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We read the history of the lives of cowboys, ranchers, and Western settlers in the many poems and poets' biographies that come our way. Those real life stories of a vanishing way of life—historical treasures—should be gathered, shared and preserved.

That's the inspiration for Western Memories, another kind of "gathering," to celebrate and document Western life. You can get involved by sharing your own memories, by urging others to share theirs, or by interviewing those with a story to tell.  Email us.

(More frequently, pictures and brief stories are shared in the separate
Picture the West feature.)

Jane Morton encourages others to preserve their family ranch histories. She writes, "... it is so important for people to write down what they know about the history of their ranches.  If they put it off it might be too late.  It could be a project for family Christmas presents.  What better than a ranch history?"

This is page 1.


Jane Morton
When Grandpa Bet the Farm
Ranch Beginnings
The Straw Barn

Cuchara Valley (Colorado) Pioneer, Katherine Fulton Williams

Jean Mathisen Haugen
Ernest Hornecker
Christmas Memories in the China Cabinet
Saga of the Old ND Brand Continues for 123 Years

Great-Great Grandpa Gambled—With a Ranch and a Daughter

On Page 6:

Daniel Bybee
French Cowboys in New Mexico

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns
Horses Are My Heritage
Wyoming Family Photos

Jacqueline Marie Applewhite
Land Without Fences

Peggy Malone
The Ol' Gully Ranch

On Page 5:

Linda Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick Family and Angora Goats, 1918—2003 

Paul Kern
A Little Perspective on Losing Target

Janice Lee Weiss Truitt
Christmas at the Community Hall

Bette Wolf Duncan
Red River Valley Early Pioneers
Goin' for Broke

Memories of Alvin Wolf

Sam Jackson
Sheepherder Tents

On Page 4:

Smoke Wade
The Joseph Creek School

The 1952 Hashknife Branding
The Log Trough
Haying Season
Pack String
The Crossing

On Page 3:

Bruce Matley
The Matley Ranch, "The Ranch That I Can't See"

LaVonne Houlton
Mr. Miley's Palomino
Roots..,in the Morgan World
Cousin Don Landes
The Christmases of My Childhood (1930's)

Uncle Ed Titus

Nona Kelley Carver
Ashes on the Snow
Afterword by Larry Carver
Carver Ranch House History
Carver Family History

Barbara Bockelman
Trail Drive - Texas to Oklahoma, 1932


On Page 2:

Jack Sammon
On the Road with Rocklands Cattle

Rusty Calhoun
L'il Ernie

Janice Mitich
Line Camp


More about The Western Memories Project

What inspired the project
How you can get involved

        ancloudswagon.jpg (24930 bytes)     

Elsewhere at CowboyPoetry.com, our weekly feature, Picture the West, features photos, old and new, of the ranching, cowboy, rural, and working life of the West of today and yesterday. 

See the Photo of the Week here.



When Grandpa Bet the Farm

Jane Morton writes, "I grew up on the plains of eastern Colorado in the midst of the drought and the depression.  My father taught school and helped his father with the family farm near Fort Morgan.  This farm had been in the family since 1911 when my great-grandfather bought the original 320 acres.  They owed the bank, and there was little money coming in, so the whole family had to pitch in and help if we were to keep our land."  continued below

She writes about her grandfather, William Edmon Ambrose, in this poem from her award-winning book, Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind:

When Grandpa Bet the Farm

A fellow making money
   grazing cattle on his land
Got Grandpa thinking time had come
   when he too should expand.

Though Grandpa winter-grazed some stock
   each of the last four years,
The biggest herd he'd ever had
   was 'bout a hundred steers.

By fall of 1928, he thought
   he'd move ahead,
And up the number of the setters
   he wintered, and he fed.

He had some apprehension
   when he went to buy a herd,
So took the banker out with him
   to see if he concurred.

Steers weighed around six hundred pounds
   and cost ten cents per pound.
The banker said he liked their looks
   and thought the deal was sound.

Two hundred sixty steers in all
   went onto Grandpa's range
The last week in October
   right before a weather change.

A blizzard shrieked in from the north
  and Grandpa felt a chill,
The thought of steers out in that storm
   Enough to make him ill.

"They're likely driftin' south," he said,
   "their backs to wind and snow."
He never did have much to say,
   but what he said was so.

One day more the storm raged on,
   and then the weather cleared.
But when he went to find his steers,
   it was as he had feared.

His eyes swept over prairie land,
   grass blanketed in white.
As far as the horizon, though,
   he saw no steers in sight.

Next morning when his son got there,
   they saddled up and rose.
With Grandpa thinking all the time
   of money that he owed.

They let the dog go out with them,
  although he was high-strung,
and he had never worked a herd,
   so scattered and far-flung.

The horsemen made their way down south,
   encountering drifts of snow.
The horses found the going tough.
   The progress was made slow.

They finally caught up with some setters,
   who'd stopped along the way.
Kept riding till they found the rest
   much later in the day.

Then gathering strays, they headed for
   corrals behind the barn.
The horses were exhausted
   and the dog not worth a darn.

The men themselves were 'bout played out,
   and weakened steers hung back.
They had to push them hard's they could
   to keep the drive on track.

As steers came near the home corral,
   they all got in a rush,
And pushed and shoved and crowded in
   'til six died in the crush.

As far a winter weather went,
   it downhilled all the way.
The temperatures turned bitter cold.
   That winter came to stay.

Though Grandpa planned on feeding some,
   mid-winter when it snowed.
Before Thanksgiving he bought feed
   shipped in by railroad.

As long as cattle prices held,
   they'd make it through the spring.
When steers went down five cents a pound,
   he saw those hopes take wing.

He sold one-half immediately,
   kept half should they rebound.
Then six months later sold the rest,
   which brought three cents a pound.

Before he went to buy the steers,
   he'd saved almost four grand.
By time he sold he'd gone through that
   like water drains through the sand.

He'd lost money he had saved
   and thousands more besides,
Some seventeen to be exact.
   All he had left was pride.

