Whoo-eee, Yee-Haw, Yippee, Praise the Lord and Pass the Coffee, Cookie and me are back on the trail!  Thanks for your patience while I’ve been up to my neck in work, and Cookie’s been up to his neck in no good!  If ya missed us, thanks! If not…Well I won’t lie that stings a might.

If you’ve been followin’ the Saturday Serial RACE TO MARRY then y’all know it takes place in a real town Sheridan, Wyoming.  I’ve also incorporated real places, faces and few events. SO we thought…okay I thought (Cookie turns a few shades of green over the attention Cal Renner is gettin’)  I’d share a bit about the places, faces and events mentioned in previous installments or those comin’  ‘round the bend.

Today we’re visitin’ the MINT SALOON (now the Mint Bar)!  I thought that might perk up Cookie…

Come on folks and meet me at the Mint…

The Mint Saloon opened its doors for business in 1907 right in the heart of downtown Sheridan, Wyoming.  Negotiations for the purchase of the property began as far back as 1894 with a down payment of $500. When then Mint opened, ice was delivered in horse-drawn wagons to the saloon’s ice box and the bartenders wore long white aprons, serving drinks across a long mahogany bar.  The Mint offered drink, gambling and women.

One of the “local celebrities” who entertained many a patron at the Mint was Rounder, the Airedale belonging to Charles “Dick” Marlow, owner of the Mint in 1911.  Rounder was such a staple at the bar and in Sheridan, he was the subject of at least three articles in the Sheridan Post, including his obituary.  According to a July 11, 1911 article in the Post, Rounder was by far “the brightest, keenest, wittiest, and altogether the most remarkable dog in Sheridan—perhaps in all the state of Wyoming.”

Rounder could be found any day in front of the Mint. “No, he isn’t a handsome dog—he runs more to brains than beauty—but that’s to his credit rather than otherwise.”  Rounder was known as a civil dog, but he reserved all his enthusiasm for Dick Marlow. Reports say Rounder could take a message over the phone and carry out the orders given, or any other verbal request made by his master  “as well as the average human being.”

Mr. Marlow states that Rounder got the telephone trick himself, through his habit of calling his wife over the phone and asking her to send the dog downtown with a letter or a package or in the performance of some errand or other.  Before long, Rounder learned that the jingle of the telephone bell generally meant a call for him, and he would jump about and push Mrs. Marlow away from the phone when she went to answer it.

One day, hearing a commotion at the other end of the line, Mr. Marlow asked what the trouble was.  Upon being told that it was Rounder, trying to get at the telephone, he told his wife to hold the receiver to the dog’s ear.  Rounder recognized the voice, and wagging his tail in delight, licked the instrument which talked like his master.  Since then he has taken many orders over the telephone and one of his chief pleasures is a chat over the wire.

A few of the tricks reported include a game of hide and seek.

Mr. Marlow blindfolded himself – or rather, tied the handkerchief around his head, being careful not to entirely over his eyes.

“No you go and hide it.” Rounder was told.

Taking the wallet in his mouth the dog started back toward the rear, “Don’t leave it there, I can see you.” Mr. Marlow called as the dog turned the first corer and was about to lay it down.  So the dog went on back, out of sight and sound, and shortly returned, looking wise as an owl.  Mr. Marlow stooped down and Rounder took the blindfold in his teeth and pulled it off, then lay down on the floor as though for a long nap, insinuating by his actions that his master could never find it where he had hidden it.

Mr. Marlow looked all about, as though having a hard time finding the wallet.  Locating it at last, he came out to the front room with it in his hand.

“I found it, Rounder,” he said, and the dog’s eyes sparkled and snapped as if in appreciation of his little joke.

Dick Marlow would only have to state that it was cold in the room and Rounder would kick the door closed with a slam. Rounder was so well known many dogs were named after him. Marlow and Rounder left Wyoming for California in 1913; just one of the changes on the horizon for the Mint.

In 1919, Prohibition but a halt to the social gatherings at the Mint…well sort of.  The front of the building became a dress shop, real estate office, and then the Mint Cigar Company and Soda Shop, “while in the back was one of the coziest little bottle joints around” for those who disagreed with the 18th Amendment and Volstead Act.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the owners Archie Wilson and his partner, Robert J. Thirwell reopened the bar. They obtained their liquor license on March 30, 1935 and built on to the back of the building making room for slot machines, roulette wheels, and gaming tables. These changes accommodated a thriving gambling clientele in the back room and newly legal drinkers in the front.

Since 1907 and continuing even through Prohibition the Mint bar has been a gathering place to talk shop about ranching, hunting, artisan work and business.  The doors are open to cowboys, ranchers, and dudes to come in socialize and tip back a cold one.  This tradition continues today with the catch phrase “Meet you at the Mint,” being used by patrons far and wide.


The Mint received a complete overhaul in the late 1940’s. The rustic style and red cedar bar that remains today replaced the old stamped tin ceilings and mahogany bar. Cedar shingle brands adorn the walls of the Mint and are the work of L.L. McVean who owned the bar from 1943-1974. “Mac took a soldiering iron, an electric needle, and a brand book one day and started to work; as a result, the walls of the Mint are an encyclopedia of over 9000 slabs of local brands.”  Much of the wild game adorning the bar was a result of Mac and local entrepreneur Sam Mavrakis’ trip to the Yukon in the 1950’s.  “Those two Dall sheep,” Sam pointed to some of the trophy heads on the wall of the Mint, in a 1985 interview.  “Three grizzlies – we made rugs out them – those two caribou, a moose, that wolverine, that black wolf.  In 18 days we got all those.”

Bud Wolfe, who bartended at the Mint from 1945-1979, was interviewed in 1985. He remembered his favorite customers were the old rodeo cowboys from “back when rodeoing meant long thirsty drives between towns and the cowboys stayed in one place longer than an eight-second bull ride. I used to know so many of them guys…” Bud recalls. “…Shawn Davis, the Linderman boys, J.D. McKenna, Fred Lewis. But they don’t hang around anymore, the professionals. They draw their stock, they fly in, they use their stock and by then they’re headed down to Cheyenne.”

But the Mint remains.  A landmark and a place where the grandchildren and great- grandchildren of those who built, cultivated, ranched, farmed and lived in Sheridan go to toss a cold one back and catch up on all the news.  “And it’s one of the friendliest places in town.” Sam Mavrakis said in 1985. “I came in here and kissed three girls right away.”

The Mint is so well-known that when Queen Elizabeth visited Sheridan in 1985 there was a rumor she would visit the Mint. While the Queen didn’t make it inside the bar a wire service photograph, sent throughout the country, showed a beaming Queen Elizabeth with the Mint’s neon cowboy glowing in the background.

So there ya have it folks a brief overview of the saloon where Cal was tossin’ a few back before things went South!

Cookie! Stop jawin’ with the cowpokes and tellin’ tales taller than the Big Horns, we’ve got places to go!




Howdy, Folks!! It’s a beautiful day on the trail! We’re movin’ out of the darker side of Wyomin’s past…well… ‘cause frankly Cookie and me were gettin’ a might depressed.  Cookie’s stew has never been particularly savory, but we were gettin’ sour stomach!

So today we’re visitin’ with one of Wyomin’s more colorful characters, Caroline Lockhart!  I have to tell ya outta all the people we’ve met on the trail Ms. Lockhart is a favorite for Cookie and me! Now we’re particularly fit to be tied ‘cause Ms. Lockhart is Wyomin’s first woman author and a founder of the Cody Stampede! A woman who writes AND is involved with rodeo…Can I be her when I grow up?!

“Wyoming Girl’s First Novel is Successful…Equals Owen Wister in Thrilling Western Story!”  (And no this isn’t about yours truly…yet) Announced the Cheyenne State Leader on March 11, 1911.  “Not since the publication of The Virginian has so powerful a cowboy story been told as Miss Caroline Lockhart’s novel Me—Smith.”

Lockhart, 1900
Photo courtesy American Heritage Center, #ah003129

Born in Illinois, Caroline Lockhart spent fifteen years as a newspaper reporter in the East. But in 1904, she turned her thoughts to writing a novel and her feet to the West she always admired.  When she stepped off the train, the thirty-three year old cut a fine figure with gold-burnished hair that caught the sun and the eye of many a cowboy.  What caught Caroline’s eye was the town of Cody, Wyoming and the diverse peoples of the West; sheepherders, cowboys, Indians and even dudes from the East. The town Caroline first laid eyes on had 210 inhabitants and 14 saloons, “none too many for such an arid landscape,” according to Caroline.

Though not well-known today, during the 1920s, Lockhart reached her goal of becoming “the best known woman west of the Mississippi.” Her novels The Fighting Shepherdess and The Man from the Bitter Roots had been made into major motion pictures, and she had recently finished a stint as a celebrity journalist at the Denver Post.  The Park County Enterprise reported on her trip to Los Angeles.  “Los Angeles, the mecca of artists and authors has a famous visitor this week in Caroline Lockhart who wrote The Fighting Shepherdess and other best sellers of the day. Miss Lockhart’s first visit upon her arrival was to the Louis B. Mayer studio.”   There she met with Douglas Fairbanks regarding the adaptation of her nearly completed novel The Dude Wrangler.

Lockhart had a passion for the Old West; for the open-range cattle ranches before they were fenced and turned to dry-land farming, for the old characters who fought and scraped and survived the harsh land, and she loved, with a passion, horses. Her passions matched those of her contemporaries in Western novelists, such as Owen Wister and Zane Grey. But unlike other writers, Lockhart lived fulltime in the West. Therefore, her lifestyle brought authenticity to her work, not the depictions of what Easterners wanted the West to be.  Also, Caroline set her stories during the 20th Century, unlike other authors who set their tales in the Old West.  She wanted Wyoming to recognize its place in the present, and not fade into the past like the Midwestern frontier in the light and luxuries brought by the industrialization of the 20th Century. Wyoming’s heritage was dying on the altar of railroads, electricity, and automobiles. Who needed horses? Why would anyone care about the American Indians?  Only a small tip of the hat should be given to men such as Buffalo Bill Cody, whose legendary status was diminished by divorce and financial ruin.

Lockhart’s novels breathed life back into Western culture.  “Three cheers and a tiger for Caroline Lockhart. She is our only live, living author. What Caroline doesn’t know about Wyoming and Wyoming folks isn’t much. She can make a cavalier out of a sheepherder and a courtly gentleman from the crudest cowpuncher,” a Wyoming newspaper reported.

Almost 50 years old when her novels reached their peak, Lockhart appeared decades younger and “was one hell-of-a-good-lookin’ woman” according to one of her cowboy friends.  And Caroline Lockhart had many cowboy friends. Although she never married, she juggled multiple boyfriends offending many of the more conservative citizens of Cody.  Along with her long line of lovers, Codyites were fanning themselves over Lockhart’s penchant for drinking at a time three-quarters of the town voted for Prohibition. Lockhart, on the other hand, threw lavish parties in her Cody home where there was no lack of the demon liquor. In 1921, The State Tribune of Cheyenne published Lockhart’s letter to J.D. Woodruff in Shoshoni supporting his stand against Prohibition.  “Mr. Woodruff: I have finished reading your letter to Governor Brooks printed in the Tribune, and I am impelled to write and congratulate you upon your common sense and courage. It sounds like Colonel Henry Watterson—a sane voice in the mob always. What you say finds an echo in the heart of every person who is not a hopeless bigot…”

Photo courtesy American Heritage Center, #ah002656

Lockhart was, to say the least, a controversial figure, but she was a woman with “passion, gumption, and money to get things done.”  One thing she wanted to see done was an event to honor the Old West. So, on April 20, 1920 the bestselling novelist with a flair for publicity, gathered with other leading citizens of Cody; Ernest J. Goppert, Sr., an ambitious young attorney; Irving H. Larom, a Princeton-education owner of a prominent dude ranch; Sid Eldred, editor of the Park County Enterprise, the newspaper founded by Buffalo Bill Cody; and Clarence Williams and William Loewar, both men helped run the town’s small Fourth of July celebration. All agreed they wanted more than just a Fourth of July party, more than a rodeo and street dance. They wanted an event to bring back the Old West; an event to entertain and bring in tourists driving through the newly opened road to Yellowstone National Park.

The citizens who met in Lockhart’s house, and enjoyed her liquor, decided they would call this event “The Cody Stampede.” Lockhart persuaded them not to include the word “rodeo” in the title as it “sounded like a dude word and besides we did not know how to pronounce it.”  Lockhart was elected the organization’s president.  They sought to attract the finest contestants, which included one of Lockhart’s cowboy friends, champion bulldogger Pinky Gist.

The week after the meeting, Lockhart purchased, with four partners, the Enterprise.  She took control of the newspaper and used it to promote the Stampede.  Her Enterprise advertised such exciting news as: Toggery Bill securing “the Red Lodge Finnish orchestra and the only Mary Quilico for the Cody Stampede.”  And when Miles City, Montana chose the same dates for their rodeo, Lockhart and company stood firm believing “if necessary, there are enough riders and horses in the surrounding country to furnish a good program without outside help. Bronco riders and Grand Opera stars, we have learned from experience, have similar temperments [sic], and while some of the outside riders had their growl because they did not get in on the money we believe that a good percentage of them will come back and make another try for it.”

Lockhart was correct and many top riders returned to Cody. The Stampede grew under Lockhart’s presidency.  At fundraising balls Caroline invited members of the Crow tribe to appear in traditional dress, renewing a fascination for the American Indians rarely seen in Cody except by invitation. With Lockhart’s encouragement, fascination expanded to other aspects of the frontier. Lockhart argued Wyoming should capitalize on its unique cowboy heritage, rather than letting the state develop into a place like anywhere else.  Today the Stampede stands among the top rodeos with Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Pendleton (Oregon) Roundup.

Buffalo Bill Cody Statue
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Promoting Wyoming’s legacy became her passion. She next, proposed a gigantic statue of Buffalo Bill to be sculpted by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, one of the country’s most famous artists. By then the people of Cody would support any suggestion their local author made, but the town could not afford Whitney. Lockhart proceeded to pester the sculptor until Whitney agreed to both sculpt the statue and raise the required funds. Whitney campaigned for funds amongst New York City’s wealthiest classes, establishing Buffalo Bill’s nationwide posthumous reputation.

After a few years, Lockhart tired of the day-to-day frustrations of the newspaper and guiding the Stampede.  She believed local merchants never contributed all they could to an event that brought them so much business. She bristled at the incompetence of her co-owners at the newspaper, and her unpopular political positions made enemies and dampened profits.

