Chadron, rich in fur trade history, is named after Louis Chartran, a fur trapper who ran a trading post on Bordeaux creek. Over time, the spelling eventually became "Chadron." However, Chadron wasn't always the same name, or in the same place as it is today.
In 1884, the Fremont, Elkhorn, & Missouri Valley Railroad began to move west from Valentine, Nebraska. The railroad's plan was to branch its line into Wyoming and South Dakota. A few people had prior knowledge of what the railroad planned and set up a community where the White River and the present-day Chadron Creek joined. This new community, named O'Linn after its founder Fannie O'Linn, seemed a likely spot for the railroad line to branch, virtually assuring a successful comity.
The railroad decided instead to set up a town just a few miles away named Bordeaux (after another fur trader). Knowing that the survival of the town was dependent on the railroad, the townspeople quickly moved the town to Bordeaux - even many of the buildings! It was then that Chadron gained the name that it has today.
Enjoy a Walking Tour of Chadron, online or while visiting Chadron.
Northwest Nebraska History
This area was a favorite Native American hunting and camping area for hundreds of years and the Sioux Indians occupied it permanently about 1810. Spaniards from New Mexico were the first fur traders, followed in the 1830's by Americans from St. Louis who established a regular trail from Fort Laramie to Fort Pierre on the Missouri River. In the 1840's there were two competing fur posts, one on the Chadron Creek about 8 miles south of Chadron, the other on Bordeaux Creek 3 1/2 miles east of Chadron.
In 1872-73, two Indian agencies were established on the White River in what is now Dawes County. Fort Robinson was built to protect the Red Cloud Agency and played an important role in the Indian Wars of the 1870's. Sioux War Chief Crazy Horse was killed at Fort Robinson in 1877.
Camp Sheridan was established in what is now Sheridan County in 1874 to protect the Spotted Tail Agency. It was abandoned and dismantled in 1881, but the site is easy accessible.
With the removal of the Sioux Indians to South Dakota in 1877, several very large cattle outfits came into the area. Large roundups were conducted annually until the railroads arrived in 1885, and an influx of homesteaders took up most of the available land. Dawes County is still cattle country and very much reflects its heritage of Native Americans, fur traders, cowboys, and frontier soldiers. The buffalo herd and the Texas Longhorn cattle found at Fort Robinson State Park are reminders of northwest Nebraska's vivid history.