Willard Thorp, in "American Writing in the Twentieth Century" says, "from the literary standpoint, Red Cloud ranks as one of the most famous villages in American Literature." This is because Red Cloud is home to the largest living memorial to an author in the country. Willa Cather spent her childhood in this small railroad town, and it is the mission of the Willa Cather Foundation to promote and assist in the development and preservation of the art, literary, and historical collection relating to the life, time, and work of one of America-and the world's-most beloved and respected authors. As a result of its efforts, the Foundation brings over 10,000 visitors to Red Cloud each year.
Founded in 1871 and named by Silas Garber-banker and 4th governor of Nebraska-Red Cloud was a booming, growing pioneer community that saw eight passenger trains a day come through its Burlington Depot, now restored and maintained by the Willa Cather Foundation in conjunction with the Nebraska State Historical Society. In total, this partnership preserves and cares for nearly 20 nationally designated buildings related to the writings of Willa Cather. (Red Cloud was the prototype for six fictional villages in Cather's novels and for many more towns that appear in her short stories.)
Garber and a group of local business men named the town Red Cloud in honor of the chief of the Oglala division of the Teton-Lakota Sioux, who became nationally known in 1870 during the first of many trips to Washington D.C. as a dedicated negotiator for the Sioux. (Red Cloud is located in what is known traditionally as Pawnee/Otoe territory; there is no evidence of Sioux having been in this area.)
For many years Red Cloud boasted a horse-drawn street car railway system with tracks running from town to the depot. When the streets were paved, the owner of the business (R.W. Koontz) modified the street car to keep it running on the new streets until 1917. Other unique aspects of our community include two art galleries, two bookstores, and a small enclave of artists, which we hope to see grow through the promotion of this beautiful, brick street town. Click here to learn more about Red Cloud.
Click here to search past issues of the Red Cloud Chief newspaper from 1873 to 1922.