Jackson Photos

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: Formation of Jackson and Teton County.



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Welcoming Sign, 1930's

Jackson, until comparatively recently, has remained a small isolated town, primarily devoted to agriculture. In recent years a major change has overtaken the town and the valley.

The following three photos taken from the same location illustrate the comparitively modest grwoth of the town over almost fifty years. Similar series of photos taken from other locations are on subsequent pages.


Jackson looking Southeast, 1907

The two-story building is the "Clubhouse" constructed about 1897 and still in existence on the eastside of the Square.


Jackson, looking southeast. Photo by William P. Sanborn, 1940.

The roof of the Clubhouse is in the center of the photo. On the right of the photo appears the Wort Hotel has been constructed.


Jackson, looking southeast, approx. 1950.

Trees planted in the Square now obstruct views of some of the buildings.

The isolation of Jackson Hole was noted by Owen Wister who summered in the Hole near Moose. Wister in his novel The Virginian wrote:

Somewhere at the eastern base of the Tetons did those hoofprints disappear into a mountain sanctuary where many crooked paths have led. He that took another man's possessions, or he that took another man's life, could always run here if the law or popular justice were too hot at his heels. Steep ranges and forests walled him in from the world on all four sides, almost without a break; and every entrance lay through intricate solitudes. Snake River came into the place through canyons and mournful pines and marshes, to the north, and went out at the south between formidable chasms. Every tributary to this stream rose among high peaks and ridges, and descended into the valley by well-nigh impenetrable courses: Pacific Creek from Two Ocean Pass, Buffalo Fork from no pass at all, Black Rock from the To-wo-ge-tee Pass--all these, and many more, were the waters of loneliness, among whose thousand hiding-places it was easy to be lost. Down in the bottom was a spread of level land, broad and beautiful, with the blue and silver Tetons rising from its chain of lakes to the west, and other heights presiding over its other sides. And up and down and in and out of this hollow square of mountains, where waters plentifully flowed, and game and nature' pasture abounded, there skulked a nomadic and distrustful population. This in due time built cabins, took wives, begot children, and came to speak of itself as "The honest settlers of Jackson's Hole." It is a commodious title, and doubtless to-day more accurate than it was once.

Many call Jackson "Jackson Hole." The "Hole" is a valley lying to the north of the town. The town is not "Jackson Hole." The area was settled in the 1890's and is named after a partner in the Ashley Fur Company, David Jackson. The isolation of the valley as observed by Wister may have been accurate. In 1895, the Indian Agent at Fort Hall wrote his superior in Washington City of the reputation of Jackson's Hole, "There are a few good citizens ranching in the Jackson Hole country, the majority of the citizens being men 'who have left their country for their country's good,' the Jackson Hole country being recognized in this country as the place of refuge for outlaws of every description from Wyoming, Idaho, and adjacent States."

Because of its isolation, Teton County, of which Jackson is the county seat, was formed out of Lincoln County in 1921 Notwithstanding that the area embraced by the new county failed to meet either population or valuation requirements for the formation of a county it was organized on January 1, 1923. It would be another seven years before the new county had a proper courthouse. Undoubtedly the expense of running the county and the sparcity of tax collections may have contributed to the delay.


Teton County Courthouse, approx. 1940

The county was finally organized on January 1, 1923. Prior to that date there had been an organization on april 28, 1921, but the legality of the formation of the counnty as previously noted had been challenged in court. The earlier organization meeting had designated Jackson as the County seat. It was not until 1930 that the above depicted budilding at 160 S. Cache became the courthouse.


Teton County Courthouse, approx. 1950

The county moved to its new much bigger and glorious courthouse at 180 S. King in 1968. The old courthouse is now privately owned.

