Stories front the Past As Told by Bill Carr
from "Tales of the Seeds-Ke-Dee" pages 173-186
James A. Carr journeyed from Farmington, Iowa
to Eureka, California, in 1853. For the next four years he mined for gold
in that area. In 1857 he returned to Iowa by way of the Panama Canal and
New York. He was married to Miss Emity J. Rhoades on December 13 that year.
When the gold excitement broke out at Pikes Peak he sold out his home and
business and left for Colorado in 1859, passing through the small village
of Denver and went to Gold Hill. He was one of the pioneers of that camp.
He, with William Carson, built the Colorado
Midland Railroad from Cheyenne to Loveland. As a member of Companv D he
was with Col. Chivington at the massacre of helpless men, women, and children.
From his diary the facts are gleaned that the boys cleaned up 840 Indians
that winter day. He told of his fight with Chief Black Kettle and of killing
him after half an hour of fighting. He said he was one of the largest and
finest looking Indians he ever saw, though in the rifle duel the Chief
came near killing him.
In 1885 he came into the South Pass country
and mined for a time on the Strawberry. At one time be owned the asbestos
mine. He acquired the "Susie," which he christened the "Irish Jew" which
he continued to own until the time of his death.
His six children excepting one were active
citizens in the South Pass and Lander area. His oldest daughter, Elizabeth
(later Mrs. C. E. Bates) and the youngest, Lulu (Mrs. Harry Leseberg),
taught in the local schools for several years. The second daughter, Lida,
became Mrs. John Sherlock. They owned the store and hotel in South Pass
in company with Mr. Smith. The oldest son, Frank, was interested in the
ranching business while the youngest son, William J., owned and operated
a saloon and meat market in South Pass. Also served as Under Sheriff of
Fremont County for several years.
The second son, John, came to Wyoming in
1880. Five years before his father came. He was engaged as a cowboy in
the region of Fort Fetterman near Cheyenne in 1880 and worked the range
from one boundary of the state to the other. He spent some time in Montana
and rode the range there with Charley Russell. He often in later years
recounted tales of the early history of the Sweetwater range and was familiar
with many of the tales told in "The Virginian" by Owen Wister. He too finally
took up ranching in the Borners garden district near Lander where he lived
at the time of his death - November 10, 1932.
1, Bill Carr, was born at South Pass, Wyoming,
on September 5, 1895, the second son of Wrn. J. and Ella Potter Carr. I
was followed by seven brothers and six sisters. At that time South Pass
still had a population of several hundred. Gold and liquor were plentiful
for a few more years and there was never a dull moment. My early boyhood
days were spent with my brothers and cousins fishing in the Sweetwater,
panning gold nuggets or banging around the door of dad's saloon listening
to the miners and freighters tell tall stories. I was especially interested
in stories of the Johnson Co. War, and hearing about Tom Horn, Cactus Kate
and Calamity Jane, who in years before had done their share of putting
on parties in South Pass. The bar that my dad used was made of black walnut
and had been hauled in with an ox team in 1850. It is there yet, the famed
"South Pass Bar" having been returned by the American Legion Post in Bock
Springs which used it for several years in its Legion home.
One time just before Thanksgiving a group
of men were rolling dice for a turkey that someone had dressed and brought
to the saloon. I was there by the door; one of the men insisted that I
should have a turn too, which I eagerly took. To my amazement and that
of everyone else 1 won the turkey and proudly carried it home across my
shoulders although the bird was nearly as large as I was.
One Sunday morning when 1 was about eight,
my brothers and I were dressed up in knee pants and white broad collared
blouses ready for Sunday School. On the way we were joined by some of our
cousins. As we passed back of Uncle John Sherlock's store we discovered
a case of eggs that had been discarded. There was the ammunition and we
had the incentive to stage a battle; sides were soon chosen and the battle
was on. When there were no more eggs we proceeded on our way to Sunday
School. However, we didn't get further than the door when our course was
changed by some adult who was greeting late arrivals. 1 will never forget
hearing the Scottish brogue of Mrs. Jim Smith quoting the memory verse
for that Sunday which happened to be Proverbs 20: 1, "Wine is a mocker,
strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
I don't know if that is the only one I ever learned, but it is the only
one I can still remember.
