"History and Stories of Nebraska"
by Addison Erwin Sheldon

Produced by Connie Snyder


Court House Rock and Jail Rock.

In the North Platte valley near the town of Bridgeport in Morrill County stands Court House Rock, rising three hundred and forty feet above the level of the valley, grand and massive in form. It is a landmark noted in all the West, which may be seen at a distance of fifty miles. Upon its summit is a small table-land. Upon three sides its walls are vertical, with no crevice or point where hand or foot may cling. There is one difficult path on the remaining side up which a man can climb with toil and danger to the summit.

Many years ago a small party of Skidi Pawnees camping near Court House Rock were surprised by the Sioux. They climbed the rock for safety while the Sioux camped at the foot where they waited for the Pawnees to starve or to come down and fight.

The Pawnees suffered terribly from lack of food and water. Their leader was overcome with grief, for he saw the death of all his brave men near at hand. At night he went away from the others and looking up to the stars from the top of the rock, he prayed to Tirawa for help. As he prayed a voice spoke to him and said, "Look for a place where you may get down from this rock and save both your men and yourself." All night he kept on praying and in the morning he looked along the edge of the rock for a crevice where one might get down. Near the edge of the cliff he found a point of rock rising above the steep wall below. With his sharp knife he cut a deep groove around the base of this point where it was no larger around than a man's body. Then he tied together all the pony lariats which the Pawnees had, let them down and found they were long enough to reach the ground below. He tied one end of the long lariat around the point of rock, made a running loop in it for his foot and slowly let himself down pushing his back against the wall for support until he reached the bottom. Then with great strength and steadiness he climbed up by the same rope. The next night he called the Pawnees together and told them the way of escape. One by one, beginning with the youngest, the Pawnees let themselves down by the rope to the bottom of the wall. The last one to go down was the leader. Then they softly crept through the camp of the Sioux and by morning were miles away on their journey to the Pawnee villages upon the Loup.

No one knows how long the Sioux camped at the foot of the great high cliffs waiting for the Pawnees to starve or to surrender. But tradition says that if one will go to the top of Court House Rock and camp there all night he can hear the whisper of the Sioux sentinels far below him as they watch at the base of the cliff for their old enemies to come down.


  1. Was the Pawnee leader a wise man? What tells?
  2. Why let the youngest down first?
  3. Why did the Sioux not hear the Pawnees as they made their escape?
  4. Should you like to camp on the top of Court House Rock over night? Why?