Historical Details

AU7 Ranch History

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 10/19/2020


by Mrs. Torn Stokes

This history is not a story; it is a series of true events that happened over the years and shows in part how early ranch life was lived.

In 1880, the AU7 was located on Snyder Creek, some eight or ten miles from the present location. The exact location  is not known, but around 1895 or thereabouts it was moved to near where it is now and after a few years my father, Charles Carlson became part owner in the sheep business with a banker-merchant of Douglas, Wyo.

Charles Carlson was born north of Stockholm, Sweden on Oct. 11, 1864 and was the son of John and Matilde Carlson. He was educated in the public schools of Sweden and came alone to the United States when he was between 15 and 16 years old, arriving in 1880.  He first stopped in Boone, Iowa and worked as a farm hand during the summer.  During the winter he attended school to familiarize himself with the English language.  The people with whom he stayed wished to adopt him, but he had other ideas.

After five years he went to Miller, S.D. for a year, then to Rapid City where he worked in railroad construction, later coming to Wyoming to work on the construction of the CBQ railroad into Cheyenne and on west.

In 1892 he went into the sheep industry, working for the Platte Valley Sheep Co. owned by Dr. Wilson of Douglas.   After 2 years he went into the sheep business for himself near Douglas and it was here that he met and got acquainted with my mother, Miss Bessie A. Clark, who was a teacher in the Douglas and Glenrock schools.

In the spring of 1900 he moved to Weston County, locating on the AU7 and was in partnership with Mr. George Metcalf, a banker-merchant of Douglas.  In 1901 he and my mother were married and the old ranch house, with its long porch, saw plenty of life as friends came overland by buggy, wagon, and horseback to spend a few days.

Stopping places (if not camping) were the old Fiddleback and the 4W (I think the 4W was owned by the Turner family, Tommy Turner's folks). The buildings were log and one part of the house resembled that of the AU7.

Supplies were hauled by four-horse teams across country from Douglas, stocking flour, sugar and other foods along with other necessary things such as clothing for the winter and other things the ranch hands might order.  It is odd that when we came to Hot Springs in 1936, we found a new friend who had loaded my dad's freight wagons in Douglas.

My dad later severed the partnership with Mr. Metcalf and for a time was associated with Tom Lamb.  Distance being so great between the ranch and Douglas, dad changed his place of business to Newcastle and every fall sent wagons into town to stock up supplies for the winter.  One of the drivers couldn't resist passing up a saloon, so if he were several days late we knew what had happened.   My brother and I always received "repentance gifts" and expensive ones from the driver whom we dearly loved. One was a fuzzy bear as large as a dog and strong enough to hold my dad. Other gifts were rocking horses, not like these little ones of today, but large enough to hold an adult.

Guests were plentiful, as my mother was fun loving and company minded.  Groups would come from town, sometimes in bob-sled, a distance of 35 miles.  Minnie Kirkpatrick was one of the guests; the only one now living, I think.

The house grew as did the family, first a daughter, (me) then a son, Charles, Jr. who passed away at 5 years of age. The  year of 1910 brought the death of my brother and the big blizzard in which my dad suf­fered a very heavy loss.

My dad loved nice things and beauty in his surroundings.   He made a terraced garden and grew most of the ranch vegetables, many of which were stored in a large cave in a big sand dune. There were trees and a nice lawn, a bunk house, store house and ice house which was filled every winter and in which we hung the carcass of a butchered animal. There was a long low horse barn, cow barn, corral and granary with feeding pens for cows, sheep and pigs and a hay yard.    Also, VERY important to the ranch was a shop where shoes and boots were half­ soled.

Many friendly Indians passed through and my mother always kept the kitchen door closed because food had quite an appeal to a hungry or not so hungry Indian. Also Indians liked children and my mother was afraid that they would steal me.

Besides the terraced garden, we had one farther from the house, hidden we thought, but we wakened one morning to find all the vegetables gone--and the Indians. Indians seemed to be always hungry.  My uncle went into the barn one morning in time to see an old Indian stalking a skunk, he caught him and later in the morning my uncle went to the Indian camp where he said he saw the skunk cooking.   Another time an Indian buck came into the ranch and asked if his people could have an old cow to eat after she died.

We had several Swede girls work for us who could speak no English.  They made cheese by putting the whey into bags and draining it, making the cheese come out round. These they placed on planks along the wall to age.  They also made their own brooms out of some kind of stiff weeds which they gathered in bunches and tied to long willows.   Butchering was a big job; beef was hung in the cold  air to cure or age and if the weather turned warm it was hung in the ice house or store room which was always cool.      Hogs were butchered, hams smoked and tongues pickled, as were the feet and head cheese made.   We had plenty of mutton, too, while we had sheep; which reminds me--one herder had a time keeping his mutton--it was always stolen.  One day he killed and dressed a coyote (it disappeared).

When the suspected thief came to the camp to visit he was informed of the substitu­tion--I guess he got sick--anyway no more stolen mutton. Another time, a mean old buck with curly horns was brought to the ranch--this was before we had inside plumbing.  One of the girls went outside and it was several hours before anyone thought to go look for her. They found her in the little house out back with the old buck standing guard in front of the door; every time she opened the door he made a lunge at her.

One of our Swede girls was Victoria.

She was out at the barn with the "boys" one day when a skunk came ambling by.  She had never seen a skunk and thought it very pretty and the boys had to restrain her and she tried to catch it, calling,  "kitty, kit­ty". Another time the sheriff brought a handcuffed horse thief to the ranch.  The girls came chattering excitedly to my mother and tried so hard to tell her about it, but my mother not being able to talk Swede and the girls not being able to talk English had to resort to other means.  They grabbed her by the hands and feet and picked her off the floor, then put her down and took her to the window. The sheriff and his horse thief spent the night at the ranch--the horse thief manacled to the bedpost.  A great many times our race horse would be borrowed either by the sheriff or by some one who wished to race him, (he won). A wonderful horse but he had the bad habit of stopping very suddenly and shaking till you thought your very teeth were being shaken out.

