Historical Details

Stiles, Henry Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 01/28/2021


by Irene Orr Stiles

My husband, Henry Stiles, was born Christmas Day, 1900, at the TL Ranch, about five miles from Meeteetse, Wyo.  His par­ents, William Henry Stiles and Una Lufkin Stiles were "Down East Yankees", who had come from Caribou, Maine with their older children, Earnest, 7, and Mary 5.

Before coming West the Stiles were potato farmers in the Aroostook Valley, the most northeastern section of our country.

Growing potatoes was a booming, profitable business. They were raised for the Boston and New York City markets and were shipped from Caribou by trainloads, packed in large wooden barrels, each weighing about 165 pounds.

Like many of the farmers, Mr. Stiles invested heavily in land, machinery, and fertilizer. When the Panic of 1893 struck and their creditors were paid, they were left homeless and almost penniless. A letter from Mrs. Stiles' brother, Charles Lufkin, brought a ray of hope. It said, "Come to Wyoming.   There's work a-plenty and cheap land, besides my young Emery could stand some raising--and I could stand some decent cooking."

On Oct. 24, 1896, the driver of the Red Lodge Meeteetse Stage delivered them, with their few possessions at "Big, Bear Paw Charlie's" door. After the long train ride from the East, with many changes and lay overs, then the hundred mile ride in the canvas-covered wagon, drawn by four horses, they arrived weary, but happy for this second chance.  Mr. Stiles often said, "When I paid the stage driver I had just fifty cents to my name, but I felt we'd made the right decision."  Until his death
50 years later, he was staunchly maintain­ing, "There's no place like Wyoming!"

Within a short time after their arrival, Mr. Stiles did find work. Neighbors of "Big Charlie" needed ranch help or help freighting goods from Red Lodge, Mont. or Cody; also, helped with building homes, barns, sheds, and fences. "Big Charlie's" skill with a broad axe and his hand-hewn logs were eagerly sought.

While the men were away working, Mrs. Stiles made the first real home which 9- year-old Emery had known. His parents had had a short, unhappy marriage which left his father silent and dour, so Emery had been left to grow up on his own.  While his father had great skill as a builder, his cooking left much to be desired. It was a family joke that "he fried everything, except the coffee."

Besides finding employment, Mr. Stiles learned that he could buy the relinquishment to an adjacent homestead. Belle Conway, the original owner, was "a woman of ill-repute." She had lived there until one of her male companions, in a jealous rage, burned her cabin.  The two nameless graves, on the hill above Meeteetse Creek, and the blood stains on the footbridge, left from a duel between Belle's lovers, didn't deter Mr. Stiles from making a quick trip to the land office.

There the Stiles family settled and labored for more than 30 years, changing the sage­ brush flats and greasewood draws into ir­rigated hay meadows and pasture lands. This was home!

By the time "Young Henry " was old enough to attend school, he had two more brothers, Irving and Lee. Because the family had a fear of debts, their social life was very limited. It was restricted chiefly to family fun, but it supplemented the children's formal education as "Mother was a bird watcher and Father a star gazer."

Mr. Stiles had donated the land and helped build the schoolhouse for the neighboring ranch children and those from the nearby coal mine. The school terms were never longer than seven months and often these were interrupted by a homesick teacher who quit or one who left to get married.

Because the love of books and learning was strong in the home, Mrs. Stiles spent hours reading aloud from "The Youth's Companion" and "St. Nicholas" or from the gift books sent from Maine. As soon as Henry was able to read independently, he became an avid reader of his father's news­ papers, "The Eastern Argus", printed at Portland, Maine, and "The New York World."

After completing grade school, Henry went to Cody hoping to find some work which would pay for his board and room while he attended high school. Finding none, he be­ came "a ranch hand" for a few years, until his father began selling farm produce to families in the Grass Creek oilfield. Henry returned home to help with this project.

One day while making deliveries Henry inquired of an acquaintance, "Do you think I could get a job?" He was told, "Why not try?  The oil companies are hiring all the strong, ignorant men they can get!" Next morning Henry was the first in line when the office door of the Ohio Oil Co. opened.

Thus began his 42 years of service for that company - now renamed "The Marathon Oil Co."

