History of Chadron
Chadron is located at the foot of the Pine Ridge in Northwest Nebraska. The Pine Ridge lies to Chadron’s south and east, characterized by steep cliffs, ravines, buttes, and ponderosa pine forests. Nebraska’s first State Park, Chadron State Park, is located just 8 miles south of Chadron, and much of the Pine Ridge is open to the public as part of the Nebraska National Forest. North and west of Chadron lies a vast expanse of treeless prairie.
Native American tribes were the original inhabitants of the area. The first Europeans to arrive were not generally permanent settlers. They were mountain men, and fur traders, and a trading post south of Chadron, managed by Louis Chartran is what, through spelling changes, gave Chadron Creek, and thereby the city of Chadron its present name. Another nearby trading post, the Bordeaux fur trading post, built in 1845-1846, is the present home of the Museum of the Fur Trade. Chadron is proud of its Fur Trading history, and every July Chadron’s fur trading heritage is put on display during Fur Trade Days.
The current town site of Chadron was formally established in 1885 as a town on the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad. The town grew very quickly, and in a few years had a population of over 2,000. In 1893 a lack of rain caused a panic because crops were failing. In order to offset the panic a 1,000 mile horse race from Chadron to Chicago was organized and held, which created positive publicity for the town. Unfortunately the positive publicity was not enough to immediately turn around Chadron’s fortunes. However, in 1910 Chadron’s fortunes changed for the better as Chadron was named the site of Nebraska’s new state normal school. The school eventually became Chadron State College, one of three colleges in Nebraska’s State College System, and the largest 4-year college in western Nebraska.
Although Chadron went through another hard time during the great depression, it fared better than many western Nebraska towns, and it has a strong economy in the present day. In 1965 the Pine Ridge Job Corps was established near Chadron, and in 1966 the National Forest Service moved its office from Lincoln to Chadron as well. Although Chadron still faces many of the problems that are characteristic of rural America, the future looks bright with new economic opportunities in recreation and travel, and a broader based economy than many other western Nebraska towns.
Fun Fact: Chadron was first named O'Linn for its founder Fannie O'Linn.
Fun Fact: In the Lakota Language, Chadron is known as čhápa wakpá otȟúŋwahe, meaning "beaver river city".
Fun Fact: World Champion Buffalo Chip Throw is held in Chadron in July during the Annual Fur Trade Days festival.