James and Mildred Avery Mickelson
James Mickelson, who was born at Tinning, Denmark,
August 1, 1866, came to Wyoming as an immigrant lad of 16 in 1882. Two
brothers, Soren and Rasmus had preceded him across the ocean. They settled
in Rock Springs where Soren became an engineer on the Union Pacific Railroad.
Rasmus worked for several years in the coal mines, becoming foreman. Soren
returned to Denmark, and spent the rest of his life as a prosperous merchant
there. Rasmus built homes with his savings and rented them to the miners.
He eventually homesteaded in the lovely valley of the LaBarge Creek. (The
name La Barge came from a popular Mississippi riverboat captain.)
The young lad, James, did not care for the Rock Springs country.
His eyes were used to feasting on the green, luxuriant fields of his native
land. He went to work for Ariel Hanson in the LaBarge country. He worked
for the N. S. Miller family of LaBarge who had also immigrated from Denmark.
Their beautiful ranch home was built of native stone, and water piped from
springs watered the lawns. Jim laid the foundations for a lifetime of solid
friendship reaching over into the second and third generations of this
kind family. Several years ago, Mildred, his daughter, was presented with
an old, pressed glass, covered compote by Stella and Mayme Miller Petrie,
daughters of Mr. and Mrs. N. S. Miller. It was given to their mother by
Mildred's father, the first Christmas he spent on their ranch.
Jim, and his brother Rasmus, or Ras, as
he was called, both homesteaded on LaBarge Creek. Part of the house in
which Ras lived still stands. It is inculcated in the ranch home of Bonnie,
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rube Fox. The setting is charming. A small mountain
stream laughs and gurgles its merry way not far from the door. This nostalgic
place forms one of the earliest memories of my husband, who well recalls
the clear stream on visits to his Uncle Ras, when he was a child.
Even in those early days Jim Mickelson
was building characteristics of kindliness, compassion, and helpfulness
- characteristics which marked his pathway all the days of his life. Allie
Bayers of Pinedale, tells of the many times Jim Mickelson appeared at their
place on Green River, riding horseback, but always bringing meat tied on
his saddle, and sometimes carrying eggs - great treasures in those days.
Allie said that their large family would have often gone hungry if it had
not been for the things he brought them.
From the "Annals of Wyoming," October,
1927-January, 1928 come a few lines from an article, "The Valley of the
Fontenelle," by Ella Holden, relating to the Spur Ranch.
"M. F. Post and Francis E. Warren brought
in about 15,000 head of cattle in 1882 from the eastern part of the state
and located The Spur Ranch. All the small herds owned by the settlers were
sold to Post and Warren so they controlled the cattle industry in the Green
River Valley. The Spur Ranch employed about 20 cowboys - for the summer
roundup men came from miles around - Bear Valley, Fort Bridger - to ride
for strays. The cook for the Spur Outfit would have as many as 40 men to
cook for - a man named Wm. Wilson nid called "Old Tug.' Following the winter
of the deep snow and cold, 1889, all that were rounded up of the 15,000
head of cattle were 800 head."
In 1890 Jim Mickelson was working for the
Spur Ranch. He became Foreman. He often told of the gambling games the
boys in the bunkhouse would indulge in after their long days of riding.
Ranching during this period did not entail the chore of cutting and stacking
hay. Cattle ranged far and wide, the winters were mild and the cattle grazed
off of the abundantly tall grass. Jim
Mickelson said that he lost his first start in the severe winter
of 1889 with its bitter cold and drifted snow. He said that that spring,
he could walk around his homestead field stepping from the frozen carcass
of one cow to another.
Anderson McGinnis, who as a boy trailed
a herd of cattle from Utah into Idaho and down into Wyoming with Jim Mickelson
who had purchased them, tells that he and Jim were out with the round-up
about five years later when they heard that the Otto Leifer (Otto Leifer
was one of the first settlers in the Big Piney Valley, coming to Wyoming
in 1878 with Mr. Edward Swan) Place was for sale. Jim was able to pay the
down payment required for the Circle Ranch by Mr. Leifer, with his savings
and a loan from his brother, Ras. Cattle took a rapid gain in price after
he purchased the place, and in two years time the ranch and cattle were
paid for, while he retained essentially the same number of cattle with
which he had started. As the years passed, Jim bought out many ranchers
who wished to retire, including the two Swan Places, the Fish Ranch, the
Nichols Place, the Sykes Place, the Dunham and Winkleman Ranches, the Angus
Flying V, and others.
"From the 'Big Piney Examiner printed in July, 1915 and quoted from
the 'Kemrnerer Gazette.'
