Historical Details

Alter, Bunt and Anna

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 10/26/2020


by Ione (Mrs. Roy) Turnbull

Boynton K. (Bunt) Alter was born Sept. 17, 1879 in Wayland, Kenry Co., Ia. the son of James and Amanda Comfort (Rider) Alter. He had two sisters and five brothers. James Alter, the father, was a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Bunt attended the Flowers School near Wayland and was baptized in the Wayland Methodist Church.

Everybody in the neighborhood made their own entertainment. The Alter children did lots of ice skating. Bunt and his brother John played the violin and guitar for dances. He remembers going to Washington, Ia., to see the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. Annie Oakley was a performer with the show then.

At the age of 21 he started working for the railroad and moved westward. When he got to Omaha he bought a ticket to Lusk on the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad. The fare was one dollar on this part-passenger and part-box-car train.

Two friends came with him: Ralph Umble and Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot later married Marnie Grimes, a girl from the Pleasant Ridge community.

His 22nd birthday, in 1901, was spent on this train ride. He met George Voorhees on this trip, who interested him in the Lusk area and he decided to stop and look at this part of Wyoming.

At that time Lusk had, in the middle of its main street, a hand pump with a barrel cut in half for a tank where folks watered their horses.

His first job was at the Box X ranch. The owner of the ranch at that time was Joe Ganz, who also had a store in and a ranch close to Miles City, Mont. Bunt and Al Rider drove 37 horses from the Box X to Joe Ganz' sheep camp about to 25 miles from the Montana border.

In 1902 he thought about carrying the mail to Torrington and made the trip with Alvin Demmon who was carrying the mail for his father.  Demmon hauled the mail in a two-wheeled cart covered with cowhide.   They picked up the mail from a box-car that served as the depot at Torrington.  But he decided against the mail route.

His youngest brother, John, came to Lusk from Iowa later in 1902 and soon afterwards Bunt, John and Myron Husted rode horseback past Devil's Tower, through the Black Hills and on to Edgley, N.D. They ran short of money on this trip and had to stop and dig potatoes from someone's field, boil and eat them. Potatoes ended another famine!

When they got to Edgley and were still riding down the street, farmers asked them if they were looking for work.   They stayed and worked there through the wheat harvest, then sold their horses and took the train to St. Paul, Minn. and on to their home in Iowa for a visit with family and friends.

Bunt and John came back to Wyoming and that winter they trapped gray wolves around the Harney Buttes (now better known as the Chalk Buttes) north of Keeline. The next spring Bunt started working on the ranch owned by George Voorhees, the first person he had met in Wyoming.

In 1905 he worked for the Nine-Bar ranch owned by Wesley T. Wolfe. During this time Bunt and Jess Castle and John Wesley Wolfe filled and mounded the sunken grave of Mother Featherlegs.        

Bunt and Jess homesteaded about 10 years later on adjoining land and were 
friends and neighbors for many years.   That fall of 1905 Bunt attended the Douglas Fair. He thinks it may have been the first State Fair.

In 1906 he worked in the Copper Belt and Michigan mines in the Rawhide Buttes area, doing assessment work. The Copper Belt mine was owned by the Copper Belt Mines Co., of which Edwin Hall was president. Hans Gautschi was associated with the company and served as foreman or manager; Henry Grey, Cook; Art Blair, freighter and Joe Anges, blacksmith. John Bowen, Pete Morterhurst, Joe Affelback and Billy Hutchens also worked at the mines. Ed Hall made frequent trips to Chicago to sell stock in the company.

The Copper Belt mine was just west of the Buttes. The Michigan mine was in Muskrat Canyon, a quite populous place in the 1880's.     At the time we are dealing with, George Lathrop still lived in a cabin near that of Moritz Aronstein, who died in the early 1930.   The ruins of an old saloon were still standing near there, too.

