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Morgan’s Store

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Spade Ranch Store
1898, W.T. Merritt and Sons. NE 27.
  • View northwest (Photograph by Peter Olshavsky)

Currently known as Morgan’s Store, the building was originally the Spade Ranch Store. It is located in the small, unincorporated village of Ellsworth, which was established in the late nineteenth century as a company town for the renowned Spade Ranch and as a shipping point for cattle on the adjacent railroad. Bartlett Richards, owner of the ranch, hired local carpenters W. T. Merritt and Sons to build the structure to serve as office headquarters for the ranch, a general store, post office, and a supplier of freight wagons to the ranch.

The store is a wood-framed, two-story, front-gable structure with one-story attachments on either side and a shed-roofed entrance porch. The first story is clad with board-and-batten siding and the second story with stucco. The main body of the store retains its historical appearance, visually setting it apart from later additions. The front rooms of the store have their original wood floors and pressed-tin ceilings.

Following the 1927 foreclosure of the ranch, the store changed owners several times and was vacant from 1967 until 1971, when it was sold to Veldon Morgan, a former Spade cowboy, and his son Wade. At that time two large, metal warehouse additions to the rear of the original store were built to accommodate a tack and saddle manufacturing plant that grew to over 200 employees. All factory operations ceased in 2000. Today the building, the only commercial establishment in Ellsworth, houses a ranch supply and general store and is noteworthy for its direct historic link to the Spade Ranch.

Located in the Sandhills of western Nebraska, the ranch was founded in 1888 by Bartlett Richards. At its peak size in the early twentieth century the Spade Ranch was the largest in the state, encompassing over 500,000 acres with a herd of 60,000 cattle. Today descendants of Lawrence Bixby, who took control of the Spade Ranch in the early 1930s, continue the beef cattle operation. The ranch is named for its cattle brand, which is based on the ace of spades.


Haynes, Patrick, “Spade Ranch Store,” Sheridan County, Nebraska. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 2010. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

Writing Credits

H. Keith Sawyers
Peter Olshavsky
H. Keith Sawyers
Peter Olshavsky



  • 1898



H. Keith Sawyers, Peter Olshavsky, "Morgan’s Store", [Ellsworth, Nebraska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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