Lockhart cabin
Photo courtesy of NPS

In 1925, Caroline decided instead of promoting the Old West lifestyle she loved so much, she would embrace it and she purchased her own homestead.  She purchased a small 160 acre homestead, the  L/♥, north of Lovell, Wyoming.  She added land through purchase, homesteading, and leases until she controlled over 6,034 acres. From the owners she inherited a two-room cabin, a few run-down sheds, and 20 acres of cultivated ground. Lockhart added onto and landscaped the area around the cabin with irises, hollyhocks, cottonwood trees, and stone pathways. She constructed fences, corrals, and irrigation systems as well as adding 15 new structures.

Life on the L/♥ ranch was self-sufficient. Potatoes, apples, onions, carrots, dried beans and peas, along with beef, pork, and wild game were stored in the powerhouse/storage building. Milk, butter, and eggs went to the spring house for chilling. In 1935, three loads of Lockhart steers topped the market in Omaha, granting Lockhart her dream of becoming a Cattle Queen.

In 1952, Caroline decided she and her then-boyfriend were too old to continue running the ranch. Her eyesight was failing and ranch life had become too hard. She moved back to Cody, and lived the rest of her life in obscurity. Her only foray into society was inviting neighborhood children over to watch “Hopalong Cassidy,” on the only television in town.  A show based on novels that in 1910 were considered inferior to her works.

Caroline Lockhart died on July 25, 1962. There was no funeral as she had requested her ashes be scattered over “the most convenient peak.”

A woman who not only loved Wyoming and the West, but did all in her power to see its legacy preserved!  I’m a bit ashamed to admit that as a writer and Wyomingite the first I heard of this amazing woman was when I was diggin’ around for blog material.

But Cookie and me made fast tracks to meet up with Ms. Lockhart on the trail, some cause of her enduring story and some cause after all our time on the dark side of the trail Cookie needed a couple fingers of whiskey and with Prohibition and all Caroline was the only one servin’ the stuff!

We hope y’all enjoyed readin’ about this lady as much as we enjoyed diggin’ through newspapers and articles to meet her. My mind’s already turnin’ and twistin’ about a heroine based on the woman.

See y’all on the bright side of the trail!


Cheyenne State Leader, no 136. Cheyenne, Wyoming.  March 11, 1911, page 5.

Wyoming State Tribune, no. 93. Cheyenne, Wyoming.  April 14, 1921, page 1.

Park County Enterprise, no. 32. Cody, Wyoming. March 17, 1920, page 1.

Wyoming State Tribune, no. 169. Cheyenne, Wyoming. June 30, 1921 [Morning edition], page 6.

Park County Enterprise, no. 36. Cody, Wyoming.  April 13, 1921, page 1.


We’re not done with those sidewinder cattle barons, folks! Yep their still a burr in everyone’s backside kinda like Cookie!  Aw, don’t get yer longjohns in a twist!

Now back to the real problem, and I’m not talkin’ about Cookie’s mulligan stew, today we’re talkin’ about the last big sheep raid in Wyoming, The Spring Creek Raid…

Cattlemen started driving large herds into the Big Horn Basin in the 1870s. Since they arrived first the cattlemen claimed prior rights to the grass on government lands for their herds to graze. However, the law stated otherwise giving sheepmen and cattlemen equal rights to the resources on public lands. Laws in the early 1900s made it a first come first serve situation and neither could claim rights over the grazing lands.

As discussed in the previous blogs on the Johnson County War and Tom Horn, the cattlemen of the late 1800s suffered from cattle glut on the grazing lands and targeted small ranchers driving them from their land by threat or by murder. Once things began to cool between the large and small cattle ranchers, all cattlemen turned their eyes toward a common enemy…the sheepmen.

The rising number of sheep on the range increased the pressure on the cattlemen. Sheep outnumbered cattle in Wyoming by the early 1890s. By 1894 there were 1.7 million sheep in Wyoming and 675,000 cattle. By 1909, there were more than six million sheep and only 675,000 cattle.

For those who don’t know, sheep consume the grass for miles. They eat down to the bare ground and when they leave a territory there isn’t any feed left for any other livestock. This makes it impossible for cattle to range with sheep. And at a time when the Wyoming range due to droughts, devastating winters and already over stocked ranges for cattlemen to watch thousands of sheep move onto open range divest it of all feed and move on was unthinkable.

The response, typical of the cattle barons, was to use violence to enforce their claims over the range. The cattlemen declared pieces of range off limits to sheep (the rule being  “fence sheep in, fence cattle out). These men and their hired guns wreaked havoc upon the sheepherders and their property.  For years a sheepherder would go missing, or be found shot on the range.  A few men, like Tom Horn, would be tried and possibly convicted, but for the most part these murders and intimidations went unpunished and the sheepmen were left to their own defenses.

The cattlemen carried a chip on their shoulders and from their viewpoint were justified in the deprecations they inflicted on sheepmen and their wooly bands. One case, a sheepherder was taking a band (2,000 to 3,000 sheep) over the Big Horn range. He camped near the summit; a number of masked riders rode into camp about noon. The spokesman told the herder the altitude was entirely too high for his heart, and if he insisted on remaining up there it was sure quit on him, but if he would seek a much lower altitude, he might live to be an old man. The herder took the hint and beat a hasty retreat to the valley. After he left, abandoning his animals, the masked riders put the harness, a mother dog and her puppies in the wagon closed the door, tied the team of workhorses to the wagon wheels, poured kerosene over the wagon and set it on fire.  They proceeded to shoot at least 50 sheep. Some had their eyes shot out, some with broken backs, legs shot off, some of their entrails hanging out. The men cut green Quaking Aspens clubs beat out the woolies brains.

The violence escalated and the sheepherders, determined to protect their herds and livelihood, formed the Wyoming Wool Growers Association in 1905. This Association would play an important role in prosecuting the men who carried out the Spring Creek Raid.

The last armed conflict between cattlemen and sheepmen occurred in the Nowood Valley at Spring Creek, seven miles southeast of Ten Sleep, Wyoming.  The raid started in the spring of 1909, when two sheepmen, Joe Allemand and Joe Emge, along with three sheepherders drove 2,500 sheep from Worland, Wyoming east to Ten Sleep, about 25 miles.  Allemand was a quiet man and admired by both cattleman and sheepmen of the area.  An emigrant from France, Joe was an unassuming man married with three children. He had good credit and was a member of the Masonic Lodge. He kept his sheep on his own domain except in summer when he drove them to the mountain range.

Due to financial difficulties, Allemand sold a partnership to Joe Emge, a man not well-liked.  A former cattleman, Emge, boasted he’d graze his sheep any place he liked and planned to run the cattlemen off the range.

On April 2, 1909, Allemand telephoned his wife from Ten Sleep telling her he would be home that evening.  Listeners over the party line informed Emge’s enemies Allemand would not be in camp that night. Visitors to the camp from a nearby ranch disrupted Allemand’s plan when they stayed for supper.  By the time they left Allemand determined it was too late to ride home.  Allemand and his young nephew, Jules Lazier (a French subject) and Emge slept in the upper wagon. A young herder, sixteen-year-old Bounce Helmer and another Frenchman, Pete Cafferal, were in the lower wagon.

As darkness fell, seven raiders rode into camp. Two headed straight for the wagon, while five went after the sheep.  The raiders fired shots and Helmer, fearing for his dogs, ran from the wagon. He was captured by the raiders along with Cafferal and both were tied up. Helmer recognized some of the men in the light of a lantern he’d lit.

No one emerged from the upper wagon and the raiders started firing into it. One man started a fire by throwing kerosene from Helmer’s lantern on the sagebrush under the sheepwagon. Allemand came out of the wagon and was shot down.  The fire consumed Emge and Lazier before either could escape the wagon.  When the raiders realized they’d killed Allemand, they fled. Helmer and Cafferal were able to free themselves and run to a neighbor’s for help.

When the Big Horn County sheriff, Felix Alston, reached the scene of the raid Joe Allemands body was lying near the smoldering embers of the sheep wagon a sheep dog’s puppy curled upon his chest.  The charred bodies of Emge and Lazier were found nearby.  The raiders left a trail of devastation. They killed dogs, sheep, and destroyed thousands of dollars of personal property. It was the deadliest sheep raid in Wyoming history.

Big Horn County used money forwarded by the Wool Growers Association to hire attorneys, cover the costs of trial and pay for essential actions such as concealing witnesses for their protection and for the protection of the case.  Sheepmen contributed to the obtain the services of range detective, Joe LeFors, well known for his role in the conviction of Tom Horn, and therefore a man respected by the sheepmen of Wyoming.

Unlike during the Johnson County War and previous actions against small cattlemen and sheepmen, officials were not going to turn a blind eye to this raid. Big Horn County officials began an aggressive investigation into the Spring Creek Raid and quickly established solid evidence against seven cattlemen, all charged with murder and arson.  These men were: George Saban, Milton Alexander, Ed Eaton, Herb Brink, Tommy Dixon, Charles Ferris, and Albert “Bill” Keyes.

Defendants in Spring Creek Raid

Charles Ferris and Bill Keyes turned state’s evidence. The remaining five, comprised of two ranchers, two cowboys and a former cowboy waited in the Big Horn County jail confident that the case against them wouldn’t even go to trial. These men knew the dismal Wyoming history for prosecuting sheep raiders, and the disastrous attempts to prosecute men engage in extralegal activities, such as the invaders during the Johnson County War, where the case never went to trial and the invaders received support from the governor himself.

And one of the men, George Saban, had personal experience with the often faulty Wyoming justice. As a participant in a July 1903 raid on the county jail which ended with two prisoners and deputy sheriff killed. The case against Saban and his colleagues collapsed under an atmosphere of intimidation.

A few cattlemen collected a large pool of money to fund the legal expenses of the defendants, and private lawyers were obtained to represent the raiders. Prominent politicians such as “Bear” George McClellan supported the raiders along with area newspapers.  But things had changed in the Big Horn Basin by 1909, and all attempts to frighten witnesses, intimidate judicial authorities and frustrate jury selection failed.

One of the main reasons for this was a large new irrigation project that brought in farmers to the Big Horn Basin. As farmers, they had no particular sympathies for either cattleman or sheepman.  Also, the governor of Wyoming was Bryant B. Brooks, a prominent sheepman, which probably added to his willingness to exercise state authority.  He ordered the Wyoming militia to guard the streets of Basin City and keep citizens safe.

Contrary to the beliefs of the sheep raiders in November 1909 the trials did proceed. Herb Brink was the first brought to trial, and to the surprise of many there was little trouble in seating a jury. Farmers, with no stake either way, filled many of the seats, and the state militia kept order in the streets.  The case was tried in the courtroom and not in the court of public opinion as many previous cases.

The state’s evidence provided by Albert “Bill” Keyes and Charles Ferris proved to be the most damaging as they spilled the whole story of the plan and the events the night of the raid including how Allemand staggered from the wagon and walked slowly away from it with his hands raised. Brink shot him dead, saying, “It’s a hell of a time of night to come out with your hands up.”

The State was well represented by the attorneys specially hired to assist the prosecution. Those lawyers included two from Sheridan, E. E. Enterline and William Metz, father of elected Big Horn County Attorney Percy Metz. The prosecution also included W.L. “Billy” Simpson, father of future Wyoming Governor Milward Simpson and grandfather of future Wyoming Senator Al Simpson. Billy Simpson had represented sheep raisers in various cases in the Big Horn Basin before 1909 and was therefore tainted in the minds of cattlemen. This was probably the reason he was not hired for the defense.

Eyewitnesses, including sheepherder Bounce Helmer, and three men who watched the raid from an adjacent house all testified.  The raiders did not help their case by making the critical mistake of talking to their acquaintances. Billy Goodrich, whose testimony was secured by LeFors and who was the employer of two of the raiders, told the jury about a series of admissions made by Brink.

The jury convicted Brink of first-degree murder and sentenced him to hang. After this development, his fellow raiders stampeded to make separate deals with the prosecution. Brink’s death sentence was commuted, but five of the seven Spring Creek raiders were sentenced to serve prison terms. The two who testified for the prosecution were provided immunity.

The raiders’ fate was as follows: Eaton died in state custody. Saban escaped in 1913 and was never recaptured. Dixon was paroled in 1912. Brink and Alexander were paroled in 1914.

The convictions from the Spring Creek Raid put a stop to the havoc committed against Wyoming sheepmen.  After 1909, there were only two minor raids in the entire state, and no one was injured in either. One of the prosecutors, Will Metz, summarized the meaning of the verdicts by saying, “It is significant of the beginning of a new era, of a period where lawlessness in any form will be no more tolerated [in Wyoming] than in the more densely settled communities of the east.”

And that folks is an example to all not to let the wool be pulled over yer eyes!

Don’t know about y’all but Cookie and me are amazed at how the same personalities, both good and bad, tend to keep showin’ up in all of these raids. Guess it’s true what they say about a bad penny!  And doggonit if Cookie isn’t proof of that…Aw come on y’all saw that one comin’!

Now I’m off with ol’ Cookie, if’n he’ll let me on the same trail, into the sunset where we’ll be diggin’ up more Wyomin’ history! The good, the bad, and the ugly of it all!

See ya on the trail!!



WHOO-EEE!  Folks, Cookie and me have been parkin’ our wagon in some of the more dangerous areas of Wyomin’ and shootin’ the bull with some of the states more colorful characters, and believe you me we’ve been keepin’ our heads low and our mouths shut!  Well at least we’ve been keepin’ our heads low…the mouths shut…well let’s just say we’ve had to push the old wagon to its limits in a quick exit.

So today we’re jawin’ about a controversial figure in Wyomin’s history. Aren’t most Wyoming figures controversial ya might ask? When ya pick yerself up from someone droppin’ ya for yer smart tongue listen up to the story of Tom Horn!

Tom Horn was born in Scotland County, Missouri, in 1860. By his own account, he left home at the age of fourteen.  Taking up a series of livestock and stage-driving jobs, he ended up in Arizona Territory. Horn was intelligent and tough. He had an ear for languages and quickly picked up Spanish and later some of the Apache language.  He’d also picked up an ability as a tracker.

Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that while still in his teens he became employed by the Army as a scout and interpreter.  The chief of the scouts for the U.S. Army, Al Sieber, recruited Horn in the Army’s campaigns against the Apache. In April 1886, Horn was one of the scouts that escorted the Army column led by Lt. Charles B. Gatewood to find the famed Chiricahua Apache leader, Geronimo.

In his posthumously published autobiography, Horn took credit for the actions of Lt. Gatewood. He claimed it was he whom Geronimo trusted and it was he who convinced Geronimo to surrender. However, the autobiography is the only account of Horn’s involvement with the negotiations.