The reason for the formation of the County was explained by Chief Justice Potter in State ex rel. Budge v. Snyder, 31 Wyo. 333, 225 P. 1102 (1924), an appeal challanging the formation of the County:

The fact is, as we judicially know, that the territory within the boundaries of Teton county is surrounded on all sides by high mountain ranges, without railroad communication with the county seat of the parent county, except by wagon road over a mountain pass about 28 miles to a railroad station in Idaho more than 100 miles from said county seat. Indeed, there was not then and is not now any railroad within said boundaries. And for many months during each year it was very difficult, and at times practically impossible, for the people of that area to reach the county seat of the county to which they then belonged, and the expense was usually too great for a trip upon ordinary business.


Stage Station, Teton Pass, approx. 1900.

In actuality, the round trip in the 1920's to the Lincoln County seat of Kemmerer took three days. Not withstanding the pending appeal, the Couny was duly organized on January 1, 1923

1917 advertisement for the Victor-Jackson Stage Line

As indicated by the 1917 advertisement to the right, the stage took 9 1/2 hours to go the 28 mies. The fare to Victor was $2.50. As discussed on the next page, regular passenger stage service in the winter was problematical. The May 18, 1919 Jackson's Hole Courier noted, as an example, that only the prior Monday was the stage and two freight teams able to cross the "hill" for the first time. The road was noted as being in bad condition. As noted in the advertisement, a separate stage line ran northward to Moran. It too continued to run until the 1920's.

Not withstanding that the Valley and Teton Pass had been traversed by early trappers including John Colter, John Hoback and William Sublette, as well as the 1872 Hayden Expedition, no wagons were brought through the pass until 1885 when R. E. Miller brought one across.

As a practical matter, the only access by wagon to Jackson was by way of Idaho over the daunting Teton Pass. Access using a motorcar was simply was not tried. Although the Salt Lake Herald, July 29, 1909, reported on the hope that an auto road would be opened that year, it apparently was not to be. An automobile made it to Jackson Hole that year from the north through Yellowstone Park. However automobiles were not legally permitted in the park. The park would not allow the vehicle to be towed through the park. Instead they required it to be placed on a wagon and taken through. It was not until July 22, 1914, that Mr. and Mrs. Ed Burton of Pocatello, Idaho, driving a Huppmobile made it over Teton Pass into the valley unassisted. Locals, according to the Jackson Courier, marveled that a Huppmobile was able to make the grade over Teton Pass.

Bringing in freight was an interesting proposition. Indeed, one early settler allegedly ordered a piano from a mail order house. The piano in due course arrived via train at Victor, Idaho. It was then discovered that the wagon with the piano could not make it up the steep grades of Teton Pass. It was necessary to build a special cart and bring the piano in by way of an old Indian trail.


The road over Teton Pass to Victor, Idaho, 1920's

The alternative to Teton Pass, would be to attempt the crossing to Pinedale in Sublette County through Hoback Canyon and then to Kemmerer.

. .
Left, New Road through Hoback Canyon, approx. 1922
Right, Freight wagon, Teton Pass, 1920's.

Although the Hoback Canyon had been used for access to Jackson Hole since the Hunt Party came through in 1811 guided by John Hoback. In 1832, trappers, part of Milton Sublette's brigade, attempted to use the canyon on their return to St. Louis from Pierre's Hole. They were attacked by Blackfeet. Two, Joseph More from Boston, apparently a deserter from Nathaniel Wyeth's company, and a man named Foy from Mississippi were killed and their bodies left in the Canyon. A third, Alfred K Stephens of St. Louis was wounded. He died five days later. Years later, in a side canyon, an early forest ranger, Al Austin, found the remains of a flint lock rifle manufactured in London in 1776.

Austin was one of the early settlers in Jackson arriving about 1900. He constructed the first cabin on Bryan Flat. Prior to 1913, the trail through Hoback Canyon was not passable by wagon. A pack train of mules was required. Indeed, even mules had problems. In 1878, William Henry Jackson came through the canyon and one of his mules slipped down the treacherous slope 200 feet into the river, without, however, apparent harm.

