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Bent Forks


Cattle town[1] in Nebraska,[2] visited by Bret Maverick[1] in 1871.[2]


The town derived its name[2] from its location at the twisted confluence of Lawrence Fork and Pumpkin Creek, a tributary of the North Platte River in the panhandle of western Nebraska.[3]


Shortly after the Civil War, cattle drives began along the Platte Valley trails.[4] In 1866, the Bar T Ranch and a few smaller spreads were established in the grasslands along Pumpkin Creek, east of Lawrence Fork. The Bar T became a road ranch, drawing herds from the cattle trail along the North Platte from Wyoming and Montana Territories. The ranch would exchange the trail-worn cattle for fresh stock. The Bar T and other nearby ranchers would breed these cattle, selling many to the government to feed the Indians on Nebraska reservations. A community soon grew a few miles to the west of these ranches, becoming the town of Bent Forks, incorporated in 1868.[2]


Separated from the main river trail by the Wildcat Hills, Bent Forks was somewhat isolated during the first months of the yearly cattle drives. But when the spring grasses along the North Platte were diminished by earlier herds on their way to the rail heads further east, the Wildcat Hills and Pumpkin Creek provided rich grazing later in the season. This afforded Bent Forks and its local ranchers a prosperous summer season.[2]


Over the years, the rangelands around Bent Forks became seriously overstocked by easterners and Europeans hoping to establish themselves as cattle barons in the new West.[2] Local natural resources and bad financial practices soon became unable to support the overburdened cattle industry. Severe blizzards during the winters of 188586 and 188687 destroyed most of the newer herds, along with the fortunes of the ranchers.[3] The once prosperous ranches of Bent Forks never recovered. The town was eventually deserted,[2] and today is covered by farmland.[6]


See: Point Blank


ABOVE: Bent Forks, 1871 [2]

ABOVE: Looking northeast towards the site of Bent Forks today, from Redington Road along Pumpkin Creek.[4]

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01. Maverick, Point Blank (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

02. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails

03. Olson, James C., History of Nebraska, ©1997 University of Nebraska Press

04. Google Maps ©2014 (retrieved June 28, 2014)

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