Sidney today

Sidney today

Happy Frontierado! Here’s a bonus post for this joyous day! When it comes to Wild West towns places like Tombstone, Dodge City and Deadwood get the lion’s share of the attention. In keeping with Balladeer’s Blog’s overall theme here’s a look at some of the action in the neglected town of Sidney, NE. Figures like Wild Bill Hickok, Luke Short, Susan B Anthony, Whispering Smith and Dom Pedro II of Brazil passed through Sidney in its heyday. Here’s a timeline of just some of the events in the town infamous as “The Wicked Burg”:  

May ?, 1875 – Susan B Anthony delivered a lecture in Sidney advocating women’s suffrage.

October 24th, 1875 – At the Capitol Saloon the livery stable owner Robert W Porter and Charles Patterson got into an argument (the subject is not known) that resulted in Patterson shooting Porter to death with 3 shots. Patterson was placed under arrest.

November 1st, 1875 – Friends of Robert Porter turned vigilante and, wearing masks, raided the jail and captured Charles Patterson at gunpoint, then proceeded to hang him from one of the telegraph poles on Front Street. The lynch mob then went to the Capitol Saloon, where owner Cornelius “Con” McCarty treated them to drinks on the house.

November 2nd, 1875 – The lynchers were shocked to learn that after they left Front Street, Sheriff John Ellis had cut the strangling Patterson down and returned him to his jail cell. That night the masked lynch mob, boasting even more members, again raided the jail and hanged Patterson, staying until he was dead this time. Once again “Con” McCarty treated the mob to drinks.

November 4th, 1875 – In the election for Sheriff Honest John Ellis was voted out and “Con” McCarty was voted in, beginning his corrupt reign as County Sheriff.

November 25th, 1875 – Joe Reed, McCarty’s bartender at the Capitol Saloon, was arrested by troops from the nearby fort and taken away for peddling tobaccco without a license.

April 14th to 30th, 1876 – Wild Bill Hickok, on his way to Deadwood and the Black Hills Gold Rush, spent this time in Sidney gambling and boozing. During that time he turned down the citizens’ request that he run for Sheriff to replace the corrupt Sheriff “Con” McCarty and gunned down two men who accused him of cheating when he beat them at cards. The shootings were ruled self-defense and by the 30th Hickok was free to move on to Deadwood, where he would be killed in just over 3 months. 

April 21st and 22nd, 1876 – Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, was on his Grand Tour of the American West and passed through Sidney with his entourage, taking in the local sights and granting Wild Bill Hickok an audience.

June 17th, 1876 – Sidney’s first stagecoach driver, Frank Weber, was killed outside the town by two Sioux warriors. The following Sunday he was buried in Sidney’s Boot Hill Cemetery.

August 5th, 1876 – Napoleon Grant, nicknamed the General for obvious reasons, became the first black barber in Sidney, operating out of the Tonsorial Rooms of Care & Company.

August 20th, 1876 – A Sioux war party attacked and killed Minister Weston Smith and 3 would-be gold miners named Brown, Polies and Mason, between Sidney and Deadwood, underscoring the need to travel only in large numbers when traveling between the two towns.

August 22nd, 1876 – A Sioux war party struck again, this time killing James Kidded, Samuel Wall, Jacob Whirl and A. Thompson in between Sidney and Deadwood.

September 12th, 1876 – Pedro the Mexican horse thief stole two horses from Sidney and 3 of Con McCarty’s Deputies formed a posse and pursued him. (As usual Con was out of town “on business”.) When they caught up with him he opened fire on the posse which returned fire with the end result that Pedro was killed and later buried on Boot Hill.

September 29th, 1877 – As of this date Sidney, NE boasted 46 saloons and gambling halls in town.

October 22nd, 1877 – Some of Sheriff Con McCarty’s rowdy friends were shooting at the melons being peddled by a merchant on Chestnut Street and accidentally shot him to death. The merchant, known now only as Hendricks, was buried on Boot Hill.

December 28th, 1877 – The five prisoners currently imprisoned in the Sidney jail pried up the planks on the floors of their cells and dug their way out, igniting a public debate over the need for a sturdier prison.

October 21, 1878 – A roving band of Cheyenne warriors attacked Greenwood, a ranch outside Sidney, and killed the two young sons of W.H. Shaffer, the ranch’s owner.

February ?, 1879 – The rowdier element of Sidney slapped together a rough dummy of a woman complete with a dress and wig, then strung it up with a hangman’s noose from a telegraph pole just to frighten train passengers riding past the town.   

March 10th, 1880 – The largest gold bullion robbery in U.S. history to this point took place in Sidney. $200,000 worth of gold (and that’s in 1880 money so it would be worth several times that today) was stolen while in temporary storage in the Express House.

March ?, 1880 – Union Pacific Railroad Detective James L Smith, aka Whispering Smith, the controversial Dirty Harry Callahan of the West, arrived in Sidney to investigate the bullion robbery. Over the next year in a saga that rivals the clash between the Earps and Clantons in Tombstone all but $12,000 of the stolen gold would be recovered, the means of carrying out the robbery would be deduced and the usual pile of dead bodies that Whispering Smith left in his wake would materialize. Con McCarty’s gang would even try to murder Smith on a few occassions. 


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




  1. Wild Bill and Whispering Smith passed through the same town! Kewl!

  2. What a rocking place! Deadly but fun!

  3. There’s an Xbox game to be found in Sidney’s history.

  4. Truly great to see Sidney get some spotlight!

  5. Very exciting lives back then! Do u no if they had water softeners?

  6. Whispering Smith is my new hero!

  7. Shelly N

    Whispering Smith sounds sexy!

  8. Nice look at forgotten western history!

  9. Wild place to have lived!

  10. Go Susan B Anthony! u go gurl!

  11. Dayum! Like Dodge City!

  12. Love me some Wild Bill!

  13. Dangerous place to live!

  14. I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!

  15. Interesting! This place was as rough as Deadwood!

  16. This town deserves a whole tv series!

  17. Wonderful post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

    Thank you!

  18. My brother suggested I might like this website. He was entirely right.

    This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much time I
    had spent for this information! Thanks!

  19. Can’t get enough of the old west.

  20. Very descriptive post, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?

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