Big Horn Basin


From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: Powell, John Wesley Powell, the Reclamation Act of 1902.

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Table of Contents
About This Site

Powell, Wyoming, approx. 1909.

In the next photo, The building on the left with the storage barn behind it is the Powell Mercantile Company organized in 1909 by C. P. MacGlashan (1869-1917). MacGlashan previously operated a store at Marquette. MacGlashan remained in the depicted building only for a short time. In June, 1909, the Powell Mercantile moved to a larger building depicted on the next page.

Powell, Wyoming, 1909.

The building in the center of the above photo is the First State Bank of Powell also organized in 1909. In June, the bank announced plans to move also to a new building depicted above. In 1914, the bank was reorganized as the Powell National Bank. The rapid growth of the town is illustrated through the series of photos on this page.

First State Bank, approx. 1912.

The town was incorporated in 1909 and became a part of newly-formed Park County upon its formation in 1911. By 1919, most the the claims by settlers had been proven up and conveyances of farms on the Powell Flats north and west of the town had been completed.

Powell, Wyoming, 1912.

On the left in the above photo is the Wyoming Hotel constructed in 1911. Note the vacant lots between the hotel and the two story building further down the street.

Powell, Wyoming Hotel, approx. 1911.

Charles C. Slack of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was an itinerent photographer and travelling saleman. During the period of about 1909 until about 1916, he, among other things, made and sold postcards in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Kansas, Montana, and Northwest Wyoming. He made among other "exaggeration postcards" featuring giant vegetables on the back of wagons, trolley cars in small towns and as depicted in the next photo aeroplanes flying above small towns such as Powell.

Powell, Wyoming, approx. 1911.

The aeroplane was superimposed by Slack in the above photo. Compare the aeroplane with the same plane fying over Kenneth, Minnesota.

Aeroplane over Kenneth, Minneth, Minnesota..

Indeed, it was not, as indicated in the next image of the Powell Tribune, until approximately another ten years later that an aeroplane made an appearance over Powell.

Headlines, Powell Tribune, August 5, 1921.

The aeroplane was on its way to Yellowstone and landed in Albert Beckman's alfalfa field north of town. There was only one difficulty with landing in the Alfalfa field. The irrigation made the ground soft which made a take-off difficult. The Tribune explained:

The aeroplane experienced some difficulty in making an ascent from the freshly irrigated alfalfa field. For a time it seemed that the machine would not be able to get under headway, but by manuevering all over the field suffient momentum was finally gained to get clear of the ground, when it again sailed beautifully over the city and made a last landing for the night in the northwest part of the townsite, where the ground was found to be dry and level.

In the field, the aeroplane's owners gave rides in the machine. They charged one dallar a minute for the thrills. One of those who ventured up into the air was Harry Barrows of the First National Bank who flew to Burlington to pick up his wife and fly back. On the return trip, the pilot lost his bearings and deviated from the route by some five miles. The trip, one way, took thirty minuts. As a result, however, the Tribune noted was that the Barrows had "the honor of being the first passengers ever to take the trip from the Shoshone to the Greybull valleys by aeroplane." The Tribune summed up:

Mr. Brooks proved a daring pilot. Some of the air stunts he performed over the heads of the Powell people were indeed thrilling to the onlookers, and much more so to the passengers he carried with him. No mishaps were experienced by the birdmen while here, and they departed about 3 o'clock Sunday afternoon for the west, making a day's top at Cody, then pursuing thir way through the Yellowstone Park.

By the early 1920's, Slack had moved to Chicago where he was apparently a travelling radio salesman.

Unlike major portions of Wyoming which were dependent upon cattle and sheep, with irrigation the Bighorn Basin became a center of traditional agriculture. The major crops were beans, sugar beets, oats, and alfalfa. By 1916, Powell acquired an alfalfa mill and a grain elevator.

Powell, Alfalfa Mill. Note the air vents on the roof.

An alfalfa mill normally needs to service about 6,000 acres of alfalfa. The purpose of the mill is to dry the alfafa and then mill it into a powder which is then shipped out in 100 lb. sacks to be used as a highly nutritious animal feed. A writer for Mill and Grain News, June 27, 1916, p. 17, facitiously described the typical western alfalfa mill:

Mills are usually located in irrigated sections where the climate is dry and the wind has no speed limit. I remember my first experience with one of those "70-mile zephyrs." A new pearl gray hat went bounding over the barbed wire fence with myself in hot pursuit. After a cross-country sprint of 15 minute, imagine my disgust and chagrin to find that the last two miles I had been chasing a jaqk rabbit. My hat later was picked up on the Mexican border. But, to return to a little town where we find the Western alfalfa mill - there are no traces to bask under during the day time and no moving pictures to entertain you at night. The mill building is of corrugated iron construction: an artesian well 700 or 800 feet in depth pumps water into the power plant. The hay-receiving yard has carriers 400 feet long running one way, and another at right angles running 200 feet, allowing a loose stack of hay of average width, 1,200 feet long, stacked on either side of the carrier. This hay is all delivered loose on hay racks, each rack carrying from one to two tons. Sometimes as many as 45 farmers and 45 teams and racks are in the yards In the early morning, from different fields. At noontime the yard is deserted, as the farmers are all home getting ready for the afternoon delivery. They return about 3 p. m. and as the sun goes down we see the teams and farmers homeward bound with their rattling racks. This hay has been previously bought 'by field man or manager, who makes a contract with the farmer covering his entire growth of four cuttings, or one cutting at a time, as the case may be. The all-important question with the farmer is the distance he will have to haul the hay to the mill, and six miles is about the maximum. All hay is sold on grade, on basis of delivery and inspection at the mill. After the hay is graded the yard boss has the farmer stack the choice hay by one carrier, the No. 1 in another stack and the No. 2 also by itself.
At times I have been asked by different buyers of meal in the East why we did not build storage for our hay and thus eliminate the shut-downs occasioned by rains and snow. The bulkiness of loose hay practically makes such an arrangement impossible. A ton of hay pitched alongside of a carrier occupies 1,200 cubic feet, or 10 times the space occupied by the same quantity of meal after it is sacked and packed in 100-lb. bags. A hay shed 250 feet long by 40 feet wide, with a carrier running through the center, stores only enough hay for one 10-hour shift, and this is about the extent of the hay storage in any of the Western mills. Enough wagons are necessary to deliver 1,000 tons of hay to make a line approximately six miles long. I make these comparisons so you may better appreciate the bulkiness of our raw material and the handicaps under which we operate in the fields in the West.
From a transportation standpoint, some of our mills are located on branch railroads and during part of the year we have only tri-weekly service. However, geographically the Western mills are located so as to permit of competitive distribution of their products to all the feed manufacturing centers of the United States.

Other writers have described the aroma downwind of the mill as sweet, not unpleasant, similar to cilantro. Although a modern writer described the aroma as being akin to that of "pot." The employees would at the end of the day be covered with a green dust.

The alfalfa mill used two gasoline engines which in turn powered generators providing electricity to run the grinders. electrical service did not come to Powell until 1922. The Powell Tribune from 1916 onwards regularly reported that electical service was only a matter of several months away. Businesses such as the Alpha Theater and later the Lyric, as did the alfafa mill relied on their own electrical generators. The mill served farms as far away as Garland.

Powell, planting, approx. 1932

Muic this page inspired by the reference to the passengers in the aeroplane as "birdmen" courtesy Horse Creek Cowboy.

Next page: Powell continued, Earl Durand.