The winter I was in the second grade wasn't
any school in South Pass - probably just that there was no one to teach
it. Mv folks decided that Frank and I should stay with our Grandmother
Potter who lived in Kemmerer and attend school there. I'll never forget
the long trip we had with Aunt Louise Potter going from South Pass to Rock
Springs in a buckboard with one of our neighbors. From Rock Springs we
went up to Kemrnerer by train. Aunt Louise was the telephone operator at
that time in Kemmerer. She later married George Monk who was the manager
of the company. Uncle Charley Potter was one of the linemen at the same
Our house in South Pass burnt some time
that winter. Everything in it went too. Frank and I were the only ones
in the family who had any clothing left.
For the next few years we had school in
South Pass, that is at least for a few months each winter. Some of the
teachers we had were not much older and didn't know a lot more than some
of the pupils. We did have one though who was a character.
One summer a man drifted into town and
hauled cord wood until quite late in the fall. He then asked for the job
of teaching school. I don't know if he had a certificate or not, but he
was smart enough to teach any of us, and keep order at the same time. Discipline
in the school had become a problem. As I remember him, he was baldheaded
except for a ring of white hair around the back of his head and bushy white
eyebrows. He always smoked a pipe and kept a bunch of long green willows
standing in the corner of the room. If anything happened he didn't like
and no one would tell who was guilty, he would lock the door, take a willow
and start slashing the whole room full. Most of the time nobody would squeal
so we all took the punishment. He had the habit of setting his pipe on
the desk after lunch, all filled and ready to smoke. It would set there
while he stretched out on a bench by the desk for his afternoon nap - a
willow always near by. One afternoon 1 thought I would teach him a little
lesson, so 1 quietly took off my shoes and slipped up to the desk, dumped
the tobacco out of the pipe and put powder in the bottom of the bowl. 1
carefully replaced the tobacco and went back to my seat. 1 wanted my shoes
on before the explosion came. After a while he sat up, put the pipe in
his mouth and lit it. The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin
drop. That was the way he liked it. All of a sudden the powder exploded
in his face, burning his eyebrows off and singeing his lashes. He didn't
ask any questions, but reached for the willow and the merry-go-round started.
He wore the willow out, but never found out who did the mischief. He was
really good at figures too. He would send a group to the board to work
a problem he had given us, while he was stretched along the bench resting
on one elbow with the willow in the other hand. It paid to be keen, because
if you made a mistake the willow would come down across your shoulders
with never a word spoken. This went on for several months, but one day
the sheriff came over from Lander with a warrant and arrested our teacher
for stealing horses in some other part of the state before he came to South
One summer my folks were going to Kemmerer
to visit my grandparents. We took a covered wagon and a little buckboard.
Traveling along the old Oregon Trail we crossed Green River on a ferry
boat at the old Case place. It took us about a week each way to make the
trip. This particular time we were on our way back to South Pass. My brother,
Frank, and I had the buckboard and were driving some distance behind the
wagon. Some place along Sandy we took time to spook a bunch of wild horses
which ran off and left a little roan colt. We knew we could never get along
without that colt, so we caught it and took it along. We laid him in the
front of the buckboard and I put my feet over him so he couldn't jump out.
He managed to do enough kicking to tear the patent leather dash out of
the front of the new buckboard. That wasn't very easy to give a reason
for when dad saw it either, but he let us keep the colt. We used him for
years to ride and drive single to the buggy. We named him Dan. Many a time
we drove him up on the mountains at the head of Sweetwater where we would
camp for a few days while we fished and picked wild raspberries. That was
an outing my brothers and I took every summer for a few years. I well remember
one time I was picking berries on one side of a bush, when I walked around
it there was a little bear picking on the other side. I don't know which
of us left the quickest.
Back to the characters in South Pass. Another
person who always fascinated me as a youngster was Sam O'Mery. He had a
little place up on Beaver, eight or ten miles northeast of Atlantic City.
He ran fifty or seventy-five head of cattle and a few sheep. He had several
head of the fattest horses I ever saw. He would call a bunch of them up
every day and pet them and feed them sugar out of his hands. He never seemed
to have much use for them, but kept them around for pets. All of his stock
was branded S.A.M. across the ribs. He lived in poverty in an old mine
shaft. Dad always said he didn't know why he lived that way, for he often
brought gold nuggets into town and exchanged them for gold coins. He lived
there for a good many years and when he died the men who took care of him
found $10,000 in ten and twenty dollar gold pieces hidden around the mine
shaft in cans.
The General Store in town was owned and
operated by Smith and Sherlock. Pete Sherlock, the blind man, handled the
switch board which was housed in the store. He also did all of the ordering
besides clerking. Everyone marveled at his ability to put his hand on any
merchandise called for. Some even believed that he could see, but I am
positive his eyes were both gone. I have heard members of the family repeat
the story many times. He was a young law student in college. While on vacation
once there in South Pass he was helping to blast rock out of a ditch which
was to carry water to a mine. The dynamite had been set, but did not explode.
Pete foolishly went back to see what was wrong. As he bent over the explosion
came and both eyes were lost. The rest of his life was spent there at the
store. I well remember of seeing him stand before a mirror and shave with
a straight razor. This was another reason some thought he could see. For
out-of-doors exercise, he always spent some time each day sawing cord wood.
His bed was in a room back of the store. One night after Pete had gone
to bed someone broke into the store. He called and asked who was there.
"Lay down and go to sleep was the answer he received. The store was robbed
and no one knew who it was except that there was one man who left town
the next day and did not come back for about a year. The day he came back
he went into the store. Pete stood back listening to his conversation.
When the man went out Pete said to his brother, "That is the man who robbed
the store, his voice is the same." I don't doubt that it was. After I left
South Pass, I had not seen Pete Sherlock for about twenty-two years. When
I walked into the store one day and shook hands and spoke to him, he spoke
and after a minute's hesitation told me mv name. He seemed to have an uncanny
memory of voices.
Another character I'll never forget was
Ropey George, a freighter, who earned the nickname because of the rope
harnesses he always used on his freight team. He had a string of the fattest,
laziest horses in the country and a long lie of freight wagons. It always
took him twice as long as any other freighter on the road to make a trip.
Lots of time in the sand or if the roads were bad he would be stuck for
days. The rope harness would start breaking and he'd start mending only
to see it break in another place. His horses never got excited. As soon
as something broke they'd all drop their heads and start grazing. Usually
some other freighter would come to the rescue and pull the outfit out.
There was no other man on the road though
that had control of his team like Ropey George. Many a time I have heard
him bet drinks for the town that he could turn his outfit around with all
the wagons in the main street of South Pass without touching a line. He
never had to buy the drink either. He talked his horses around, but no
one ever understood a word he said.
One time two fellows, Nelson and Grant
O'Dell had been in jail in Lander waiting trial. They had been trusties
for some time, but decided one day that they would make a get away. They
bought a few groceries and got hold of a blanket or two and took out on
foot across the mountains. They stopped on the head of the Big Sandy where
Sam Lackey kept a store, post office and bar on the old Lander Trail. They
asked for a haying job which they were promised would start in a few days.
In the meantime they camped in an old cabin on the ranch. One night while
they were sleeping on the floor before the fireplace the sheriff from Lander
came after them. He had deputized another man on the ranch to go up with
him to get the two runaways. In his excitement the deputy shot and killed
Grant O'Dell. The deputy managed to get out of that at the time, but he
was shot in after years there on the same ranch.
Several years later, while dad was sheriff
in South Pass, a man came in one night and said he had shot George Laughlin
at the Lackey ranch. He asked dad to take a doctor over to Laughlin. Dad
took the man over to Lander and locked him up and brought a doctor back
over to the Lackey ranch. As he drew near the building he heard the shot
fired that killed Sam Lackey. The man who fired the shot was a sheepherder
in the country. He ran out of the building and climbed up on the mountain
where he sat on a boulder with a gun across his lap. Dad talked him into
coming down and giving himself up. He took him to Landler, locked him up
and brought the coroner and a casket back to the Lackey ranch. Each time
he came through South Pass he changed his team and went on. Ht was about
eighty miles from the ranch to Lander. Incidently George Laughlin recovered
and lived till 1916 when he was killed by lightning over on the Posten
ranch down by Ten Trees on Big Sandy.
One time shortly after the railroad went
into Lander, a group of cattlemen from the Piney Country drove their cattle
over to ship from Hudson. They were Bill Luce, Stan Murdock, Alex Price
and Billie Woods. They were at South Pass on October 19 with about 1500
head of cattle. That night a blizzard started and probably three feet of
snow fell. The cattle drifted into the willows and a good many of them
were buried alive. The next morning I was one of several boys on skiis
locating them. Where the live ones were there would be a hole in the snowbank
and steam rising. The cowboys shoveled out cattle all that day and the
next spring the natives were dragging away the carcasses of the dead ones.
