|Courthouse and Jail House Rocks|
Located just south of Bridgeport in the panhandle of Nebraska at the eastern terminus of the Wildcat Hills, Courthouse and Jail House Rocks ascend 400 feet above the North Platte River Valley. For me, the rocks are an enduring symbol of the pioneer spirit, hope and home. During the Westward Expansion, they were a famous landmark as the Oregon, California, Mormon, Pony Express and Sidney-Deadwood trails all ran near the geographical marvels.
The formation was first noted by Robert Stuart in 1812. From a far distance, he observed a solitary tower rising out of the open prairie. Only upon closer inspection did he discover there were actually two. Stuart thought the larger feature looked like a courthouse, while the smaller a jail. Locals originally began calling the place McFarlan's Castle while passerbys referred to them as the Lonely Tower, the Castle or the Capitol. By 1837, the name Courthouse and Jail Rocks had stuck.
During the 19th century, settlers on the trail relied on natural landmarks to guide them in the right direction. To emigrants from the European coast who had never seen a mountain or even a bluff, Courthouse and Jail Rocks were described as stunning, geologic features. Fascinated by the strange peaks and because they knew they would never see them again, many people climbed to the summit and carved their names in the soft Brule clay.
Being the first of several impressive monuments in Western Nebraska, Courthouse and Jail are a proud palace of solitude and the vanguard of unforgettable scenic wonders that travelers would encounter further west. They provided comfort that the party was on the right track and inspired hope that everything was going to be okay in the future. When feeling a bit under the weather, a powerful tonic can sometimes be memories of home. Just like the pioneer days of old, it's time to circle the wagons.
|The rocks rise 400 feet above the valley floor|
|Seybolt Park is the eastern terminus of the Wildcat Hills|
|The peaks are geographic marvels|
|The natural landmark can be seen from a great distance|
|A stunning geologic feature|
|Jail House Rock|
|A proud palace of solitude|
|The vanguard of scenic wonders to come|
|They provided comfort and hope|
|Just like pioneer days of old, it's time to circle the wagons|