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  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.

  But one strange day in 1868, the little dog town was molested.  Interlopers came, queer white people who erected tents and drove down glittering narrow rails upon which fierce monsters trailed queer box houses.  Upon seeing these sights the fat little dogs scampered away; the lanky wild cattle galloped onto the divide and the Indians swept into a wider circle, there to watch and hate, and plan the murder of their lawful prey, and thus Sidney came to life.  In 1869 the great Union Pacific was an established highway this far. 

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The Sidney Telegraph
Our Booster

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. 

At one time this section was so badly infested with Indians and outlaws, that the Union Pacific built a board fence twelve feet high on each side of the track, near where the Pacific House now is, and the trains went thundering through without a stop, clear to their terminal.  Ogden, where the last golden spike was driven with a silver mallet in 1872.

In 1870, the population of Cheyenne County, which comprised the west one-third of the state, was 1032, most of which lived in Sidney.  In 1874, all the people in this territory numbered 449, which shows how transient the population was.  Perhaps the people were loath to remain stationary in a spot where they were liable to wake up in the morning to find themselves planted in the too quiet graveyard back of the roundhouse which early became one of Sidney's thriving enterprises. 

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B.M. & Q. and U.P. Crossing

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. 

About now the Army post, Fort Sidney, moved to the present Morrow addition.  A few slim barracks marked the beginning, but a perfected military camp grew upon the site. 

In 1876, freighters' wagons started daily for the Black Hills.  If they returned at all, they brought back wealth.  Often neither freighters nor passengers returned, for the Indians broke out in unguarded passes, and while the Indians attacked the travelers, the soldiers attacked the Indians, and blood was spilled freely on both sides.

Some nights, reckless men, fevered with success, with drink, and daring, lost their fortunes in Sidney's haunts, which they had made in a day.  Sometimes the town was "shot up" as a cowboy became too drunk or a bandit braved publicity.  The graveyard back of the roundhouse opened for fresh mounds and a natural death was as rare as a natural life in this untamed land. 

Thus passed the years until 1884, the town was incorporated and began to assume the dignity and semblance of the order which attends organization.  The first village ordinance was made that year and signed by J.J. McIntosh, Peter Smith, A.J. Haskell, M.H. Tobin, and J. Oberfelder. 

The times were prosperous.  The Black Hills days were waning but the Military Post was gay and cattle men had gained in prominence and numbers.  Therefore, Sidney thrived. 

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To and From Sidney

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. 

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Ford Garage

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. 


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Carnegie Library

  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. 

Today, Sidney is a city of the second class.  Last year saw seventy-five new residences, eighteen business houses built and a prospect this year of a great many more.  This week a residence sold for $1,200.00, which a few years ago could have been bought for $200.00, if a buyer could have been found.  Sidney has miles upon miles of cement sidewalks.  She has systems of water, sewer, light, power, heat, and telephone.  She has $140,000 in school plants with normal trained teachers in each grade.  The pay roll for the school numbers nineteen. 

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
S.H.S. The Trail 1917