Whatever the level of his involvement in the surrender of the Chiricahua leader, Horn made a name for himself.The Pinkerton Detective Agency hired Horn, in 1891, to pursue bandits who robbed the Denver and Rio Grande train near Canon City, Colorado. He stayed employed by the Pinkerton’s over the next decade.

About the same time Horn started working for the Pinkerton’s he came to Wyoming.  He already had a reputation for certain skills and his services were sought after by some of the prominent ranchers in the area. A few of his “secret” employers included, Ora Haley, John Coble, Coble’s partner Frank Bosler, and the huge Swan Land and Cattle Company.

Bosler Depot, 1916

Yep, folks here we are again with those cattle barons.  As discussed in the post on the Johnson County War, the large cattle ranchers were suffering from beef glut and blaming the small ranchers for the lack of grazing land and accusing many of rustling.  As many ranchers went out of business and many longstanding cowboys and more recent immigrants to the Territory took up homesteads and other land claims, the once powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association found its membership and its revenues from dues dwindling drastically.

After the public outcry against the Sweetwater lynchings and the backlash of the Johnson County invasion, the large cattlemen decided to take care of the “rustling problem” in secret. Enter Tom Horn.

By May of 1892, Horn was working for the Pinkertons and was deputized by U.S. Marshal Joseph P. Rankin to investigate a murder in the aftermath of the Johnson County invasion. But by 1895, Horn was most likely fully employed by private interests when he was suspected of murdering two settlers.

The first was William Lewis. Lewis was an English immigrant who moved to Wyoming in 1888. He settled southwest of Iron Mountain between the Chugwater Creek and Ricker Creek on the Laramie-Albany County line.  Lewis had been jailed for stealing clothing and cheating a boy at a faro game.  He was suspected of cattle theft and under a court order to refrain from butchering cattle.

In July 1895, Lewis received a letter telling him to leave the area.  He ignored the warning, and on July 31st, as Lewis was loading skinned beef into a wagon he was shot three times. The coroner estimated the shooting had been done from a distance of 300 yards.  A rumor circulated about an offer Tom Horn made at the Stockgrowers’ Association and the tall stock detective, Tom Horn, was summoned for questioning.

Horn was located in the Bates Hole region of Natrona County, two counties away. Laramie County Prosecutor, John C. Baird assumed Horn was hiding out after the shooting and prepared an indictment. However, Tom Horn had a number of rancher and cowboy witnesses who were willing to swear straight faced that he had been in Bates Hole the day of the killing.  The alibi couldn’t be shaken and the authorities released him.

Horn immediately rode into Cheyenne and indulged in a ten-day drinking spree dropping hints at the truth. “Dead center at three hundred yards, that coroner said!” And he grinned. “Three shots in that fella ‘fore he hit the ground. You reckon there’s two men in this state can shoot like that.” Publicly, he denied everything. Privately, he created a blood-chilling image of himself as a hired assassin.

The second settler was, Fred Powell.  Powell homesteaded with his wife Mary and 18 month old son Billy east of Laramie County. The marriage was not a blissful one, and Fred carried a long scar on his face where Mary took a butcher knife to him. Powell was charged with stealing cattle and horses at least seven times, each time he was let go for lack of evidence.  Evicted from his homestead he moved to another along Horse Creek, proving up his claim in 1892. Like Lewis, Fred started receiving notes telling him to get out. Powell ignored the warnings.

On the morning of September 10, 1895, Powell and his hired hand Andy Ross were along the creek working when Ross saw Powell clutch his chest and gasp, “My God, I’m shot!”  He collapsed and died.

Again, Tom Horn was the first suspect, and was brought in for questioning. Horn shook his head and kept his face expressionless and his voice calm. He had a strongly supported alibi ready, and again he was released.

Enjoying a night of liquor and entertainment provided by the professional ladies of Cheyenne, Horn made vague insinuations admitting to the killings. “Exterminatin’ cow thieves is just a business proposition with me. And I sort of got a corner on the market.”

After a friend once told him that he didn’t think dry-gulchin’ a man seemed very sporting. Horn replied in amazement, “I seen a lot o’ things in my time. I found a trooper once the Apache had spread-eagled on an ant hill, and another time we ran across some teamsters they’d caught, tied upside down on their own wagon wheels over little fires until their brains was exploded right out o’ their skulls. I heard o’ Texas cattlemen wrappin’ a cow thief up in green hides and lettin’ the sun shrink ’em and squeeze him to death. But there ‘s one thing I never seen or heard of, one thing I just don’t think there is, and that’s a sportin’ way o’ killin’ a man.”

After the first two murders, the warning notes were rarely ignored.  The lesson learned.

When Fred Powell’s brother-in-law, Charlie Keane, moved into the dead man’s home, the anonymous letter writer took no chances on Charlie taking up where Fred had left off and wasted no time on a first notice: “IF YOU DON’T LEAVE THIS COUNTRY WITHIN 3 DAYS, YOUR LIFE WILL BE TAKEN THE SAME AS POWELL’S WAS.” This was the message found tacked to the cabin door. Keane left, within three days.

For three straight years, Tom Horn patrolled the southern Wyoming pastures. How many men he killed after Lewis and Powell, if he killed Lewis and Powell will never be known.

One of Horn’s most notable “clients” was Wyoming Governor W.A. Richards who was being plagued by cattle theft on his own land.  Richards was good friends with W.C. “Billy” Irvine president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. In a meeting between the two men, Richards told Irvine he would like to meet Tom Horn, but didn’t want him coming to the Governor’s office. Irvine offered to hold the meeting in the WSGA President’s office just down the hall.  Horn, in his usual calm manner, informed the Governor he would either drive every rustler out of Big Horn County, or take no pay. But when he finished the job to the governor’s satisfaction he would receive $5000.00. Horn put no limit on the number of men he planned to kill. Though stunned, Richards agreed. After Horn left Richards told Irvine, “So that is Tom Horn! A very different man from what I expected to meet. Why, he is not bad-looking, and is quite intelligent; but a cool devil, ain’t he?”

Horn continued his work as a cattle detective through the 1890s. In 1900, he murdered Matt Rash and Isom Dart, two suspected cattle thieves, in Brown’s Park where the Colorado, Utah and Wyoming borders intersect.  The crimes received little notice in Wyoming.

The only thing cattlemen hated more than homesteaders were sheepherders. And while the large and small cattlemen fought amongst themselves the sheepherder entered the territory taking over land and grazing their destructive herds over the already crowded land.  But it didn’t take long for the eyes of the cattleman to turn his wrath on the sheepherder. We’ll get into all this in more detail next week, but for now we’re looking at one particular sheepherder Kels Nickell.

Nickell Homestead

Seven miles from Iron Mountain was the ranch of Kels Nickell, the only sheepherder in the area. On July 18, 1901, Nickell’s fourteen-year-old son, Willie was shot and killed by two bullets to the back. Willie, tall for his age, wore his father’s coat and hat and rode his father’s favorite horse, and therefore it was believed the killer mistook him for Kels. Though Willie fell face down, someone turned the body over and placed a stone under Willie’s head. There were no footprints or shells left at the scene.  Seventeen days after that, Kels was shot, wounding him in the arm, hip and side. While he was in the hospital, masked men clubbed a number of Kels’ sheep to death.  The Nickell family moved to Saratoga not long after he recovered.

Joe LeFors

Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe LeFors was hired by the county commissioners in Cheyenne to investigate the crime. LeFors used letters from a former boss in Miles City, Montana stating the need for someone to do a “secret” job to lure Tom Horn out of hiding.

Horn left John Coble’s place in Bosler meeting LeFors at the U.S. Marshal’s office in Cheyenne on January 11, 1902. LeFors secreted a stenographer, Charles Olnhaus, and a witness, Laramie County Deputy Sheriff Leslie Snow, behind a locked door. Over the course of a two hour interview, LeFors led Horn into making a series of incriminating remarks about the Nickell killing. The most damaging statement being, “It was the best shot I ever mad and the dirtiest trick I ever done.”

Horn allegedly told LeFors that he had been paid in advance and received $2,100 for killing three men and taking five shots at another. He told LeFors the reason there were no footprints is he was barefoot. LeFors asked whether Horn had carried the shells away, to which Horn responded: “You bet your [expletive deleted] life I did.” On Monday, January 13,  Laramie County Sheriff Edwin J. Smalley, accompanied by Deputy Sheriff Richard A. Proctor and Cheyenne Chief of Police Sandy McNeil arrested Tom Horn in the bar of the Inter-Ocean Hotel. Deputy United States Marshal Joe LeFors watched.

16th Street, Cheyenne, 1902

John Coble paid for Horn’s defense, with the general counsel for the Union Pacific, John W. Lacey representing Horn.  The trial was held during an election year with both Prosecutor Walter R. Stoll and Judge Richard Scott up for re-election. On top of this, public interest in the case was overwhelming and the trial received widespread newspaper coverage in Wyoming and Colorado.

Horn’s defense was three-fold:

(1.) Horn was under the influence of liquor, tended to make things up, and became talkative when drunk. Witnesses were produced that Horn had been drinking. He denied making the statements in the Scandinavian. He contended that his jaw had already been broken when he was in the Scandinavian and with the cast he could not talk.

(2.) Horn had an alibi and could not have been in the Nickell ranch at the time of the killing. He was in Laramie City, as proven by the fact that Horn’s horse, Pacer, was lodged at the Elkhorn Livery in Laramie City for a ten-day period at the time of the killing. Witnesses testified that Horn was nowhere near the Nickell Ranch at the time of the slaying.

(3.) The killing could not have occurred as he described to LeFors in the following regards: (a.) Dr. Amos Barber testified, based on learned texts, that the wounds could not have been inflicted with a 30-30 similar to Horn’s. (b.) Frank Stone had bunked with Horn several days later and had observed no injury to Horn’s feet such as would have been produced had Horn gone barefoot. One of Horn’s lawyers testified to having examined the area of the Nickell gate where the killing took place. He testified that the area was strewn with cacti and rocks such that no one could go barefoot in the area. Samples of the rocks were introduced into evidence. (c.) Horn, in his statement to LeFors, described the shooting as coming from one direction. The fatal shot came from another.

Horn took the stand in his own defense. The cross-examination by the prosecutor, Walter Stoll, was devastating. Statement by statement, Horn admitted making the various statements testified to by LeFors, Snow and Ohnhaus with the exception of one statement which Horn did not remember but conceded he might have made.

Horn’s lawyer closed emphasizing all evidence was circumstantial, and Horn’s supposed confession was nothing but drunken boasting.

The prosecution claimed Horn killed Willie Nickell to keep the boy from reporting his presence in the area.  But in the day before sequestered juries it is likely they had their minds made up before they entered the courtroom.

Despite appeals to the Governor to spare Horn and fears that Horns numerous friends would attempt a jail break, on November 20, 1903, Horn was hanged at the Cheyenne jail.  Prior to his hanging, Horn spent his time in jail braiding a rope. When it was clear his time was at an end, Horn wrote John Coble:

Dear Johnnie:

Proctor told me that it was all over with me except
the applause part of the game.

You know they can’t hurt a Christian, and as I am
prepared, it is all right.

I throuroughly appreceiate all you have done for me.
No one could have done more. Kindly accept my thanks,
for if ever a man had a true friend, you have proven your-
self one to me.

Remember me kindly to all my friends, if I have any
besides yourself.

Tom Horn remains a controversial character due to the lingering questions regarding his guilt or innocence in the Nickell murder.  There’s also a question regarding the WSGA’s involvement with the trial, and the contention Horn was a scapegoat for the powerful cattlemen. Horn’s supporters and later historians questioned his confession to LeFors stating LeFors got Horn drunk and tricked him. Others stand firm that not only did Horn kill Willie Nickell, but an unknown number of men, and that Horn received a fair trial and was represented by one of the finest trial attorneys in Wyoming.

Like the outcome of the Johnson County War, more than the question of Horn’s guilt or innocence is the political shift evident in Wyoming during his trial. Horn, friend of cattle barons was convicted and executed. Their power once unquestionable was on the wane as ordinary Wyoming citizens refused to cower under their heavy hand.

And there it is Cookie a lesson for ya in not shootin’ yer mouth off at the Cheyenne saloon while tossin’ ‘em back and indulgin’ in other…uh…activities!  Aw, Cookie, don’t get her feathers all ruffled I know ya don’t frequent the Cheyenne saloons…ya prefer the gals in Sheridan…Cookie come back ya ol’ coot…

Well folks while I go make amends with Cookie, I leave ya to ponder the serious historical developments to the great state of WYO after the Johnson County War and the trial and hangin’ of Tom Horn!

See ya on the trail!




We are back on the trail fresh as spring daisies!  “Cookie stop snorin’ and get those biscuits up! Are ya sendin’ smoke signals” Maybe fresh as summer daisies…or late fall daisies…

Anyway we’re continuin’ on down the road of some of the not so bright moments in Wyomin’ history, and ya can’t dig too long ‘fore ya run head long into the Johnson County War. It’s the David versus Goliath of the Wyomin’ Territory and Whooo-eee,  it’s a free for all, everyone’s involved, love, hate, murder, why it’s got a little of everythin’ includin’ a trip to the President…Let’s go…

Fifty-two armed men traveled in a private train north from Cheyenne on April 5, 1892. The train stopped just outside Casper, Wyoming, and the men switched to horseback. Their destination was Buffalo, Wyoming, the Johnson County seat. Their mission to hang or shoot 70 men named on a list carried by one of their leaders Frank Canton, former Johnson County Sheriff.

The invaders, as they became known, were comprised of some of the most powerful cattlemen in Wyoming, their top hands, and 23 hired guns from Texas all determined to clean out the “rustlers” plaguing the area.  This invasion resulted from long-standing feuds between cattle barons, owning herds numbering in the thousands, and small ranchers running just enough cattle to keep their families fed.

Buffalo, Wyoming circa 1890

The buildup to that night in April 1892, began about ten years prior when Wyoming newspapers outside Johnson County, dubbed Buffalo, “the most lawless town in the country” a “haven for range pirates” who “mercilessly stole” big cattlemen’s “livestock.”  Cattle barons cried that they were victims of massive cattle stealing, and Buffalo was a “rogue society in which rustlers controlled everything—politics, courts and juries.”

Contrary to these reports, Buffalo was a town full of ambitious young people working hard to build a community and make a better life for themselves and their families. While far from saints the majority of Johnson County’s citizens bore little resemblance to the ruthless cattle thieves and degenerates as described by the big cattlemen.

During the 1880s, cattle barons in Johnson County and across Wyoming Territory had little concept of the true carrying capacity of the ranges they held as private fiefdoms. These men overstocked the range.