In 1913, the State Engineer noted that the forestry service was expending $6,000.00 to open the trail through the canyon for automobiles and wagons. In 1915, Evanston lawyer Payson W. Spaulding made it into the valley with an automobile by way of Hoback Canyon. However, in reality, the road was not ready for another seven years. The Kemmerer Camera, August 20, 1919, after proclaiming that the best way to get to Yellowstone by automobile was through Jackson, noted that if those crossing by way of Teton Pass had trouple they could "get one of the construction teams engaged on road work to help them out" Care needed to be taken by those whose vehicles were not equipped with vacuum feed as they sometimes have a difficult time making the summit. The ferry across Snake River only cost $1.50 for a car. Readers who proposed to go by way of Hoback Canyon were reassured that while some cars were fording the Hoback River, teams were available at the Van Vleck ranch for a charge of $10.00 per car for pulling through five fords.

In 1922, the American Automobile Association noted that the road was expected to be open by July. On July 13, 1922, the new road was dedicated by Governor Robert D. Carey and Congressman F. W. Mondell. the opening was the cause of a five day day celebration, two days were spent celebrating at Kemmer, followed by two days at Big Piney including a rodeo and finally a day at Pinedale including a baseball game between Kemmerer and Jackson. Kemmerer won. The Mary Miles Minton Company filmed part of the opening for its new movie "Cowboy and the Lady" in which many locals took part. Indirectly the movie ultimately led to the construction of Bruce Porter's Teton Theater discussed on a subsequent page.

The movie was the first of a number of movies which were filmed in Jackson Hole including "Spencer's Mountain," "Shane," and "Every Which Way But Loose." With the film however, Miss Minton, a rival of Mary Pickford in popularity, began a streak of bad luck. While filming a scene in Jackson, she was thrown from her horse and severely injured. She managed to get her foot loose from the stirrup. This was credited for saving her life. After filming was over, she was in a train wreck and again injured. Before filming began, her director William Desmond Taylor was murdered. Love letters from Miss Minton to Taylor, thirty years her senior, were found. The crime was unsolved, but her reputation was ruined. As late as 1936 a grand jury was attempting to link her to the murder. In 1970, a major televiion network also was linking her to the murder. Paramount failed to renew her contract. In the 1930's a large portion of her fortune was embezzled by her broker. In 1981 when she was described as a "frail old woman," she was severerly beaten in a robbery of her home.

Not withstanding the opening of the road, in the Winter Jackson remained isolated.. In the springtime, avalanches, the "White Death" of the Rockies, would sweep down the slope and cross the road. Once the snows of winter came, the road through Hoback Canyon would be closed until spring.


Hoback Canyon, 1930's.

Music this page:

When Its Springtime in the Rockies

The twilight shadows deepen into night, dear
The city lights are gleaming o'er the snow
I sit alone beside the cheery fire dear
I'm dreaming dreams from out the long ago
I fancy it is springtime in the mountain
The flowers with their colors are aflame
And ev'ry day I hear you softly saying
"I'll wait until the springtime comes again"

When it's springtime in the rockies
I am coming back to you
Little sweetheart of the mountains
With your bonny eyes of blue
Once again I'll say "I love you"
While the birds sing all the day
When it's springtime in the rockies
In the rockies, far away

When it's springtime in the rockies
I am coming back to you
Little sweetheart of the mountains
With your bonny eyes of blue
Once again I'll say "I love you"
While the birds sing all the day
When it's springtime in the rockies
In the rockies, far away

I've kept your image guarded in my heart, dear
I've kept my love for you, as pure as dew
I'm longing for the time when I shall come, dear
Back to that dear, old western home and you
I fancy it is springtime in the mountains
The maple leaves in first sky-green appear
I hear you softly say, my queen of Maytime
"This springtime you have come to meet me here"

When it's springtime in the rockies
I am coming back to you
Little sweetheart of the mountains
With your bonny eyes of blue
Once again I'll say "I love you"
While the birds sing all the day
When it's springtime in the rockies
In the rockies, far away

Next Page: Jackson continued.