The Fort Morgan Cutoff was established in October 1864 by Ben Holladay to save about 40 miles--and three days--travel to Denver, and also to try to avoid Indian attacks along the South Platte. By December the military officials had ordered Holladay to officially adopt this cutoff, bypassing Stage Stations between Fort Morgan and Latham. It was a wagon trail used by freighters as early as 1860. Even though the water and good grazing were not as plentiful as along the South Platte, Holladay felt that the savings in time was well worth it.
The site of Fort Morgan is right on the south bank of the South Platte at the Junction Ranche, which was built very near a fur trading post established in 1838 by Sam Ashcroft. It was originally called Camp Tyler, then changed again to Camp Wardwell, before finally being called Fort Morgan. In May 1865, Fort Morgan was abandoned by the army.
There is some dispute over exactly where some of the stops or stations were located along this cutoff. The Tegler Ranch, located about 14 miles to the southwest from Fort Morgan may have been a station. It definitely was a spot where the coaches could stop.
Two other ranches, located about one mile apart, the Allred and the Graham Ranches, may also have been the site of a station. These are about 15 miles south of the Tegler Ranch. There is an old building on the Graham Ranch which local tradition claims to have been an Overland Station, and where Indian raids and stage holdups took place.
At this point the cutoff divided into the "new" cutoff and the "old" cutoff, paralleling each other for 20 or so miles. The Rock Creek Station was built right at the base of the bluffs along Rock Creek on the "new" cutoff. This entire section of the trail went over an area of sand dunes. It is possible that the "new" cutoff was just avoiding difficult terrain.
Living Springs Station named after some spring-fed ponds.
Box Elder Station
The Coal Creek Station was located just to the west of the present day Buckley Air National Guard Base, on the east side of Coal Creek. The building itself was erected from a mixture of clay and lime bricks. Like many of the stations farther to the north, a tunnel connected the station building and a mule barn, which had been converted from a dugout. This was for protection from the Indians.
Denver was described by an early visitor as "a huddle of log cabins with every other building a saloon." The Overland Trail headquarters has been restored and is open to the public.
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