North Platte


From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This page: Bessemer Bend, Goose Egg Ranch, Searight Cattle Company.

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Table of Contents
About This Site

Bessemer Bend, 1981
Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

To the east of the Pathfinder Dam, near the confluence of the North Platte with Poison Spider Creek is Bessemer Bend also known as "Red Buttes." In November 1812 near Bessemer Bend, the Astorians, under Robert Stuart constructed the first cabin in Wyoming. Bessemer Bend provided emigrants on the Oregon Trail an easy location to ford the river and thus avoid the tolls on the Mormon Ferry at Casper.

In 1877, Gilbert A. Searight (1834-1906) established the Goose Egg ranch on the north bank of the river near the Bend. To stock the ranch, 14,000 head were trailed from Texas in 1877, another 13,000 in 1878, and 16,000 from Oregon in 1879. The house was designed to be able to withstand an Indian attack. It was, however, never attacked.

Goose Egg Ranch

The ranch house was torn down in 1960. The Goose Egg was featured in Owen Wister's The Virginian. The Goose Egg received its name when several cowboys found a goose nest with eggs and took the eggs to the cook who bore the name "Old Over Slope". The eggs gave Gilbert Searight insiration for the brand which would be easy to make and apply. The oval Goose Egg brand was primarily used on horses. Cattle generally received the Flying E brand. Old Over Slope received his name as a result of his ears being lost to frost bite giving him an unusual appearance.

Goose Egg Ranch

The Searight Cattle Company was capitalized at $1,500,000, and had interests from Oregon to Nebraska. In 1885 and 1886, the Company sold potions of the Goose Egg to J.M. Carey and Brother and other protions to the Swan Land and Cattle Co. The Fort Worth Daily Gasette January 3, 1887, estimated the losses on the sale to be "several hundred thousand dollars." The New York Times on the same date was more circumspect reporting that the sale was "not without considerable shrinkage."

Distant view of Bessemer, Wyoming, 1892.

Nearby in 1888, the town of Bessemer was established consisting of 49 city blocks. Its developers had high hopes that it would become the county seat for newly formed Natrona County. It was therefore dubbed "The Queen City of the West." Because of its central location within the territory, they also believed that it would become the eventual capital of the state replacing the temporary capital in Cheyenne. Cheyenne is, "technically speaking," still the temporary capital. The plat of Bessemer reserved space for the hoped-for capitol building. Its hopes were soon dashed with the formation of Casper. In the election to determine whether Casper or Bessemer would become the county seat, Bessemer received 731 vots and Casper353; that is, until someone noticed that the total number of votes cast in the Bessemer pricinct was greater than its total population. All votes in the Bessemer precinct were therefore disqualified and Casper was declared the winner 353 votes to Bessemer's 64. By 1895, Casper had a population of 544 and Bessemer a population of 64.

Post Office, Bessemer, Wyoming, 1892.

At its height, in addition to the post office, Bessemer had a hotel, the Searight House; a newspaper, the Bessemer Journal; and served as the headquarters for the Casper-Rongis Stage Line, owned by William Clark and Son. The stage line had daily service to Lander and twice daily service to Casper. Clark also engaged in ranching near Natrona, 24 miles west of Casper. Natrona today consists of little more than a combination gas station and bar.

Next Page: Casper.