Cattle prices peaked in 1882, bringing more money to the business and more cattle to the range and causing a beef glut. Prices began to fall, yet the cattlemen continued to bring more cattle to the land, weakening the ranges further and driving prices down.  A bad drought in 1886 followed by a disastrous winter in 1886-1887 decimated many herds.  This combined with the loss of open range, as large ranches fenced in vast amounts of public lands using dubious methods such a “checkerboard control,” strained the already thin tensions between the large and small cattleman.

James Averill

The large ranchers blamed their losses on the unbridled rustling by small “nesters.”  Many of these “nesters” claimed land under the Homstead Act, a piece of law hated by large cattle owners.  A small rancher, Jim Averill, who spoke out against the powerful Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association, thought to use the Act to expand his holdings. Averill filed for land under his mistress Ella “Kate” Watson’s name and built her a small cabin giving her a few head of cattle. After five years Kate could claim the title to the land and then according to Jim they would marry and combine their holdings.

Averill received threats from the large ranchers, but ignored them continuing to ranch andrun a store on his own land. Reports were circulated that Kate, a former prostitute, was still servicing men in the cabin Averill built her. Only this time she was paid in stolen cattle earning her the moniker, Cattle Kate. The allegations of prostitution against Kate have been brought into question by historians in current years, as many of the articles claiming this were written by papers owned by association members.

Ella Watson

Averill continued to speak against the large rancher even as his own operation continued to grow. The cattle barons, incensed at his rhetoric and the fact he was actually making something of his ranch, continued to threaten Averill and publish articles about the couple’s rustling ring, and Kate’s “side business.” Until on July 20, 1889, led by cattle king Albert J. Bothwell, a gang of vigilantes from the association hanged the couple as cattle thieves.

One of Kate’s ranch hands, Gene Crowder, followed the men to the canyon and witnessed the lynching. He reported what he saw to the sheriff and warrants were issued. News of the hangings spread quickly throughout the west. Newspaper readers were outraged at a woman being hanged. The Salt Lake Tribune commented, “The men of Wyoming will not be proud of the fact that a woman, albeit unsexed and totally depraved, has been hanged within their territory. That is the poorest use that a woman can be put to.”

The Cheyenne Daily Leader had a different take on the lynching. “Let justice be done. All resorts to lynch law are deplorable in a country governed by laws, but when the law shows itself powerless and inactive, when justice is lame and halting, when there is failure to convict on down-right proofs, it is not in the nature of enterprising western men to sit idly by and have their cattle stolen from under their very noses.”

Two days after Jim and Kate were hanged, their bodies were cut down. Six association members, including Albert Bothwell, were brought to trial. But Rawlins authorities were bought off, and no one could be found to testify. Therefore, the men were discharged.

In addition to Averill and Watson, Tom Waggoner, an alleged horse thief, was hanged and his body left for the maggots in 1891. It was contended that Waggoner had amassed a fortune of $30,000 to $70,000 from stolen horse. This despite the fact Waggoner resided with his wife in a two-room sparsely furnished cabin, and one of the two rooms was an attached stable.

Others tried to tie Waggoner to alleged cattle rustling from the Elias Whitecomb’s Standard Cattle Co. Tom Waggoner loaned “Jimmy the Butcher” money to establish his butchering business. Waggoner posted Jimmy’s bond when Jimmy was arrested for rustling Standard Cattle Company cattle. Jimmy also ended up dead. He was buried beside a house belonging to a “cattle detective” working for the Standard Cattle Company.

Efforts were made to control small ranchers from branding their own mavericks or strays. Cowboys suspected of branding mavericks were blacklisted and precluded from finding employment with any member of the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association (WSGA).  Small ranchers found it difficult to participate in roundups.  For example, in the 1883 Powder River roundup some 27 wagons (name for a roundup crew) participated, by 1887 only four participated with smaller ranchers being eliminated.

Keeping the small ranchers from the roundups backfired, however. They simply organized their own earlier roundups and could brand and claim all mavericks on the range.

After the murder of Newcastle rancher, Tom Waggoner, the WSGA decided to follow it up with an attack on the small ranchers of Johnson County, namely one, Nate Champion. Champion was a small man with a reputation as a formidable fighter. He ran a herd of about 200 cattle on one of the forks of the Powder River. His cattle grazed on public land, just like the cattle of the big ranchers, and he insisted his animals had just as much right to the grass there as any cattle baron’s herd.

Legally, Champion was absolutely correct, but the big cattlemen did not accept this, and declared him “king of the cattle thieves,” even though no charges had ever been brought against him.

Nate Champion courtesy of Jim Gatchell Memorial Musem

The first attempt against Champion was on November 1, 1891. Vigilantes burst into a cabin occupied by Champion and Ross Gilbertson. The cabin was a tiny structure located in Hole-in-the-Wall country about 15 miles southwest of present day Kaycee, Wyoming.  Only two men of the five-man squad could squeeze into the cabin holding pistols on Champion.

Champion and Gilbertson were able to get the drop on the men when Champion “stretched and yawned while reaching under a pillow for his own revolver and the shooting started.”  It was amazing Champion survived as the shots fired at him were fired at point blank range.  In the process, Champion shot one would be killer in the arm and another in the belly.  As the intruders fled, Champion recognized one.

Two of the men admitted everything to Powder River ranchers, John A. Tisdale and Orley “Ranger” Jones.  With Tisdale and Jones’ accounts and Champion’s identification, Joe Elliott, a stock detective of the WSGA, was arrested. However , by December 1891, both Tisdale and Jones were murdered, but with Champion’s testimony it still looked likely Elliot would be convicted.

In March 1892, the big cattlemen resolved to invade Johnson County and only one month later they boarded a train headed for the southern tip of that county. There they received word that “rustlers” including Champion, were holed up in a cabin at the KC Ranch just a few miles north.

Frank Canton

Frank Canton was unrelenting in his opposition to rustlers.  After he left office as sheriff of  Johnson County, he took a position as a stock detective with the WSGA, and he was known as a merciless, congenital, emotionless killer.

The train that left Cheyenne had a flatcar bearing three Studebaker freight wagons laden with dynamite and other supplies. Various stockmen including W.C. Irvine and Bob Tisdale along with two newspaper reporters, Ed Towse of the Cheyenne Sun and Sam T. Clover of Chicago Herald also traveled north. Once the stockmen and the Texans separated the train continued north under the command of Major Frank Wolcott.

Frank Wolcott

Wolcott managed the Scottish-owned V R on Deer Creek. Wolcott came West when President Grant appointed him as a United States Marshal, where he also served as warden of the territorial prison in Laramie. Grant fired Wolcott after the President was inundated with complaints that Wolcott was obnoxious, hateful, overbearing, abusive, insolent and dishonest. His private life obviously wasn’t much better, as he was reported to be “corrupt and disgraceful.”

The special train, under Wolcott’s command, made only one stop to confirm the telegraph line to Buffalo was down.  Wolcott did not last long as leader of the vigilantes. He got into an argument with Canton and Tom Smith (a gunfighter from Texas), which led to him resigning his command.  Smith became the leader of the Texans and Canton commanded the expedition. They disembarked from the train at Casper only to have difficulties traveling, first due to mud and then a snowstorm.  One of the Studebakers broke through a bridge. When they arrived at their first destination, Canton urged attacking at once.  The snow grew worse and it took six hours to make it the KC.

There were four occupants at the KC ranch: Nate Champion, Nick Ray (an unemployed Missouri cowboy working the line) and two trappers, Ben Jones, and Bill Walker (who had sought shelter from the storm).   In the predawn hours of April 9, 1892, the invaders occupied the stable, a creek bed and ravine near the cabin. Jones came out of the cabin to get water and was captured by the invaders. His partner, Walker, came out next and was also taken.  Ray emerged to get firewood and was shot. Champion grabbed Ray and pulled him back into the cabin. During the day the “regulators” and Champion exchanged shots, while Champion kept a log in an old notebook during any lulls.

Me and Nick was getting breakfast when the attack took place. Two men was with us- Bill Jones and another man. The old man went after water and did not come back. His friend went to see what was the matter and he did not come back. Nick started out and I told him to look out, that I thought there was someone at the stable and would not let them come back.

Nick is shot but not dead yet. He is awful sick. I must go and wait on him.

It is now about two hours since the first shot. Nick is still alive.

Boys, there is bullets coming like hail. They are shooting from the stable and river and back of the house.

Them fellows is in such shape I can’t get at them. They are shooting from the stable and river and back of the house. Nick is dead, he died about 9 o’clock. I see a smoke down at the stable. I think they have fired it. I don’t think they intend to let me get away this time.

Boys, I feel pretty lonesome just now, I wish there was someone here with me so we could watch all sides at once.

Champion fought 50 men for hours, wounding three. In the middle of the afternoon, the invaders torched the cabin. Champion emerged from the smoke and was shot down. There were more than 24 bullets in Champion, and the invaders left his body to rot and be eaten by coyotes.  Nothing was left of Nick Ray but “his skull and part of the shoulders.”

The invaders, back under the command of Wolcott, took refuge at a friendly ranch, the TA Ranch. The TA was already situated for defense. The house had a seven foot fence around it and was situated in a bend in Crazy Woman Creek. Behind the house was an ice house, perfect as a defensive outpost.

TA Ranch courtesy of Jim Gatchell Memorial Musem

Men from around the area rushed to confront the invaders and surrounded the T.A.  This posse grew to more than 400 men, and conducted a formal siege led by the Civil War veterans among them.

“Go-Devil” courtesy of Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum

For over three days the posse closed in on the “regulators.”  On the third day, members of the posse moved toward the TA Ranch house, using a movable fort called a “go-devil” or “ark of safety” made of logs and the running gears of two wagons.  The plan was to get close to the house and then use dynamite to force the “regulators” out.

The posse never got a chance to use their new weapon. At the last minute, soldiers from nearby Fort McKinney rode onto the scene and took the invaders into custody.  Later, it was revealed, that Governor Amos Barber, a friend to the big cattleman and members of WSGA, summoned the soldiers to save his friends.

Barber telegraphed President Benjamin Harrison, but when his telegram didn’t go through, Barber asked the two senators from Wyoming, Joseph Carey and Francis E. Warren to go to the White House. The senators acted upon the request, and convinced Harrison there was an insurrection.

Once the invaders were taken into custody, Barber assumed control over them and wouldn’t let them be questioned. His interference completely frustrated the investigation and prosecution of the invaders by Johnson County.

While the cattle barons involved escaped justice, the system could not protect them from Wyoming voters.

Many Wyoming people were offended by the spectacle of the senators’ late night personal visit to President Harrison to rescue the invaders. The invaders and their supporters continued their attempts to suppress Johnson County and its advocates. This included a fervent attempt to have martial law declared in the state. President Harrison, however, apparently made cautious when great numbers of Wyoming people protested his earlier actions, refused to do that.

The 1892 election was a landslide in favor of the Wyoming Democratic Party, a dig at the predominately Republican WSGA.  A Democrat was elected governor and another was elected to the U.S. Congress. At the time, U.S. senators were still elected by state legislatures; enough Democrats were elected to the Wyoming state legislature that no Republican could be selected for the U.S. Senate. Senator Francis E. Warren lost his seat.

The Democrats didn’t retain control for long, as in 1894, following the nationwide Panic of 1893, Wyoming voters threw out the Democrats, the party in power during that economic catastrophe. Francis E. Warren was returned to the U.S. Senate in 1895 and served there for the next 34 years.

Despite mixed electoral results, there were permanent and positive changes in response to the Johnson County War. “Wyoming people had made it abundantly clear—by their votes and by strong resolutions to public officials reported in newspapers– that they would not tolerate abuses like the invasion of Johnson County.”

Perhaps most significantly, the organization primarily responsible for the Johnson County War, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, was changed forever. Plagued by continuing economic woes, the cattle barons in the association permanently altered this organization in 1893 when they opened their group to all the stock growers in Wyoming.

In what was a galling but necessary action, the small cattlemen of Wyoming, vilified just a year before, were invited to join. This action abruptly halted the overwhelming hostility of the big cattlemen toward the smaller operators and stopped such programs as the confiscation, at point of sale, of suspected rustlers’ cattle by the Wyoming Livestock Commission.

After 1893, a measure of peace descended upon the Wyoming range, although it wasn’t until 16 years later that vigilantism was finally stopped in Wyoming…but we’ll get into that later. 😉

Cookie we DO NOT need a “go-devil”, I don’t care how much ya want one! Daggnabbit, ya show a man a new toy and suddenly the cook thinks he needs a weapon to besiege somethin’…although that is a pretty fancy piece of weaponry…maybe…Okay ya ol’ coot go see iffin’ ya can fashion us one of those…

Oh sorry, folks! While Cookie and me see what we can find to put together our own little siege weapon here, come on ‘round the campfire and help yerself to a cup of Arbuckle’s and tell us what ya think of this brouhaha in Wyoming!


Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, Buffalo, Wyoming

Chartier, JoAnn and Chris Enss.Love Untamed: Romances of the Old West. The Globe Pequot Press: Guilford, CT, 2002.



Sweet blazin’ sun, Cookie’s drivin’ this wagon like a runaway stagecoach! He started slappin’ reins and here we are in Rawlins, Wyoming!

Y’all might notice we’re not followin’ a trail for a time as we keep are wagons travelin’  through Wyomin’. For a time we’re gonna look at the bad and the ugly from the Cowboy State’s history, so hang on folks cause this trail is about to get rough!

And speakin’ of rough and ugly let me introduce y’all to Big Nose George…

We don’t know much about George Parrot other than he was a cattle rustler, and then joined a gang. Known for his large nose and therefore called Big Nose George, he was a member of a gang of road agents and horse thieves. The leader of the gang was a man named Sim Jan, and they were active in the Powder River country, robbing pay wagons and stagecoaches. Other gang members included: Frank McKinney, Joe Manuse, Jack Campbell, John Wells, Tom Reed, Frank Tole, and “Dutch Charley” Burress.

After a series of successful robberies, the gang decided to expand their operation to robbing trains. On August 16, 1878, they planned to rob a Union Pacific train near Medicine Bow by manipulating the tracks so the train would derail. However, as the outlaws waited in the brush for the train, a section crew from the railroad came along and discovered the tampered rail.

Frank McKinney wanted to shoot the rail crew, but Big Nose George and Frank Tole objected, saying they hadn’t come to kill.  As the crewmen repaired the track, a railroad foreman rode ahead to stop the approaching train and inform the law that the rail had been tampered with. Forced to abort the robbery, the outlaws watched helplessly as the track was repaired. After the workers left, the gang rode off.

A posse was hastily formed and rode out to apprehend the would-be train robbers. Two lawmen tracked the gang to Rattlesnake Canyon in Elk Mountain. The outlaws shot and killed both lawmen. Wanted now for attempted robbery and the murder of two lawmen, the outlaws went their separate ways.

