SPRING RANCH

   Spring Ranch was most likely named for the numerous springs in the area.  The post office was established on December 14, 1870, and discontinued in 1940.  Spring Ranch hit its paek population in 1910 at 57 people.  Spring Ranch was a stagecoach stop on the Overland Trail, it was on the Oregon Trail, and it was Pony Express stop #9 in Nebraska.  It was on the north side of the Little Blue River.  It also was a farming and ranching town.  Some buildings, mostly parts of building still stand.  There are markers noting where other important buildings once stood.  I believe an old train depot, or at least the brick parts of it still stands back in some trees.    On the highway (Highway 74) directly north of the townsite, there is a historical marker with the story of Spring Ranch on it. 

     In 1885, two of Spring Ranch's townspeople, Tom Jones and his sister Elizabeth Taylor (widowed), were at odds with their neighbors.  This was due to thier cattle getting into other neighbor's wheat and cornfields.  This and a few other things had caused simmering tensions for quite some time.  Most of their neighbors couldn't tollerate them anymore.  Consequently, Tom and Elizabeth also started to not feel safe.  So, they bought a shotgun.  They were the only ones in town with a shotgun (others had rifles). 
     One day a wagon of a few men were down on the Little Blue River cutting timber.  Elizabeth claimed the land was hers, and sent her hired ranch hands to chase them down.  All of a sudden, someone heard a shot, and Elizabeth was seen running toward her house.  One of the wagon drivers was dead, with half his head missing (obviously from a shotgun blast). 
     It would be many months before a judge would be by to conduct a trial, so the townspeople took justice into their own hands.  They snuck into her house while she was away and took her shotgun.  They came back later to get her and her brother, they wouldn't be able to shoot at them with no gun.  They were captured and their hands were tied behind their backs.  They were marched down toward the river, where hangman's nooses were hung from the bridge over the Little Blue River.  They were put on horses on a sandbar in the river. The nooses were tightened around their necks, and a gun was fired to scare the horses.  The horses took off and left Tom and Elizabeth hanging to die. Some say that the gun that was fired was Elizabeth's shotgun. 
     Elizabeth was the only woman to ever be lynched in Nebraska.  There is still a bridge over the Little Blue River in this same spot (just south of the townsite).  It's old, but probably not all original.  The bridge is said to be haunted by their ghosts.  On a eeirly silent night on the Nebraska prarie, it is said you can hear some of the events that palyed out on and under the bridge that fateful day in 1885.
   To get to Spring Ranch, you can start out in Hastings or Aurora (if visiting Kronborg and Witch's grave).  From Hastings, take Highway 281 south about 10 miles to Highway 74.  Take Highway 74 east (left turn)  about 6 to 8 miles.  When you cross into Clay county, it's just 2 miles into the county.  When you get to the county road two miles in, take a right and go 1 1/2 to 2 miles to Spring Ranch.  If you go a very short distance further east on Highway 74, you will see the historical marker telling the story of Spring Ranch.
   If you come from Aurora, take Highwas 14 south 6 miles past Clay Center to Highway 74 (about 33 miles to Highway 74).   Take a right at Highway 74 and head west.  It's approximately 10 to 12 miles to the historical marker on the south side of the highway (your left).  At the next gravel road, past the marker, take a left and go 1 1/2 to 2 miles south to  Spring Ranch.  The haunted bridge is just a 1/4 mile south of the townsite.
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