Historical Details

Ralph Olinger Dies; Lusk Rites on Thursday

Courtesy of Library Costlow Collection, 02/11/1965

Ralph I. Olinger, 79, former Lusk merchant and representative in the Wyoming Legislature for Niobrara County for six years, died quietly at his home in Youngtown, Ariz., early Saturday morning. He had suffered a stroke during the summer.

Funeral services were held at the Sun City and Youngtown Christian Science Church, Sun City, Ariz., on Monday. After cremation, the cremains will be interred beside Harry Olinger, his son, in the Lusk Cemetery on Thursday afternoon, with Masonic services. Peet Mortuary will be in charge of arrangements. The widow, Vira Olinger, has requested that memorials be sent to the Christian Science Church at Sun City, Ariz.

Preceding Ralph in death were his parents; his brother Albert J. Olinger; and his only son, Harry J. Olinger. Surviving relatives are his widow, Vira Snyder-Olinger of Youngtown; a granddaughter, Mrs. James P. (Nancy) McLaughlin of Clarkston, Washington; three great-grandchildren, Marion, Daniel and Mike McLaughlin; a grandson Howard Olinger of Oklahoma City, Okla.; three brothers, Elmer M. OLinger, Oliver O. Olinger and Paul H. Olinger, all of Tekamah, Nebr.

James B Griffith, a nephew, flew from Casper to Youngtown Saturday to be with Mrs. Olinger who survives her husband.

Mrs. Olinger, Mr. Griffith, her sister, Mrs. Otto Stratton of Menlo Park, Calif., and Mr. Stratton, were expected to arrive in Denver Wednesday where another nephew, D. J. Olinger of Cheyenne, will meet them and drive on to Lusk.


Ralph Olinger was born May 20, 1885 at Tekamah, Burt County, Nebraska. His father, James P. Olinger came to Tekamah in 1885, when six years old, with his parents from Virginia. His mother, Isabelle Hanson had immigrated to Illinois in 1860 from Norway when only three, and then moved to Tekamah at the age of thirteen. Ralph graduated from Tekamah, Nebraska high school and attended business college at Omaha, Nebraska.


Much of the material on the life of Ralph Olinger was supplied by a nephew, D. J. Olinger of Cheyenne. He with a brother of Ralph's, Elmer Olinger, have been working on a biography of the grandparents, Herman and Julia Hanson who immigrated to the U. S. from Norway in 1860. In the past eight years the two men have accumulated a large amount of information on the some 400 descendants. Part one of the two part publication is at the printers now.

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When twenty years of age, Ralph borrowed twenty-five dollars and came to Wyoming by rail and left the train at a flag station eight miles east of Lusk called Node, on December 30, 1905, where his cowboy brother, Albert, met him with a saddled horse to take him to the Tom Bell Cattle Company 'Node' ranch to stay overnight.

On New Year's eve, December 31, 1905 Ralph and Albert rode horseback twelve miles to Lusk, and attended a hugh masque ball. The next day, Ralph journeyed north, by spring wagon, twenty-five miles to his Uncle Frank Hanson's ranch on Young Woman creek where he spent two months. During this period, he learned to cook; hem 'didies' for his Aunt Kate who was expecting a child (Dan Hanson); hauled pitch-pine logs from the Buck Creek Hills for both stove wood and fence posts. On one trip he tied a rag around the wagon wheel and counted the revolutions for computing the mileage traveled. Ralph also filed a homestead entry on Government land just down Young Woman Creek from Frank Hanson's and in due time made final proof, receiving a patent.

Around March 1, 1906, he obtained a job herding sheep for Albert Rochelle. Frank Hanson put him on a horse and headed him toward the Rochelle ranch, some fifteen miles north, instructing him to tie the reins around the saddle horn and head the horse home, once he got to Rochelle's. The horse, saddle and bridle returned safely. His sheep herding job was on the divide between Dogie and Cow creeks.

