Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1882/07/18

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 07/08/1992

Man drowns while fording river
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

One of the Prairie Cattle Company's herds is camping north of here tonight by the falls on Sage Creek. Their new foreman, "Black" Jim Campbell and his crew are a rather somber bunch of men after their experience in crossing the North Platte River several years ago.

They had been holding their herd at the 40 islands ford, east of Fort Laramie, hoping that the river would go down enough so that their cattle would not have to swim. Before the "Circle Dot" herd reached the ford, Jim Flood, their trail boss rode ahead to visit with the Prairie Cattle Company foreman. On reaching the herd he found the foreman was a man he knew by the name of Wade Scholar.

Scholar offered to throw his herd well back from the river and let his crew help the "Circle Dot" herd ford the river.

Flood urged Scholar to join them and send the chuck wagons up to Fort Laramie on the next day where they could cross on the military bridge while they swam both herds across. Flood continued, "If you wait until this river falls, you are liable to have an experience like we had on the South Canadian - lost three days and bogged over a hundred cattle...we can double our outfits and be safely across before noon...Think it over tonight, and have your wagon ready to start with ours."

The next morning when the "Circle Dot" cook, McCann came by with their chuck wagon it was evident that Scholar did not intend to send his wagon with it. McCann started on to Fort Laramie alone, while Flood renewed his efforts to convince Scholar to swim his herd.

It was nearly noon before the "Circle Dot" herd started to ford the river. The remuda of saddle horses in the lead as usual and with the extra help the entire herd was across in about half an hour. All but two of the "Circle Dot" crew who were on the north side of the river then went to Scholar's wagon for dinner.

A short time later two cowboys came across the river saying they were going to swim the other herd across.

This crossing also went smoothly and swiftly as the two crews urged the cattle into the river and across the two islands on their path. After the last of three hundred of the tail-enders were leaving the first island for the second, the men working the rear started to swim the channel. Amid the general hilarity there was a terrified cry for help. In the hushed silence that came over the riotous rider it was obvious that one of them was down in the river. It soon became evident through the confusion that their foreman, Wade Scholar, and his mount were both under the water.

His body was found the next day, Sunday, on a down stream island. With the help of an emigrant train, Scholar was given a Christian burial. Among his papers was a letter from his mother asking him to guard against what had just happened. Campbell then informed the crews that within the last few years two of Scholar's brothers had met a similar fate in the Red River.

(Information source: "The Log of a Cowboy," by Andy Adams.)

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