Homesteading Photos

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: Small Ranches.



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Wilder Ranch, undated

As previously noted, when the era of the large corporately-owned ranches ended there began an era of smaller farms and ranches which relied on irrigation and "dry farming." Thus, the bulk of agriculture in Wyoming has been family-owned and operated businesses remaining in the same family for multiple generations. Those ranches started as small homesteads with the ranch house often being a one or two room log or stone cabin or a soddie, heated only by the stove and often with only a packed earthen floor and a sod roof. For information as to soddies, see Lusk.


Cattle Ranch, 1887

The above illustration of William M. Thayer's 1887 Marvels of the New West, is described by Thayer as belonging "to the best class of ranchmen's homes. It contains two large rooms and a loft, accommodations that are found upon a few ranches only." Over the years through hard work and survival over the elements, the houses would slowly be improved or replaced.


Early cabin, Bighorn County

As in the above view, cabins would often be built into the side of a hill. This would provide extra insulation in the winters and make the house cooler in the summer. Sometimes a root cellar would be dug into the hill to help preserve food. In most instances the old cabins would be abandoned. In a few instances, additions would be built onto the cabin and ultimately a large house would appear without an outward sign of the original cabin. Until the writer was about 12, the house we lived in started out as a stone cabin built into the side of a hill. Slowly over the years the house had been expanded with a second story and other additions. The only sign of the orignal cabin were two windowless rooms behind the kitchen built into the side of the hill. The back door and the main floor were on the second story, even with crest of the hill. On one occasion the back door was left open and the sheep had invaded the back yard. The first indication that the sheep were loose was the sound of the clip clop of their hooves in the main hall upstairs.


Home on Cattle Ranch, 1887

Even the above cabin is described by Thayer as being about average. Often the initial homes were mere dugouts as depicted in the next illusration.


Dugout, 1887

Govenment lands were available to homesteaders. The requirement was that the homesteader had to be the head of a family or over the age of twenty-one, a citizen of the United States or one who had declared his intention to become a citizen, and not be the owner of more than 160 acres of land. Women could also be homesteaders if she was the head of a family, single or dependent upon her own resources for support. Homesteaders were required to settle upon the land within six months from making the claim. One was required to maintain residence on the homestead for five-years before "proving-up" the claim. Properties were also available by cash entry or under, as discussed later, the Carey Act by providing irrigation.


Pathfinder Ranch, 1907, Bonaparte Napoleon "Boney" Earnest in front.

Boney Earnest was a well known scout in Carbon County at the turn of the Century. He had served as an army scout along with Tom Sun under Anson Mills in the Powder River campaign of 1876. Mills flunked out of West Point in 1859 and notwithstanding that he came from Texas served in the Union Army during the Civil War. His brother, W. W. Mills, stayed in Texas as a Union spy. His other brother, Emmett Mills, caught the last stage out of El Paso but was killed when Apaches attacked the coach. The Pathfinder Ranch, still in business, lies adjacent to the Reservoir. On its lands is the grave of Ellen "Cattle Kate" Watson. Tom Sun became a rancher and owned the 3,000,000 acre Sun Ranch near Devil's Gate.


Typical Wyoming ranch, 1898.

In the above photo, note the stacks of hay. With smaller operations, there was no longer reliance on open range. Hay would be grown to tide the livestock over the winter. Thus, the seasonal work changed. Hay would be grown and in the fall hay would be cut, raked and stacked for the coming months. As in the above photo, hay would be stacked outside, usually in an area convenient for feeding the stock.


James A. Quiner's Ranch near Basin, 1908.

Next page: Irrigation, The Tallmadge and Buntin Land Company.