While my husband was growing up and learning the workings of a cattle ranch and hearing tales of colonial ancestors, I was growing up in the beautiful hill country of southeastern Minnesota and hearing stories of my ancestors who had left France and Ireland to escape tyrannical governments and religious persecutions. Many times while visiting the old family cemetery, I have wished I knew more of the great-great grand­ father buried there. He'd been one of Napoleon's soldiers in the invasion of Russia.

One of the greatest influences, in my becoming a teacher was Grandfather Orr. How often I heard him praise the public schools and tell of the importance of teachers. He'd say to us children, "There'll be no need of you sitting in church with your Bibles wrong-side up, as some of the "Old Country Irish do."

Grade school and high school were over before I turned 18. I'd lost my father and my mother was not well. I felt an urgency to get an education and the easiest solution was to borrow money to attend Normal School in North Dakota where I could teach rural school after only a six weeks summer session. So began a six year round of teaching, at­ tending college , and teaching again.

When I think of those days as a begin­ ning teacher in North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, I'm sure I learned much more than the pupils. There were long nights of home­ sickness, the trying problems of teaching German-Russian children who could speak no English, and dealing with patrons who tried to get the teacher involved in community feuds. But there were the fun times too, like dancing to the music of the young band director--Lawrence Welk, or riding horse­ back through the Badlands on Teddy Roose­velt's old ranch; but the most thrilling was climbing "up to the pegs" on the Devil's Tower.

In 1929, with two years of college training and an Elementary Professional certificate, I was hired to teach the middle grades at the Grass Creek School. I felt like an heiress for my contract said, "A furnished teacherage and free heat and lights (gas) and salary $160.00 per month." Later I learned there were certain fringe benefits too. If we unmarried teachers rode the school bus to the store and post office after school, we'd often meet patrons who'd invite us to dinner, or an evening of card playing, or square dancing in the company hall.

During my third year at the oil field all the single people were invited to a dinner party. There I met Henry Stiles.The hostess and other guests assumed that we'd met before, so when no one introduced us, we decided to get acquainted by our­ selves. The getting acquainted continued for several weeks, but when I left for Minnesota that vacation Henry, ("Hank" to all the oilfield folks) and I were engaged. A year later, on May 25, 1933 we were mar­ried.

That spring "The Depression" hit the oilfields. Many men were laid off, but Hank was lucky enough to be kept on the payroll, though he was sent from one oilfield to another doing odd jobs, such as irrigating and stacking hay on the Company farm near Byron, Wyo.  In September, he was trans­ferred to the gasoline plant at Lance Creek and we moved into the Leo Camp to begin a new phase of our lives.

Those were busy, happy years. There our children, John and Catherine Ann (Kay), grew from babyhood until they'd finished college.

In gratitude to God for the life of our son, I started a little Sunday School in 1934, and it later grew into the Lance Creek Community Church. During "the second boom", when we had over a hundred children attending services , many did not remember my name so they just called me "The Sunday School Lady."

During World War II, due to a teacher shortage, I began the second round of teach­ing and attending college, until I earned that coveted degree and had finished 24 years of teaching--19 in the Lusk Junior High School.

Life at Lance Creek was never dull. With two healthy, inquisitive, adventure­ some youngsters, we were involved in many activities.If money was needed for a worthy cause, at a minutes' notice a group of dedicated women would "whip up" a doughnut sale or prepare a formal banquet com­plete with fresh flowers and background music. Yes, "The Spirit of Lance Creek" was invincible!

Since we have retired, we make our home in Lusk, but part of each year we spend with our children and their families. John,is an accountant with Marathon Oil Co. at Findlay, Ohio. He and his wife Betty, have two children, David and Janet.  Kay married a high school classmate, John Robert (Bob) Newell and they live in Renton, Wash., where Bob works as a civil engineer.  They have three children--Anne, Sarah, and Steven.

When we are home we keep very busy in many activities--fraternal, civic, and church affairs. I think that if either of us could have but one wish it would be: "Please, Lord, let me die with my boots on!"

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Stiles, Henry (12/25/1900 - 09/11/1991) View Record
Obituary Stiles, Irene (08/16/1905 - 12/31/1993) View Record