The man he tried to emulate
   lost all he hoped to own.
Then he committed suicide,
   and never paid his loan.

But Grandpa stayed and strove to pay
   despite desperation, drought.
Bankruptcy not an option,
   nor was suicide an out.

It took him more than ten long years
   to pay back money owed,
And I believe the rest his life
   he rued that episode.

He went without and worked the farm
   and left it free of debt.
So though he gambled and he lost,
   I'd say he won the bet.

© 2003, Jane Morton, from Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

In her book, she adds "The winter of 1928-29 started in October, and lasted through March of 1929.  A foot of snow fell on Morgan County on October 31. Then the sun came out, and the snow melted leaving the fields a sea of mud. On November 3, temperatures ran 4 degrees below zero.  On November 7, seven inches of snow fell and about 35 percent of the beet crop remained in the ground.  On November 22 the thermometer dipped to 14 below zero.  By December 9 the beet fields were frozen to a depth of ten inches.  By January 31, the best harvest was over.  The Great Western Sugar Company said the beets were no longer salvageable and delivery to the company ended.

Farmers who had both livestock and beets recouped some of their losses by letting their cattle feed on the beets.  However, Grandpa hadn't planted beets that year since he had decided to graze cattle, so for him that winter was a total disaster.


Ranch Beginnings

Jane Morton shared the story of "Ranch Beginnings" as recorded by her father, W.E. Ambrose Jr.:

My grandad, William Harrison Ambrose owned heavily mortgaged land across the road from my dad's brother Jim.  Harry, as they called him, was more interested in mining than in farming, though, so he rented his farm out and spent his summers in Breckenridge.  When winter came he came down from the mine and moved in with Jim and his family.

Dad decided to buy his place, so he took over the mortgage on the two hundred acres Harrison had been renting out.  One hundred and twenty acres were supposed to be irrigated, but we could only irrigate twenty, because the rest were above the ditch.

On March 9, l9l6,  Dad and I came to Fort Morgan on the train.  We traveled in an emigrant car, a rented boxcar that carried our livestock, equipment, furniture and us.  That summer and winter it was just the two of us.  We left Mother and Sis in Arvada.  Mother's brother, Redge, was taking care of our garden track in Arvada.

Our livestock consisted of two cows and two weaned calves.  We had one old red cow and she had the two calves we came down with.  We'd paid $800 for a tractor that was to be delivered to us in Fort Morgan.

There were some trees on the property.  A row of trees along the creek, about a  hundred feet apart and a row of willows.  I have no idea who planted them.

At first we packed our water from Jim's across the road.  Then we put casing down with a post hole digger.  We went about 40 feet to water.  Then we used a sand bucket.  It was a pipe about four feet long with a trap door.  We dug the well a hundred feet deep.

We planted twenty acres of oats and alfalfa.  The land had already been plowed and forty acres of beans and a little corn had been planted by the time we got there.  The corn didn't amount to much.  The beans did real well, so we bought a threshing machine.  We pitched the beans in with a fork and threshed them.

We lived in a little one room shed across the road at Jim's place.  My job was to get home from the school up the road, peel the potatoes and put the dried prunes or dried peaches, or whatever we had on to cook.

There was a country school on the corner of Jim's place, and it was known as the Ambrose School.  I went there part of the seventh and all of the eighth grade.  Sometimes there were as many as twenty or thirty students.  When beet harvest started, we went down to five.  The others had to work topping the beets and getting them out.

Ambrose School

The war was coming, so prices were high.  We sold the beans that year for $8000.  That was a lot of money.  That winter we built the granary.  In the spring Mother and Sis moved down.  We put a stove in one side, linoleum on the floor and wallpaper on the walls.  We lived there for five years.  There were two big rooms upstairs.  Upstairs was cold.  In the winter when it got light enough, you could see frost on every nail, but downstairs with the stove, we never felt the cold.

We built a straw barn in back of the granary for the cattle and the horses. We strung hog wire over poles for the roof.  The sides were made of two sections of wire placed four feet apart.  We packed the space between the wire with old straw that wasn't any good.  The animals wouldn't eat it unless it snowed and they were in there for two or three days.  Then they'd pull the straw out and eat on their straw shed.

In 1921, the  year I finished high school, we built the house.  Every day we got a load of gravel down by the river.  We had a hand driven cement mixer, and we mixed the cement with that mixer and poured it into forms.

The house cost $4000, including the lumber and the plaster.  We did all the work ourselves except for the lathes.  Mr. Beggs on the corner built a house a year or two before, and it cost him $8000 and he lost his place.

We didn't have any power tools.  We got the blueprints from the lumber company.  All of the boards are on a bias.  They ran from one corner to the next.  Every board was laid on the same bias, so there was no give.

The Ambrose Ranch House


The Straw Barn

Jane Morton recorded her father's description of their straw barn: We built a straw barn in back of the granary for the cattle and the horses.  We strung hog wire over poles for the roof.  The sides were made of two sections of wire placed four feet apart.  We packed the space between the wire with old straw that wasn't any good.  The animals wouldn't eat it unless it snowed and they were in there two or three days.  Then they'd pull the straw out and eat on their straw shed."

Jane preserved the memory in verse:

Straw Barn

My dad and my grandfather built a straw barn.
Out of woven wire fencing and straw.
It would shelter two cows, and their calves and a team
In the winter when weather turned raw.

They set two rows of poles and strung wire down each row,
Then they packed the loose straw in-between.
That's the way they constructed each one of the sides
That first summer when Dad turned thirteen.

For a roof they laid framework across the four sides,
And they topped it with straw and hog wire.
They sloped it southwest so the snow would melt off,
And they tried not to worry 'bout fire.

The advantage of having a barn made of straw
On the plains where fierce blizzards blew in,
Was that livestock could nibble the walls in a storm
When they finished their food in the bin.