'LOCAL TAXPAYERS, THE HEAVIEST IN THE COUNTY'
"The county commissioners will be in session
again this week for three days when they will finish up their work as a
Board of Equalization. County Assessor George Tanner states that his office
now has the county valuation well compiled, and that he does not look for
any material changes to be made from now on. The county assessed valuation
this year was $14,016,476, and he believed the amount would be the same
this year. The shortage of $350,000 in coal tonnage for the present year,
he thinks, will about be offset by some increase in lands that were not
assessable last year. Lincoln County has the largest individual taxpayers
in addition to the large corporations, among whom the following are well
James Mickelson of Big Piney is the largest individual taxpayer.
His assessed valuation is $239,144, the property being mostly in land and
cattle. A. W. Smith, also of Big Piney, is the next largest taxpayer being
assessed on the value of lands and cattle to the amount of $124,276. In
the upper Green River Valley, W. E. Enos, the cattle raiser, will this
year pay on an assessment of $69,660.
At the time of his death from stomach cancer,
at the early age of 54, James Mickelson owned around 20,000 acres of choice
ranch lands and 6,000 head of find Hereford cattle.
He served the public and his community
in many capacities. not from a desire for self advancement, but with a
desire to do whatever good he could accomplish. He served several terms
on the Big Piney School Board; he served as Representative in the Wyoming
State Legislature in 1916-17, representing both Lincoln and Sublette Counties.
He was chosen as a Presidential Elector in the Harding election, but death
did not permit him to serve. He was on the first Big Piney Roundup Association
Board and served several terms as President. He served ably and well for
many years as President of the Big Piney State Bank, Vice President of
the Evanston National, and as Director of the Pinedale State Bank. when
it was in existence.
For 24 years he was a member of the Masonic
Order in the Temples in Rawlins and Evanston, making the long trips in
the early days by horseback. He belonged to the Korein Temple Ancient and
Accepted Order of the Mystic Shrine, Rawlins; Albert Pike Commandery No.
4, Chapter No. 2, Evanston; Franklyn Lodge No. 2-A.F. and A.M., Pinedale."
The night my husband, James Mickelson, came home from a Chapter Meeting
in Evanston with the leather valise containing his father's plumed hat,
and carrying his father's Masonic sword, I remember as being one of his
happiest memories. He was walking on air!
James Mickelson married Miss Mildred Avery
in Leon, Iowa, November 3, 1899. At the time of his marriage, he was just
recovering from an attack of yellow jaundice. His wedding picture shows
his haggard appearance.
Mildred Olive Avery was born January 1.
1869, in Leon, Iowa, the daughter of F. N., and Martha Springer Avery.
She was educated in the Leon schools, and attended college at Indianola,
Iowa. She was a member of the D.A.R., and of the Music Sorority which became
the P.E.O, and a member of P.E.O. for many years. A torn and aged programme
from the period of her youth has been preserved in a velvetbound copy of
"Bryant's Poems," given her by her first bethrothed, a young man who often
sang the tenor leads in operettas and programs with her. He died at 21
years of age with pneumonia. The program follows -
Violin Solo -
a - Fantasia, Bayber du Seville..........................................................Sengille
b - Lieber Louie...............................................................................Herman
Professor Carl Hermann
Vocal Solo - "September" - Miss CleIla Bashaw
Nocturne - Op. 9- No. 2..........................................................................Fr.
Listen to the Mocking Bird..........................................................................Herman
Professor Carl Hermann
Solo on Wooden Shoe.................................................................................Herman
Piano Solo -
Miss Gurley and Miss Grace Morrill
Vocal Solo - Violin Obligato - "Angel Serenade"
Miss Mildred Avery
Imitation of an Old Fashioned Dat-key Camp Meeting
25 and 15 cents
Mildred Avery taught music in the schools of
Leon, Iowa, being an accomplished vocalist and pianist. She remembered
the scenes of her childhood with love and affection. One story, in particular,
I remember her telling, was of a time when she, as a child, was sent to
bring home the milk cows from a pasture near the railroad tracks. She came
breathlessly home with the cows and told a tale of seeing a monstrous snake,
which of course, no one believed. Shortly thereafter, some men from a circus
appeared in town saying that a boa-constrictor had escaped from a wrecked
circus train, and asked if it had been seen in that vicinity. The men went
to the pasture and found where the snake had slept, and saw the trails
its body had made slipping through the grass. She did not recall ever hearing
whether the snake was captured, or not.
Her father was the owner of a hardware
store, and was a mortician. Her mother was a member of a large family who
resided mostly on farms around Leon. Her mother's home in town was a meeting
place for all the clan. She often spoke of her mother's fear of tornadoes,
and told of one night in particular when a storm was approaching, with
the wind reaching a mighty gale, when the children had been routed out
of bed, and all, including their parrot (noted for his outrageous language)
had sought refuge in the storm cellar where the force of the wind had blown
out the lantern - into the void of darkness, howling of the wind, and the
fear in that black storm cellar, sounded the exasperated parrot voice,
"Oh, Hell! Ain't this awful?"
