Tallmadge and Buntin
Land Company

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page, Daniel C. Buntin and E. R. Buntin.

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Table of Contents
About This Site

Promotional Postcard, Tallmadge & Buntin Land Co., Laramie Valley Municipal Irrigation District.

With the passage of the Desert Land Act, otherwise known as the Carey Act in 1894, devlopers throughout the state began the promotion of large scale irrigation and land sale projects. The Carey Act was named after its author, Wyoming Senator Joseph M. Carey. Many of today's cities such as Cody, Powell, and Wheatland are as a result of those projects. In most instances, the projects might be deemed to have been a success. The City's were founded, the settlers came, lots were sold and the cities became prosperous. Almost uniformly, however, the private developers such as William F. Cody, the developer of Cody, and the Wyoming Improvement Company, the developer of Wheatland lost money. One project which was less than successful on all accounts was that of the Tallmadge & Buntin Land Company and its attempts to develope the area around Bosler.

Laramie River and Irrigation Ditches, Tallmadge & Buntin Land Co., 1908.

The Carey Act provided that a million acres of federal land would be conveyed to certain western states which could, in turn, convey 160 acre parcels to individuals upon the completion of satisfactory irrigation which had been approved by the state engineer. The cost of providing the irrigation would be assessable against the parcels as a first lien. Thus, over time, private companies organized for the purpose of constructing the irrigation systems would be reimbursed for the cost of construction and the companies would then make money from the sale of the water. In order to finance the construction, bonds secured by the assessments could be sold and the bonds paid back from the moneys received from the assessments. Making money to pay back the cost of providing the irrigation was dependent upon enough persons buying from the state the 160 acres parcels at fifty cents an acre and agreeing to pay the assessments.

Laramie Development Company Irrigation Ditch, approx. 1910

Irrigation in Albany County began in 1879 with the formation of the Pioneer Canal Company. Commencing about 1908, The Tallmadge and Buntin Land Company controled by Daniel C. Buntin of Nashville, Tennessee and E. R. Buntin of Chicago, began the promotion of small farms which would be sold to potential farmers from the Midwest. Financing was obtained from a Nashville bank controlled by Buntin's father-in-law. Thus, success was dependent upon promotion of applications for Carey Act lands. If insufficient land were sold, or if purchasers subsequently defaulted, there would be inadequate cash to pay the bonds. The State assumed no obligation to guarantee the bonds.

Tallmadge and Buntin Land Company promotional postcard, approx. 1908.

Note mispelling, "Tallmage." Tallmadge and Buntin's promotion promised bounteous crops produced through irrigation. Promotional postcards were circulated throughout the midwest and excursion trains brought in the potential buyers. Such promotions were no different than that carried out promoting other parts of the state. Thus, as an example, the Eden Irrigation and Land Company was formed in 1907 for the purpose of developing some 800,000 acres north of Rock Springs. It advertised in national magazines:

----150,000 ACRES----50 CENTS PER ACRE----



Other promotional material for Eden Valley compared climatic conditions as approaching "hot house conditions to a remarkable degree." The state, of course, did not fully protect the investment. Bonds used to finance the project defaulted in 1927.

Promotional Postcard, displaying oat crop, Tallmadge and Buntin Co.

Buyers were promised that fortunes could be made from the farms. Thus, Professor Larson noted that Tallmadge and Buntin excursionists came singing:

"The Excursion train came around the bend,
Goodby, my lover, goodbye.
All loaded down with Kansas men,
Goodby, my lover, goodbye.
We're going west to buy some land,
Goodby, my lover, goodbye.
They say they have water and don't need rain,
Goodby, my lover, goodbye.
They'll make all rich who ride this train,
We'll all buy land and settle down,
Goodby, my lover, goodbye"

Bosler 18 miles north of Laramie was promoted as a "banana belt." Considering Bosler's elevation of 7,080 feet above sea level, the claim might be regarded as somewhat exaggerated. In one instance, disappointed settlers arrived in the midst of a raging blizzard. Skeptics, such as the editor of the Lander Mountaineer, derided the claims suggesting that the company might wish to plant figs, dates, and peanuts.

Promotional Postcard, Tallmadge and Buntin Company

Prior to the Albany County projects, Buntin had made his reputation as the developer of the "Arcade" in Nashville in 1902. The Arcade was a two-story enclosed shopping mall inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan, Italy. It is still in operation. Buntin's professional training, however, was as a lawyer, although he never practiced law. Buntin was also involved in real estate for the Sante Fe Railroad near Amarillo. Previously Buntin and E. R. Tallmadge were partners in the acquisition and sale of timber options in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia. In 1909, allegations were made in several lawsuits in Illinois that the Canadian acreage and timber cruises were fraudulently exaggerated.

Tallmadge and Buntin Land Company exhibit at Albany County Fair, 1908

In 1910 there was a drought. Buntin's company did not have a primary allocation of water, but a secondary allocation of flood water which was to be funnelled through Sodergreen Lake to a reservoir where it would be stored. Thus, with the drought there was inadequate water for all of Buntin's projects. Few of the settlers brought in by Tallmadge and Buntin remained.