© 2003, Jane Morton, from Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


The following photo of a similar barn is from the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog at the Library of Congress:


Cuchara Valley (Colorado) Pioneer, Katherine Fulton Williams

Katherine Mary Fulton’s story as told by her daughter, Betty (Williams) Story; presented by Jane Morton.

My mother Katherine Mary Fulton, was born November 2, 1895 in Albany Township, Nemaha County, Kansas. Her parents named her Catherine Mary, but she changed the spelling of her first name to Katherine rather than Catherine when she was in first grade because the other children in her class began to call her Cat, and she didn’t like it. She grew up on a farm near Sabetha, Kansas, as the fifth of six children. Three of her siblings were quite a bit older than the three younger ones, so it was almost as if they were two separate families. Katherine felt closest to her younger brother.

She was old enough to start school when she was six, but her father, Billy Fulton, held her back until she was seven because she was left-handed. Since it was difficult for her to do some things, such as hold a pencil correctly, or use scissors the way right-handed children did, he associated her being left-handed with some form of mental slowness. That’s why he wouldn’t let her start first grade when she should have. She never could understand why he did that, but she always resented it.

After Katherine graduated from high school she worked in a local department store while she went to normal school in Sabetha. She earned a certificate there that qualified her to teach in local county schools.

Katherine (Fulton) Williams

I remember grandfather Fulton, a Kansas farmer, as being tall and handsome. He was interested in politics, although he never ran for office. My grandmother, Mary Ann, was pretty, tiny, quiet, and deaf.

My father, Joseph Evan Williams, was born on the family farm near Albany, Nemaha County, Kansas to Edmund Evan Williams (known as E.E.) and Joanna Fox Williams on January 13, 1895. My mother and father were close to the same age, but they weren’t in the same class. Katherine had been held back, while Joe had skipped a grade or two and graduated from high school at an early age. After graduation he went on to college at Kansas State and graduated around the time World War I started in 1914. Joe and his brother Owen joined the army.

Joe Williams

When they were discharged, they both came back to Kansas. Joe had been gassed during the war somewhere in France. His lungs had been damaged and his health was never what it had been. He reconnected with Katherine whom he had known in Sabetha before the war, and they were married January 11, 1920.

In the meantime the Kreutzer family, Molly and Brian, neighbors of the Williams family had moved from Sabetha, Kansas to a ranch in the mountains of Colorado. E.E. Williams, Owen and Joe’s father went west to visit them. The Kreutzers told him of a ranch next to their place that happened to be for sale. E.E. purchased it as a homecoming gift for his boys. E.E. owned a large farm in Kansas and was a successful farmer. He thought he had done a good thing and given his boys a head start in life since he had given them a way to earn a living.

By the time Joe married Katherine in January of 1920, E.E. had already given the boys the ranch. Shortly after the wedding they moved to Colorado to live on and work the ranch E.E. bought. Katherine had to pull up roots and leave her mother, her father, her younger brother and her sister in Kansas. The older siblings were already married.

Katherine Williams at the ranch

Owen, Joe’s brother wasn’t married, and he lived with them on the ranch, although he let it be known he was looking for a wife. The ranch, which was called the Good Spot Ranch, was located on the west Spanish Peak. The two peaks were known as the Wahatoyas. In the Indian Language, this meant breasts of the earth. The plan was to utilize the native grass, which grew on the ranch, to feed the cattle through the winter.

E.E. probably had no idea what he had done. Although the boys had helped their father on the farm, neither one of them knew anything about cattle ranching, let alone ranching in the middle of winter in a mountain environment. Katherine knew even less about it than they did, so from the beginning there were bound to be problems.

The La Veta townspeople looked on them as heroes and held them in the highest esteem because they’d fought in the war. The boys basked in the adoration. Perhaps it went to their heads. They may have believed the cows would take care of themselves since they were often seen in town and when they went in, they were all duded up. They wore chaps and rode horses, and they played at being cowboys. One old timer is reported to have said, “I never did figure how those boys were going to make it on the ranch, because they were always in town.”

Owen Williams

A picture shows them dressed up in their outfits, but they didn’t look like cowboys. No matter what they wore, they looked like farmers. Joe was dark and looked like his Welsh ancestors. He had black hair, a stocky build, and stood about five feet, three inches tall. Uncle Owen was taller and thinner. He, too had dark hair and dark eyes and looked as Welsh as Joe did. Owen was the handsomer of the two. They were known in town as a fun-loving pair. I always felt my mother was left out of the fun.

A picture of Katherine shows her up to her armpits in the snow. She is wearing a knit hat and a scarf around her neck. She is on her way to the springhouse where she will dip water into the empty bucket she carries, as they had no running water in the house.

When she told about that time in her life she always said the felt as though she had been brought to the end of the earth. She called it the jumping-off place.

Katherine said that Molly Kreutzer, her neighbor, was like a mother to her at that time. Molly tried to give Katherine what comfort she could.

Gradually, Katherine got used to her new life. She was homesick for Kansas and homesick for her family, but she realized she and Joe would have to have more money to live on, so she took a teaching job in a one-room school that wasn’t far from the ranch, although she had to make her way through deep snow and climb through a hole in a natural rock wall to get to it. Katherine rolled with the punches, and she got punched a lot. She learned to “make do.” Katherine often used that expression when she referred to the Twenties.

Joe Williams dressed for town

Finally what seemed bound to happen, happened, and the family lost the ranch. They’d already lost most of the herd. Actually, their cattle were rustled by some neighbors (not the Kreutzers) while the boys were messing around in town instead of tending to business on the ranch. What did E.E. Williams think about this turn of events? We have no way of knowing, but he must have been disappointed to say the least.

Meanwhile, the Depression was on its way. It came to the farms and the ranches before it came to the cities. The prices the farmers and the ranchers got for their crops and their cattle were way down while farm expenses were rising. Farms and ranches were sold at auctions while jobs in town were becoming hard to find.

