenty-five dollars for any old roof to keep off the dew. In that year you could rent twelve rooms or two for the same money.
The town was limited to a dozen families on the north side and west of the center school house was out in the country. The block east of the school house was a playground and down town was agape with vacant lots. The stores were dingy, frame concerns.
In 1899 the Burlington was built and the town gasped and revived for a few months but sank back into her state of coma. The hammer and the saw were never heard and seldom seen. In 1900, a great excitement broke out. Some one was going to build a house. In two years while this building fever lasted, seven homes were built. Then the Sidney Building and Loan Association was formed and a new house was erected every two months or so. Next the Kincaid Law came into effect and misguided men and women entered upon homesteads until in 1907 the last bit of Government land was taken. Then Sidney thrived again.
Contrary to all predictions of the oldest inhabitants, the small farmers stayed and prospered and well bred cattle did not die in this climate, and today this is the leading contrary in the world in the quantity of spring wheat raised and well to the front in many other products. To the land dealers who advertised this country and to the small farmer whom these land dealers brought, Sidney owes much of her thriving condition.
Sidney has beautiful residences, splendid banks and shops, modern garages, a movie theatre, an opera house, a skating rink, and every public utility which a growing city needs. Her steam laundry and steam bakery serves a dozen towns. She has an artificial ice plant, elevators, implement house, oil stations, et cetera. Here is located one of the handsomest court houses in the west, and our churches are growing into new and attractive edifices. Our library was completed some months ago, and is now open to the public.
Nothing except a strange freak of the elements or a rending of the earth under us, can stay our progress.
Come and live in this city or community. We have room in the suburbs and our hearts are big and our hands open."
Frances E. Knox