One of the victims killed that day was Robert Widdowfield. Widdowfield was born in County Durham, England, the son of a miner. In 1870, when Widdowfield was twenty-one, the family moved to America and settled in Wyoming where Robert became a deputy sheriff in Carbon County. On August, 19, 1878, he became Wyoming’s first officer to be killed in the line of duty.

The Union Pacific Railroad doubled their efforts in tracking the gang members and county authorities offered a $10,000 reward for their capture. Frank Tole was killed the next month while attempting to rob the Black Hills Stage line.

“Dutch Charley” was apprehended in 1879. However, when the westbound train transporting the outlaw to Rawlins for trial passed Carbon it was stopped by a mob.  “Dutch Charley” was forcibly taken from the train and hanged from a telegraph pole, with one of the widows kicking the barrel out from under “Dutch Charley” and ending his career.

Two years later in Miles City, Montana, Big Nose George, in a drunken stupor, bragged about killing two Wyoming lawmen.  A telegraph was sent to Rawlins, and in July, 1880, Sheriff James Rankin of Carbon County went to Montana to collect his prisoner and bring George back to Wyoming.  A second time, the train bringing a gang member back was stopped in Carbon by the same mob that lynched “Dutch Charley.”  Big Nose was hauled off the train and prepared for hanging. But the outlaw confessed and pleaded for his life, promising to tell all he knew if they let him live. The vigilantes cut him down and he was allowed to continue the journey to Rawlins to stand trial.

When he arrived in Rawlins, he recanted his confession after he was told if he pleaded guilty there would be no trial if his plea was accepted and he would face a mandatory death sentence.  His trial began in November of 1880, and he again changed his plea to guilty. The plea was accepted and on December 15, 1880, he was sentenced to hang on April 2, 1881.

While Big Nose was in jail, he stated Frank McKinney claimed to be Frank James, which led to some speculation that Frank McKinney and the gang’s leader, Sim Jan, were Frank and Jesse James. The only gang members ever caught were:  Frank Tole, “Dutch Charley,” and Big Nose George.  McKinney, Jan and the rest of the gang disappeared.

George attempted to escape on March 22, 1880. Parrot managed to file the rivets of the heavy shackles on his ankles, using a pocket knife and a piece of sandstone. After removing his shackles, he hid until jailor Robert Rankin (brother of Sheriff James Rankin) entered the area.  Big Nose struck Robert Rankin with the shackles, fracturing his skull, but Rankin fought back and called out to his wife, Rosa.  Rosa grabbed a pistol and forced Big Nose back into his cell.

News of the attempted escape spread through Rawlins, and a mob descended on the jail determined to see Big Nose hang. They dragged Big Nose George from the jail to a telegraph pole on what is now Front Street. A crowd of about 200 people gathered.  The first effort using a Kerosine barrel was unsuccessful. On the second attempt, Big Nose was made to ascend a ladder leaning against a telegraph pole. When the ladder was pulled out from under him, Big Nose managed to get his hands free and clung to the pole begging for someone to have mercy and shoot him. No one did. Tired, Big Nose let go and strangled to death.

The body was left hanging for hours until the undertaker cut it down. With no family to claim the body, Doctors Thomas Maghee and John Osborne took possession of it. The doctors wanted to study the outlaw’s brain for the purpose of determining whether there were any visible criminal abnormalities.  The skull cap was removed and given to Lillian Heath (later Lillian Nelson), a fifteen-year-old apprentice of Dr. Maghee. Heath, who became the first woman doctor in Wyoming, used the skull cap as an ashtray, pencil holder and doorstop until her death.  Though Dr. Maghee acted within the medical ethics of the time, Dr. Osborne’s activities became bizarre.

Osborne first molded a death mask of George’s face using plaster of paris. The mask was without ears because while George struggled at the end of the rope his ears were torn off.

Next, Osborne removed the skin from the dead man’s thighs and chest, which he shipped to a tannery in Denver with a set of grotesque instructions. The tannery was to use the skin, including the nipples, to make him a pair of shoes and a medicine bag. When Dr. Osborne received the shoes, he was disappointed to find they didn’t include the nipples, but proudly wore them despite his instructions not being followed.

The rest of Big Nose George’s dismembered body was kept in a whiskey barrel filled with a salt solution for about a year as Osborne continued his dissection and experiments. Finally, the whiskey barrel was buried by Osborne’s office in Rawlins.

Despite this odd behavior, Osborne was elected as Wyoming’s first Democratic governor, in 1892. Although, the circumstances surrounding his election are a bit sketchy, and it is often said he sneaked into office when the Republicans weren’t looking. Returns from Converse and Fremont Counties were delayed, and the State Canvassing Board was unable to certify the results. Taking matters in his own hands, Osborne took the oath of office on December 2, before a notary public and allegedly crawled along a ledge of the State House and in through the window into the Governor’s Office and refused to leave. The scene culminated with a wrestling match between Acting Governor Barber’s secretary and Osborne for the key to the office.

Governor Osborne wore the shoes made of George’s skin to his inaugural ball, which seems fitting since it appears he was as much a criminal as Big Nose.

Big Nose George was all but forgotten until May 11, 1950, when a construction crew excavating for a new building unearthed a whiskey barrel filled with bones. Included in the mass of bones was a skull with the top sawed off.

A citizen recalled Dr. Lillian Heath Nelson kept a skull cap. Nelson was still alive, but well into her eighties.  Her family was contacted and her husband brought the skull cap to the scene, it fit perfectly with the skull found in the barrel.  Subsequent DNA testing has occurred and verified the results.

Today if you’ve got a hankerin’, the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins displays Big Nose George’s death mask, his skull and the infamous shoes.  Also on display, is a watch given by the County Commissioners to Rosa Rankin for stopping Big Nose’s escape. The shackles used on Big Nose during his hanging and the skull cap are on display at the Union Pacific Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. The medicine bag has never been found.

There ya go, folks! Not a pretty story, and frankly Cookie’s been yarkin’ in a pail since George was skinned and turned inta shoes! Truth be told, I’m lookin’ for my own pail! But if yer lookin’ for somethin’ a little different to see on the trail head on over to Rawlins and take a look at man-shoes!

See ya on the trail! Move over ya ol’ coot, and hand me a bucket!




Folks, Cookie stopped the wagon at Rock Springs, Wyoming today. Why? As my eye wonders around…that’s what I’d like to know…Why?  Just kiddin’ all ya fine citizens of Rock Springs out there, I’m just joshin’ with ya…kinda.

Aw right, Cookie, I’ll stop. Ol’ scudder is afraid he might have to get into a bit of fisticuffs iffin’ I don’t stop.  It can get rough down here, and that’s what we’ll be talkin’ about today, when it got real rough and Wyomin’ history took a bit of a turn for the worst.

So while Cookie breathes a sigh of relief that his hide is safe…for now, let me tell y’all a bit about the Rock Springs Massacre!

Since gold was found in California, in 1849, Chinese immigrants started arriving in the West. California welcomed them, at first, a much needed source of labor. Soon Chinese men worked alongside whites from farming to railroads and shops.  Even after the transcontinental railroad was finished and thousands of jobs were lost, the Chinese stayed.  They didn’t mind living eight or nine to room to save money, and they accepted jobs at lower rates of pay.  “Taking jobs away from whites.”

In July 1870, white workers in San Francisco led a large street demonstration making it clear Chinese weren’t wanted, and should consider their lives at risk. In Los Angeles, October 1871, a fight between rival Chinese gangs broke out and whites flooded into the neighborhood murdering 23 Chinese (no one was charged with a crime).

But none of this violence kept the Chinese from coming to the United States. They referred to themselves as Sojourners, meaning they always planned to return to China, aggravating whites even more as these men became nothing more than trespassers in America.  After more violence erupted in Arizona and Nevada, in 1882, Congress finally limited the number of Chinese immigrants. But this law was full of loopholes and the immigration question was more confusing than ever.

Coal was the main reason the railroad followed the route it did across southern Wyoming. The trains ran on coal from rich Union Pacific coal mines in Carbon, Rock Springs, and Almy, Wyoming.

The Union Pacific, in financial trouble, saved money by cutting miners’ pay, and the miners and their families were required to purchase food, clothes, and tools only at the company’s stores where prices were much higher than in the surrounding towns. There were strikes about the wage cuts and about having to shop in the company stores.

In 1871, after one strike, the company brought in Scandinavian miners eager for work and willing to work for less and follow the rules. In 1875, after another strike Chinese workers were brought in for the same reason.  By 1885, there were nearly 600 Chinese and 300 white miners working in Rock Springs.

The whites, mostly Irish, Scandinavian, English and Welsh immigrants, lived downtown Rock Springs. The Chinese lived in what was called Chinatown on the other side of a bend in the railroad tracks and across Bitter Creek. There, the Chinese miners lived in small wooden houses the company built for them.  Other Chinese ran businesses, herb stores, laundries, noodle shops, social clubs, and lived in shacks they built themselves.

Although they worked side by side the language barriers and fact that the white and Chinese miners lived separately meant each knew very little about the other. This ignorance, on both sides, made it possible for each race to think of the other as not entirely human.

Adding fuel to the fire, because the Chinese were willing to work for lower wages, everyone’s wages remained low. White miners resented it, and joined a new union, the Knights of Labor.  In 1884, the Union Pacific told mine managers in Rock Springs were told to hire only Chinese.

In the summer of 1885, there were scattered threats against and beatings of Chinese men in Cheyenne, Laramie and Rawlins. Posters were hung in railroad towns warning Chinese to leave Wyoming Territory. Company officials ignored these threats and direct warnings by the Knights of Labor. Resentment and hostility continued to boil throughout the mining community.

On September 2, 1885, a fight broke out between white and Chinese miners in the No. 6 mine.  A Chinese miner was fatally wounded with blows of a pick to the skull. A second Chinese miner was badly beaten before a foreman arrived and stopped the violence. Instead of going back to work, white miners went home and grabbed guns, hatchets, knives and clubs. The armed miners gathered on the railroad tracks near the No. 6 mine, north of Chinatown. Some made an effort to calm things down, but most moved to the Knights of Labor hall. They held a meeting, then went to the saloons where miners from other mines began gathering, as well. Sensing an increasing tension, saloon owners closed their doors.

It was a Chinese holiday, so many of the Chinese miners had stayed home from work and were unaware of the spark about to catch fire.

Shortly after noon, 100 to 150 armed white men, mostly miners and railroad workers, convened again at the railroad tracks near the No. 6 mine. Women and children started joining the group. The mob divided at 2:00p.m.  Half moved toward Chinatown across the plank bridge over Bitter Creek. Others approached by the railroad bridge, leaving some behind at both bridges to prevent Chinese from escaping. A third group walked up the hill toward the No. 3 mine, north and on the other side of the tracks from Chinatown, leaving Chinatown completely surrounded.

At the No. 3 mine, white men shot Chinese workers, killing several. The mob moved into Chinatown from three directions, pulling Chinese men from their homes and shooting others as they ran into the street.  Many Chinese fled, dashing through the creek along the tracks or up the steep bluffs and out into the hills beyond.  A few terrified Chinese ran straight for the mob and met their deaths at the hands of white men, women and children.

The mob moved through Chinatown, looting stores, shacks and houses and then setting them on fire. More Chinese were driven out of hiding by the flames and were killed in the streets.  Still others burned to death in their cellars. And still others died that night out on the hills and prairies from thirst, the cold and their wounds.

The mob left Chinatown burning and confronted the company bosses telling them it would be in their best interest to leave Rock Springs on the next train. They did.  The sheriff of Green River, 14 miles away, learned of the killing and rushed to Rock Springs on a special train, but when he arrived no one would join him in a posse, and all he could do is join a few men to protect the company buildings from fire.

In Cheyenne, Territorial Governor Francis E. Warren learned of the murders late in the afternoon. Union Pacific officials took a special fast train all the way from Omaha, Nebraska (company headquarters) and arrived in Cheyenne at midnight. Warren joined them on the train and they all arrived in Rock Springs at daybreak on September 3.

Warren appeared to be the only person who knew what to do. He sent telegrams to the Army and to President Grover Cleveland asking for federal troops to restore order. At Warren’s suggestion, the company train ran slowly along the tracks between Rock Springs and Green River, taking stranded Chinese miners aboard and giving them water, food and blankets.

In Rock Springs, Warren met with more company officials and then with the white miners. The miners demanded that no Chinese ever again be allowed to live in Rock Springs, and that no one would be arrested for the murders and burning. They said anyone objecting to these demands risked being hurt or killed.

To show he was unafraid, Warren left the railroad car several times during the day and made a show of walking back and forth on the depot platform.  The people, now quiet and orderly watched him and nothing happened.

Uinta County Sheriff J.J. LeCain in Evanston, Wyoming was sweating bullets. Hundreds of Chinese miners lived there, too, and worked in the coal mines at nearby Almy. White miners had left work, and armed mobs were in the streets of Almy.

LeCain telegraphed Governor Warren. With no territorial militia to command and no word about federal troops, there wasn’t much Warren could do, but to go to Evanston. He arrived the morning of September 4. LeCain deputized 20 men who barely managed to maintain order. On the fifth, a small detachment of troops arrived in Rock Springs. On the sixth, the striking white miners at Almy warned the Chinese if they went to work they wouldn’t leave the mines alive. Troops escorted the Chinese from their camp to the much larger Chinatown in Evanston. Although, the company assured the Chinese their property in Almy would be safe, as soon as they were gone whites looted their homes.

Most Chinese wanted was to get out of Wyoming as soon as possible.  Ah Say, leader of the Rock Springs’ Chinese community, asked for railroad tickets. Company officials refused. Then he asked for the two months back pay the company owed Chinese workers. Again the company refused.

Over two hundred white citizens of Evanston presented Governor Warren a petition asking for the Chinese to be paid off so they could leave. Warren refused, saying it was a matter between the company and its employees. This was a risky decision considering things were ready to explode in Evanston.

Finally, more troops arrived in Rock Springs and Evanston nearly a week after the first killing. On September 9, under the protection of armed guards 600 Chinese in Evanston were taken to the depot and loaded on boxcars and told they were headed for San Francisco and safety. Without their knowledge, however, a special car carrying Warren and top Union Pacific officials was attached to the back of the train with 250 soldiers on board.

The train left Evanston heading east, not west, arriving in Rock Springs that evening. An angry crowd of white miners gathered. So the train continued a little farther, stopping just west of the ruins of Chinatown.  The boxcar doors opened, and the Chinese realized they’d been tricked.

