Red Cloud, named for the Oglala Sioux chief, was founded early in 1871 on homestead land filed upon by Silas Garber and company July 17, 1870, at Beatrice, the nearest land office. It is one of the oldest communities in the Republican Valley. When Webster County was organized, Red Cloud was voted the county seat at the first county election, April 19, 1871. The election was held in the dugout of Silas Garber, Nebraska's governor, 1875-1879.
The mainline of the Burlington and Missouri River Railway reached here in 1879, accelerating immigration from the East and abroad, bringing together a colorful variety of cultural heritages. During the 1880's Red Cloud served as a division center for the railroad. The architectural design of Webster Street was established during that prosperous time when many of the first frame and log structures were replaced by more elaborate buildings of brick and stone.
Red Cloud was the childhood home of Willa Cather and it is known throughout the world as the setting for her six Nebraska novels and numerous short stories. The pioneers she knew in the town and on the nearby farms live on in her writings.