The Best Route to the Hills?

By Dawn Graves


When Sidney was still a young town, its escapades made news in many cities.

Cheyenne, Wyoming particularly liked to print any bad news coming out of Sidney, sometimes with embellishment, since there was great rivalry between the two towns regarding who had the best route to the Black Hills during the gold rush.

One story told by the Cheyenne Daily Leader newspaper in 1876 recounted the misfortune of a journalist from Minnesota who stopped in Sidney on his way to cover news in the Black Hills.

The story goes that Major T.M. Newson, upon stepping off the train at Sidney, was greeted by a man claiming to remember him from the army. After chatting, they went to a saloon to have a drink.

When it came time to pay, the Sidney man handed over a five dollar bill. The bartender didn't have change, so Newson was asked to pay. He pulled out a wad of cash totalling nearly a hundred dollars, which was promptly snatched away by his so-called army acquaintance. Newson looked around and realized he was not in a very hospitable place.

He encountered a man wearing a badge who claimed to be the sheriff, and told him the story. They found the thief, who said he'd give back 25 dollars if Newson kept quiet about it. Newson refused. The next day, Newson and this “sheriff” found the thief again, and were able to get 35 dollars from him.

Shortly thereafter, the real sheriff showed up, and Newson asked if he was indeed the sheriff. Sheriff McCarty rudely replied that it was none of his business.

That's when Newson realized he would not be taking the Sidney route to the Black Hills, and got on the train to Cheyenne.