Tallmadge and Buntin Land Company, approx. 1910

Buntin continued his interest in irrigation and in 1914 applied for permission to construct an additional reservoir. Even with an extension of time, construction never commenced. With $1,250,000 owed to his father-in-law's bank and a constant need to infuse more money in the project for maintenance when moneys from the assessments were short, Buntin must have felt like the man who went for a ride on the back of a tiger. About 1917, Buntin moved from Chicago, where he was then living, to Laramie inorder to personally manage the situation. In 1921, he failed to pay taxes due on some of his lands. Assessments for irrigation were unpaid, indeed, some were owed as far back as 1905. In early 1922, Buntin returned to his family home in Nashville. On Wednesday, January 18, 1922, shortly after 1:00 in the afternoon, Daniel Buntin, age 48, committed suicide. His death was attributed to despondency over an "incurable malady."

But the tragedy did not end. Buntin's only son, Thomas, became increasingly despondent and turned to alcohol. He was dependent upon his grandfather for his employment as the manager of an insurance agency owned by the grandfather and upon his mother for a monthly allowance. He took out two $25,000 term life insurance policies. Tom Buntin's problem was summed up by Grafton Green of the Tennessee Supreme Court:

Young Buntin * * * knew how his father's life had been ended and frequently talked about it, justifying his father's act. It seems that the young man occupied the room in which his father had committed suicide and that there was a hole in the wall made by the bullet that killed his father. This hole was pointed out at times by young Buntin to visitors in his home.
* * *[T]he young man talked to others about committing suicide and ending his troubles. This talk, while not taken seriously by some of the witnesses, seems to have impressed others. Buntin's wife said that she woke up in the night on one occasion, found him up in the room with a pistol in his hand, and took it away from him after a struggle, during which the pistol was discharged. Another witness noticed a pistol in Buntin's office when the latter was talking about suicide and this witness made Buntin give him the pistol. Dr. Burch, who was Buntin's friend as well as his physician, was apprehensive that the young man would kill himself and took precautions accordingly on at least one occasion.

On September 24, 1934, Tom Buntin left his wife with $1.50, got in his car at his usual time to proceed to his office in Nashville. He dropped his car off for repairs. The car was never picked up. As far as was known the younger Buntin had little money with him. On September 26, Tom Buntin's uncle and grandfather each received mail from St. Louis which contained a typewritten will signed by Tom Buntin. Shortly thereafter it was discovered that the insurance agency was insolvent and in debt by $70,000.00. Investigations in St. Louis failed to find any sign of Tom. Six weeks later a stenographer formerly employed by Tom Buntin mysteriously disappeared. Even though the stenographer had available some $37,000.00, no calls upon the funds were ever made. A friend of Tom's, although not positive, thought he may have had seen young Buntin in the doorway of a hotel lobby in Lima, Peru. The friend attempted to follow the man, but the man was lost in the street. Further investigation in Lima found a taxi driver, a bartender, and a doorman each of whom allegedly recognized a photograph of young Buntin as a person that each had served. Otherwise, the investigation proved fruitless. The insurance company upon which the two policies had been issued spent upward to $100,000.00 investigating the disappearance of young Tom Buntin without success. After seven years in 1941, a Tennessee court determined that Buntin, more likely than not, had committed suicide and that the disappearance of the stenographer was coincidental.

Twelve years later and 19 years following the disappearance of Tom Buntin, a young investigative reporter for The Nashville Tennessean solved the mystery. Tom Buntin was found in Beaumont, Texas, living under an assumed name and working as a salesman. Thomas C. Buntin died in the 1960's still living under his assumed name. His mother, the widow of Daniel C. Buntin, died in 1971 at age 93.

Stacking alfala harvest, Tallmadge and Buntin Land Co. Ranch, 1908

The device to the right of the alfalfa pile is a Mormon haystacker. In front of the stack is a hay rake. For more on haystackers and hayrakes, see next page. For more information as to Buntin see Laramie Rivers Co. v. Watson, 69 Wyo. 333, 241 P. 2d 1080 (1952); Riedesel v. Towne, 66 Wyo. 160, 206 P. 2d 747 (1949); Caldwell v. Roach, 44 Wyo. 319, 12 P. 2d 376 (1932); New York Life Ins. Co. v. Nashville Trust Co., 178 Tenn. 437, 159 S. W. 2d 2d 81 (1942); New York Life Ins. Co. v. Nashville Trust Co., 200 Tenn 513, 292 S.W. 2d 749 (1956).

It should not be taken that Wyoming was the only area in which there were failed agricultural projects. In New Mexico a B. H. Tallmadge appeared upon the scene promising to bring prosperity to the area around Portales through irrigation. He ultimately was indicted for fraud and departed the scene. In Colorado, B. H. Tallmadge began the promotion of irrigated farm sites east of Pueblo and again disappeared. In Wisconsin in 1915, B. H. Tallmadge again appeared promoting a drainage project which would make the area an onion capital. The promotion was carried out with promotional post cards showing bounteous crops of onions, pamphlets, and excursion tours. Tallmadge again disappeared from the scene with the project reverting back to a marsh. There are some indications that E. R. Tallmadge may have ended up in Canada.

Next page: dry farming.