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Shackleford Diary - The Mystery of Dogtown and Doby

Jen Glaubius
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In This Episode:

The Shackelfords traveled near Fort Kearney on June 9-10, 1865 and passed through the towns of Dogtown and Doby . . . neither of which exist today. In this episode, Jen discusses music along the trail and how she solved the mystery of where Dogtown and Doby were located.

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June 9th, we stopped about noon to stay until morning. We heard they would not let us pass through Kearney with less than a hundred men.

June 10th, they stayed here until 10 o'clock talking about what they would do and started. We passed below the town. They would not let us go through. I saw two longhouses. I suppose it is their fort. Plenty of soldiers there. We passed through a village called Dogtown. We then came through another town called Doby. I sent a letter to the office by the captain for Betty. He brought me three letters. The girls are all at Mrs. Mays' wagon to hear her play the guitar.

I'm Jen Glaubius. And this is The Helonaki Deep Dive, a podcast about the process of geographic historical and archaeological research using open source tools. In this episode, I'll talk a little bit about music on the Pioneer Trails and then dive into the mystery of Dogtown and Doby, two towns located near Fort Kearney. Let's dive in!

So for this week, I've continued my tagging. The entries I read at the top of the show are from early June, but I'm actually through July 5th, but the mystery of Dogtown and Doby were too intriguing not to talk about this in this episode. But I also... to start with I want to talk a little bit about music.

I was struck by the last line in the June tenth entry where Ruth Shackelford says that the girls were at Mrs. Mays' wagon to hear her play guitar. Both before and after this entry Ruth Shackelford records that they're... the girls are singing. There's other singing going on. Sometimes there's dances and it really made me think about how music is something that travels with you mostly songs since as long as you remember the lyrics and the tune it's very very portable.

But also sometimes your instruments. I think this is the only entry I'm aware of that it lists says that Mrs. Mays has a guitar which would be fairly portable. Other things like pianos and organs wouldn't have been but harmonicas all sorts of other instruments could have easily been transported as people were coming West.

But thinking about songs from home and songs that come with you it made it put me in mind of the podcast Dolly Parton's America, which I listened to recently. In episode 4 called Neon Moss, there's a discussion about the universality of songs yearning for home that you can sometimes have the same type of song or a song that evokes the mountains in different places or your home that cuts across cultural differences, whether it's Tennessee, or Lebanon. It's interesting how we as humans bring music with us.

Now as the diary goes on there are fewer and fewer mentions of music and I wonder if this is partly because there's more sickness. Ruth Shackelford herself gets sick in the mountains. And so she at times she discusses other things much less. The terrain became rougher after this point right now in this June 9th and 10th entries they're in present-day, Nebraska along the Platte River. A fairly easy area to traverse. It's before they get to the Rocky Mountains, which is much easier.

But I also wondered thinking about music and as they travel what songs would the Shackelford's and the others they were traveling with sing? Like what were the what was the music of people that they would have brought with them from Missouri to California?

I did a little Google search as you do and I found a song book called Songs and dances of the Oregon Trail. I'll put a link to the website for the song book on the show notes. Now the song back... the sound book... songbook has 60 songs. Just a few that you might have heard of Buffalo Gals, Home Sweet home, Oh Susanna, Pop Goes the Weasel, She'll be comin' round the mountain. The children's song as we think of it Skip to My Lou, turkey in the straw and many others that I hadn't heard of. So many of these songs brought and still sung today.

So if you know anything about like the Pioneer Music, I would be really really interested to hear if you have any other tidbits about the music that the Pioneers brought with them.

All right. So with that let's change gears and let's talk about the mystery of the towns of Dogtown and Doby near Fort Kearney.

I was going along minding my own business tagging locations in the diary in nodegoat when I got to July 10th, which I read at the beginning of this show. Now between the 9th and 10th. There are three locations mentioned. There's a fort, which is Fort Kearney and we know this because in the July 9th entry it mentions Carney, although it spells it with a C instead of a K. It's spelled a little wrong, but it's Kearney that's about where they were. So that's the first location. So Fort Kearney.

The second place is Dogtown. Now the Kindle edition of the edited book I have has this footnote and I quote "This town was called both Dogtown and Georgetown. It was later changed to Glanville." And this is by Lillian L Fitzpatrick. Nebraska Place Names, it says Lincoln 1960, pages 42 through 43 End quote.

