With the discovery of gold in the Rocky Mountains in the late 1850's, overland freighting and travel intensified. Every few miles westward along the trails, enterprising individuals established road ranches which offered lodgings and provisions to travelers. A variety of goods was available: the Cheese Creek Ranche in eastern Nebraska was named for its main product; the Freeman Ranche at Plum Creek was noted for fresh bread and milk. Some ranches, like McDonald's at Cottonwood Springs, presented such delicacies as fresh pineapple and imported French wines. Many ranches, however, were scorned because of their poor service and unsanitary conditions. Even when located within walking distance of neighbors, ranche personnel felt isolated and endangered. Many ranches were burned during the Indian trouble of the mid-1860's, and some ranchers and their families were killed or taken prisoner. Ranchers who were not discouraged by the hazardous trail life often became prominent in Nebraska's history. James Boyd, once a road rancher, became governor of the state. When the Union Pacific Railroad built through the area in 1866 and 1867, overland freighting and stage travel ended, hastening the disappearance of the colorful road ranches.
Department of Roads
Nebraska State Historical Society
I-80 east, Brady Rest Area