Climbing out of the boxcar they saw what little was left of the homes many fled in panic a week before. Chinatown was gone. Even more horrifying, bodies still littered the streets. Some had been buried by the coal company, but about a dozen had not. Many were in pieces, “mangled and decomposed being eaten by dogs and hogs.”  Compounding this horror, the Union Pacific owners expected the miners to bury their dead, put the nightmare of this abomination behind them and get back to work. Until new houses could be built, they were expected to live in the boxcars.

For many days, the fearful Chinese miners would not go back to work. Again they asked for passes to California or their back pay, and again they were refused. The company store refused to sell goods to the Chinese who were not working and threatened to evict them from their temporary homes. About 60 fled Rock Springs by whatever method they found. The rest surrendered, and returned to work.

Sixteen white miners were arrested and released on bail. Though the killing had been done in daylight, no one could be found who would testify to seeing the crimes committed. No charges were filed.

In all, 28 Chinese were killed, 15 wounded and all 79 of the shacks and houses in Rock Springs Chinatown were looted and burned. Chinese diplomats in New York and San Francisco drew up a list of damages totaling $150,000. Congress, under pressure from President Cleveland, agreed to reimburse the miners. Many Chinese gradually left Wyoming throughout the following decades.

In Rock Springs, federal troops built Camp Pilot Butte between downtown Rock Springs and Chinatown to prevent further violence and stayed for 13 years.

Because of Governor Warren’s decisive courage in the first days after the riot, many more killings were avoided. However, Warren refused to help with the back-pay question and played a role in tricking the Chinese onto the train that took them back to Rock Springs, therefore not resolving the issue in the best interest of those victimized, or even the white miners.

After all was said and done, the Union Pacific was able to keep a large supply of Chinese miners around, making sure coal kept flowing and the wages could be kept low. This is what the Union Pacific wanted all along, leaving only one winner and hundreds of losers at the end of the violence.

I know, Cookie, pass that whiskey on over.  Cookie and me, it sours our stomach to see such a thing happen in our fine State, so we’re hanging our heads a little lower.

But on a more positive note so we don’t leave ya draggin’, Rock Springs later became a bit of a meltin’ pot with over 78 nationalities represented, and livin’  peaceably (for the most part) together.

Wish I could say our next visit was gonna be more cordial like, but…Well y’all will just have to hold onto yer hats!






I tell ya folks Cookie and me have been whippin’ up some more trails to blaze and wild paths to follow!!  Fact is we’ve turned the wagon toward our next destination, but then the ol’ coot reminded me I promised to tell y’all about Chief Washakie, so he stopped the wagon! Fact is, Cookie just wanted another piece of Ma’s pie!  For that trick I offered the Shoshone thirteen horses to take the codger, they countered, offerin’ sixteen for me to keep ‘im! Dagnabbit!!

Failed negotiations aside, think I told y’all at our last campfire ‘while back each state got to choose two people whose statue would go into the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. I introduced y’all to the first person honored from Wyoming, Mrs. Esther H. Morris. Now sit on down ‘round the fire and let me introduce ya to the second person Wyoming honored with a statue, the great Shoshone leader, Chief Washakie!

Chief Washakie’s early life still holds many mysteries. The year of his birth and the year he joined the Shoshone tribe have both been speculated upon by numerous Indian agents, religious leaders and historians.  An early biographer, Grace Raymond Hebard records the year of his birth as 1798, however, his gravestone is inscribed with an 1804 date. Washakie, in an interview with an Indian Agent at the Wind River Reservation Captain Patrick H. Ray provides some hints that would place his birth closer to 1808 or 1810. Regardless of the year Washakie was born, or joined the Shoshone tribe he became a fierce warrior and a great leader for the Eastern Shoshone.

Even the name by which he would be widely known has been translated in various ways. Although, it apparently dealt with his tactics in battle. One story details a large rattle Washakie devised by placing stones in an inflated and dried balloon of buffalo hide which he tied on a stick. He carried the device into battle to frighten enemy horses, earning the name “The Rattle.” Another translation of Washakie is “Shoots-on-the-Run,” or “Shoots-buffalo-on-the-run.”

Originally named Pinaquana (smell of sugar), he was born in his father’s Salish (Flathead) tribe. His mother was Lemhi-Shoshone. When Washakie was just a boy, his tribe was attacked by Blackfeet and his father was killed. The survivors of the attack scattered with Washakie’s mother taking him and his siblings to the Lemhi-Shoshone. Later his mother returned to the Flathead, but Washakie and his sister stayed with the Lemhis.  At about the age of sixteen Washakie joined a band of Bannocks. The Bannocks, linguistically related to the Shoshones, were trading and hunting partners with the Shoshone tribe and frequently joined them on massed buffalo hunts in Montana and Wyoming. This particular band considered the Green River basin area of southwestern Wyoming their home.

One of the relationships that provide clues to Washakie’s birth year is his friendship with Jim Bridger. Washakie, in his interview with Ray, stated he met Bridger when he was sixteen after joining the Shoshone tribe and that Bridger was a few years older than Washakie.  Bridger who was born in 1804 did not enter Shoshone country until 1824. It was during Bridger’s time with William Ashley’s Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Company and at the rendezvous in the vicinity of Henry’s Fork of the Green River when the two met. Washakie then hunted and trapped with Bridger attending rendezvous with the famous trapper and explorer. This is also the time when Washakie cast his lot with a band of Shoshone who claimed the Green River and Bear River regions there Washakie lived in proximity for many years with fur trappers and traders. He learned their mannerisms and languages, English and French. He traded with these men and earned a reputation as a friend among the whites.

But while trapping and trading were valuable activities to the fur trappers these were not enough to gain prominence with Shoshone culture. In order to do this, young men had to prove themselves in battle. So at the same time Washakie was immersed in the fur trade, he also made war on the tribe responsible for his father’s death, the Blackfeet.

The first few raids into Blackfeet country, Washakie tells Ray he was young, unmarried and he followed another leader, until he gained enough prowess to lead other raids.  One of the most remarkable things about each of the journeys to Blackfeet country was that Washakie and his fellow Shoshones started on foot from their Idaho or Wyoming base and attacked the Blackfeet near the Three Forks area or even farther east or north. There were two goals for each of these raids, first to steal horses, secondly, to take Blackfeet scalps.

By early 1830s, Washakie matured enough and had achieved enough acclaim in the raids on the Blackfeet to marry his first wife. Shoshone men typically married in their early to mid-20s, depending on their prowess as warriors and their economic viabilities as hunters.  Shoshone women typically married at a younger age, usually fifteen or sixteen.

Washakie continued to maintain his hunting, trapping, trading, and warring activities from his home in the Green River, Bear River and Cache Valley throughout the 1830s and into the 1840s. During this time, the Shoshone bands were under the leadership of several powerful headmen who amassed over 2000 Indians in the buffalo hunting trips to the plains of Montana and Wyoming.  These leaders were identified by trapper William A. Ferris as: Horn Chief, Iron Wristband, Little Chief, and Cut Nose.  Cut Nose was the leader of Shoshones who intermarried and lived in a mixed Indian-White community in the Green River region. It is believed this was Washakie’s band.

Osborne Russell, another trapper, met Iron Wristband in 1834, and stated Iron Wristband was known as Pahdahewakunda and Little Chief was his brother. Little Chief was called Mohwoomha by the Shoshones.  Making clear distinctions about Shoshone leaders proved impossible for white observers. To outsiders, it seemed as if certain leaders controlled thousands of people, but in reality, such men generally were leaders of specific events, such as annual massed buffalo hunts, rendezvous, or ceremonials such as the Sun Dance, not overarching rulers. Shoshones organized themselves into loose-knit family bands for various composition and size. The economics of providing food and fodder for thousands of Indians and their horses acted against maintenance of large-scale communities. Once large gatherings ended, Shoshones dispersed into more manageable and smaller groups of 10 to 150 people.  Each of these had their own designated leaders, or headmen.

So, along with the leaders mentioned above, fur trappers noted other important warriors.  Russell called three young warriors “the pillars of the nation and [men] at whose names the Blackfeet quaked with fear.”  These three warriors were: Inkatoshapop, Fibebountowatsee, and Whoshakik. Whoshakik refers to the warrior we know as Washakie.  Another trapper, William Hamilton, camped for part of 1843 with Washakie and noted the Shoshone warrior led hunting trips into Crow territory of the Big Horn River.  In each account the trappers note Washakie’s friendly relationships with trappers and traders.

Trappers, like Jim Bridger, used their trade relationships to foster the “careers” of their friends. In 1849, Indian Agent John Wilson noted that Washakie, Mono, Wiskin, and Big Man were the main leaders. Wilson took his information directly from reports by Bridger. Washakie denied this in his interview with Captain Ray stating that Gahnacumah was the leader of his band and Washakie was the war chief.  It is also of note that close to the same time Bridger elevates Washakie to that of a leader of the Shoshone, Washakie’s daughter, Mary, became Jim Bridger’s third wife. She was about 17 years old and Bridger was 46.

Whether Washakie was “chief” of the Shoshones or not, he quickly moved into that position in the eyes of white officials. The same year of Wilson’s report, he asked Washakie to help solve an intertribal feud over horse stealing between the Utes, Paiutes, and Shoshones.  For the first time the federal government officially recognized Washakie as an important leader. The actual meeting took place in 1852. Before this meeting could take place, the government called a more important meeting to establish peace on the Plains between the Mandan, Sioux, Crow, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Blackfeet and other tribes in an attempt to provide safe passage for emigrants traveling the overland trails.  Jacob Holeman, recently appointed Indian Agent for the newly created Utah Superintendent of the Office of Indian Affairs, thought other tribes whose lands were affected by the overland emigrants should also attend the meeting.

Holeman sent Bridger to gather the Shoshones and bring them to the council. This would not be an easy task, as the site of the meeting, on Horse Creek about 30 miles from Fort Laramie, was squarely in the enemy territory as far as Shoshones were concerned. The timing was off for the Shoshones, as well. It was August, when most Shoshones were on fall buffalo hunts. Bridger found the band that included Washakie camped along the Sweetwater River. The leader of the band, Gahnacumah was hunting buffalo and refused to attend the council. And to sour things further, a raiding party of Cheyenne attacked a small group of Shoshone hunters near the camp, killing two and stealing horses.  The few leaders in camp immediately mistrusted the upcoming peace council and argued for three days. A desperate Bridger asked Washakie to take charge and resolve the issue.  Washakie stated he:  “called in all the young men who had been to war [with me]” and told them, “I was going to stay with the white men and they must make up their minds to go or to stay and they all said they would stay. There were a good many of them.”  They also elected Washakie as their war chief.

As far as the whites were concerned this began Washakie’s chieftainship.  Sixty to eighty warriors followed him to the Fort Laramie/Horse Creek council.  There the Shoshones entered in full dress regalia that reportedly started their enemies scrambling for weapons thinking the Shoshones intended to attack. Despite their grand entrance, the Shoshones were excluded from official participation since the meeting was called for the Plains tribes only and the Shoshones resided primarily west of the Rocky Mountains.  The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, established territorial claims for the Plains tribes. The Indians guaranteed safe passage for settlers on the overland trails in return for an annuity of fifty thousand dollars for ten years. Also, the nations would allow roads and forts to be built in their territories.  Although, left out of the council, Washakie adhered to the terms of the treaty and he played on this “friendship” with the whites to gain whatever advantages he could for his followers.

Washakie was the clear leader of choice for white officials. There were other prominent Shoshone headmen, chiefs in their own right, who led various bands, but Washakie was the primary leader to whom whites turned for guidance concerning most of the buffalo-hunting Shoshones. As for Washakie, he learned the intricacies of negotiating within the white world from his long relationship with Jim Bridger and other trappers and traders.  He used these skills to obtain goods, supplies, and food from government officials.

The pioneers who passed through his territory had tremendous impact on Washakie’s Shoshones.  Washakie’s band was headquartered around Jim Bridger’s fort during the 1840s. In the early 1850s, following his rise to a more prominent role, Washakie’s activities remained centered around Fort Bridger and also Salt Lake City. Washakie had built trade relationship with Brigham Young, where the Shoshones traded buffalo hides and other game pelts for goods and supplies. By the mid-1850s the continuous flow of white settlers through this area disrupted life and hunting to such a great extent Washakie began to seek out areas where whites had not yet settled.  He believed trading in Salt Lake was still important in the summer, but in late fall, Washakie’s Shoshones headed north to the Three Forks area of Montana for their buffalo hunts.  If you’ll recall this is the place where Washakie had gained his prowess as a warrior against the Blackfeet.  The band whose members formed the majority of the Plains-going Shoshones, made the change to their geographical range from the mid-1850s through early 1860s. Washakie’s plan was two-fold: first, it prevented factions within his band from raiding or killing white travelers, and second he could still lead his people to buffalo in relative safety without violating the territorial boundaries marked out by the Treaty of Fort Laramie.

The 1850s also saw change in Washakie’s band.  Shoshones and Bannocks of Idaho began more frequent campaigns of armed resistance to the invasion of their lands by emigrants and settlers.  As a result, Washakie began to lose some of his followers, especially younger warriors who resisted Washakie’s continued friendship toward the whites.  By 1858, Washakie began making overtures to white officials to set aside land specifically for the Shoshones. He first suggested land along Henry’s Fork, a tributary of the Green River near the border of Utah and Wyoming.  Later, he proposed a reserve near the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah. But his negotiations led to gifts of food, clothing, and good will, but not a secured track of land for his people.

Spurred into action by the growing number of raids on settlers, government officials finally sought to set aside lands for the Shoshones and Bannocks.  At the same time, Colonel Patrick Connor led a large-scale militia attack on a Shoshone winter camp near the Bear River. Connor’s attack led to the massacre of over 240 Indians.  While Washakie was not at the camp near Bear River, when the government sought to make a treaty he was called to the negotiations at Fort Bridger along with ten other leaders.  The Fort Bridger Treaty of 1863 set aside over 44,000,000 acres of land for “Shoshone country.”  The land was east of the Wind River Mountains and north of the main immigrant trails through the Basin regions.

This agreement, like most during this time period, brought peace for a time between Shoshones and whites, but was riddled with problems.  Settlers and emigrants now had free access to traditional Shoshone hunting grounds in the Fort Bridger, Bear River, and Salt Lake region, and started spreading up the Green River Valley.  Therefore, Washakie and other Shoshone leaders were forced to increasingly turn to hunting in Crow territory, or even onto the Plains east of Powder River and the Big Horn Mountains. As a result, Shoshones became vulnerable to attacks by Crows, Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapahos, all vying for the same hunting grounds.  At the same time, as previously discussed in past posts, white prospectors were flooding into South Pass, Miner’s Delight, Atlantic City and farmers were claiming land near some of the tributaries of the Big Wind River. [See last week’s post on the Battle of Crowheart Butte for details on the escalation of violence between the Shoshone and Crow]

With violence between tribes escalating, the end of the Civil War, the building of the first transcontinental railway and more gold discoveries in South Dakota and Montana, a new round of negotiations with many of the Indian tribes was sparked in 1867 and continuing through 1868. Washakie took advantage of this situation upon hearing the Crow relinquished their claim on the Wind River he met with officials again at Fort Bridger and signed the Fort Bridger Treaty in 1868. This treaty created the Shoshone and Bannock Indian Agency in the Wind River Valley. Today, the Wind River Reservation is the only one in the United States which occupies land chosen by the tribe that lives there.

