Historical Details

Automobile History in Niobrara County

Courtesy of Wyoming Newspaper Project, 03/07/2013

Converse County Herald , July 5, 1906

"Friday" Nelson and John C. Schmidt and family came down from Douglas Tuesday night in an automobile to spend the 4th. This is the first auto that ever appeared in Lusk and of course it scared all the cats, dogs, horses and half the people to death at its first appearance. After that, however, our denizens took to it like a duck does to water, and in order to appease the desire to ride in the horseless vehicle "Friday" had to run it at two bits a ride all yesterday afternoon and all last night till broad daylight this morning. It is needless to say that the chuck-chuck got away with a large and juicy bundle of the "filthy lucre."

Converse County Herald, October 18, 1906

Mrs. Ed Hall received a fine automobile this week, which makes it much more pleasant in going to and from the mines. (Note: In the obituary of Hans Gautschi, it also says: "While he was working for Copper Belt, Edwin Hall Sr., President of Company, had a one-cylinder automobile shipped from Chicago for more efficient transportation between Lusk and the mines. Mr. Gautschi was also in charge of the vehicle and thus became the first person to operate a car in what is now Niobrara County.")

The Lusk Herald, August 6, 1908

Mr. Clark of Harrison, was out to A. Christian's Sunday in his automobile.

The Lusk Herald, August 13, 1908

A man riding a motor cycle was in town yesterday and attracted quite a little attention as this was the first one seen on our streets.

The Lusk Herald, July 7, 1910

Walter Storrie was in town with his new "Everett 30", which seems to be a first class machine. The price is only $1350, and it is fully guaranteed for six months. Walter is now agent for this car and would be glad to hear from anyone who might be interested in automobiles.

The Lusk Herald, June 23, 1910

Rimintons romantic ranch seems to be the Mecca for Sunday excursionists these days. Last Sunday H. C. Snyder took a party out there in his Automobile and they had a most lovely time. Those in the party beside the "shuvver" were Mrs. H. C. Snyder, Misses Nellie and Via Snyder and Messrs Ralph Olinger and Frank Chambers.

The Lusk Herald, March 24, 1910 - Automobile Accident

Mrs. Hans Gautschi met with a painful though not serious accident the other day. She and her husband were returning from the mine to their home in the automobile and going at a 20-mile an hour clip, when one of the axles snapped throwing Mrs. Gautschi out on the ground. She was pretty badly bruised but there were no bones broken, so a speedy recovery is anticipated.

The Lusk Herald, August 18, 1910

Sam Porter has added to his already well equipped establishment, a 40-horse power Velie automobile, which will be at the service of his patrons. As the demand for this style of transportation is increasing, no doubt Sam will add one or more chug wagons to his outfit in the near future.

The Lusk Herald, August 18, 1910

The Co-editors had the pleasure Tuesday evening of testing Mr. J.L. Hall's new Ford automobile, and gladly placed their O-K on its performance. With his wife, his mother and himself we had a delightful ride as far as the "turning-point" and back to town.

The Lusk Herald, March 9, 1911

John Agnew came in Tuesday from Cheyenne with a fine new Apperson Jackrabbit car. He was afraid to drive through the crowded streets of Lusk until he became more proficient in handling it, so he he is learning to drive on the cow trails near Rawhide Buttes. 

The Lusk Herald, March 13, 1913

Signs of spring: the kids have been playing marbles for the last few days and settlers are coming in with a rush. Signs of prosperity: new automobiles are on the way for A. P. Stewart, Harry R. Rogers, Robert C. Ord, Steward Sides and Russell Thorp and no doubt others will feel that an auto is just what they need in their business.

Deuel and Mead have bought a new Ford automobile from Wolfe and Porter and are now ready to "take you."

The Lusk Herald, April 17, 1913

Messrs Halderman and Barber of Edgemont, S.D., sent to Hat Creek last week to get their automobiles which were stalled there during the March blizzard.

Automobile Law

The new auto law went into effect April 15 and as there are now a great many owners in and around Lusk some of the more important requirements of the law are published for their information.

This is an act providing for the registration, identification and regulation of automobiles operated upon the highways of the State, and of the operators of such automobiles and providing a penalty for violation of its provisions.

Every owner of an auto must obtain from the Secretary of State a license to operate his machine and on payment of a fee of $4.00 annually a license will be issued and a number plate made in duplicate will also be furnished. These number plates shall be conspicuously displayed and securely fastened, one in front and one in the rear of every automobile licenses under this act. A duplicate of this number will be issued to owners for a fee of $1.00.

County Assessors will report to the Secretary of State the names of the owners of all automobiles listed by him, before the 4th of June in each year.

It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 15 years to operate a motor vehicle of whatever kind.

A reasonable rate of speed, having regard to traffic on public roads will be observed, and in cities, villages and towns 12 miles is made the maximum rate of speed so that life and limb may not be put in danger. Upon approaching a bridge, a sharp curve or a road intersection or an animal or person outside a village or town the speed shall be slowed down to 8 miles an hour; and in crossing an intersection of streets within a village or town the rate shall be 6 miles an hour.

Each machine shall be provided with good and sufficient brakes, also with a bell horn or other signal during the day time and a lamp or lamps showing from the front and a red lamp in the rear after dark.

The Lusk Herald, May 8, 1913 - Trip to Guernsey

For the purpose of stimulating interest in the Denver-Deadwood automobile route, a party of Lusk good roads boosters - both male and female - left Lusk Sunday morning about 7 o'clock and paid a visit to some of the towns to the south. The first point reached was Frederic, on the line dividing Goshen from Platte county, and from there the party went to Guernsey where they were met by a number of live citizens of that burg. Here the matter of good roads was discussed briefly when it was found that the citizens of Guernsey and the adjacent territory have at present a petition before the board of commissioners of Platte county for the establishment of a permanent road to connect with the old trail running north. As soon as the commissioners designate the route work will be at once started on the new road as all are enthusiastic over the idea of commemorating the Deadwood trail. The voyageurs were entertained at dinner by the Guernseyites and treated right royally, all of which they appreciated to the full. Hartville, Sunrise and the Chicago mines were visited on the return trip and a most enjoyable day experienced by the travelers, who arrived home about 5:30 in the evening.

Those who made the trip were A.P. Stewart who had with him Mrs. Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. D.E. Goddard and Miss Cutler; Wm Delahoyd, in the Rogers car, having Mrs. H.R. Rogers, Mr. and Mrs. Bush Boyd and A.D. Reed; H.C. Snyder with Mrs. Snyder, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Olinger and Baby Agnew; R.C. Ord with Mrs. Ord, Miss Marjory and Messrs W.T. Wolfe and J.W. Agnew and Merlin Barnes having besides Mrs. Barnes, Mr. and Mrs. Martin C. Agnew and Miss Irene Gorsuch.

The Lusk Herald, May 29, 1913 - To Mark the Route

The following letter was received by Mayor Geo. H. Howes and turned over to H.C. Snyder, secretary of the Good Roads Club for answer:

Deadwood, S.D., May 21, 1913

To the Mayor, Lusk, Wyoming

Dear Sir,

A party of Deadwood people are planning a trip to Denver for the first of the coming month (June) and wish if possible to take the following route. From Deadwood we will go through the Black Hills, to Hot Springs and Edgemont and from there our plan is to strike across to Lusk. In this connection will you kindly tell me what sort of roads we will be liable to encounter in this section at this time of the year. If there is a good road from Edgemont to Lusk and from Lusk to Guernsey I would be greatly obliged if you would tell me how it runs.

Topographically, this route is the best, because it follows the higher ground, thus avoiding river and dry run crossings which at this time of the years are anything but pleasant.

The information you will give us will go on record with the Lawrence County Automobile Club, which organization in the future some time hopes to plot and build a good road into the Hills, in conjunction with similar clubs in the Hills country. Whatever road we use on this trip we hope to mark as we traverse it, thus arriving at some permanent plotting of a route.

Thanking you I advance for a prompt reply, I am

Very truly yours,

W.L. Ogden, Ass't Sec'y

Deadwood Business Club

Mr. Snyder in his reply gave all the necessary information as to the road from Edgemont to Lusk and as far south as Guernsey and also assured Mr. Ogden that a pilot car would leave Lusk to meet their car half-way from Edgemont or would go all the way to Edgemont, if they could furnish the date far enough ahead when they would leave Edgemont. He also wrote to Mr. Wyatt, secretary of the Edgemont Good Roads Club, suggesting to him that a car accompany the Deadwood car part of the way, until they met the car from Lusk. After they reach Lusk John W. Agnew has agreed to pilot them south and put them on the Guernsey road. Mr. Snyder has also written the Guernsey good roads enthusiasts announcing the contemplated trip and this will insure a warm reception to the deadwood travelers with proper routing to Wheatland, from which place the road runs right into Cheyenne and thence to Denver.

With the route properly marked it will be no trouble for automobilists to make the trip from Denver to Deadwood, and vice versa, as the roads are good practically all the way. Lusk will thus be permanently placed on the automobile map and the old Denver-Deadwood trail will be commemorated by being established as a through trunk automobile highway.

The Lusk Herald, August 7, 1913

Andrew Christian went to Alliance, Nebr., last week and came home with a new Ford automobile and his is having lots of fun now riding around.

The Lusk Herald, October 16, 1913

Another Overland car has arrived in these parts and R. V. Pfister is the happy owner. Next year's investments in automobiles will bring down the average in Wyoming, which at present is said to be one car for every six-and-a-half families.

The Lusk Herald

March 17, 1932

Highway 85 caravan hit Lusk on March 21, 1932

A large caravan of autos, carrying boosters from several of the North Black Hills towns, as well as Newcastle, will arrive in Lusk, March 21, on their way to Denver, in the interest of Highway 85. At Lusk the caravan will be joined by several cars and the procession will go to Torrington, where luncheon and a noon meeting will be held.

The caravan will arrive in Cheyenne in time for a dinner and meeting and proceed on to Denver Tuesday morning, where the members will call on F. G. Bonfils of the Denver Post and on the editor of the Denver News.

The caravan idea was originated at a meeting last week in Newcastle, where a Highway 85 Association was organized. Frank A. Barrett of Lusk was elected president and will be in charge of the meeting enroute. R. I. Olinger of Lusk is secretary of the association and will also make the trip along with about ten cars from Lusk.

The Lusk Herald

July 9, 1986

Horseless carriage appears on Lusk streets in 1906

Hans Gautshi drove the first horseless carriage, a 1905 Cadillac, down the streets of Lusk in 1906. Edwin Hall, Sr., president and manager of the Copper Belt Mines, shipped it out from Chicago for more efficient transportation of men working the Rawhide Buttes mines. Because Mr. Gautshi was mechanically minded, the Cadillac was entrusted to his care. Harry Snyder thrilled to the novelty of the first ride - out to the present location of the stockyards and back.

This one-cylinder wonder had no top and no windshield, but it could make at least 25 miles per hour if going down hill. The crank was on the side. A wise operator put his thumb on the same side of the crank as his fingers. If the engine kicked, there was no sprained or broken arm. No dashboard or display of dashboard gadgets bothered the driver of those early cars. If Mr. Gautshi wanted lights, he just climbed out and lit the five kerosene lamps on both ends. If he wanted to check the gasoline supply, he asked everyone to get out of the front seat; he removed the cushion and gas tank cap, stuck a measuring stick inside the tank. A band gear shift operated the car.

Jerd Lorenzen ran the bulk plant for the Continental Oil Company and also kept a few barrels of gasoline on hand. The Cadillac was always filled when in town. But once it ran out, Mr. Gautschi, a motorist adverse to walking even in those days emptied the kerosene lamps into the gas tank. The engine was warm and started smoking, but with more power burning kerosene than gasoline. The miners piled in when the Cadillac started to Lusk. Going up hill they would jump out and push, and then hop back in before the car picked up speed on the down grade. This way they would cover the 20 miles to town in a record 58 minutes.

After several years Mr. Hall sold the Cadillac to Anton Bruch, who used it for travel for two years, even going as far as Sturgis, So. Dak. He made a new radiator out of galvanized iron. There was no water pump. When the water got hot, it rose. As it cooled by air passing through the radiator, it was forced back through the engine by other hot water rising. Only the skilled would remove the radiator cap without getting scalded by cascading steam when water needed to be replaced. Here the one-cylinder was a great help, as it did not heat as fast as a six or eight. This was known as a "thermo-syphon" cooling system.

Motor still in use

Mr. Bruch and his sons converted the Cadillac into a well drilling rig. It was still running in June, 1961, when Freddie Bruegger and Johnnie Bruch drilled a well at Keeline. If it were still an automobile, it could run in the 75th anniversary parade.

By 1908 several people owned automobiles of different kinds - Kissell automobiles, Apperson, known as Jack Rabbits, Reo, and White steamers. In 1909 Mr. Gautschi acquired a Studebaker with four speeds ahead. He remembers a record trip to Cheyenne, when he left Lusk at 6:00 a.m. and got to Cheyenne by 9:00 p.m. The back of the car was loaded with 2 by 6's, as it was necessary for the motorist of those days to build his own bridges across creeks. He would carefully lay the timbers, drive over them, pick them up and put them back in the car, and go happily on. Fifteen hours to Cheyenne was making record time.

No Licenses were required. The polite motorist always stopped and let the teams get out of the way, instead of scaring them and causing a run-away. Horses did not take kindly to the clattering roar of the noisy buggies. Gautshi recalls that once he was coming home from Sunrise, when he saw blankets spread out under the trees on Muskrat creek. Charles Partridge, an old-time stockman, had his newly bought car parked, and was busily working. Mr. Gautschi stopped to see what was the matter and if he could help.

Mr. Partridge said nothing was the matter. The instruction book that came with his automobile said clean the spark plugs at 500 miles. This was the place where he had reached 500 miles. He was following instructions. He didn't need any help.

The Lusk Herald

July 9, 1986

Licensing of cars started in 1913

In the 1913 session, the Wyoming Legislature passed a new law regarding automobiles. Drivers had to be 15 years old. The license for the automobile could be secured from the Secretary of State for $4 plus $1 for a duplicate number for the front bumper. A red lamp was required in the rear. A reasonable speed was required, with a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour in towns.

A fatal automobile accident occurred in Niobrara County in April of 1917. John W. Norton was killed when his car overturned. It is supposed that he was driving down hill at a fairly good gait when he endeavored to get out of a rut and turned his steering wheel too sharply.

The first highway signs were placed on the roads in 1920. The first patrolmen were also on duty that year.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Gautschi, Hans (05/14/1883 - 04/26/1966) View Record
Obituary Chambers, Frank (10/01/1887 - 09/23/1979) View Record
Obituary Christian, Andrew (07/26/1882 - 03/04/1974) View Record
Obituary Olinger, Ralph (05/20/1885 - 02/06/1965) View Record
Obituary Snyder, Harry (06/24/1861 - 11/23/1916) View Record
Obituary Thorp, Russell (07/23/1877 - 10/26/1968) View Record
Obituary Thorp, Russell (08/07/1927 - 10/27/1977) View Record
Obituary Barnes, Merlin (02/25/1882 - 07/05/1953) View Record
Obituary Bruch, Anton (11/30/1841 - 10/31/1939) View Record
Obituary Storrie, Walter (05/06/1891 - 07/16/1957) View Record
Obituary Thorp, Russell (10/22/1844 - 09/03/1898) View Record
Obituary Rogers, Robert (04/06/1860 - 06/06/1930) View Record
Obituary Agnew, John (03/03/1874 - 09/30/1965) View Record