Katherine and Joe moved to La Veta and rented a little house next to the Methodist Church. Katherine was pleased with her proximity to the church. The church was her refuge. She met people there who were like the people she knew in Kansas. The people who lived in La Veta had come from small towns in the East. She knew them and she liked them, and she felt she belonged.

Katherine and Joe took jobs with the railroad. We don’t know what Joe did for them, but Katherine became a Jumbo Clerk. Little depots all over the country had a small addition attached to the depot that jutted out and had windows on three sides. Katherine’s job was to count the cars and take messages and pass them on to the engineer. The instructions were tied to a string, which was stretched between two points. The engineer would sling his arm under it to grab it. This was an important job, and it made Katherine feel important to be able to do it.

However, it didn’t last because of the Depression, so for a time Katherine and Joe were both out of work. Owen and Joe found a coal seam and they decided to mine coal. They began to dig. They dug and dug, and finally dug out a little coal. They came back the next day, and the hole that they’d dug the day before had fallen in on itself. Everything they’d dug out had fallen back into the hole, so they gave it up. They weren’t ranchers, but they weren’t miners either.

Owen married Oma,Vasquez, a pretty girl from the area.. After they married they moved from La Veta to Walsenburg. Oma was an orphan that the Vasquez family had taken in and adopted. Vasquez is a well known name in Huerfano county, as they were one of the original families in the valley. After they moved to Walsenburg, Owen got a job with the government as a tax collector.

Joe went to work for the WPA, the Works Project Administration, a New Deal Agency that employed millions of unskilled workers to carry out public work projects. I suspect that it wasn’t easy for him to adjust to the work because he was an intellectual who knew the classics, a reader, a musician, a linguist, and an actor. However those accomplishments didn’t qualify him for any jobs that were available in the area. His WPA crew worked on the highways, built bridges, and the football stadium for the Walsenburg high school. Actually, he was overqualified for any job he ever had.

Meanwhile, Katherine was down-to-earth practical. She dealt with life. In spite of hard times, she managed to save some money. When she had enough to buy a house, they moved to Walsenburg in 1919. Besides being more convenient to Joe’s work, it was good to be close to Owen and Oma. Once they moved, Katherine took over. She taught school in a rural school and made money baking cakes and working for the COD stores. The COD stood for Cash On Delivery, owned by the Sportleader Company who distributed groceries as well as operated their own stores. Katherine did the bookkeeping for the Walsenburg store. Then she started buying houses and renting them out. She was investing. My mother bested the rest of the family. She turned out to be the smartest of all, especially E.E.

When I was born in 1930, my family moved up on the hill because that was where Katherine wanted to raise her children. The hill was to Walsenburg what Capitol Hill was to Denver. It overlooked the town. It meant status. I associate financial pain with owning that house. For my mother it was work, work, work. Taxes were the big thing. My parents had to be prepared to pay the real estate taxes so Katherine turned the house into a boarding house for single teachers, who were all women.

Fourteen months after I was born, my brother Bill came along, and it was even more of a struggle to make ends meet. Whether we could afford to make a purchase or not depended upon whether or not there would be enough money left to pay the taxes.

After Katherine took in boarders, Joe helped with the cooking. I remember he was the better cook of the two. What with her working various jobs and her teaching, Mother was gone a lot, but our dad was there for Bill and me. My mother was my teacher, but my dad was my buddy.

Because she was left-handed, my mother hadn’t learned to braid my hair or cut my bangs so that my hair looked good. I have pictures of me with my weird looking haircut.

My mother had good health and plenty of stamina until I was in the fourth grade. Then she got pneumonia and almost died. I remember rehearsing for a small part in an operetta that the Walsenburg schools put on every year when those in charge told me I had to stop rehearsing because my mother was so ill. They said they wouldn’t be able to count on me when it came time for the program. I realized they were really telling me that my other was going to die. I was upset about that and because they wouldn’t let me go on practicing for the program.

It turned out that my mother didn’t die. In spite of the predictions she survived, but after that her health was more fragile. However, my dad died when I was fifteen. He’d never really recovered from the gassing during the war, and his health had gradually deteriorated over the years.

My mother supported my brother Bill and me while we finished high school, and finally sold the house so she would have enough money to pay for our college education. She was fifty-two at the time, but she could no longer teach in rural schools because new laws required a college degree she didn’t have. She died of Alzheimer’s in 1979 at the age of eighty-four.



  Jane Morton continues her own story...

During the '40s the debt was paid off, and the family went into the cattle business.  As the financial situation improved we bought more land.  By the late sixties we had acquired 14,000 acres, the herd had grown to 800 head of Herefords, and the "farm" had become a ranch.

When I married, my husband and I, besides being educators, were involved in the ranch and ranch activities including branding, round-ups, and cattle sales.  Dad had one man on the payroll and farmed out some of the big jobs, such as cutting corn for silage.  Otherwise the family did it all.

After attending my first cowboy poetry gathering in Colorado Springs, I began to write and recite poems about our family and the ranch. Now retired, my husband and I live near Colorado Springs on the edge of the Black Forest part of the year and in Mesa, Arizona the other part.  We participate in cowboy poetry gatherings throughout the western United States.

janemortonturnface.jpg (24552 bytes)
Cowboy Poetry: Turning to Face the Wind
winner of the Will Rogers Medallion Award

Read Jane Morton's poetry here at the BAR-D.


Ernest Hornecker

Ernest was the eldest son of Johann Martin and Ann Marie Hornecker, born in Auggen, Baden, Germany in March, 1848. His younger brother, John Martin "Mart" was also an early rancher in the valley and had a ranch adjacent to Ernest and was born in 1850 in Auggen.

The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1854 and settled on a small farm in Oregon, Missouri. Ernest and Mart were joined by two other brothers, Albert (my great grandfather, born in 1858 in Oregon,MO; and George, born in 1863 in Oregon, MO).

Ernest and Mart decided to head west and find adventure in February of 1869 along with a fellow former resident of Auggen, Jake Frey. They arrived at Cheyenne, Wyoming and first worked at digging snow out of the cuts of the new U.P. railroad then heading west. They didn't find the work to their liking, moved west to Laramie City and cut railroad ties for a time.