I never knew how many were lost.
As soon as I was old enough to hold a job
of any kind, I went to work. My grandparent had filed a claim on the ranch
at Pacific Springs when mother was a little girl. My Great-grandmother
Thomas is buried there on the ranch in an unmarked grave. They sold the
place to George Flick and Bill Halter who used to operate a road house
for freighters hauling from Point of Rocks to South Pass and Atlantic City
store, a bar, and blacksmith shop. They later sold out to John Hay. The
property is now owned by John Hay, Jr. I was still quite a small boy when
I started working for them in the summer months as stable boy. I well remember
one time there had been a goodly number of men there overnight. I had washed
the breakfast dishes and helped cook dinner. After dinner Mr. Flick told
me, "Don't bother washing the dishes, just throw them over the fence."
I did as I was told, and new dishes were unpacked for supper. I was working
there when Ezra Meeker, who was setting markers on the Oregon Trail, came
by that way to have his oxen shod. There were no oxen shoes in the shop
so Mr. Halter made them. After he had made them, he told me I could nail
them on since my back bent much easier than his. That was my only experience
in shoeing oxen.
I spent a summer or two on the Sweetwater
ranch owned by Smith and Sherlock. I batched and irrigated the meadow and
also kept an eye on the cattle they kept there in the summer. Every so
often I would have to take one or two of them over to South Pass to be
butchered for the hotel or dad's meat market. Sometimes when the cougars
started screaming in the rocks at night I was a pretty lonely boy. One
summer while I was there a woman from Lander brought her family over to
The Baldy Williams ranch which joined the one I was on. They were just
there for an outing. I used to go up and visit with them quite often. There
was a boy near my age. One day from a distance I saw him start to crawl
through a wire fence with a gun in his hand. The gun went off and shot
him through the arm. A couple of his brothers were with him and I got there
as fast as I could. We took him up to the camp. I rode on eight miles to
South Pass to phone for the Doctor from Lander while his mother took him
in the buckboard and started to Atlantic City where the doctor would meet
them. It was all too much for the boy. He passed away there in the Carpenter
Hotel while the doctor was amputating the arm. In recent years I have learned
that he was a cousin to Mrs. Logan Homer of Big Piney.
In another year or so I started driving
a freight team for Smith and Sherlock. One time I was making the
trip alone. I had a little roan and white pinto pony for a wrangle horse.
He was always mean about pulling back so 1 never led him, but let him follow
the wagon along all day. One evening I camped at Brush Rim Spring after
dark. It was a treacherous place as there was a lot of mud and quicksand
around the spring. After hobbling the work horses for the night I was leading
this little wrangle horse down to water. Due to the blackness of the night
I stepped into the mud spring which swiftly took me down. I would never
have gotten out if the horse hadn't started rearing back. I held on to
the rope and was pul1ed out of the spring.
The winter after I was fifteen 1 was one
of the three mail carriers for Charlie Bayer on the route from Pinedale
to South Pass. We used skiis or a one-horse toboggan. One man went from
Pinedale to Dry Buckskin Crossing on Big Sandy, another from Big Sandy
to Dry Sandy and the third from Dry Sandy on to South Pass and from there
to Lander. I alternated that winter from Dry Sandy to Big Sandy and from
there to South Pass. We kept the toboggan trail marked by sticking up green
willows. When they drifted under we had a fresh supply. A good toboggan
horse never lost the hard-packed trail whether it was marked or not. I
have often heard the family tell of the time the Sherlock girl froze to
death on the route from South Pass to Rock Springs several years before.
Charley Bayer was quite a character himself.
One time I called him from Big Sandy and I told him both carriers were
going to quit the job if we didn't get some groceries at that station.
In the course of the conversation I told him we had nothing but bread and
cheese. I can hear him yet screaming "Sheese! Sheese! Where mit the hell
did you get sheese?"
The next spring, 1911, I quit the mail
job and came over to Pinedale. That summer 1 worked on the road that was
being built into Green River Lake, driving a team of Shanley's on a go-devil.
That winter I worked at a logging camp operated by Bill Wright up on Willow
Creek above Cora. We had excitement every day running the teams down the
skid-way with logs.
