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Kenneth Mays
Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock, near Bridgeport, Morrill County, Nebraska. Jail Rock is seen at the left with Courthouse Rock at the right.

Following along the north side of the North Platte River in western Nebraska, the Mormon Pioneer Trail passed near to the present-day town of Bridgeport, Morrill County. After traveling 16.5 miles, Brigham Young and the pioneer camp camped there on May 24, 1847 (see William G. Hartley and A. Gary Anderson, "Sacred Places, Vol. 5: Iowa and Nebraska," edited by LaMar C. Berrett, pages 318-319).

Kenneth Mays
Historical panel interpreting Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock, seen in the distance in Morrill County, Nebraska. Jail Rock is seen at the left with Courthouse Rock at the right.

On that same day, the pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encountered 35 Native Americans from the Sioux nation, "who presented a striking and noble appearance. They were all dressed in their richest costumes." The two groups engaged in a meeting of good will until the next day (see Richard Bennett's "We'll Find the Place," page 152).

From that site they could see some massive rock formations about 6 miles away known as Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock. Presently, an interpretive panel near Bridgeport reaffirms this: “While these two landmarks are located south of the North Platte River, they could be seen by the Mormons as they passed this way.”

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According to the U.S. National Park Service, these geological marvels “were the first monumental rock features that emigrants would encounter heading West.

Like Chimney Rock, the Courthouse and Jail Rocks went by a series of names before arriving at their current designations. Because of Courthouse Rock’s grand and imposing appearance, many emigrants described the rock in terms of a large public building, naming it the Castle or the Courthouse” (see nps.gov).

Some Latter-day Saint journals made reference to Courthouse Rock by the name Temple Rock.