The boys heard of the gold rush on South Pass in west central Wyoming and started out walking overland from Laramie to Miner's Delight (they were too broke to buy horses!). They arrived at Miner's Delight, one of the three gold camps, on August 4, 1869. Mart and Ernest stayed at Miner's Delight for a couple years, but never found much gold—they spent a lot of time cutting hay with hand scythes at Lovell Meadows for the soldiers at Fort Stambaugh.

They ventured further down into the lower valleys and in 1872 Ernest and a friend, John Borner (future brother-in-law of Calamity Jane) came down to the valley of the Big Popo Agie and started a potato crop to sell to the miners on the mountain. Later that year, along with Jake Frey, they squatted on land that was still part of the Wind River Indian Reservation in what was known as Chief Washakie's Horse Pasture (at Washakie's invitation). Mart joined them a few years later and took up land adjacent to Ernest.

This first photo is of Ernest haying his fields at his Willow Brook Ranch around 1916:

This is Ernest and his two surviving brothers, Mart and Albert (who had come west in 1877 from Missouri and took up a ranch on Squaw Creek in 1884):

This is  Ernest's cabin, which he, John Borner and Jake Frey moved into on New Year's Day, 1873:

This is a photo of Ernest's daughter, Mary Hornecker (Overcash) and her first cousin, Mildred Hornecker (Lind) around 1910-11 on horseback at Willowbrook:

Ernest kept the ranch until his wife's health forced him to move to California and he died there at age 95 in 1943. Mart lived on his ranch from 1876 until his death in 1939 at age 89 and Albert lived on his ranch from 1884 until he moved to Freewater, Oregon for a few years with his family in 1901—his family and marriage broke up and he returned to his ranch in 1907 and remained there until his death in 1947 at age 89.

Ernest dictated his memories of the early days in Lander Valley to his daughter, Edna, in the 1930's and the memoirs were printed in the local Wyoming State Journal newspaper. He told of his first trip to the valley in the fall of 1869, when he walked 30 miles on foot and stayed in an abandoned miner's cabin, then hoofed it back to Miner's Delight.

Ernest and Mart became the first ranchers in the Lander country to run Black Angus cattle and their brother Albert also took up raising the breed. Mart's ranch was in family ownership for 100 years until his son, Frank, died in 1976. Albert's ranch was bought by his son John (my grandfather) and a portion (owned by my youngest uncle, Don Hornecker) remains in the family to this day.

Little remains of Ernest's ranch except for a rough log barn, a line of trees from his tree and rock homestead claim and the Borner's Garden cemetery where Ernest's only son (who died at birth) is buried) and where their father Johann Martin Hornecker is buried (he died at age 91 in 1913).

Of the three Hornecker brothers that ranched between 60 and 70 years in the Lander Valley, only Mart and Albert have descendants left here (if they all got together, it would take one of the ranches to hold them all!)


   In 2004, Jean wrote, "I'm a native of Lander and Wyoming--my family has been here in the Lander Valley since 1869 and eight generations have been on ranches here.  I have been writing poetry (much of it cowboy poetry) since I was 8 years old and have published 6 books of poetry, along with poems appearing in about 25 chapbooks.  I also had poetry appear pretty steadily in the Wyoming Rural Electric News for 20 years.  I have participated in Gatherings in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I retired from the State of Wyoming DOT in October, 2003 and am now busily pursuing my writing."

Read more about Jean Mathisen Haugen's family and some of her poetry here.



Christmas Memories in the China Cabinet

An old china cupboard stands in the corner of our living room next to the pellet stove. It is well over 80 years old, perhaps older and has an interesting history. At one time there was a road ranch (sort of a convenience stop/cafe) at Johnny-Behind-The Rocks on Twin Creek. A family lived there into the mid-nineteen—twenties and then left the place abandoned. Vinco Mushrush was the daughter of the family and came out from the east with a friend, Ethel Grotz. In about 1925 my great-aunt, Anna (Doane) Terry was involved in a bad car wreck near the road ranch and was brought there to wait while her brother Maurice Doane came out to get her and take her for medical aid. While picking up his sister, Maurice happened to meet Ethel, the adventuresome young lass from back east, and to make a long story short, they were married on Anna's birthday on September 26, 1926.

Vinco Mushrush later was involved in nursing and helping in China prior to World War II and had a fascinating life—she had to hike out over the Himalayas just at the start of the war with a group of orphans and barely made it out alive. That is just the prelude to the tale of the china cupboard. When the family abandoned the road ranch, the china cupboard was left behind. Joe Regan, who worked for the Highway Department at the time (now Wyoming Department of Transportation) asked my grandmother, Pearl Mathisen, if she would like to have the china cupboard.

Pearl and my grandfather, Walt Mathisen, were living out on the old Schlicting Ranch (now the Malmberg Place) on Twin Creek in the old house that had originally been brought in from Fort Stambaugh (near Atlantic City) after the fort was closed and the buildings were sold in around 1880. Grandma was a teacher and taught her young sons (including my father and his brother Bill) in the closed-in front porch of the old house. Grandma gladly accepted the china cupboard and it resided in the Schlicting house and later in their homestead cabin when Grandpa took up a homestead nearby in 1934. It was a small cabin and besides Grandma and Grandpa they had three sons by then, Bob (my father), Billy and Bub and Grandpa's two brothers, Gillis and Red also lived with them (part of the time in a sheep wagon parked behind the homestead cabin) (also built of recycled logs from Fort Stambaugh).

In 1937 the family moved to the old States ranch on Willow Creek and the china cupboard moved with them (while they lived in a remodeled chicken coop for the winter). Grandpa was not prone to living on a place more than one year at a time (except for the 7 years they spent on the Schicting ranch and the homestead). When they moved, each time Grandma made him fill a buckboard full of hay to protect the china cupboard and move it safely to their next abode. They finally moved into a Victorian style cottage at the east end of Eugene Street around 1945 and finally stayed put there the rest of their lives.