A treaty on paper did not create immediate benefits. Sioux warriors under Red Cloud continued to raid both whites and Shoshone towns and camps along the Wind River, making it too dangerous to make a permanent home there. The government, under Washakie’s petitions, established a military base at Camp Brown (later called Fort Washakie) to provide protection to the agency.  By 1871, the first agency buildings had been erected, and Washakie and his Shoshones began to learn a new way of life. Washakie included demands for new schools, physicians, teachers, carpenters and other skilled craftsmen in his treaties with the government.

For the next 30 years, Washakie walked a thin line between adhering to the new demands placed on his people to become “civilized,” while at the same time maintaining traditional Shoshone ways. Through the 1870s he encouraged his children to attend agency schools, but still took them on fall buffalo hunts. [Again please refer to last week’s post for information on agency schools and Rev. Roberts]  He moved from living in hide teepees to log houses, yet still led warriors into battle against the Sioux and Cheyenne in the U.S. Army campaigns of 1876. He insisted white officials abide by Shoshone council decisions regarding distribution of food, annuities, and supplies.  He maintained his role as the spokesman for the tribe, but also respected the leadership of the various Shoshone bands who lived on the reservation. He refused to allow an Indian police force (who often served as spies for white officials) to be created through the 1880s stating, the Shoshone could police themselves and provide good order.  He farmed a small plot of land, as an example to other Shoshones, and insisted white farmers and ranchers pay for the use of reservation lands in livestock or grazing fees.

But changes were already in the air that would limit Washakie’s choices about keeping even part of their traditional ways. The Brunot cession of 1872 ceded nearly one-third of the reservation.  Settlers in towns such as Lander, promoted more settlement in the “unoccupied” lands to be used for stockgrowing, hunting, and logging.

Washakie’s influence waned even more regarding reservation policies. The Arapahos, long-time enemies of the Shoshones, were moved to the reservation in 1878. Supposedly a temporary placement, the Arapahos became equal shareholders in the resources of the reservation. This severely limited Washakie’s ability to shape council decisions and limit the impact of official decisions. A more telling blow was the elimination of buffalo hunting as a mainstay of the Shoshone economy.  As long as Washakie and the Shoshones could depend on buffalo as their main source of food and economic activity, they could thwart attempts of the Indian agents to turn them into farmers.  The last buffalo were killed in 1885 and the Wyoming livestock industry expanded into Wind River country, curtailing off-reservation hunting access to other big game such as elk. This forced the Shoshone to pay more attention to farming, ranching and wage labor.

While changes and Washakie’s increasing age limited his power it did not end entirely.  In the mid-1880s, Wind River Indian agents signed on Shoshones to the tribal police service, but Washakie named the men who would serve in these positions. He often nominated the Shoshone Indian employees for agency positions as teamsters, farmers, herders, etc. While younger men played increasingly important roles in Shoshone councils, Washakie was still the dominant voice well into the 1890s. His last major act took place in the 1896 Hot Springs land cessions, when Shoshones and Arapahos gave in to the demands of the government to sell a ten-square mile parcel of land at the northeast corner of the reservation. This parcel contained natural hot springs (present day Thermopolis).  Washakie insisted that the springs remain open to all peoples; this condition is still honored today.

Washakie became ill in the winter of 1899 and succumbed to the illness on February 20, 1900. Buried with full military honors and with a funeral train that stretched for miles, Washakie’s death was a symbol, as his life had been, of the effort made to bring peace to disparate peoples, to listen to ideas and adapt to new ways while honoring the traditions of a proud people.  No other leader emerged from the Shoshones who achieved his stature.

Over one-half of the adult males expressed their loss a few months after his death in a letter written to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“Our Great Father: We your children The Shoshones, Would be pleased if you would appoint some one [sic] of our number to be our Chief or in some way give us a head.  As you must know, that our old Chief Washakie is dead, and we are now left with out [sic] a head to look too.  It is now with us like a man with many tongues all talking at once and every one of his tongues pulling every which way.  We are feeling bad that things should be in such shape among us.  So we leave it to you to say who shall be our chief, or you name any number say nine or eleven but we want you to say and we will abide by what you say.”

Suffice it say, the “Great Father” did not appoint a new chief.  Instead, after many years of struggle, the Eastern Shoshones are now governed by a democratically elected Joint Business Council.

Folks, I tell ya that’s one heck of a history! Proud and heartbreaking all wrapped in one bedroll of a man who saw the need to adapt to new ways, while tryin’ to retain the honor and traditions of his people. The country as a whole could benefit from more men like Chief Washakie.

Next week folks we’ll be back ridin’ the rough trail over new ground. That is if I can get Cookie’s pie soaked behind back on the wagon and the horses can pull the extra weight…that’s right plum embarrassin’ jawin’ with the good Chief and you shovin’ pie down your gullet…

See y’all next time on the trail!!


Stamm, Henry E., IV.  People of the Wind River: The Eastern Shoshones, 1825-1900.  Norman:  University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.



WHOOEEE! We are blazin’ down the trail! What are we doin’, Cookie, 70…80 miles per hour?  Huh…really 15 miles an hour…sometimes 5 or 10 on a steep grade…Well I won’t lie that’s a might disappointin’.  BUT it gives us time to take in some more sites!  So today we’re gonna check out the Wind River region, or as I like to call it…home. Yes, folks this here’s where a little sprout Kirsten Lynn grew up.

Let’s get crackin’!

We’re chuggin’ down out of the beautiful Wind River Mountains and our first stop on the trail today is Lander…

The gold rush in 1867 South Pass City brought not only miners and prospectors to the area, but homesteaders began settling in the Wind River Basin.  At the same time the Indian tribes in the area became restless with the influx of whites and there was an increase in attacks upon settlers, freight trains, and even part of South Pass City was burned down.

Fort Bridger was the closest military base to the area and it was 150 miles to the southwest.  So, the Army began building military outposts from Fort Bridger.  One of these was Camp Augur built in 1868 and named after General Christopher Columbus Augur commander of the Army’s Department of the Platte.  Before anyone had a chance to get used to that name; Camp Augur became Camp Brown after Frederick H. Brown who was killed at the Fetterman massacre.  And before anyone got to comfortable, in 1870 the installation was moved to its present site to protect the Wind River Agency, Fort Washakie, about 16 miles north of the original camp.

The town that had built around Camp Brown, however, remained, but was called “Push Root.” The name allegedly was derived as a result of warming Chinook winds causing crops to germinate early.  Another explanation says it was a derogatory term given by a nearby competing town of North Fork (or Milford) five miles to the north.  Therefore, residents of Lander were known as “Pushrooters.”  At the time North Fork was experiencing a boom as a result of its saloons and other places of entertainment for soldiers at Fort Washakie. But the pushrooters had the last laugh when in 1884, upon the formation fo Fremont County, the pushrooters won the election to become the county seat.  When it came time for Push Root to get a post officer, the post office department rejected the name, and at the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin Lowe they named it Lander after F.W. Lander.

The town was constructed on lands owned by Lowe. In exchanged for assistance in developing the town, Lowe gave a portion of the land to a man named Eugene Amoretti. Amoretti had previously engaged in the mining and mercantile businesses in South Pass City, Atlantic City, Miners Delight, and North Fork. In Lander, he continued in the mercantile business and also founded the First National Bank of Lander, the feed mill, and was one of the investors in the electric plant. Amoretti became the first mayor of Lander when the town was incorporated.  Amoretti was one of the few bank owners at the time who had no need to fear bank robbers.  He was a personal friend of Butch Cassidy, and Butch even deposited some of his ill-gotten gains in Amoretti’s bank.

Amoretti’s friend faced a threat in Lander in the form of Charles L. Stough. Stough came to Wyoming in 1880 and was elected sheriff of Fremont County in 1890. He was known to administer his office in a way that made him a terror to evildoers and gained him the enduring confidence of the County.  He’s best known for arresting the notorious Butch Cassidy and upon the outlaw’s conviction conveying him to the Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary in Laramie.

Almost from the beginning Lander tried to get a railroad in the town first courting the Union Pacific, then the Chicago & North Western. When the Wind River Reservation opened to white settlers, the C&NW agreed to come to town. Construction started out of Casper in 1905, and the first passenger train arrived in Lander on October 15, 1906.  The town held a huge celebration and the county fair was incorporated into the festivities. Schools closed and the mayor declared a three-day holiday for the celebration.

During construction in Lander, five houses were moved off the newly-established right-    of-way, and the railroad completely took over First Street. The passenger train ran once daily, and included full Pullman service from Chicago. Later this was downgraded to a doodlebug, and on April 19, 1943 passenger service to Lander was discontinued, just 37 years after it began. On November 10, 1972, the last freight train ran out of Lander. But for 66 years, Lander was known as the place “where rails end and trails begin.”

So let’s keep chuggin’ on our trail.

As we cruise along north at a whoppin’ 15 miles an hour we’re comin’ to Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation. Camp Brown’s name was changed in 1878 to Fort Washakie, named after the great Shoshone Chief, an ally of the army against the Sioux. Chief Washakie was the last principal chief of the Shoshone. He became Chief in 1840. Washakie was the only U.S. military installation named after and American Indian Chief.  Each state has two honorees in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. Wyoming is represented by Esther Hobart Morris and Chief Washakie.

Chief Washakie’s policies of accommodation with the Whites included insistence that there be provided schools, hospitals, and other services. Therefore, in the Fort Bridger treaty of 1868 with the Shoshoni, the Government pledged to establish a school at Fort Washakie. The first teacher at the Fort was James J. Chander.  He had a class of 35 students, both Indian and white.

Chief Washakie continued his support for education by donating 160 acres of irrigated land to Rev. Dr. John Roberts for the establishment of the Shoshone Indian Mission Boarding School. Reverend Roberts, originally of North Wales, arrived in Lander on February 10, 1883, after an eight day trip from Green River City in 60 degree below zero weather.  In addition to starting the school, Rev. Roberts along with Charles Lajoe translated portions of the Book of Common Prayer into Shoshone. In recognition of his services to the Shoshone, he was bestowed the title “Elder Brother.”

Now to a bit of a controversy on Fort Washakie. On April 9, 1884, Rev. Roberts officiated at the funeral of Sacajawea, of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame, and Shoshone oral tradition holds this to be true. This has been disputed as many claim Sacajewea died in 1812 at Fort Mandan in a smallpox epidemic.

According to the oral tradition, Sacajewea left her husband Charbonneau, crossed the Great Plains and married into a Comanche tribe taking the name Porivo (chief woman).  When her Comanche husband, Jerk-Meat was killed she left the Comanches and made her way to Fort Bridger with her sons Bazil and Baptiste, who each knew several languages including English and French.  She eventually made her way back to the Shoshone people at the Wind River Reservation.

In 1925, Dr. Charles Eastman, a Santee Sioux physician, was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate Sacajewea’s remains.  Eastman visited a number of Indian tribes interviewing elderly individuals, and learned of a Shoshone woman at the Wind River Reservation with the Comanche name Porivo. Some said she spoke of a long journey where she helped white men, and that she had a silver Jefferson peace medal of the type carried by Lewis and Clark.  At the end of his investigation Eastman concluded that Porivo was Sacajewea.  In 1963, a monument to “Sacajawea of the Shoshonis” was erected at Fort Washakie.

Chief Washakie died in 1900, over the age of 100, and was given full military honors.

Dang blasted, Cookie is drivin’ this rig like his mornin’ coffee had a nip of somethin’ else to it. So we’re turning this train around for a quick stop south of here in Riverton.

The history of Riverton is tied to the Wind River Reservation and irrigation.  In 1868, the United States signed a treaty with the Shoshone creating a Reservation of some 3,000,000 acres. In typical U.S. Government fashion and under a number of separate treaties that Reservation was slowly eaten away.  The last major cession being in 1905, under which there would be a per capita payment to each Indian and there would be created and irrigation system, school district, and a welfare and improvement fund would be created. In conjunction with the proposed opening of the ceded lands for settlement, the Chicago and Northwestern proposed to extend their line. As discussed under Lander, on August 15, 1906, the lands were opened for settlement with the most desirable location being near where the railroad was to be located.  Wadsworth was founded as a tent town, named after the railroad station manager, but within two weeks was renamed Riverton.

In short order a municipality, school board, baseball clubs, Free Public Library Commission, and fraternal orders were formed.  The town had two livery stables, hotels, newspaper, two banks, and two lumber companies. From the livery stables the stage left twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays for Kinnear. The town rapidly became the center of commerce taking the place of the older Shoshoni.

Initially, irrigation was to be provided by Wyoming Central Irrigation Company, headed by Chicago salt mogul Joy Morton and former Governor Fenimore Chatterton.  The demand for irrigated lands proved to be less than expected and the town of Morton irrigated only 80 acres of oats.

By 1914, Riverton became a primary shipping place for railroad ties for the C&NW. The ties would be floated down from Dubois by the Wind River Timber Company.  The tie industry declined during World War I as the federal government took over the railroads, but a resurgence occurred after the war. In 1920, Chicago businessman, Ricker Van Metre, took control of the timber company and changed its name to Wyoming Tie and Timber Company.  The last timber drive down the river was in 1946, as mechanization took over the tie industry and the days of hand hewn ties ended.


In 1928, an anniversary of the founding of the area was celebrated with, among other things, a giant tent dance. The tent, erected in the street was 100 ft. long with various displays and a dance floor at one end.

The Dust Bowl and Depression stirred interest in the Riverton area, as farmers left their homes for what they hoped was a better opportunity.  Riverton remains a predominately agricultural area. Riverton is also renowned as the birthplace of Kirsten Lynn, western romance author.  ;o)

“Cookie, stop snickerin’,  put down that piece of Ma’s pecan pie, and let’s get this prairie schooner sailin’!”

While today’s focus has been on the later history of the towns built around the Wind River region, I want to remind you, the area around Lander and Riverton was long traversed by American Indians and trappers and explorers. You will find reference to this in earlier posts such as my post on South Pass, and I might return in later posts and delve into this further. However, in an effort to keep this blog short of of Michner’s Centennial standards I’ve chosen to jump ahead.