Meanwhile Andrew Anderson, (a brother of the wife of Ralph's uncle, O. J. "Red" Hanson neat Sturgis, South Dakota), who lived on Young Woman Creek a mile above Frank Hanson's ranch, had talked with Harry Snyder in Lusk. Mr. Snyder was looking for an extra clerk in his H. C. Snyder and Company General Store. He agreed to hire Ralph on Mr. Anderson's recommendation. Word was sent to the Rochelle Ranch and as soon as Albert Rochelle made arrangements for a replacement, Ralph left for Lusk with a freighter, Happy Jack Evans. He considered his new salary of $60.00 a month very substantial. In 1958, Ralph wrote: "It gives me the holy shudders to think back to the day I arrived in Lusk to work in the store. I know I hadn't had a bath, and doubt that I was dressed in any suitable attire for store work. If I was shaved it was fortunate, for in those days we had a habit of shaving twice a week. I was no good at shaving until we got the safety razor and after moving to Lusk, I went to the barber shop. Those were the days of 15c shaves and 25c haircuts, but these prices went up ten cents each during the period before the safety razor."


At Lusk, Ralph met Elvira Snyder, daughter of Harry C. Snyder and Martha Mary Vincent-Crater-Snyder. Ralph and 'Vira' were married May 19, 1912. A son, Harry James, was born August 9, 1913. He died in Texas from an automobile accident, November 16, 1948.

The Olingers have always been active in civic and social affairs wherever they have lived and accumulated many intimate friends.

Mr. and Mrs. Olinger observed their golden wedding anniversary May 19, 1962 while on a senior citizen bus tour in San Francisco. In 1961 both were honored as 50-year members of Niobrara Chapter of the Eastern Star at Lusk, and he had earlier received a 50-year Masonic pin from Harmony Lodge of which he had been master in 1914 and 1915.

Mr. Olinger was president of the first Niobrara County Fair and Race Association in 1911, shortly after Niobrara County was voted out of Converse County. During his tenure a fair ground and race track was purchased. He continued to serve the fair in various capacities for many years. Shortly after World War I he was elected as Trustee of School District No. 1, and served there for several terms. He was one of the original active organizers and promoters of the Boy Scout Troop of Lusk; charter member of Lusk Lions club, and a continual and active member; past master of Lusk Harmony Masonic Lodge No. 24 and a member of the Wyoming Consistory since June of 1919.

Ralph Olinger was identified with the H. C. Snyder and Company business in different capacities until it was liquidated in 1932. Afterward Mr. and Mrs. Olinger established a specialty clothing store in Newcastle, which was sold in 1943, when they went to San Diego, California. Ralph served there as chief investigator for the enforcement division of the Office of Price Administration. After VJ Day, the Olingers returned to Lusk and established their second specialty clothing store which they operated until his retirement in January 1953, selling the business to E. L. McKnight. After retirement, they continued to live in Lusk. Ralph served three terms, 1953, 1955 and 1957, as Niobrara County's representative in the Wyoming Legislature. They moved to Youngtown, Arizona in April, 1957.

Quite early, when living in Lusk, Ralph became interested in archeology and pioneer history, collecting stoneage artifacts and historical data which were in abundance in the area. One of Ralph's most prized possessions was the wood trunk, or chest, brought to LaSalle County, Illinois, by his grandparents (Herman and Julia Hanson) in 1860, when they emigrated from Norway. This heirloom is currently on display at the Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Hanson, Dan (02/04/1906 - 07/22/1997) View Record
Obituary Hanson, Frank (06/14/1912 - 03/01/1991) View Record
Obituary Olinger, Ralph (05/20/1885 - 02/06/1965) View Record
Obituary Olinger, Elvira (07/27/1890 - 03/31/1974) View Record
Obituary Snyder, Harry (06/24/1861 - 11/23/1916) View Record
Obituary Anderson, Andrew (10/08/1870 - 02/13/1952) View Record
Obituary Hanson, Frank (06/15/1870 - 05/11/1951) View Record
Obituary Olinger, Harry (08/09/1913 - 11/16/1948) View Record
Obituary Rochelle, Albert (03/29/1869 - 02/15/1957) View Record