At this time there was also standing a blacksmith shop on Rawhide Creek.  The blacksmith had been a man by the name of Mayes.  Bunt tells how a man had been killed there by a horse and buried nearby, but can remember men coming from Lusk later and removing the body to the town.

1907 found Bunt in Bellingham, Wash., where he was employed in lumber camps and shingle mills.  He can still glance at a bundle of shingles and tell the grade and number.

 After returning to the Lusk area he worked at the Tom Bell ranch.

About 1910 he ran a dry-cleaning business in Lusk for a few months across the street from the livery barn, now Culver and 
Son.  One winter he and Charles McGinnis trapped gray wolves, catching 22 of the predators.  Their headquarters were on Snyder Creek.

He returned to Washington state in 1912 and continued his journey on to Skagway, Alaska, by boat; then walked 110 miles to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.    At this time, he says, Whitehorse was about the size of Jay Em. There he worked for the White­ horse-Yukon Telegraph Company, cutting brush and trees and repairing the line from Whitehorse northward.  They started in May with four men and a cook, sleeping in the open and cooking in a tent.       When their job was over in November they were 40 miles north of Dawson.

But Wyoming was becoming home. Bunt returned and looked for a place to locate. He selected a spot 17 miles south of Lusk and homesteaded there.

He thinks it was 1914 when he helped Richard Gray survey the Lance Creek oil field.   Richard stopped to visit and talk over a few old times on his trip north from Texas a few years ago. April 15, 1915, he married Anna Louise Hanson at Chadron, Nebr.

Anna was born Sept. 20, 1887 at Flekkefjord, Norway, the daughter of Johann and Sire (nickname for Sigrid) Hanson. She had one brother, Hans, and one sister, Oline.

Her father had a small farm and was also a merchant seaman. New York was one of the ports where he sailed. This may have helped to kindle the spark that brought her to the U.S. Anna attended school in Flekkefjord and was confirmed in the Lutheran Church there.

Their home was by a big lake. To visit their neighbors in summer they traveled by rowboat. In winter the water would freeze so deep they could drive their horse and 

sled or skate across the ice to the other side.  The mountains were all around the lake, so they could also ski, which they did as much for transportation as for fun.

When she was 18 years old, she came to the U.S. with her friend, Julie Peterson, who had been in this country previously. They landed in New York, then came by train to Lacrosse, Wisc. Anna worked in LaCrosse for about a year.

She and a friend, Josephine Reanertson, came to Lusk in 1908.  They were going right back to Wisconsin, as the board sidewalks and kerosene lights were just too much; there seemed nothing to stay for.  But both got jobs in the Northwestern Hotel as waitresses and Anna stayed there several years.

The big event of the day then was when the passenger train came in. Everyone went down to the depot. In those days the crew and passengers ate at the hotel.

Often there would be dances. When they were held in the Odd Fellows Hall (where the Stockmans Bank is now), some who played for them were Al Rundquist, Nora Roy and Amy Larson.  But often they were held in the dining room of the Northwestern Hotel.

There was a piano there and Mrs. Merlin Barnes and Jim Mashek and others furnished the music.

Most of those that worked at the hotel would go to the dances. The midnight lunch would be served in the dining room and when they had finished cleaning up afterwards it would be about 2:00 a.m. They had to be up and ready to serve breakfast at 6:00 a.m., because nobody ever thought of a 40-hour week then. But they had lots of good times.

Anna homesteaded northeast of Lusk. Her homestead was near the L.T. Larson family home.  The original homestead was 160 acres; she could have taken an additional 160 but thought that was too much land.  Those days there were homesteaders on every 160-320 acres, so they would walk to the neighbors to visit.  Those close to her were Linds, Bruchs, Hansons and Mains. She later sold her place to L.T. Larson; Roy Turnbull purchased it from the Larson estate and it is now owned by Dale Fuller­ ton.

She thinks that when she came here in 1908, Dr. McGuy was the town doctor and had his office in the Northwestern Hotel. Also that Dr. Wallace was the dentist for both Lusk and Harrison and traveled by train be­ tween the two towns.