When I Googled..uh.. looked up where Glenville was located. It turns out that Glenville is southeast of Hastings from the town of Hastings. And that's over 40 miles away from the location of Fort Kearney. Now, this is a problem now Hastings is further south than the Shackelford's were traveling. There were mostly they had mostly been following the route. They'd been following the path of the Platte since they crossed into what becomes Nebraska and I'm very I'm pretty sure they would did not deviate and head south towards where Hastings is and it's also problematic because they mention a short time after passing. They mentioned the fort that they can't go by but they can see it and then they mention Dogtown and then Doby. So they have those Locations have to be close to Fort Kearney.

So the place where I'm starting most of my my place named the town research is with geonames dot-org. When I look up Dogtown, Nebraska specifying both Dogtown and Nebraska. I get an entry for Glenville as the first one but there's also an entry for Valley City historical which is very close to the location of Fort Kearney.

So, So this is a really good sign now. It turns out that the reference that the editors used for Nebraska place names by Lillian Fitzpatrick. It was originally published in 1925 and that 1925 publication is available online from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I'll put a link to Nebraska place names in the show notes as well. The text is organized by county and both Dogtown. AKA Valley City and Doby would be in Kearney County which is where Fort Kearney is.

As a side note. This is not the same county that the town of Kearney is located because that's in the county to the north which is called Buffalo County.

Coming back to our story. I looked through Nebraska place names in Kearney County and there's no sign of Dogtown or Valley City or Doby... no mentions of them at all. So by 1925 those place names were not not extant, they did not exist any longer.

Now, I've run across another volume. That's interesting. It's called the history of Nebraska from 1882 or originally published in 1882 by Andreas who was also the Cartographer for some of the county maps in Iowa that I used a couple episodes ago to figure out Town locations. Besides being a cartographer Andreas was also a historian and you can find the history of Nebraska and other books available online. I'll put a look link to the history of Nebraska.

So history of Nebraska also organized by County and in the entry for Kearney County. There is a Valley City the location that I found using geonames and so says Valley City is on the eastern part of the reservation on which Fort Kearney was located not far from the present day town of Lowell. That's very good information. Yay.

Now, we have a general idea. There's a couple of other places. So there's no Doby mention, but there is a Central City. Note, this is not the present day Central City Nebraska, which is further to the north. There's also mention of a Kearney City and Junctionville and interestingly in Andreas's history of Nebraska it said that Kearney City was also called Adobe Town by Freighters. Now adobe is really close and sound to Dobby or Doby so I wonder if Ruth Shackelford had heard this nickname without the town and was like, oh it's Doby.

So I had one more resource that I looked up to see if I was on the right track with this. So there's a booklet published around 1981 by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. It's titled the Oregon Trail. Rock Creek Station, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. I'll post a link to where you can download this booklet as well. It's great because it lists interesting places along the trail but also like Pony Express and Stage stations, which seemed like natural stopping points or points that travelers would have noted is like hey, there's a ranch here. That seems very likely to have good information about them.

So there's two entries that are useful here. Nebraska Pony Express Station number 12 named Kearney station, and in the entry the authors wrote that it was also known as Dogtown or Valley City located one and a half miles Northeast of Lowell in Kearney County. So that seems good information. So Valley City seems pretty stable that that would have been the Dogtown that Ruth Shackleford mentioned in her diary.

The next entry for Pony Express, Nebraska station. Number 13 for Fort Kearney and and this entry the author's note that the Pony Express Station would not have actually been at the Fort because that was on a reservation, but actually at Doby town which was two miles west of the fort on the edge of the reservation and that Doby town was also known as Carney City. So that checks out.

There is a problem with this Nebraska Game and Parks Commission booklet is That it really doesn't it is not a scholarly work. You can tell that whoever wrote this or the compilation of sources combination of people who wrote this like did a lot of research looked at a lot of things but there are hardly any references. There's three sources that are referenced in the back. One of them is Andreas's History of Nebraska that I previously talked about from 1882, but they're... in a scholarly work most of these...these locations and statements would have been footnoted or there would be references for where the source of the information came from that is problematic. But this seems like about as good of an information as I'm going to get right now. So I'm going with it.

So we have decent information. I looked up so Valley City had already been looked already showed up when I searched geonames. So Valley city is good to go for Dogtown and Kearney City was also available in geonames looked pretty good. And so the location of Doby was also known both of these were tagged as uncertain for the certainty because although there's a good number of references that kind of led me as you just heard that led me to identify them, but that's still a lot of steps. So in general, it's fairly uncertain. It could be more than one place, but it's not very uncertain because there are some good references and with that that's it for this episode of The Helonaki Deep Dive.

Just to give you a heads up. I'm taking a break for the holidays. So the next episode will be available in three weeks. So in 2021 on Thursday, January 7th.

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