When white settlers began to populate the North Loup Valley, Sioux depredations at Sioux Creek in October 1873 and at Pebble Creek in January 1874 prompted the settlers to request military protection.
The fort, originally designated as “Post on the North Fork of the Loup River,” was established on September 5, 1874. On December 9, 1874, the post was renamed in honor of Major General George L. Hartsuff. In addition to protecting the settlers, the fort was also responsible for overseeing the Pawnee Indian Reservation, in present Nance County. The fort was composed of nine major buildings, built of concrete and stone, which helped them withstand the passage of time.
The fort’s major military engagement came at the Battle of the Blow Out in April of 1876. The action resulted in the death of First Sergeant Dougherty when troops commanded by Lieutenant Heyl routed a band of hostile Sioux. The transfer of the Pawnee to Indian Territory, the Army’s push of the Sioux into the Dakotas, and the ensuing influx of settlers into the region ended the need for the post and it was abandoned in 1881.
After the Army departed, farmers utilized some of the buildings. In 1961, the property was acquired by the State of Nebraska and today has been restored as it was when soldiers patrolled the Loup and Cedar River valleys and pioneered a new trail to the Black Hills goldfields in the 1870s. The Park and surrounding district were named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Today, the park provides a Visitor Center, several restored buildings, and interpretive displays. It is located in Valley County, about three miles northwest of Elyria, Nebraska.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.