Spring Ranch, Nebraska and The Haunted Bridge

November 18, 2016

Spring Ranch, Nebraska and The Haunted Bridge

Spring Ranch - History of the Town and the Hanging

Spring Ranch, in Nebraska, more than likely received its name from the numerous springs in the area of the town. Spring Ranch's post office was established on December 14th, 1870s and stayed in operation until the year 1940. It was in 1910 when the town of Spring Ranch reached its highest population of 57 residents. During its years in existence, Spring Ranch was a stagecoach stop on the Overland Trail and the town was located on the north side of the Little Blue River. The Overland Trail being a section of the larger Oregon Trail. It was also Stop #9 of the Pony Express in the state of Nebraska.'

Besides being a stop for many travelers, it was also a farming and ranching town in its heyday. Today, there are still some buildings, mainly remnants of buildings, standing on the grounds which were once Spring Ranch. Some of the ruins include an old train depot and there's a historical marker for the former town on Highway 74 and a bit north of the old town site.


Directions to Spring Ranch

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 Highway 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 town's site.


Tale of the Haunted Bridge in Spring Ranch, Nebraska

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 their 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 tolerate 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 town's site). It's old, but probably not all original.  The bridge is said to be haunted by their ghosts. If you're out on silent night on that Nebraska prairie, it is said you can hear some of the events that played out on and under the bridge that fateful day in 1885.