Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1879/04/12

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 12/04/1991

Stock producers form Wyoming Stock Growers Association

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association has been formed recently in Cheyenne. Three men with large cattle interests in this area have been instrumental in the formation of the association and the events leading up to it, they are: R.S. Van Tassell, Thomas Sturgis, and Charlie F. Coffee.

Rensselaer Schuyler Van Tassell pioneered ahead of the railroad and came to Cheyenne in 1867. Soon he was manager if the Pacific Lumber Company in Cheyenne, He first started in the cattle business locally when he purchased the Jim Moore Ranch (at Jay Em) and married Moore’s widow. He is also developing his ranching interest along the Running Water River neat the Nebraska state line.(The town of Van Tassell was later named after him.

Thomas Sturgis is president of the Union Cattle Company, which owns the Bridle Bit and the O S Ranches on the Cheyenne River north of here. Sturgis, along with G.B. Goodell, also owns the S&G Ranch, located on a tributary of Beaver Creek just over the Dakota line.This outfit is one of the largest cattle operations in Wyoming.

Charlie Coffee, known on the trail as “Chalk Eye” because he showed so much white in his eyes, located a herd of his own on Boxelder Creek in 1873, about 65 miles north of Cheyenne. In telling of this ranch he said “We carried guns on our saddles all the time and never thought of going to the spring for water without a gun in one hand and a bucket in the other. When I built the ranch house, I made the windows high so no one could shoot us in the night.”

With the opening of the area north of the area north of the North Platte River he has developed ranches along Rawhide Creek, in the Hat Creek Basin and into Nebraska.

Coffee, Van Tassell, Tom and John Durbin, and another man met at Jim Abney’s Cheyenne stable in 1872. At that time they decided to organize a vigilance committee to cope with rustlers who were operating in that area with ever greater daring.

They eventually formed the Stock Association of Laramie County. The admission fee was $5, dues 50 cents a month. This association assessed members in 1874 for the hiring of detectives to help solve the problem of cattle stealing. They also offered a $200 reward for “apprehension and conviction of any person found guilty of any person found killing or stealing cattle.“

In 1876, Thomas Sturgis was named secretary of the association. Alexander Swan was the President; G.A. Searight , vice president and A.H. Reel, treasurer. At the 18789 annual meeting, Secretary Sturgis proposed changing the name to Wyoming Stock Growers’ Association. This was done and all stock associations in the state were invited to join. They now have brand inspectors at Kansas City, Council Bluffs and Clinton, Iowa. They also plan to open an Exchange Room for stock men in Cheyenne.

Information source: “Cow Country Cavalcade,” by Frink; “Pulling Leather,” by Mullins: “Footprints on the Frontier,” by Trenholm; “Niobrara Historical Brevity,” by Niobrara Historical Society; “Pioneering on the Cheyenne River.”

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