In 1867 an Army tent camp was established near here to provide protection for Union Pacific Railroad construction crews. Three years later it became Fort Sidney, the nucleus for the town of Sidney, county seat of Cheyenne County. The rush to the Black Hills gold fields after 1875 confirmed Sidney's importance as a freighting center. The 267-mile Sidney-Black Hills Trail carried the bulk of traffic from the railhead to the mining towns. As railroads extended into northwest Nebraska and Dakota Territory, commerce on the trail diminished and finally ended about 1885. In its frontier heyday Sidney boomed with a colorful admixture of settlers, freighters, cowboys, and soldiers. Throughout these years Cheyenne County was a center of the cattle industry on the high plains. With the decline of the trail and the abandonment of the forts, Sidney became dependent on ranching. Early in the 20th Century homesteaders successfully challenged the cattlemen. Today ranching and farming combine to make Sidney an important agricultural center. In 1949 the first successful oil well in western Nebraska was drilled north of Sidney and petroleum production became a factor in the local economy.
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Nebraska State Historical Society
Rest Area I-80 W