If you’ll look to the right of your wagon as we head northwest you’ll see Crowheart Butte…

As more white settlers pushed into Wind River Country the game started to become scarce on the Great Plains. Several tribes, including the Crow, were forced onto the Shoshone’s traditional hunting grounds in the Wind River Valley in search of food.

By 1866, the Crows camped along the Wind River not far from a butte well within the bounds of Shoshone territory. Chief Washakie sent a warrior and his wife with a message to the Crow Chief Big Robber explaining that the Crow were welcome to hunt in the territory of the Owl Creek Range, but they must leave the Wind River Mountains to the Shoshone.

Big Robber responded by killing the warrior and sending back a message with the warrior’s wife.  He considered his tribe superior to the Shoshone and stated the Crow were prepared to go into battle and they would hunt wherever they pleased. (Not his exact words)

Washakie sent word to the Bannocks, allies of the Shoshone, who were camped along the Popo Agie River. The Bannocks joined the Shoshone in an attack on the Crow camp. The battle raged for five days, neither side gaining ground. Finally, Washakie and Big Robber decided to fight a duel to the death to reach a conclusion. The victorious chief would claim the Wind River Valley.

In the end, Washakie was victorious.  So impressed with the bravery of Big Robber, instead of taking the Crow Chief’s scalp, he cut out his heart and placed it on the end of his lance as a sign of respect.  The butte around which the battle occurred was called Crowheart Butte.

Among the local Indian tribes, the battle between Washakie and Big Robber settled once and for all who controlled the Wind River Country.  (If you’re hankerin’ for more on Chief Washakie, hold tight to yer hats.  I’ll be doing a post real soon on this amazing Shoshone Chief.)

In the 1870’s, stockgrowers and tie hacks began settling northwest of Crowheart Butte, in a location known as Never Sweat due to its warm and dry winds.  The area was on a military road from Fort Washakie to Fort Yellowstone. The road was not suitable for ordinary travel, and often not suitable for military travel.

When the government decided to establish a post office, officials in Washington found the name Never Sweat distasteful and renamed the community Dubois, after the United States Senator from Idaho, Fred T. Dubois, a member of the Postal Committee.  In protest, the citizens rejected the French pronunciation of the name (it is pronounced Du-boy-se).

The first postmaster of Dubois was Alice A. Welty, wife of Dr. Francis H. Welty, the post physician at Fort Washakie. The post office was established in a store owned by her son, Frank A. Welty.  By 1915, Welty’s store served the many ranchers in the area. The goods purchased in Omaha were shipped by rail to Shoshoni then brought to Dubois by 16-horse freight wagons. This trip could take almost a month to complete.  Ya can still stop into Welty’s if ya have a hankerin’, or need on the trail.

As mentioned in the section on Riverton, the main business (other than agriculture) in Dubois was tie hacking.  In 1914, the Wyoming Tie & Timber Company began cutting railroad ties in Togwotee Pass and Union Pass.  Tie Hacking in Wyoming dates back to the Union Pacific in 1868 with tie hack camps springing up near Medicine Bow, the Big Horns and Winder River Mountains. The railroad took 2,500 ties per mile of track, and until the 1940’s the Dubois area was the leading source of railroad ties in the United States.

Tie Hack Memorial

Ties were cut by hand, in the beginning, using a broad axe.  A good tie hack could hew 50 ties a day. Later in the 1930’s, with more mechanization, tie hacks were paid on a piece of work basis, 3 cents a tie. A good tie hack could hew 300 to 310 ties a day. Dubois depended on the tie hacks for the economy, and most tie hacks enjoyed their drink, therefore the town remained open during the prohibition years, and continued to allow gambling.  In the winter, tie camps were cut off and access to Dubois was by skiing.  In those months, some tie hacks made their own hooch, using dried fruit, or drank vanilla extract. “At one time there they sold more vanilla up there in the tie camp than all the rest of the county put together.”

The last of the major lumber mills in Dubois closed down in 1987. Currently, the town ‘s main economy is tourism as many travelers come through on their way to Togwotee Pass and on to Jackson, Teton National Park and Yellowstone.



There ya go folks! Cookie and me ‘ave brought ya full circle to the Tetons. Well, maybe more like hexagonal with crazy slashes through the center…But the point is we got ya here, and don’t be givin’ us no lip!

What? Ya ask iffin’ we’re done? Are ya flea bit, folks? Heck no!  We’ll be back on the trail just as soon as cookie can get this dangblasted rickety wagon turned ‘round and headed…well we don’t know yet, but y’all can be sure Cookie will have a pot of coffee and the campfire blazin’ each night. Speakin’ of which Cookie we’re not sendin’ an SOS, douse that fire a bit…

See y’all on the trail!





Folks I apologize, but Cookie is takin’ his own sweet time gettin’ our supplies here at South Pass so we’re hold up for a bit. Shouldn’t have let the man play that first game of billiards…So while the ol’ coot is loadin’ up the wagon I thought we might jaw a bit with a woman who made history in Wyoming and the country. Ya know Wyoming isn’t called the Equality State just cause we thought it was cute…

Why the Wyoming Territorial legislature passed the first law giving women the vote is a question that is still somewhat of a mystery to historians. Whether a ploy to bring attention to the territory, or as a way for Democrats to counter the predominately Republican voting Black community, or a ploy to promote partisan legislation all of these theories were bantered about in 1869, and the question remains unanswered today. Some even suggested the bill was a joke intended to embarrass Governor Campbell, however this theory was easily dismissed with the extent and seriousness with which it was defended and debated. Whatever led to the passage of women’s suffrage in 1869 (the first law of its kind in the nation), the territory later insisted upon retaining its woman suffrage law even if it jeopardized its application for statehood.  And in 1890, Wyoming became the country’s first state to allow women the right to vote.

As mentioned in the post on South Pass, William H. Bright introduced the bill giving women the vote. But before Wyoming delegates assembled in Cheyenne in 1869, women suffrage bills were introduced in three Western legislatures, Washington in 1854, Nebraska in 1856, and Dakota in 1869, all defeated. Wyoming legislators were well aware of the discussion over women’s suffrage as many had recently moved from Midwestern states.  In addition to the knowledge these delegates brought with them, two women delivered speeches in Cheyenne in support of women’s suffrage, Anna Dickinson at the courthouse, and Redelia Bates to the legislators.

Council Bill #70 “…an act to grant to the women of Wyoming Territory the right of suffrage and to hold office,”  was read two times before being sent to committee, which quickly recommended “do pass.”  After passing the Council on November 30, the bill went to the House and endured much debate with another South Pass City resident, Benjamin Sheeks, leading the opposition to women’s suffrage.  After much debate, and proposed additions and replacements to the bill (all failed) CB #70 passed into law with Governor Campbell signing the bill into law, December 10, 1869.

Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Wyoming:

Sec. 1. That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory, may at every election to be holden under the laws therof, cast her vote. And her rights to the elective franchise and to hold office shall be the same under the election laws of the territory, as those of electors.

Sec. 2.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

Women vote, Cheyenne, WY

While signing the bill Campbell noted that women were as capable as men in exercising the good judgment required to vote. He also noted women who own property must be taxed, making women’s suffrage necessary to ensure fair representation in the creation of tax laws. News spread throughout the nation that Wyoming had become, “the first place on God’s green earth which could consistently claim to be the land of the free.”

Upon Bright’s return to South Pass, two local residents, paid a visit to William and his wife Julie, these were Esther Morris and her son Robert.

Born Esther Hobart McQuigg on August 8, 1814, near Spencer, New York, she was the eighth of eleven children. Orphaned at age eleven, Esther worked as an apprentice to a seamstress before marrying Artemus Slack in 1841. Her first son Edward Archibald Slack (who went by Archibald) was born one year later.  Artemus’ job as a civil engineer required his travel throughout the Upper Midwest, where he was accidentally killed in Illinois.

Esther took her son and moved to Peru, Illinois, to claim her late husband’s property, but faced the difficulties so many women of the time did in claiming property. Therefore, she married John Morris, a Polish immigrant and prosperous merchant.  Esther gave birth to three more sons, John (who died in infancy) and twins, Robert and Edward, in 1851.

John and Archibald moved to South Pass in the spring of 1868 to mine gold, but like many others who rushed to the Sweetwater mines they were initially discouraged to find that little surface gold existed. They eventually purchased mining and business property including the Mountain Jack, Grand Turk, Golden State and Nellie Morgan lodes, and even though he had lived in the town less than six months Archibald was appointed South Pass City’s constable. This reflected upon his energetic and congenial character and the significant turnover in South Pass’ population and appointed officers during the first year of the boom.

Esther and the twins followed to South Pass in July, 1869, and all the men soon found jobs.  John eventually purchased a saloon in 1873, although he continued to mine and speculate. Archibald became the clerk for the territory’s third judicial district for eighteen months in addition to buying several lots in the settlement he was an agent for the John W. Anthony sawmill company.  Robert also served as an agent for the lumber company and was soon appointed deputy district clerk, while Edward’s clerking was confined to a store.

However, it was Esther whose name would go down in the annals of Wyoming history and become synonymous with women’s suffrage in Wyoming.  Always a stringent supporter of women’s suffrage movement she took up the cause after moving to South Pass.

In 1869, James Stillman, Justice of the Peace in South Pass City resigned his position. While there are numerous speculations as to why Stillman resigned the most logical is his distaste for Republicans and Governor Campbell and the Governor’s questions involving the appointment of some officers in the county.  Stillman, opposed to the Governor’s interference in the county, resigned.

With the encouragement of a few local residents and the support of District Court Judge John W. Kingman, Esther Morris submitted her application to become the Justice of the Peace for South Pass City.  County commissioners approved her application on February 12, 1870, making her the first woman judge in the United States.  This action created immediate controversy. Stillman refused to give his docket and remaining records to the board in protest at being replaced by a woman, and Commissioner John Swingle claimed he opposed Esther’s application rather than approved it as recorded in the minutes.  In any case, her appointment became a split decision.

Her son Archibald and postmaster G.W.B.  Dixson underwrote her five hundred dollar bond, the board sent the nomination to Acting Governor Edward Lee, who approved it two days later, and Esther’s appointment was official.

Esther, knowing the entire country and particularly the citizens of South Pass would be closely watching her actions and decisions probably hoped for a few routine cases to begin her tenure as justice. This was not to be, and she received the most difficult challenge she faced in her job, the prosecution of James Stillman for not relinquishing the docket.

February  17, 1870, citizens packed South Pass City’s rented courtroom to see the female judge in action. Arrested just minutes before his trial, Stillman was escorted to the log building. Upon a motion by Stillman’s lawyer, Mrs. Morris agreed to postpone the proceedings for the remainder of the day to allow the defense time to prepare their case.  When court reconvened, the room was again packed, and businesses in South Pass closed for the day.  The defense attorney argued Stillman’s arrest was not completed correctly. Esther agreed and dismissed the case, but immediately issued a new warrant to begin proceedings again. Finally, the defense argued as Stillman’s successor, she had an interest in the docket’s return. She agreed and dismissed the case.

Since Stillman retained the docket, Morris purchased a new book to record the twenty-seven cases she tried during the next eight months.  Most complaints consisted of disagreements over debts, although she presided over ten assault cases, three with the intent to kill. Often those who practiced law in her courtroom presented the most trouble to routine cases, as men like Attorney Benjamin Sheeks, an ardent opponent of woman suffrage, tried her patience and sought to make trouble in her courtroom.

With national attention focused on Morris and her work, rumors and myths inevitably crawled out of the minds of newspaper men. One story asserted Esther tried her husband for drunkenness and had him tossed in jail. Denying it she replied, “A man is not alowed [sic] to be the judge of wife much less a woman of her husband. It would not be a legal proseding [sic].” Common sense more than knowledge of the law, explains the success of Esther’s tenure.

Despite their initial misgivings about a female justice, Esther managed to recruit many supporters among the citizens of South Pass, and many became advocates of women’s suffrage.  By the time her term ended in October, the territory was organized and residents would now vote for their town’s justice of the peace. Esther declined to seek election.

Morris Cabin, South Pass

Her son, Robert, explained his mother’s decision by noting she received “much glory” from holding the job and demonstrated a woman could perform well in elected offices. In summary, she had accomplished her goals.  Also, the stress generated by the national publicity and initial opposition affected her. She wrote a cousin, “…the post was given to me but the frightful fact is that no man nor woman can hold it all.”  Her husband, who opposed women’s suffrage and her job as justice of the peace was also a source of anxiety. And finally, if she decided to seek election her opponent would be none other than James Stillman.  Not wanting to cause further discord in her town, already suffering from the mining bust she did not seek election. Stillman won the election, and Morris gave him her docket.

Though her time in office was over, Esther continued to champion women’s suffrage as it faced repeal many times. The general opposition to women’s suffrage included both sexes, for most of the women refused to become involved in politics, voting or otherwise. As a result of this attitude, Esther Morris, a Republican, was the only woman to attend South Pass City’s Democratic meeting in September 1870.

After the very harsh winter of 1871-1872, in which the snow was still twelve feet deep in June, and because of her deteriorating marriage, Esther left South Pass City to live with her son Archibald in Laramie. After refusing a nomination for territorial representative on woman’s party ticket in 1873, Esther moved to Albany, New York, and then Springfield, Illinois, where she spent her winters. In the early 1880s she moved back to Wyoming to live with her son, Robert in Cheyenne.

In 1895, Esther was elected as a state delegate to a national woman suffrage convention in Cleveland. Esther Hobart Morris died in Cheyenne in 1902. Morris’ example inspired men and women to keep up the fight for women’s suffrage and repeal after repeal was defeated in the Wyoming territorial and state governments.  She would be the first woman to hold office in the nation and her example would eventually lead to another first in Wyoming and the nation when Nellie Taylo Ross, who moved to Wyoming the year Esther died, would become the first woman governor in the United States, and one of the first women in history to hold a cabinet post when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected.

It is Esther’s son Robert who is credited with Wyoming’s motto as the “Equality State.”

WHOOEEE I’d say that’s one tough Wyoming woman, but then again Wyoming only makes ‘em tough!!  Cookie has the supplies loaded (after stoppin’ all the dang time to jaw with Mrs. Morris). .. “Yeah ya did, ya old coot, ‘bout the fourth cup of Arbuckle’s and I was leavin’ yer hide behind…Don’t ya glare at me…”

Sorry ‘bout that, but now that Cookie’s backside in on the buckboard and I’ve cinched up the saddle and stepped into leather we’re on our way again, so join us for more Wyoming history and a bit of fun next Monday!

See ya on the trail!



“Reform is Where You Find It:  The Roots of Woman Suffrage in Wyoming” by Michael A. Massie.