Schools were few and far between and if we had one, it involved a lot of bitter quarreling and bickering.  We had a teacher (Miss Olive Spencer, now Mrs. Ted Marquiss of Gillette) who lived with us and taught myself, the children of the help and Willis Feagin. Later, when I was ten years old, I was sent away to school.

During the time that we had families living at the ranch, we had Mike Coy, the father of Violet Sedgwick. His family lived in the ranch-half of the house.  Violet, one of the children, stepped on a pitchfork out at the barn.   A doctor was 35 miles away and travel exceedingly slow by horse, the aver­age time being 5 hours to Newcastle and 5 hours back. It being necessary to give immediate medication, the men held Violet, who was perhaps 4 or 5 years old, while a sacking needle threaded with a rag and dipped in turpentine was drawn through the hole between her ankle bones.

Men were brought to the ranch for care when they had been trampled by a horse or otherwise injured, and sometimes they were in pretty bad shape.

More was built onto the house and our living quarters were enlarged to a library, dining room and kitchen with a bathroom and running water.  This was the downstairs and built of logs.  The upstairs consisted of three frame bedrooms. The roof of a big porch extended in front of the middle room, and many mornings I would put my head out the window and call, "kitty, kitty".

The place would erupt with cats of all sizes and ages that would scramble up a tree and over onto the roof.  Hank Magden built this part of the house. By the way, we were  more than blessed with cats and dogs, 27 of one and 21 of the other, but I can't remem­ber which number to attach to which.  My dad bought two beautiful collies, Lad and Lassie, and we had their descendants for a good many years.

We had a great many parties during school vacations.       On  one occasion we  had a mock wedding and Carol Case Goddard, (the sister of the late Senator Francis Case of S.D.), was the minister, Velma Townsend, the bridegroom and I was the bride. Thirty or forty people were there and also the "Prairie Dog Boys". These were government trappers or poisoners who came to destroy the destructive prairie dog.   Another time, three bankers from Omaha were visiting, and as they were sleeping on the porch, the girls turned the hose on them about midnight.

Pandemonium broke loose which could be heard on the adjoining ranch, 3 miles away. This ranch was purchased by my dad from the Feagins.   They had moved from their river home to their homestead on Lodgepole. When Mr. Feagin was seriously ill, my mother and dad rode horseback through the overflow of the river to get to his home.

The water surrounded it and he had to be carried to the attic where he died.  They then moved over to Lodgepole.   Another time the girls went swimming in the river and although the men were in the field, the girls clothes were snitched.  I was the only one clothed, so I brought kimonos and the girls came to the house. It wasn't until they were in full view of everyone, and no place to hide, that the 15 or 20 men showed up.

In the meantime the river had been eating away the banks behind the hay yards. The shell of an old rocked up well showed. My dad built three large log cribs across the main current and filled them with rock (during the winter) with the hope of divert­ing the current away from the ranch build­ings.   In the spring when the river rose, the cribs which were five or six feet high and as wide, sank completely out of sight.

Gradually the old sand dunes which were hollowed out and forted-up as a protection from Indians, were carried away.  In 1923 there was a cloudburst near Casper and the river rose to destructive heights. I   swam my horse through an overflow in the sand. Sam and Della Coy were with me.      The men were moving everything moveable to a hill­ side they thought would be safe; the base­ment was full of water and a chicken was swimming around.  Buildings were going and the men worked frantically to save what they could.      Somewhere under the river bed is a big engine we used to cut wood. The garage, a frame building, was found down at Roxon.

No one dared to stay there that night, so we all went up to the Graham place.   Next morning the ranch house still stood but the bunk house, store rooms and ice house were tipped on their side in the river.     

Later the log part of the house was torn down to be rebuilt where the ranch now stands. The "new" addition built by Mr. Magden was jacked up on logs and literally "rolled" (like ancient Egyptians did in building the pyramids) to the new location.  The house after being moved was never the same, not home anymore.

During this time my dad was digging a big irrigation ditch which would irrigate a good many flat acres. A  dam was put a­cross Lodgepole several miles up the creek, and water was taken as far as the ranch.

Then a heavy rain came--and we found that the soil would not hold water, small dams washed out and the water just "melted" away.  We moved to another ranch up the river Dec. 6, 1930.

After passing through several hands, Jiggs Thompson of Lance Creek bought it and thoroughly remodeled the ranch house and built a new home.  All that remains of the old house are the three upstairs rooms which I believe are used as a chicken house or store room.

The main bed of the river has completely changed its course and runs along the bluff where the road used to be and where I imagine it used to be hundreds of years ago.

This ranch is located in the southern part of Weston County and northern part of Niobrara.


Tubby the pig, in the barnyard lay Growing fatter and fatter day by day. And then we butchered him.

"Tub", peeped the chickens, and "Tub", bawled the cow,

"Where are you Tubby, where are you now?"

From the leaves on the trees by the old log corral

Came the voice of the pig;

"There's naught of me left but my squeal," wailed the pig,

"My feet are in pickle, my head's a flat cheese,

My legs are in salt, a brine, if you please,

My scraps ground fine into sausage were made,

My fat was all melted and poured in a pail,

There's naught of me left but my poor little wail."

By Bess A. Carlson

This was written by my mother and shows in part how we managed on food.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Carlson, Bessie (09/14/1875 - 09/27/1954) View Record