Biography of Albert P. "Prof" and May McAlister Sommers
Compiled by Jonita Sommers
     Albert Pomeroy Sommers was born November 8, 1871, to Frederick and Marth A. Brookens Sommers the fourth of eight children in Ashtabula, Ohio.  Pearl V. Sommers, their last child, was born October 7, 1882, in Miltonvale, Kansas.  Frederick came to Massillon, Ohio, in the United States from Sumiswald, Bern, Switzerland, during 1851.  Frederick joined the 19th Regiment of the Union Army for the Civil War on September 7, 1861, and was discharged October 20, 1865.  A face wound later developed into cancer.  Frederick, with the help of a doctor in Kansas, developed an ointment which relieved this condition.  Frederick's father, Andreas, was a shoemaker in Switzerland, where his las name was spelled Sommer.  Church records concerning the Sommer family go back to the 1500's.  Harold Sommers, who was a great-grandson of Frederick Sommers, is still running the Sommers Farm near Robinson, Kansas, where he raises pigs.
     Prof Sommers taught school in Doniphan County, Kansas, in 1896 and 1897.  A.P. Sommers was mustered into the 22nd Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry for the Spanish American War on May 16, 1898.  Prof Sommers died July 9, 1928, from a severe case of high blood pressure which formed a blood clot on the brain causing his death.  Prof was in the Cabin Field irrigating with his hired man, Alvin Baldwin, when he began having a stroke.  He called to Alvin to help him get on his horse and take him to the house, which was about 1 1/2 miles away.  Alvin put Prof on the horse, but he was so weak he fell off before reaching the house.  He was put back on the horse, but could not stay there.  Baldwin saw Jules J. Giroud fishing and noticed he had a car.  They put Prof in the car and took him to the ranch house.  Prof walked into the house, but soon had another seizure.  Martha gave him artificial respiration until the doctors arrived, but to no avail.  Prof passed away with his wife and children by his side.  Dr. Jay Wanner from Pinedale and Dr. Vernon L. Looney from Big Piney were called on the telephone to come to the ranch, but nothing could be done.
     Albert Pomery "Prof" Sommers was a latecomer to the Green River Valley, as far as homesteaders were concerned.  On June 6, 1900, Sommers graduated from the Kansas State Normal School in Emporia, Kansas with a Latin degree, so he could teach in any common school.  Sommers came West because he had lung problems and taught school at Opal.  Helen Rathbun, who was the wife of Elmer Rathbun and the daughter of Forncrooks, who were some of the first settlers on Fontenelle Creek, was one of his students during her sophomore year of high school in Opal.
     From 1901 until 1909, he went into partners with Charles Olson and leased the Churndash Ranch on Fontenelle Creek from Charles F. Roberson.  In 1902, A.P. Sommers was the secretary of the Wyoming Hydro-Carbon Company, which had its main office in Opal and owned 17,000 acres of oil, gas and coal lands in the fossil oil fields of Uinta County.  Prof Sommers ran his cattle on the Green River Drift as early as 1904.  Prof acquired his first saddle to start his cowboying career at Roberson's Ranch when an outlaw left a saddle for a fresh mount.  The saddle had a metal horn and cowhide on the cantle.  In 1908, Prof was hauling supplies over Holden Hill when his wagon rolled over on top of him.  The team ran away and he was pinned under the wagon for a good sixteen hours before Jim Harmison found him.  Prof went all the way back to St. Louis and Omaha to try and get his leg set.  Everyone wanted to amputate his leg but a doctor in Rock Springs.  The doctor set Prof's leg by wiring the bone together with silver wire.  Prof was on crutches for over a year, but eventually had the use of his leg again.
     The Sommers Ranch was started in 1908 by Albert "Prof" Sommers when he filed his first water right.  Pearl Sommers, Prof's brother, filed his water rights in 1909.  Prof traded Bill Todd some land for James E. Lewis's homestead and part of John Chenett's homestead.  Prof's brother-in-law, A.L. Hope, homesteaded along with Nell Yates Ewer and James E. McAlister, Prof's father-in-law.  May McAlister Sommers filed a desert land entry later.  Prof was buying the Open A P brand from Alex Price in 1910.  The two-story log house was first built by the river, but the mosquitoes and dangerous river prompted the move of the house.  The house was moved by six head of horses pulling it over logs.  It took a little over a week to reach its present location only a quarter of a mile away.  They would put a log under the house and pull the house until the log came out behind.  They would pack the log around to the front and start over.
     May 10, 1911, in White Cloud, Kansas, was the day Albert Pomeroy Sommers married Ida May McAlister.  Many of the following family stories were Florence Sommers Jensen's reminiscences of her mother, May McAlister Sommers, as told to Ann Jensen Anspach and Lynn Thomas.  During this marriage, Prof and May had four chidren who were Martha (Hittle), Florence (Jensen), Albert Pomeroy "Bud," and John Frederick.  Martha was born in Rock Springs on April 18, 1912.  When Prof heard that the baby was being born, he rode from Black Buttes to Rock Springs, changing horses five times.  He was always proud of how fast he had covered the approximate 125 miles, but he arrived after the birth.  Florence was born in White Cloud.  When Bud was born at the ranch home, May ran out and told the driver of A.W. Smith's Pierce Arrow, who was driving by the house on the Piney road, to send Dr. Montrose from Daniel.  Dr. Chipman and Agnes Clementsen came from Pinedale to help with the birth.  Mrs. Wallace (Hannah) Tyler, was the midwife at the ranch when John was born on June 2, 1917.