All the years I visited there as a child, the china cupboard resided by Grandma's chair, with a lamp with a base built like a ship's wheel given to them by Bill Nicol (an old timer and rancher in the Borner's Garden area). The cupboard basically survived in good shape until my Uncle Bub got in a scuffle with his buddy Clarence Watlers and fell into the cupboard and broke the original glass. Bub paid to have it repaired and when Grandma died in 1974, Bub inherited the cupboard. He passed away in 1977 and I inherited it but had no place to keep it (I had already bought my mother a curved glass china cupboard from the old Baldwin House in Lander in 1976—it is about 120 years old at this point and came from early day Lander Firestone furniture store/mortuary.) For several years my Uncle Babe Mathisen kept the cupboard at his cabin in Atlantic City and finally told me when he moved there full time in 1994 that it was time I did something with it because he needed the room. So I managed to stuff it into a corner of my bedroom at my parents' house where I lived.

There are dishes from both sides of the family and from friends in that old cupboard. There are memories of Christmas' past there also. I have a metal horse my Grandpa gave me (the only gift I ever remember him buying for me at Christmas—usually he left that to Gram to do, but one particular year he bought a horse for me and for my cousin Charlene). The Christmas after Grandma died, I found a figurine of an old broken down horse (Grandpa was a long-time horse trader around Lander) and painted a picture of him with a pinto horse to go along with it. He remarked at the time that he didn't think that old horse or he would make it through the winter. Unfortunately, he was righ—he died of cancer a little over two months later. When I finally got the cupboard, I put the metal horse he gave me for a Christmas long ago and the plug horse figurine along with the small painting in the cupboard.

There are dishes there from other times also. On my sixteenth birthday (many and many a year ago!) both my grandmothers each gave me a fine china cup and saucer. They reside in the cupboard. Another Christmas my Grandma Hornecker gave me a dark blue cup and saucer that had belonged to her old sister, Lida Pearl, who had died at age 11 of diphtheria or typhoid in 1902. The man who ran the flour mill at Milford had given it to Lidy shortly before she died, as a gift for cooking him a meal. There are also two small palomino horse figurines that my father gave me when he came back from a training session when he was on the Highway Patrol. And this year, for our fifth wedding anniversary, my mother gave us the cat-shaped pitcher that my Grandma and Grandpa Hornecker gave them on their fifth anniversary in 1951.

One dish which was used in the Victorian era is a spoon holder. I bought it at an auction at the old Ranney house on North Third street years back--it is turning purple now. My aunt gave me some silverware once owned by Kinch Kinney and I treasure them. Kinney once headed up a successful band of horse thieves who made life miserable for ranchers in eastern Wyoming. He decided to upgrade his standing as an outlaw and started out to rob a train. Unfortunately, he fell asleep and robbed the wrong train--which carried no money, but had some U.S. mail. For this he was sent to the Territorial Pen at Laramie for several years--he kept trying to escape and spent a lot of time in the "hole"—chained to the door. Finally he got the hint and became a model prisoner and later showed up in the Sweetwater area. Here he started the Yellowstone Ranch—which he later lost and finished his life out as a sheepherder. He was found dead in a sheepwagon in the mid-1930's. So my old china cupboard has some interesting memories. Two dishes my Grandmother had she won at bingo at a homemaker's meeting years ago. They are very old and came from Germany when it was still known as Prussia (prior to around 1870). Mrs. Calvert had brought the dishes as prizes and an interesting note to point out is that some of the Calverts once rode with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch back when the family lived near Baggs, Wyoming.

Another Christmas memory is of one solitary salt shaker and recalls the story of a small boy—my mother's brother, Kenneth or "Kink" as he was known for his curly hair. One year he saved and saved his money and bought a set of salt and pepper shakers for Grandma Hornecker for Christmas—he was so proud of what he had bought, that he kept taking them out to treasure and look at them and broke one during the process. He felt so bad he tucked the remaining salt shaker way back under the tree--but Grandma found it and treasured it for years. Sadly, he died at age 36 when he drowned in Fiddlers Lake in 1961.

My husband, Ron, likes to tease me and tells me he is going to paint the china cupboard red some day when I'm not around (I have threatened his life if he does!). He has added to the memories in the old cupboard too. He has one small vase that belonged to his grandmother that she brought over from Norway back in the early part of the last century when they settled in Washington state.

That old cupboard is in pretty good shape for the shape it is in and brings back many Christmas and other memories just from looking at the items in it. My uncle had the notion that while he had it, it was in some way haunted, because items would move around in it when he hadn't touched it. I haven't had any problem on that score—I think maybe Grandma was just re-arranging things around to suit her. Including the fine china cups she saved for over several years while working as a school teacher in one-room schools. Another memorable piece is a china set of pansies that her sister brought her when she visited their mother's original hometown of Aspatria, Cumberland, England forty-odd years ago.

That old cupboard is in good shape for the shape it is in and so are the memories that go with it, especially at Christmas time.


© 2008, Jean Mathisen Haugen

This story appeared in December, 2008 in the Lander Journal.



   In 2004, Jean wrote, "I'm a native of Lander and Wyoming--my family has been here in the Lander Valley since 1869 and eight generations have been on ranches here.  I have been writing poetry (much of it cowboy poetry) since I was 8 years old and have published 6 books of poetry, along with poems appearing in about 25 chapbooks.  I also had poetry appear pretty steadily in the Wyoming Rural Electric News for 20 years.  I have participated in Gatherings in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I retired from the State of Wyoming DOT in October, 2003 and am now busily pursuing my writing."

Read more about Jean Mathisen Haugen's family and some of her poetry here.