That spring I came on down to Big Piney
where I started riding race horses for Hileman. It was about that time
that Bill Sherman came over from Lander. In a year or so we were both working
for A. W. Smith who owned the 67 ranch and the MuleShoe. Guy Decker was
the ranch foreman at the MuleShoe and Lafe Griffen had charge of the horses.
I worked with him a couple of years running wild horses on the Little Colorado
Desert east of Big Piney.
At one time during those years Mr. Smith
had as many as two thousand branded horses on the desert. Horses were his
hobby so he didn't object to the increase. Of course at that time everything
on the ranches was run with horse power. Then the saddle horses were needed
to take care of the stock. Lafe and I used to run a band of DK horses in,
brand the colts and turn them loose again. About once or twice a year we
would keep in a herd to break - for work and saddle horses to run the ranches.
One time we were camped at Sublette Springs as we were riding one day we
came on to the tracks of a horse driven single to a buggy. We followed
along for several miles. Finally about eight miles on we came onto the
buggy off the road out in the brush. The horse was lying there dead, shot
between the eyes. The harness laid back on the buggy. From what we could
read from the tracks, two men had been traveling together. One had gone
up the road in one direction and the other had gone back towards the river.
There had been no indication of the horse having been sick. The tracks
were straight and smooth and the horse was fat. We never learned any more
Lafe had a pet saddle horse he called Old Mike.
Once when we were camped at Sublette Springs there was a terrific electric
storm come up. Lafe was always afraid of lightning. When one especially
bright flash came, he covered his head and said, "If it gets me Kid, you
tell them I said you could have Old Mike." Those were the days when the
desert was at its best. There was plenty of grass and wild life - antelope,
deer, elk and horses by the thousands. Ranchers turned their cattle out
there as early as March. Then in June the round-up wagon would start as
far down as the mouth of Sandy to begin pushing them back to the mountains.
About the last year I ran horses, buyers
came in buying up horses for the French government they said. Mr. Smith
sold a hundred head or so. When Sherman and I were training in Camp Lewis,
we saw several DK horses in the cavalry there.
I spent one winter at Stan Murdock's ranch.
I had ridden with the Green River Wagon through the summer. One day the
cowboys came into camp and found the cook with the pot hook in his hand
treed on top of the wagon by a cow moose. Some of us proceeded to ride
herd on the cow while others roped and branded the calf. After we turned
them loose they didn't bother around the cow camp any more.
That winter I stayed at Murdock's and did
his winter riding. One time Bill Sherman and I were moving a bunch of cattle
up the river. We stayed all night at one of the ranches along the river.
It was about as cold as it could get that evening when we stopped. We were
anxious to get to the bunkhouse and get a fire going that we could thaw
out by, but the lady of the house insisted that it was just too cold for
anyone to try to warm up the bunkhouse and we must sleep iii the house.
About two o'clock in the morning Sherman came up out of bed with a frozen
ear. I scraped frost off the window to put on it. That was the coldest
bedroom I ever spent the night in.
The winter of 1916 I spent up on Cottonwood
at Halfway, breaking horses for Harry Munn. That was a deep snow country.
The fences were all covered. The men who were digging hay had to dig down
into the stacks. The top of the stack wasn't hard digging, but after that
the hay had to be pitched up into the rack.
The next fall I drifted down into Nevada
where I spent the winter.
In 1917 I came back to Pinedale and enlisted
in the army. Bill Sherman and I both trained at Camp Lewis. Most of our
time away from duty was spent putting on rodeos with government horses,
for spending money. Once in a while one of our officers would show up in
the crowd, but nothing serious ever happened to us for it. When training
was finished there I was shipped off to France where I spent nine weeks.
I arrived back to the U.S.A. and was discharged early in the spring of
1919. During the war my folks had moved to Utah. As soon as I came back
I went to work for Howell and Kendall. As a foreman I spent several years
working for them at Vernal, Utah and Greene River.
I spent one summer at Cokeville, Wyoming,
as a deputy sheriff because of range butchering. I rode for the ranchers
on Fontenelle one year then came back to Big Piney. I was married in June,
1928 and went on with ranch work until 1932 when I went into the service
station work and a few years later went into the business for myself. In
the summer of 1942 I took the job of Sublette County Under-Sheriff and
brand inspector, closing up the service station that winter due to gas
rationing. Later I sold the station to Marvis Howerton, bought 160 acres
ranch and continued with the law enforcement force of Sublette County.