Historical marker at Shelton, Nebraska, which was once Wood River Center. This site offered overland travelers multiple services including those of Joseph Johnson, a Latter-day Saint.
Kenneth Mays
Panel at Railroad Park, Shelton, Nebraska, interpreting the contributions of Joseph Ellis Johnson, a Latter-day Saint.
Kenneth Mays
Present-day sign identifying the town of Wood River, Nebraska.
Kenneth Mays
Present-day town of Wood River, Nebraska.
Kenneth Mays
Interpretive panel identifying the original town site of Wood River, Nebraska.
Kenneth Mays
Interpretive panel at the site of the Murdock-Mormon Trail Ruts near Alda, Nebraska, noting when Brigham Young passed that way.
Kenneth Mays
Historical marker identifying a segment of the original trail that passed by Wood River, Shelton and Alda, Nebraska.
Kenneth Mays

The town site of Wood River in south central Nebraska was named for a tree-lined stream west of Grand Island, Nebraska. A few miles west of Wood River was Wood River Center, now Shelton, Nebraska. Shelton is located about 25 miles west of Grand Island on U.S. Route 30, four miles north of Interstate 80.

Kenneth Mays
Panel at Railroad Park, Shelton, Nebraska, interpreting the contributions of Joseph Ellis Johnson, a Latter-day Saint.

A number of commercial enterprises there catered to the needs of overland trail pioneers and Fort Kearny, which was 15 miles farther west. Included in these enterprises were the services offered by Joseph Ellis Johnson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Johnson's most notable venture was a printing shop and newspaper known as the Huntsman's Echo. An interpretive panel at Shelton's Railroad Park notes that the newspaper's motto was: "Independent in Everything. Neutral in Nothing."

Johnson's newspaper was part of a business complex called Johnson's Ranche. It served travelers on the Mormon Pioneer Trail and others with a general store, post office, blacksmith shop, a mill and farm products there at Wood River Center. Johnson and his family eventually moved west to Utah in 1861.

According to William Hartley and Gary Anderson, Wood River Center was a "general stopping and resting place for Mormon emigrants heading West" (see "Sacred Places, Vol. 5: Iowa and Nebraska," edited by William E. Berrett). This included handcart pioneers as well as wagon companies.

Presently, several nearby sites from the original trail have been identified and marked. One of these is the Murdock-Mormon trail ruts at Alda, Nebraska.