Great-Great Grandpa Gambled—With a Ranch and a Daughter

My great-great grandfather, Gilbert Avery, was born in New York state and married Janie Vaughn in the mid-1860's. They had two daughters, Anna Augusta Avery (Doane)—my great grandmother—and Nellie Avery (Doane). Unfortunately, Janie Vaughn Avery died of tuberculosis when Anna was about five years old in 1872. Gilbert remarried to a strapping young lady, Sarah Jeanette Wilson (better known as Nettie) the following year and they became the parents of 10 more boys and girls.

In 1885 they moved west to Milford, Wyoming (6 miles north of Lander, Wyoming) and took up a place there. Here their large family carried on for several years. Anna, his oldest daughter, married Frank Doane at Eldred, Pennsylvania in 1886 and they came west to Milford in 1888 with their two oldest childen, Luella (Van Patten) and Gilbert. In 1890, Nellie, who had married Frank's brother, Elmer Doane, came west with Elmer and their son Charlie. Sadly, within a month or so, Nellie, too, died of tuberculosis.

Nettie Wilson Avery and her first six children

Jeanette Wilson Avery's brother, Ase Wilson, took baby Charlie in and raised him. (Charlie ran away to be a hobo when he was 18 and was killed by a train in Colorado.) Ase Wilson had run away to the Civil War at age 15 and lied about his age; he served as a drummer boy and a soldier in the War. He came west and helped start Milford (then known as North Fork) and started the first flour mill in the area at Milford in 1878. Jeanette and Ase's mother, Julia Sherman Wilson, was a second cousin of famed Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman. Julia and Ase are buried at the North Fork Cemetery at Milford (which is now a ghost town.).

In the late 1890's Gilbert and Jeanette moved their family to the new town of Meeteetse (in northwest Wyoming) on the way to Cody, Wyoming (which was then known as Stinkingwater, before the proper ladies of the community thought it should be renamed!). The Avery's were a large family and contained several characters. Gilbert, himself, liked to gamble and the family story goes that he gambled off his daughter, Jenny, to one Archie McCoy who was said to have been a member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch gang. The photo below is the pretty red-haired Jenny, who was quite a bit taller than Archie. They were married a few years, had some children, and later divorced. I have not been entirely able to pin down if the story is true, however, a cousin did mention that Gilbert did gamble off the family ranch once and his wife, known to most of the family as Nettie, kicked him out for quite a while! Gilbert died around 1918, but Nettie lived on to age 96 and passed away at Meeteetse in 1946. She was a tall woman who was fondly thought of by her step-daughter, Anna Avery Doane (Anna's daughter, Mary Jeanette Doane Hornecker, my grandmother, was named for her).

Archie and Jenny McCoy

Nettie Wilson Avery worked for many years at the well known Wyoming ranch, the Pitchfork Ranch on the Greybull River, once owned by millionaire, Otto Franc. Franc had made his money after he and his brothers came to New York from Germany and imported bananas. He came to Wyoming in the 1870's and started his ranch. He was behind Butch Cassidy being convicted of stealing a $5 horse in 1892 and Butch being sent to the Wyoming Pen at Laramie for a couple years. Franc later died mysteriously at his ranch (some thought Butch may have been behind his being shot in his yard).

Once Nettie told her son, Floyd Wellington Avery (better known as "Fudd") to go out and get a load of wood for the cookstove and not to come back until he did! This was about the time of the Yukon Gold Rush in 1898, and Fudd had a hankering to head north to make his fortune. Fudd traveled for some time and met up with Jack London, the famous author of the Yukon, who was said to have written a story, "Sundown Slim" about Fudd. This may or may not have been true—I haven't been able to track down the story as yet. At any rate, Fudd married a lady who never thought too highly of him, left her and continued his ramblings for 20-odd years. One day, 20 years after heading out, he came back home to the Avery ranch, grabbed an armload of wood and walked in the door, hollering out to Nettie, "Hey, Ma, here's your wood!" I have not heard exactly what she had to say in reply!

 Allie Avery Leseberg, Delma Avery Scovel,  Floyd "Fud" Avery, Maude Avery Doores,
Louis Shultheis (Sr.) and Gilbert "Bert" Avery.  c. 1950

Another daughter, Alice or "Allie," married a Leseberg while the Avery's were still near Lander and they settled on the North Fork of the Popo Agie River. They had a large family, most of whom later settled near Dubois, Wyoming, 75 miles north (Dubois also had a different name to begin with—it was known in the early days as "Neversweat" because the locals preferred to rustle cattle and horses rather than ranch! Butch Cassidy and a partner, Al Haines, had a ranch on Horse Creek just north of Dubois).

Yet another daughter, Delma Avery Scovel, settled out in Idaho in later years. Her grandson (or perhaps great-grandson) is Mike Scovel, a well known western artist who does many paintings for Leanin' Tree Cards.

Anna Augusta Avery Doane passed away in the spring of 1924 at Lander at age 55 and her husband died in 1933. They had 11 children and raised most to adulthood. Their ranch was located a few miles south of Lander just over Lander Hill and was later owned for many years by their son Maurice Avery Doane. (It was one of the oldest ranches still in family ownership in Fremont County during the county's centennial in 1984.) My grandmother, Mary Doane married John Hornecker on June 8, 1919 and they ranched for most of their lives on Squaw Creek near Lander, raising 8 chidlren.

There are still Avery's around Lander, but not many left at Meeteetse (Meeteetse is an Indian name and the meaning may mean "meeting place"). Meeteetse is a lively small ranching community and the cemetery there houses most of the Avery clan, including great-great grandpa Gilbert, the gambler. He left an interesting legacy behind and a few notable tales!

(The photos of Nettie Wilson Avery and her children when they were young, and then in later years. when they were grown,  are courtesy of my cousin and Nettie and Gilbert's grandson, Louis Schultheiss of LaGrange, Illinois. Louis is our family historian, who feels the old tune from the 1950's, "I'm My Own Grandpa," could well apply to the Avery clan!)

© 2008, Jean Mathisen Haugen


This story is also included in our Picture the West feature.



