Exerpt from Nebraska Cattleman, March 2004, and research from Anoma Hoffmeister, and John Maddux

xxxThomas Webster and his father, Erastus, established a ranch 5.5 miles north of Imperial on the Spring Creek Branch of the Stinking Water River. Erastus was a notable figure in mid-19th-century Nebraska. He was editor of the Omaha newspaper, the Republican, and served as confidential clerk to U.S. Secretary of State William Seward under President Lincoln. Seward purchased Alaska and is the man for whom the Nebraska city of Seward is named. Erastus also organized the Republican Party, Lincoln’s party, in Nebraska. Thomas constructed a sod house, a barn, and a stone corral. He used materials at hand and constructed the corral of limestone gathered locally.
xxxIn the years after the Civil War, demand grew for beef in the northern states. This led to a shortage of beef cattle. Texas ranchers began moving their cattle north. For nearly 20 years thousands of men drove millions of Longhorn cattle to shipping points as for north as Chicago.
xxxIn Nebraska, there were seven routes of the Texas Trail. The route through southwest Nebraska was firmly established in 1876, when Union Pacific Railroad moved its cattle-loading pens west to Ogallala. Cattle drives could only advance about 20 miles per day before needing to stop for rest and water. Ranches near springs and rivers offered valuable refuge to drovers making the journey.
xxxThe location of Webster’s ranch along Spring Creek gave the drovers and their herds the last dependable opportunity to find water before their two-day, 40-mile trip to Ogallala. Being an enterprising rancher, Webster traded healthy animals for sore-footed animals, which he then nursed back to health and traded to the next trail boss.The stone corral was part of the Webster enterprise. He used it for dehorning and branding the new cattle with his “Quarter Circle W” brand, the oldest registered brand in Chase County.
xxxThe property is now owned by John Maddux, who operates a cow-calf cattle ranching business.

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