She often described the quiet walks along
tree-shaded lanes in the sultry afternoons when the young folks would go
calling. They enjoyed choir practices and church socials and reveled in
picnics the summer long. This was in that era when the young ladies wore
lisle stockings, and widebrimmed, flowered hats. She attended the World's
Fair and there purchased the regal, rose-wood piano which she brought to
her Wyoming home.
The summer of 1899 she came to Wyoming
to visit her cousin Jessie Springer Fear who was married to Frank A. Fear.
The Fears lived in the log ranch home that is still standing on Clifton
Fear, Jr.'s ranch on the bench above Middle Piney Creek. Her cousin, Jessie,
and Mildred had much in common. They were both pianists, and Jessie composed
When she first arrived Mildred heard people
speaking of the young Dane, James Mickelson, who had bought Otto Leifer's
ranch and paid for it in two years. She and Jessie rode horseback on sidesaddle,
to the ranch where the Charles Holden's lived, one evening. There, for
the first time, she met James Mickelson. She always maintained that she
ignored him that evening because someone had said that he was looking for
a wife, now that he had his ranch. When the young women went to their horses
the young Dane was "Johnny on the spot" to help Mildred mount the sidesaddle.
She, womanlike, was determined to do the job herself, with the result that
she got halfway up on the horse, ran the saddle horn through the buttoned
opening of her jacket, and could neither get up or down, without his assistance.
That was how the romance began that ended with the marriage of James Mickelson
of Big Piney, Wyoming, and Mildred Olive Avery, on the 30th day of November
1899, by Rev. W. H. Ilsley, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Leon,
Iowa. Mildred was a tall, slender woman with light brown hair when she
came to Wyoming. When Mildred, her daughter was 12 years of age, she could
not wear her mother's wedding blouse.
Those first years on the ranch were trying
one for the young music teacher. A succession of women for what used to
be called "ranch help" came, and went. If they were single, they were quickly
married. One woman, this was after the new ranch home on the Circle was
built, was brought out from Salt Lake City. She was sent to the old house
to put out the wash. After several hours, and no wash appeared on the lines
Mildred went to investigate. She found the woman highly inebriated from
sampling some cowboy's private liquor horde, standing over the washing
machine, swirling a suit of James P. Jensen's red flannel underwear in
the machine filled with her best linen table cloths.
She became a marvelous cook and was very
hospitable. Like Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aunt, she was never happier
than when her friends and family were gathered about her table, to enjoy
a fine meal. She dearly loved to picnic in the mountains. We indulged this
liking every chance we got, especially after the grandchildren came along.
The lack of a church association was early noted. From the first church
register of the Congregational Church in Big Piney, I have taken the following
"Sept. 15, 1907. We the following persons whose names appear
below met in the school house (Big Piney) and voted that we would
resolve ourselves into a Congregational Church. The Rev. W. B. D. Gray,
Rev. 0. E. Reach, and the Rev. J. W. Naylor being present - Rev. Gray presiding.
John Budd, Christian Jensen, James Mickelson were elected trustees. Mrs.
Sarah Hibbens, Deaconess. Mrs. J. B. Nichols, Clerk, and Mrs. James Mickelson,
Treasurer. We voted to adopt the Council Manual for our Rules and Government,
and the Creed adopted in said Manual for our Creed.
Mrs. J. B. Nichols Mrs. Josephine Budd
Mrs. Mildred Mickelson Miss Jennie Boyer
Mr. James Mickelson Mrs. James Jensen
Mr. James Jensen Mrs. Chris Jensen
Mr. Christian Jensen Mrs. A. J. Schmer
Mrs. Sarah Hibbins
"The Church voted to be incorporated October 6, 1912.
The Moderator, Rev. D. D. Reese named the Directors -
Mr. C. P. MacGlashan Mrs. Mildred Mickelson
Mrs. Claire Tanner Mr. James Mickelson
Mrs. Josephine Budd
The incorporation was accomplished on October 14, 1912 at 9 o'clock
A.M. Its term of existence is perpetual.