   In 2004, Jean wrote, "I'm a native of Lander and Wyoming--my family has been here in the Lander Valley since 1869 and eight generations have been on ranches here.  I have been writing poetry (much of it cowboy poetry) since I was 8 years old and have published 6 books of poetry, along with poems appearing in about 25 chapbooks.  I also had poetry appear pretty steadily in the Wyoming Rural Electric News for 20 years.  I have participated in Gatherings in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I retired from the State of Wyoming DOT in October, 2003 and am now busily pursuing my writing."

Read more about Jean Mathisen Haugen's family and some of her poetry here.


Saga of the Old ND Brand Continues for 123 Years

The ND brand, a clearly read horse and cattle brand has been in the Mathisen ranching family (my family) for ninety years. It is even older than that. A French Canadian, John Pelong, who came to America early enough to fight in the War of 1848 with Mexico, first took up the brand on August 14, 1884 in Fremont County, Wyoming Territory.

Pelong had come to the South Pass area with the gold rush and was nearly killed by Indians trying to steal horses in 1868. His partner, Oliver Lamoreaux was killed. John made it back safely to South Pass City by night. He took up some land on what is now North Second Street road near Lander in the 1870's and settled there. Later he traded land with "Dutch Ed" Stelzner. Pelong's land was called Deer Park on Twin Creek (about 20 miles south of Lander in west central Wyoming) and ran horses there.

One reason he moved so far from town was because he had a drinking problem. Periodically he would go on binges and let his half-broke mustangs pull his wagon to the Johnny Reed Stage Station six miles south of Lander (now the Ruby Ranch) and go on a drunk there. Then they would pile him in the wagon and head him out for town. The horses would pull up in front of Vaughn's Livery near Second and Main in Lander (the building is still standing). The livery owner would take care of the horses and Pelong would stumble over to St. John's Saloon and proceed to get "swashed" once again; then they would load him up, hitch up the horses and they would automatically haul him home to Deer Park.

John Pelong died in 1907. The brand was sold to a Portuguese sailor, Joaquin Antone who had a ranch near the Rawlins Junction on Highway 28 south of Lander. How or why a Portuguese sailor ever landed on ground near Lander no one knows!

In 1916, it is recorded that Antone's widow, Sarah, sold the brand to my great uncle, Andrew Keyford Mathisen. The Mathisen's came to Wyoming from Kamas, Utah in 1902 and settled at Dead Man's Gulch five miles south of Lander. There were nine children in the family, eight boys and one girl. One of the older sons was Walter "Walt" Mathisen. Walt worked with his brothers, Chester and Sam and helped their father rein 20-horse freight wagons up to the Geissler Store at Atlantic City and also haul freight from the rail heads at Rawlins and Casper (each about 120 to 150 miles from Lander). In 1922 Walt married a young school teacher from Wayne, Nebraska, Pearl Ross. Keyford killed himself in July, 1922 and Walt took over the ND brand and had it in continual use from 1925 until 1975 when he died. It was transferred to my father, Bob Mathisen and myself.

During those 50-odd years, Walt leased the old Schlicting Ranch (now the Malmberg Ranch) for several years and also homesteaded just below John Pelong's original hangout, Deer Park. Along with three sons, Bob, Bill and Bub and wife, Pearl, Walt also had two younger brothers, Gillis and Red who lived wit them. For a time they lived in the old Schlicting house (which had been hauled down from Fort Stambaugh near Atlantic City, when the fort was closed down in 1880). Later they lived in a 16x20 homestead cabin reconstructed from other logs from Fort Stambaugh. They also helped catch wild horses during the days of the CC Ranch outfit from Montana during the Great Depression. Pearl taught the boys school at the Schlicting house and later an old school dating from 1905 was moved near their homestead and the boys attended school there. They ran cattle as far as Atlantic City and the boys worked in the fields putting up hay and helping with the "Community" herd of cattle run by all the ranchers jointly.

The old original Schlicting ranch—the dugout was the original house built there and used by the Schlicting family; the house in the background was the house my grandparents and dad and uncles lived in.

Walt and Pearl and the boys moved to the old States Ranch on Willow Creek in the winter of 1937. Later they moved into Lander and Walt worked as a horse trader and also wintered dude horses from Jackson Hole for many years. He drove the horses over Union Pass, down past Dubois, Crowheart and onto wintering grounds he leased on the Wind River Reservation and then would drive them back to Jackson Hole in the spring.

My dad, Bob Mathisen and his brothers Bill and Darryl "Bub" Mathisen at the States Ranch in January, 1937

After Walt's death the brand was not used except by me on my art work and poetry. Bob, my dad, was a cowboy in his younger years and was foreman of the Williams Ranch in Sinks Canyon near Lander for a time. He worked 27 years as a Wyoming Highway Patrolman and 8 years as Captain the the Fremont County Sheriff's office under Sheriff Tim McKinney. Bob passed away in April 2002 at the age of 77. I continued to own the brand and married Ron Haugen in July, 2003.

In March of 2007 I sold the old ND brand at auction and did not know until recently who bought it. Ironically, Tara McKinney Berg and her husband (she is the daughter of Tim McKinney, my Dad's old boss) bought the ND. They live on the McKinney Ranch on Twin Creek not many miles from where John Pelong originated the brand in 1884 and where my father and grandfather lived on the Schlicting ranch. Tara says they plan to use it on cattle (my grandfather had used it on both horses and cattle)--so the old brand has finally cycled back to its home country and will be back in use.

© 2007, Jean Mathisen Haugen


   In 2004, Jean wrote, "I'm a native of Lander and Wyoming--my family has been here in the Lander Valley since 1869 and eight generations have been on ranches here.  I have been writing poetry (much of it cowboy poetry) since I was 8 years old and have published 6 books of poetry, along with poems appearing in about 25 chapbooks.  I also had poetry appear pretty steadily in the Wyoming Rural Electric News for 20 years.  I have participated in Gatherings in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I retired from the State of Wyoming DOT in October, 2003 and am now busily pursuing my writing."

Read more about Jean Mathisen Haugen's family and some of her poetry here.







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