Some 31 miles west of Sundance lies the small town of Moorcroft, population 807.
In 1876, Alexander Moorcroft, after whom Moorcroft is probably named,
became one of the first settlers of the Black Hills area of Wyoming
when he settled on Sand Creek near present day Beulah. Local lore has three other versions of the naming of
Moorcroft: (a) that the town was named by the first postmaster, Stocks Millar (1858-1890),
after a town in Scotland, (b) it was named after an 1890's visitor to
the area who liked to hunt, and (c), a variation on the first, it was named by horse ranchers named Miller after
their estate in England.
With regard to the first and third explanations, an exhaustive search has
been made to locate a Moorcroft in the U.K. Only three places (other than roads, streets,
schools, and a sports centre), named "Moorcroft" were found, one a lunatic asylum that existed in the
1840's at Uxbridge in Middlesex, a colliery that existed in the
late 1800's in Wednesbury in the West Midlands, and a pottery. The colliery is a possiblity
in light of the naming of Cambria and Newcastle. Towns along the railroad were
most often named by the railroad itself, usually with a pattern. Thus, the naming of the
town after a coal mining area would be consistent with the naming of Cambria and
Moorcroft School, 1912.
As to the naming of the town after an estate, the search as turned up only one
estate named "Moorcroft" -- in South Australia. But, as to Postmaster Millar, like all local
lore there is a grain of truth. Stocks Millar was born in in Logie, Fife, Scotland. His mother's
maiden name was Sarah Moorhouse Stocks. Thus, it may be speculated that the name was derived
from a combination of Moorhouse and Croft (meaning little farm). .
Postmaster, Stocks Millar, died of pneumonia, after spending too much time working in the water
of an irrigation ditch. He is interred at the Greenwood Cemetery, in Chadron, Nebraska.
As to the visitor in the 1890's, the post office bore the name Moorcroft in
1889. Thus, in the final analysis, there is no definitive answer as to how Moorcroft got its
The railroad reached Moorcroft in 1891 and the town rapidly became the largest shipping point on
the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. The town was on the Texas Trail and at its height in 1894
some 32 herds passed through going from Texas to Montana. Each herd had from
2,000 to 3,000 head. By the early 1900's the town had 3 general stores and 5 saloons.
The taller building is the Moorcroft Bank established in 1906 by Lucien H. Robinson, (1869-1956), John W. Rogers, and W. J. McCrea.
Each were also officers of the Robinson Mercantile Company. By 1920, Moorcroft had
two banks, the Moorcroft Bank and the People's Bank of Moorcroft.
Robinson Mercantile Co., c 1910.
With the coming of the railroad, Robinson opened the Mercantile in a tent. It finally closed its doors in
During World War I the federal government provided price supports for agricultural producds.
Following the war, demand for beef declined with the result the prices dropped from over $12.00 a
hundredweight to less than $7.50 per hundredweight in 1921. The price decline was ruinous to stockgrowers.
A major borrower from the Moorcroft Bank was William G. Oelkers who owed the Bank some
$27,800 secured by mortgages on real estate and a junior lien on cattle. In 1921, the Bank had to take over the cattle and,
thus, had the expense of wintering the cattle until they could be marketed. At the same time,
the Bank had to take over bands of sheep from Noah Williams and Albert Andrews. Prices
continued to decline over the winter of 1921-22. The bank lost not only the loans but the cost
of wintering the livestock. The bank failed.
Nor were things any better for the People's Bank. It, like the Moorcroft Bank, had difficulties. In
August 1921, It became necessary for the shareholders to recapitalize the bank. Not withstanding the
infusion of new money, the bank failed to prosper. In September the bank was back in trouble and again in need
of capital. In short, the bank required a white knight.
Before 1910, there had appeared in Northeast Wyoming an individual named Albert C. Grandbouche (1889-1979). Grandbouche would later
prove to be a con man extraordinaire. He had the amazing talent of getting persons to give him money in exchange for illusory but tempting
promises. In 1920, he had already separated W. P. Ricketts and J. F. Waisner of the
Royal Cattle Company from $20,529.86. All they had to show for the money was a judgment againt
Grandbouche. Thirty-Seven years later, their heirs were still attempting to collect the judgment.
Grandbouche was a director of the Citizens'
Bank of Upton and developed with a plan for resuscitating the People's Bank. Grandbouche must have had a golden tongue.
Major shareholders, including the President of the
People's Bank, were convinced to surrender their stock with Grandbouche taking over effective control of the Bank.
On October 15, 1921, the Bank was reorganized a second time with Grandbouche paying for the bank stock $17,000.00: $5,000.00 by checks drawn
on the Citizen's Bank of Upton of which Grandbouche was a director and $12,000.00 in the form of a promisory note.
Apparently unknown to the bank's former shareholders, the checks were rubber. Grandbouche was already overdrawn at the Citizens' Bank by
$176.25. The Citizens' Bank, itself had within it only $537.18 and was overdrawn at a correspondent bank in
Cheyenne. Grandbouche's apparently plan was to lift himself up by his own bootstraps and make
the $5,000.00 good by borrowing the money from his newly acquired People's Bank. The State Bank Examiner discovered the
scheme and both the Citizens' and People's Banks were closed.
Moorcroft Hotel, approx. 1910
All across the state, the story was the same, banks falling like rows of dominoes. As Professor Larson has noted, Wyoming had 153 banks in January, 1920. By the end of
1924, some sixty-eight banks had failed. By the end of the decade over half of the banks in the
state had failed. See Larson, History of Wyoming, 2nd ed. revised p. 413. As observed by
Professor Larson, depositors lost their savings and some bankers committed suicide.
Grandbouche was convicted of willful misapplication of bank funds and sentenced to the State Penitentiary in Rawlins.
Recidivism amongst convicts is high. In 1933, Grandbouche appeared in Denver. There he conducted
a Ponzi scheme under which victims were induced to invest funds in several companies, "Collateral Bankers, Inc.,"
"American Industrial Loan Company," "Ameican Fidelity," and "Bush & Company," under
the promise of seven percent guaranteed returns. To stave off investors checks were kited between the different companies. Although in Wyoming, Grandbouche may have cheated the
comparatively affluent, in Colorado, he was no respecter of age or modest circumstances. In one instance, he cheated an
eighty-year old maiden lady of her life savings which she had earned as a housekeeper and cook.
Again, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit false pretenses,
confidence games, cheating and swindling and sentenced to six to ten years in the
By the 1940's, Grandbouche had changed his name to "Al Grandbush" and was in Walsenburg, Colorado. There he operated as a stock broker under the name of "Interstate Livestock Company."
Among those who ran into a financial debacle dealing with Grandbuouche was a Texas stockman named Eagle who entered into
a joint venture with Grandbouche. Eagle borrowed money and entrusted it and cattle to Grandbouche. Grandbouche duly reported to Eagle that
the joint venture was making money. The Internal Revenue Service required that taxes be paid on the paper income. To add insult to
injury, when Grandbouche failed to pay Eagle for his share of the profits and Grandbouche's share of the expenses, the Tax Court disallowed the deduction for bad debt because: