Historical Details

Sullivan, Phillip Fred

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 05/28/1936

Golden Jubilee Edition

By John L. Standish

One of the first pioneers of Niobrara county I met when I first arrived in Lusk was Fred Sullivan, veteran stage-coach driver and rancher, who retraced the old Cheyenne-Deadwood stage coach line for the representatives of The Herald, from a point west of the George Lathrop monument to the site of the old stage barn, in the old settlement of Silver Cliff, which is the present city of Lusk.

Mr. Sullivan came to Wyoming in 1870 from Canton, S.D., where he first located in the “hills,” and later worked on some of the early-day cattle ranches. His first stage coach driving days were in South Dakota in 1874, but the following year, he went to Nebraska, where he drove stage for several months. In 1876 he located at Cheyenne, Fred, as he is intimately known to his many friends, worked at the sutler’s store at Fort Laramie in 1880, and six years later he located on a homestead north of Lusk.

Interesting highlights were recalled by Mr. Sullivan when he discussed the stage coach days from Cheyenne to Deadwood. Russell Thorp purchased the line from Luke Voorhees in 1884, and he worked for Thorp about two years, driving stage most of the time. The telegraph line was constructed in 1876 along the route of the stage road. The first station from Cheyenne was Baird’s ranch, 17 miles from Cheyenne; O.P. Goodman ranch; Hi Kelley’s (better known today as Chugwater); Bordeaux (Jack Hunton’s); Eagle’s Nest; Fort Laramie; Cottonwood; Rawhide Buttes; Silver Cliff, approximately one-half mile west of Lusk; Cottonwood (known today as the Hat Creek station; Jenny’s stockade; Whoop-Up Hollow; LAK (Spencer’s ranch); Cold Springs; Tim Colman’s and Deadwood. The route covered 301 miles and the drivers made excellent time over the route, considering the conditions of the roads, and unavoidable delays.

The original drivers on this route were Tom Cooper, Tim Denny, George Drake, Fred Sullivan, Seth Bullock, and John Neenan.

The most dangerous section of the road was from Lusk to Hat Creek. Wild game was very abundant on Running Water in those days, and Indians often left the reservations without permission to hunt in this section, which made travel somewhat dangerous during a couple of years. Mr. Sullivan carries a couple of battle scars he received when he disagreed with his red brethren. On one occasion he was struck across the right ear with a bow by an Indian buck who attempted to rob the stage of its money, The redman started an argument with Sullivan, who retaliated, and finally blows were exchanged.

In the fall of 1876 Sullivan was driving stage, and an attack was made on the stage about two miles from the LAK ranch, on Big Beaver. Nobody was killed, but Mr. Sullivan was shot in the arm with an arrow. George King has the arrow in his possession that pierced Fred’s arm, and the pioneer carries the scars of that fracas.

The country from Old Woman to the Cheyenne River was “as dry as a bone” and the Cheyenne and Sioux were anxious to get good hunting grounds, which caused then to come to the Running Water area. It was not until 1879 that they were entirely driven from this section of the territory to the agency.

On April 14th, this year, Mr. Sullivan accompanied the writer and J. B. Griffith, editor of The Lusk Herald, to the old townsite of Lusk, and relocated some of the pioneer business establishments, among which was the old stage barn, built of stone. It was 24 by 48 feet, and the walls were about eight feet high, having a pole and dirt roof. The old townsite land was owned by Ellis Johnson, but he refused to sell the land for a reasonable price, and when Mr. Lusk, after whom the town was named, offered to sell the land to the people at a reasonable price, the town was moved east to its present location.

Sullivan was appointed undersheriff May 19, 1887, by S.K. Sharpless, high sheriff for eight years at Cheyenne, and held this office for two years.

Fred also worked on a river boat during the year of 1879, firing on the steamer, “Black Hills,” under Capt. Tim Burleigh of Yankton, N.D., to Fort Benton, Mont.

During his stage coach driving days Mr. Sullivan had among his passengers, Mrs. Hamilton, who came to this section in 1885, and a Miss Bailey whose father established the first mine at Silver Cliff. This young woman later became Mrs. A. A. Spaugh.

Mr. Sullivan relates many interesting happenings while he was with the United States troops, when the Ponca Indians were taken from Running Water, S.D., to the reservation at Baxter Springs, Indian Territory. Majors Howard and Sharps had rounded up the redskins and among the red notables were Red Eagle, White Dog, and an interpreter named Charles Sinclair, who was a half breed. Soldiers from Yankton came with 26 teams to accompany the caravan. Bonetell and Turner had the beef contract for the government. Trouble was experienced in Nebraska, when a young squaw died and was buried, but was soon put under control by the troops. Two white girls witnessed the funeral, which was rather unique even in those days to a white woman. These two women were Allie Green and Lena Lawn.

After arriving at the reservation, Mr. Sullivan stayed over a week to rest from his trip, and then returned to Beaver Crossing in Nebraska, where he drove stage for a few months before coming to Lusk.

For many years Mr. Sullivan has been engaged in raising cattle, and in sprite of his advanced age, he is very active, and nearly every day he is out looking after his herd. He still owns his homestead northwest of Lusk, but makes his home at the Ed Schroefel ranch, two miles north of town. He is a regular visitor in Lusk, and can usually be seen chatting with his cronies on Main street. Fred is a typical Western frontiersman-always wears a wide-brimmed Stetson, and a white handkerchief around his neck. His main enjoyment while in Lusk is to pass out those strong, black “Republican” cigars, which he always has an ample supply, and usually when one sees him he is slowly puffing one of them.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Sullivan, Fred (10/19/1924 - 08/20/1995) View Record
Obituary Sullivan, Fred (10/31/1895 - 12/02/1955) 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 Johnson, Ellis (08/04/1845 - 02/14/1910) View Record
Obituary Lathrop, George (12/24/1830 - 12/24/1915) View Record
Obituary Voorhees, Luke (11/29/1834 - 01/16/1925) View Record
Obituary Thorp, Russell (10/22/1844 - 09/03/1898) View Record