Historical Details

Lusk's First Business Men As Recalled By the Founder and First Editor of The Herald

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 03/03/1932


When the Northwestern Townsite Company failed to secure the original townsite of Silver Cliff, it bought a part of Mr. Frank Lusk’s “Node” ranch, about a mile east of the old site and named the new town in honor of its former owner. Engineers quickly surveyed and platted the embryo city, and the business men who had located at the old town literally “pulled up stakes” (being mostly located in tents) and, in about three days from the first sale, everybody was on the new location doing business as usual.

Frank Lusk was a young stockman of experience—capable, progressive and honorable. At that time, he was unmarried and lived with his mother and grand-mother. The former erected the first really “nice” residence in town. Both were ladies in the best sense of the term, and are undoubtedly well remembered by all old-timers as pioneers in all efforts to improve the educational and moral status of the little frontier town.

Baker Brothers conducted the largest general store at the time. Jack was also postmaster. He was a quiet, likable young man of sterling worth, while Nat was more out-spoken and positive in nature. The word of both was a good as their bonds. Both married later, but Jack lived only a few years thereafter, and Nat passed away several years ago.

Fred Rood conducted Richards Bros.’ bank in the first building erected at the new town. Everybody liked Fred—perhaps he was too friendly for a successful banker. I remember him as a staunch friend and “hail fellow, well met.”

“Professor” Morse acted as deputy postmaster. He was a young man who came from Chicago to die of tuberculosis, and was in mighty bad physical condition on arriving in Wyoming Territory; but as horse wrangler on the ranch he soon regained his health and made a very popular and efficient public servant.

John Steffens and his partner, Mr. Bostelman, were the pioneer druggists. The latter was a scholarly young man, but John was the boy who drew the trade. He and the writer were devoted friends and never tired of perpetuating all manner of fool tricks on each other. He too, passed to the great beyond.

“Old Man” Johnson had a big store at the old town, and moved his stock to the new site, He was a good-hearted, honest Swede. I do not remember what finally became of him.

E.E. Lonabaugh came direct from a law school and opened an office soon after the establishment of the town. He made a host of friends, married Mrs. Steffen’s sister and finally moved to Sheridan, where he built up a lucrative law practice, and was the prime mover in opening extensive coal mines in Sheridan Co., thus becoming one of the substantial builders of the West.

Fred Schwartz was a hale and hearty German butcher, who sold venison and antelope meat as well as beef and pork (no one would eat mutton at that time, Wyoming being “Cow” country).
Kingman & Son were out first lumbermen, and the elder Kingman was our first justice of the peace. Both were good citizens in every respect.

Russell Thorp owned and operated the Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage line, which, before the advent of the railroad, was the route over which we received our mail. Mr. thorp was one of the salt of the earth. He and his good wife and young son, Russell, Jr., lived at Rawhide Buttes, about 18 miles south of Lusk. Anyone who ever stayed over night or for a meal at the Thorp’s home station will bear me out in the assertion that the welcome and entertainment there were of the best Western character, and the meals, prepared by a Chinese cook, something to be long remembered.

J.G. Patterson combined a successful mercantile business (ably assisted by Mrs. Patterson) with that of an enthusiastic hunter. He kept a pair of fleet greyhounds and a sleek pair of mules, and many an antelope and jackrabbit did he and the writer bring in. Mr. Patterson was the president of the Lusk Rifle team, to which practically all the pioneer businessmen belonged, and some of whom made excellent scores on the rifle range, the president himself being the crack shot. Mr. Patterson now resides in Elsinore, Calif.

Jack Huff made saddles and harness, and did a good business in those cow days.

One of the most popular young cow punchers to finally settle down in Lusk—and certainly one of the handsomest—was our good friend, Frank DeCastro—a fairly gay young blade in those days, but since, a staid man of family, and a pillar of society. He is still an honored citizen of the good town.

“Happy Jack” Briggs was not so handsome, but what he lacked in looks he made up in high spirits. He was the life of almost any old occasion and after quitting the range he clerked for Baker Bros. and occasionally played stud poker on the side, the last I heard of him he was in Denver.

W.F. Louger was our first furniture man, an old and honored veteran of the civil war, a good citizen and able storyteller. He often manipulated the “roller: while the writer hereof pulled the tail of the old Washington hand press on which The Herald was printed. May his soul rest in peace!

Fred Reddington will be remembered as the able foreman of the Node ranch, and afterward the proprietor of out first livery stable. He built up a good business, but where he finally located, I cannot say.

A. Adamsky, a thoroughly Westernized Jew, brought a good stock of clothing and men’s furnishings from Cheyenne. He knew the game, and soon secured the assistance of Lee Miller, who was a great factor in popularizing the business.
John Giinther and his brother, Harry, put in the first exclusive hardware store. Both were honest and popular business men.

Johnny Owens was an early deputy sheriff and dance-hall proprietor. He was one of the best frontier characters at that time living in the Territory; a straight shooter—both literally and figuratively speaking. Later he made a great record as sheriff of Weston county. I don’t know how many notches he had on his gunstock, but I know the speed with which he could limber up his artillery saved him from bad men on numerous occasions. He was a very mild-spoken individual and absolutely fearless.

S. H. Saffell was justly popular among old and young. He was one of the early ranch men and freighters in the Lusk section. He always carried a broad smile on his fine countenance and his over-flowing good-nature was infectious. I believe a number of his children and grand-children still live in what is now Niobrara county.
Dennis Collins erected the first large hotel, near the depot, where he was assisted by his on-in-law, Sam Barnard. Mr. Collins and a brother also established a large mercantile business where Ral Collins assisted and laid the foundation for a successful business in Douglas, I believe.

These are some of the good men and true who laid the foundation for the thriving town of Lusk and county of Niobrara. I am happy to testify to their many study and loveable characteristics. No town in the entire county can point with greater pride to its founders. May their memory long be kept green.

J.L. Calkins, Sunland, Calif., Feb. 10, 1932

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