Ranche' being built near Hat Creek
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
There has been a lot of activity around here lately for this time of year. J.W. Dear's crew has been building a "road ranche" near the Hat Creek Cavalry Outpost and J.C. Abney's wagon train cam through on the 14th.
Dear had been the Post Trader at the Red Cloud Indian agency when it was located on the North Platte River (near Henry, Neb.). He moved with the agency to the White River (Fort Robinson). He is familiar with the Indian ways and reputed to be a "man with nerve of iron, most entertaining and honorable." He is also building "road ranches" at the government Farm north of Fort Laramie, Running Water near present day Lusk), on the Cheyenne River at the mouth of Red Canyon (near present day Edgemont, S.D.), and planning one at Rawhide Buttes.
This building of "Road Ranches" north of Fort Laramie for the accommodations of travelers and stages was the boldest stroke yet taken by anyone, since the route connecting them, directly crossed the Indians main hunting trails. At this time there was not another dwelling located along the routes from Fort Laramie to the mining camps and this area was still treated to the Indians.
Henry Baltz and W.A. Dearie were in charge of Abney's wagon train when it same through. They said that on Jan. 6 Abney, owner of one of the largest livery stables in Cheyenne had advertised for "those who want to start for the Black Hills this morning can be accommodated by Mr. Abney. He has room for a number of passengers, who will be permitted to walk behind his team; passage $5 each. Apply at the Elkhorn livery office." On that morning a terrific blizzard struck but they loaded the wagon with "blacksmith's tools, crackers, apothecary shop, bacon and three Chinamen who were planning to establish a 'washee house' at the mine." Earlier wagons had gone north down Old Woman Creek to Lance Creek etc. Following Jenny's route. Abney's outfit turned east at Hat Creek following "Captain Pollock's Cutoff. "This is the same route Dear is building the Road Ranches along. Abney's wagons traveled the 246 miles and reached Custer on January 18th, only 12 days after leaving Cheyenne.
(Information source: The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes by Agnes Wright Spring.)