     When the Upper Green River Cattle and Horse Growers Association was formed in 1916, Prof was one of the charter members and on the advisory board.  From 1922 through 1926, Prof had the mail contract from Big Piney to Pinedale.  The family moved to Big Piney, and Walt Gurney with his family were hired to run the ranch.  While the Sommers were living in Big Piney, May ran the town telephone switchboard, which was in one end of a little log cabin.  Prof used a team and sled in the winter, but he bought an International truck, which he used in the summer.  Prof bought the International truck in Lander.  When coming up Beaver Hill, Prof had his son, Bud, running along to put blocks under the tires so they could climb the hill and the truck would not roll down the hill.  Prof had barns with teams for his mail route at Big Piney, the Dunham place, Daniel, Cora, and Pinedale.  Prof had very progressive thoughts.  He had plans of having a railroad put up the Green River and down the Gros Ventre to Jackson, but the landslide on the Gros Ventre River ended this plan.  When Sublette County was formed in 1923 from Fremont and Lincoln counties, Prof campaigned to have Daniel the county seat, so there would not be a feud between Big Piney and Pinedale over it.
     May McAlister was born February 7, 1879, in Fayette County, Illinois, to John E. and Josephine Clarissa Luster McAlister.  John McAlister died in 1879 or 1880, and Josephine married his brother, Jim, on October 18, 1880.  The McAlister family moved to White Cloud, Kansas, in 1886, where Jim was the blacksmith.  May graduated from high school in White Cloud, Kansas, during 1893, when she was 14 years old.  Doc and Matt Brewster, who were family friends, put May through teacher training school.  When May was 17 years old, she started teaching school in White Cloud.  She taught school from 1899 through 1902 in Doniphan County, Kansas, at Troy.  She taught there just two years after her future husband did.  One of May's good friends, Nell Yates (Ewer), came to Wyoming to teach in 1901.  Nell wrote back to May and told her she had to come to Wyoming because it was beautiful country, and there were lots of men.  In about 1903 Nell brought May to Wyoming with her.  They rode the train to Kemmerer with J.C. Penney, who was opening a clothing store there.  May stayed at the Dan Rathbun place on Fontenelle Creek because Rathbun was from White Cloud.  She babysat and did sewing for Mrs. Charlie Olson and Mrs. Jacob Herschler.  Soon after May arrived in Wyoming, Nell and she went to a dance.  Prof Sommers and Joe Ewer also went to the dance.  They had been running wild horses on Big Sandy.  Joe looked around and said, "Prof, I will take the little one, and you take the tall one."  So they did.
     May's address was Midway, Wyoming, in the summers of 1907 and 1908, but in the summers of 1909 and 1910 it was Big Piney.  She taught Jim Mickelson at the Big Piney school during his first grade.  She stayed at Amos Smith's home on the 67 Ranch.  Mr. Smith had a black horse she rode to school each day.  He had it brought up to the porch of the house where she would get on.  Lafe Griffen had corralled a bunch of wild horse at the "Horse Ranch" and then herded them to the Mule Shoe, southeast of Big Piney, which was Mr. Smith's ranch headquarters.  Everyone wanted to go see the wild horses but there weren't enough saddles.  Mr. Smith's own horse, Pacing Ned, was broke to be ridden side saddle.  Because May was an excellent side saddle rider, she got to use the late Mrs. Smith's side saddle on A.W.'s fancy horse and go see the wild horses.  This was always a favorite story of May's.  While she taught at the little white school west of Big Piney, May also lived at the Will Nichols family ranch and store, which was west of town.  May would drive Mrs. Nichols's buggy to school and pick up Sadie Budd along with other children on her way.  May received a Wyoming teaching certificate in 1908.  May was known for her strictness and making the students learn when she was teaching.
     May was one of six original members who started the Sublette County Artists' Guild in 1928.  May kept the ranch running and raised her family of four children after her husband died in 1928 by teaching school in Pinedale.  She became the Sublette County Superintendent of Schools on January 10, 1929, and held this job until the next election when Leona Pape acquired the job.  May sold the ranch to her son, Bud, and his wife, Verla Richie Sommers, in January, 1947.  They are still running the family ranch with their two children, Jonita and Albert Pomeroy Sommers III.  In 1957, May received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wyoming when she was 78 years old.  Some of May's former students were going to college at the same time.  They would carry her books to class for her.  May liked to travel, whether it was with horse-drawn transportation or in a car.  One only had to ask her if she wanted to go with them, and she would answer, "Sure!  Where?"  Her husband commented, "The next time I marry, I'll be sure she wasn't hit by a gadfly."  People would tell her about her driving, and she would respond, "A miss is as good as a mile."  May and her good friend, Mary Murdock, did a lot of traveling together.  Two of the trips they took were to Washington and to the South to visit relatives and friends along with going to Canada, New York and Florida, where they sailed to Cuba.  May's desire to travel never did end.  During the summer after she received her college degree in 1957 when she was 78 years old, she went to Canada and Europe for two months.  Ida May McAlister Sommers died July 19, 1963, in Jackson, Wyoming.
Family Pictures