The contract was let for the brickwork
on the Congregational Church on February 2, 1914. Mr. George Durnford secured
the contract. Mr. J. E. Miller was awarded the contract for the carpenter
work. A grant of $1200 from the Congregational Building Society, and pledges
from members built the church. The new church was dedicated on August 29,
1915. The Rev.
R. F. Paxton officiated."
Besides the Frank A. Fear family from Iowa,
there lived on a ranch further up the creek from the Circle Home Ranch
of the Jim Mickelson's, a Mr. Eugene and Margaret Pence Noble. Margaret
Pence had been a bridesmaid at Jessie Fear's wedding, and Mildred Avery
remembered the wedding as she had attended it as a child. Then, directly
across the field lived Oscar and Mary Beck. This small group formed a nucleus
of good friends. As the years passed, all holidays were celebrated in turn
at each others homes. Mildred lost a still-born son and James Mickelson
chose a burial spot on the hill above the creek, where Mildred could see
it from her sitting room window. A few months later, the only son of Eugene
and Margaret Noble was buried close by. This first child buried on the
hill by Jim and Mildred Mickelson, marked the beginning of the Big Piney
Cemetery. Later on, they lost their nine-year-old son, Maxie, with scarlet
fever. He was also buried in that high place affording a panoramic view
of the Big Piney Valley and the valley of the Green River. The onlv flowers
to be had for Maxie's funeral, were the blooms off of Jessie Fear's geraniums.
The passing years, as they always do, brought
changes. On one trip to Iowa to visit her people, Mother Mickelson told
me that she saw her two sisters, one of whom was Mrs. Lena Hamilton, had
something of which she knew nothing. It was that inner peace and spiritual
radiance she acquired when she became a Christian Scientist. Her daughter,
Mildred, has said that all her life she knew that no matter how badly off
she was, if she could only reach her mother, and come within the radiance
of that spiritual thought, she would feel better. Mrs. Mickelson continued
to support the Congregational Church in Big Piney, and all other worthy
She spent a couple of winters in Cheyenne
with Mr. Mickelson at the Legislature. When his colleagues wanted him to
run for Governor, it was she who said, no. She loved her home too much
to exchange its calm for the turbulence and the trials of a political life.
They leased the ranches one year to her brother-in-law and traveled. They
were going to visit Denmark and Jim's mother, who was still living, but
an obstreperous baby named James, caused them too much trouble. Instead,
they spent the summer at the Riley cabin on South Piney. The first night
James was placed in a pine packing box (his head just came to the top of
it) where he went round and round all night, screaming at the top of his
voice. The next night he cried half the night, and then went to sleep.
They had no more trouble with him as they had had when they were traveling
on the west coast.
Mildred Mickelson was a member of the Sublette
County Historical Society, the Artist's Guild, the Twentieth Century and
the Triangle Clubs, and an active member of the Order of the Eastern Star.
She was organist of the chapter at the time of her death.
She spent two separate winters in Salt
Lake City where she had many pleasant memories of the old Salt Lake City
Theatre built by Brigham Young with the girders of huge logs hauled from
the mountains by Maud Adams' grandfather. Many of the great, and near great
actors and actresses of the turn of the century cast the spell of their
acting, on its boards. She had her private carriage and driving horse,
and missed few of the plays.
After Mr. Mickelson's passing, she purchased
a home in Salt Lake City. While living there, Mildred, her daughter, attended
the Roland Hall School for girls, and, later, the University of Utah. While
living in Salt Lake City she became a member of the Music Club of that
city. With Mildred, she traveled through Canada and the U.S. They began
a World Cruise together but Mother Mickelson had to leave the ship at Honolulu
because she could not cope with the seasickness of which she was a victim.
Mildred sailed off around the world and left her there.
In 1928, Mrs. Mildred Mickelson married James P. Jensen. a distant
relatives of her first husband, who had been associated with him on the
ranches for many years. Mr. Jensen was one of the first forest rangers
in the county, often spending six months at a time out in the mountains.
They spent their winters in their lovely Spanish home in Glendale, California.
and their summers on the Circle Ranch. Mr. Jensen long represented the
County as a State Senator in the Legislature.
She passed away early Tuesday morning,
August 24, 1943, at the LCM Hospital in Kemmerer, Wyoming, suffering from
a throat ailment.
Quoting from the Big Piney Examiner -
"Mrs. Mickelson Jensen was best known for
the many kind and unselfish deeds she has clone throughout her long residence
in Big Piney and the faithful thought of those less fortunate in life than
she: kindness to all, in all walks of life, for wealth made no difference
to her friendship and liking for others - as she trod down through the
pathway of life."
From a book of "Tribute" presented to her
daughter by members of the Artist's Guild, I have chosen this poem, written
by Ada Budd -
"In Memory of Mildred Mickelson Jensen
In the evening of her life
After days lived long and full
Of love and devotion
To her fellow men
God's fingers touched her, and she slept.
Yesterday, the smile of her
Countenance lighted up our lives.
Her words of encouragement were ever
A beacon light.
She gave of her worldly goods
And was a friend of little men.
There was much of joy
And laughter in her manner.
Friendliness was the keynote of her nature.
The hospitality of the Old West
Found deep expression at her fireside.
Just to know her added a richness
And a deeper meaning, too.
She left the world a better place
When she passed through."
MAE E. (MRS. JAMES F.) MICKELSON
Tales of the Seeds-Ke-Dee, p.156-167