The History of Sedgwick County
The community is steeped in history and lore of the cowboys, and was historically a favored hunting and camping ground of Cheyenne, Sioux, Pawnee and Arapahoe Indians. In 1793, the Mallet brothers, French traders from the Illinois French settlement, traveled as far west as the junction of the South Platte for some distance before turning south to the Arkansas River, and onto Santa Fe. It is claimed these Frenchman gave the River its name—Platte. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase made the region part of the United States.
With the discovery of gold in California and in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, pioneers traveled the famous trails through Sedgwick County. The Overland Stage, (1859), the Oregon and Mormon Trails, Bozeman Trail, the Upper California crossing, the Western Union Telegraph, the Union Pacific Rail road, and the only Pony Express station in Colorado (1860). These trails and other nature and historic landmarks have been marked throughout Sedgwick County. Sedgwick County was organized in 1889 from a part of Logan County, which was territory originally occupied by the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians. The county was named in honor of General John Sedgwick, who was command of Fort Wize on the Arkansas River.
The Four Julesburgs
Julesburg, the county seat, was established by Jules Beni prior to 1858 and was located on the south side of the Platte River between the present towns of Ovid and Julesburg. It was originally called the Upper California Crossing and was later named Julesburg after the infamous Jules Beni who ran a trading post on the south side of the Platte river during the 1850's. When the Overland Stage Co. was established in 1859, Jules was an agent. Indians burned the first Julesburg in February, 1865. Julesburg No. 2 was built four miles east just outside the Fort Sedgwick Military Reservation boundary. Some historians claim the move was made to allow the sale of whiskey. Julesburg was a busy stage station until June of 1867 when Union Pacific rails arrived north of the river. The town moved to the rail head.
“Wickedest City in the West" was the third Julesburg’s well-deserved reputation. Saloons and gambling houses did a thriving business as the population grew to nearly 5,000. When the tracks stretched farther west, Julesburg continued as an important shipping point. This site was also known as “Weir.”
A UP branch line was built to Denver in 1881, and Julesburg No. 3 Was moved several miles east to “Denver Junction.” The popularity of Jules’ namesake prevailed, however, and the junction was renamed Julesburg when it reached its 4th and final location. The town was incorporated in 1886.
Camp Rankin was built near Julesburg No. 1 in 1864. It was later renamed Fort Sedgwick in honor of Civil War hero Gen. John Sedgwick.
A military reservation was established and the fort was expanded. Original sod buildings were supplemented by both adobe and wood structures. The soldiers guarded the important mail and passenger rode that followed the South Platte River. Numerous military actions in the area are recorded in local history. Though filmed elsewhere, “Fort Sedgwick” was prominent in the popular Hollywood movie Dances with Wolves. No buildings remain on the site.
In 1925-26, Ovid experienced a boom when the Great Western Sugar Company built a large sugar beet processing plant. The factory has been abandoned, but the steam-powered Dinkey was salvaged and placed in Ovid’s Town Park. The small locomotive was used from 1942 to 1985 for pulling railroad cars of beets up to the factory hopper. During World War II, German prisoners of war were housed in tents and two large downtown buildings. Their numbers grew to 400 as they were brought in to harvest beets and potatoes.