A few months after Bunt and Anna were married they moved to Bunt's homestead south of town. They raised cattle the first years and planted a big garden every year.

Their daughter Ione (now Mrs. Roy Turnbull) was born in 1917. Mrs. Reinecke, a close neighbor, was going to help.    So when the time came Bunt rode about a mile to tell her and then rode about six more miles to Fjordbaks who had a telephone.  When he got there Fjordbaks were gone so he had to crawl in a window to get to the phone to call Dr. Dale. In spite of the obstacles the doctor and Mrs. Reinecke arrived in plenty of time. In 1923 when Ione started to school at Rawhide (close to Waldo Hoy's) they bought a Model T Ford to take her to school.  In  deep snow time they rode horseback. The next year the school house was moved close to Stanley Hoy's. home and another school house from Sunshine Valley was moved there, too. That fall there was a school bus or two. Waldo Hoy drove the one that collected the children from the west. Mrs. Charles Calhoun was the teacher then.

The Alters tried dry farming to raise feed for their cattle for several years, but it was too uncertain.  They sold most of the cattle and bought sheep.   Droughts, hailstorms and grasshoppers were hazards that made them decide to quit farming and buy all the grain and hay for the sheep.

During the late 1930's and early 1940's they raised turkeys. Many people built brooder houses and baby poults, most of which were shipped from Petaluma, Calif. The turkeys could be herded like sheep and during grasshopper years would range a mile from home. Anna usually herded them and one summer she killed 75 rattlesnakes with a hoe. The turkeys would find them and bunch and circle around them.

When it was time to market the turkeys all the neighbors would get together and go from grower to grower and have a turkey picking.  They picked hundreds of turkeys, told many tall tales and there were always huge delicious dinners served.  It was hard work but the neighbors enjoyed being to­gether.

During the many years spent on their homestead, the Alters saw many of their neighbors sell out and leave.        Some took extra jobs for extra money.  One, Bob Kes­ner, was a barber who walked six miles to his shop at Jay Em.

There were five moonshine stills within a few miles. One was about a mile or so west of their place.  An old fellow ("Step­ and-a-Half") from Tennessee, driving a high­ topped Model T would come once in a while and haul the finished product to market.

It was prohibition times then and he had to smuggle it out.   He had a suitcase rigged so he could carry it around and be legal looking.

A lot of their entertainment were pro­grams and dances. at the school.  They visited with the neighbors and had card parties, short trips and picnics.

The blizzard of 1949 was almost fatal for them.  Their sheep had gone out in the morning and by the time they decided to bring them in it was storming badly.  They went out on foot (no one could drive in that storm) and hunted but could not find the sheep.   As they turned into the face of that fury to return, it took all their strength to keep going.  In fact, Bunt carried Anna the last mile and by the time they got back to the house they were both almost dead.  Later they found some of their sheep but most were dead.

They bought more sheep in the spring, but in 1960 they retired. They continued to live on their homestead until 1967, then decided there were too many miles of bad road between them and the highway. They purchased a mobile home, moved it to their daughter's home and are presently living there.

They say that the years spent on their place were the happiest of their lives. The work with the livestock was interesting. They had hobbies to help pass the long winters. Anna liked to read, crochet and embroider and make rugs. Bunt had violins to repair and to play and to try to find another one to add to his collection. He also liked to trap and hunt coyotes. The furs usually brought a little extra money and thinning out the coyotes helped to preserve the lambs and fawns.   

There was time to relax all tied in with a good feeling of freedom.


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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Alter, Anna (09/20/1886 - 03/31/1981) View Record
Obituary Alter, Boynton (09/17/1879 - 07/12/1981) View Record
Obituary Alter, John (12/23/1881 - 02/22/1983) View Record
Obituary Turnbull, Ione (08/29/1917 - 03/17/2015) View Record
Historical Alter Ranch History View Record