Historical Details

Castle, Jess Personal History

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 11/09/2020


by Ione (Mrs. Roy) Turnbull

Jess Castle was born Sept. 21, 1873, near Corning, Iowa. He came to Wyoming about 1905 and worked for the Wesley T. Wolfe ranch.

Later he and his father homesteaded about 16 miles southeast of Lusk. His brother Charles and his sister Clara and her husband, George Chapman lived with them for awhile.  The latter was ill and they thought the climate would help him, but it was hopeless and he died on the place about 1916.  Soon after this Clara, Charles and their father returned to Iowa.

Jess bought his father's homestead and added a school section to gain more pasture land. He raised cattle all the years he was there. He also did a little dry farming to help provide winter feed for his livestock.

Almost every evening during the years he lived there he would walk up the hill to his neighbors, the Bunt Alters, to break the monotony of the day spent  alone.      He would visit a little and possibly tell their daughter, Ione, (now Mrs. Roy Turnbull) the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk".  Then get a jar of milk for his breakfast the next morning and treat his cat, Bolivar, who would walk along with him.   Bolivar would take his place under the heating stove till Jess was ready to go home.

About 1920 he bought a Model T Ford and would always take Alters with him to town or neighborhood gatherings etc. In return Mrs. Alter would wash and iron his white shirts, a very helpful thing in the life of a bachelor and also bake extra homemade bread and pies for him.

In the late summer of 1925, there was a bad hail storm that took the pastures.  That fall, to keep his cattle and get them feed for the winter he drove them to the Bill Hobbes ranch and worked there for hay and pasture for them.

About 1929 an escaped convict wandered across country and stopped at Jess' place, who luckily was not home.   The convict "borrowed" a rifle and kept ahead of his hunters.  He was never apprehended.

During the early 1930's cattle prices were plummeting. At the same time there were several years of drought and grasshopper infestation. There was no grass nor crops.

The government bought cattle for a few dollars and then killed the cattle right on the ranches. Of course, they were trying to reduce an over-supply and hoping to increase future prices. All this combi­nation discouraged Jess. He sold his ranch to Frank Harris in 1934.

He had always liked the west. When he packed his Whippet car, his saddle was one of the choice possessions he took as a remembrance of his ranch and the life that had become a part of him.

His dry Irish wit, with the right sense of humor; his willingness to help and his kindness: that was this neighbor - one of the best. It was no wonder that he was so well-liked in the Rawhide community. He was a member of the Odd Fellows in Lusk, but his interests were almost entirely with his neighbors and his community.

After leaving Wyoming, he and his brother moved to Rocky Comfort, Mo. They bought a small farm and milked cows and sold the milk to the Carnation Co.   They stayed there for several years, then sold the farm about 1946.

He came back to Wyoming on a cold, snowy day. He got off the bus where his mailbox used to be. Then, walking and carrying his suitcase, he came on to his old ranch, finishing the two miles by walking on up the hill to the Bunt Alter home.  Up the same trail he had walked so many evenings before.

He stayed at the Alters a few weeks then went to work on the 010 ranch where Cliff Dorman, an old friend, was foreman. When Dorman retired Jess stayed on working for Peach Shaw, the new manager. He stayed with them till his health failed--then went to Iowa to live with his sister and niece in 1957. He died in February, 1958.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Castle, Jess ( - 02/26/1958) View Record