Historical Details

Gautschi Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 11/30/2020


by Mrs. Harold Gautschi

Hans Gautschi was born to Jacob and Eliza Gautschi, immigrants from Switzer­land, May 14, 1883 in Chicago, Ill. He was educated in the Chicago schools and pursued a special course in mechanical engineering by attending night classes at Lewis Institute.  Later he took a course in steam engineering, and rose to the position of engineer for the Meihele Printing Press Company in Chicago.

In 1905 he came to Wyoming as engineer of the Copper Belt Mine Company which had extensive interests in the Rawhide Butte and Muskrat Canyon area. He was later named Superintendent of the mines. While he was working for Copper Belt, Edwin Hall Sr., president of the Company, had a one­ cylinder automobile shipped from Chicago for more efficient transportation between Lusk and the mines. Mr. Gautschi was also in charge of the vehicle and thus became the first person to operate a car in what is now Niobrara County.

In 1909, Mr. Gautschi returned to Chicago, and there he and Jennie May Gager, a neighbor friend since childhood days, were married on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 1909.

They left for Lusk by train on New Year’s day, but were stopped in Omaha, Neb. a day because of a severe snow storm.  They left for Lusk the following day on the last train to reach the town for two weeks. It was necessary to stay at the Northwestern Hotel until the roads were passable to the mines. Carrie Brown and Anna Alter, helped make the bride's stay pleasant, and during the storm they had dances in the dining room almost every night.

Most of the winter trips had to be made in the spring wagon or lumber wagon, and it was often so cold that they would walk for miles behind the wagon to keep warm. On one winter trip they left by car before a storm, against the advise of Harry Snyder and Martin Agnew. The bliz­zard struck just before the top of the Divide.  The road was blocked with drifts and they tried to climb the hill at a place where the snow was not so deep.    After several tries and backing down again, Mrs. Gautschi carried the children to lighten the load and left them at the bottom while she helped push over the top.  The family arrived at camp just before the furor of the storm hit.

There were eight men employed at the mines in the early days, and the nearest women were at the Agnew and the Hobbs ranches four miles away.

In the winter of 1912-13 considerable snow fell during December and the crew at the Michigan Mine shoveled out the drifts in Muskrat Canyon day after day in hope of getting through with a team in time for Christmas, but the cuts always filled up again.  Bunt Alter was one of those who made snow shoes with barrel staves or any­ thing else that could be used to walk to town.  The Gautschi family, however, was left without much food and subsisted most­ly on rabbits. It was not until Valentine Day that they received their Christmas mail.

In 1914, Mr. Gautschi resigned his position with Copper Belt and opened the Economy Store at Manville. In 1918 he admitted Mr. R. F. Burhoop to partnership. The store prospered during the oil boom days, but as the oil activity ceased and the banks closed, the Economy store too was forced to close.

In 1930 Mr. Gautschi opened Gautschi's Standard Service Station which he and his son Harold operated until 1970, when Harold sold to Mr. Virgil Martin.

His active participation in civic affairs, both in Manville and Lusk, and his interest in Wyoming's history, were life­ long.

He was the dominating influence in sparking a civic project with the Lusk Lions Club which resulted in the construction of a small log museum on his service station corner and which houses prehis­toric geographical fossils, Indian relics, and as the result of his friendship with Russell Thorpe, one of the original stage coaches used on the old Cheyenne-Black Hills stage line.    It was his hope that Lusk could someday build a large museum to focus national attention on an area so high in mineral resources, archeological inter­ est, and colorful past in the opening of the West, as abounds around Niobrara County.

He was a member of the Congregational  Church in Lusk; a member and Past Master of Harmony Masonic Lodge No. 24 A. F. & A. M. and Roosevelt Lodge of Manville;  an active member of the Lusk Lions Club for 30 years, and served as treasurer of that organization for over 20 years. He operated the weather station in Lusk, as a voluntary public service, for many years.

Jennie May Gautschi was born in Chicago, Ill. April 6, 1882, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William M. Gager. She was educated in the Irving Park Schools and was employed by A. C. Mcclurg Publishing Company. Mrs. Gautsch,i was active in many com­munity endeavors and as a member of the Congregational Church, served the Circle as 
president, and helped in its many programs. She was a member and Past Matron of the Order of Eastern Star, Guardian of Job's Daughters, served as president of Triple B Extension Club, and was one of the organizers of the Lusk Womans Club in 1941, later served as president and was a vigorous member until health began to fail.

Mrs. Gautschi died Sept. 7, 1962 after a lingering illness.

Mr. Gautschi died of cancer on April 26, 1966, at Scottsbluff, Neb.

A daughter, Frances Marie, was born May 10, 1911 in Lusk. She was the first baby born in Niobrara County. Bennie Updike was born just an hour later, both had auburn hair.

She was educated in the Manville Schools. She married Millard Merritt Nov. 18, 1930 at Torrington, Wyo. They moved to Billings the following July. They now live in Westport, Wash.

A son, Harold Leslie, was born Sept. 24, 1912 in Lusk. He was nicknamed "Bus" at an early age. He was educated in the Manville Schools, graduating with honors from High School in 1930. He completed one year of normal training at Lusk High School. He married Mae Sparks in Lusk on Nov. 18, 1936. Bus became a leader in many civic organizations, active in town team basket­ ball, golf and helped in any way to improve these areas.He is a Past Master of Harmony Lodge, serving as secretary for 20 years. He is a past patron of O.E.S., Past Associate Guardian of Jobs Daughter, Past President of Lusk Lions Club, Jr.
Chamber of Commerce, Niobrara Country Club, and a member of the Congregational Church. He served with the Lusk Fire Dept. for many years. He is a member of. the Elks Lodge and a member of the Shrine, Korien Temple.

A son, Charles Robert, was born Feb. 23, 1920. He was active in sports and Boy Scouts. He died October 24, 1932 of rheumatic fever.

There are two grandchildren, Charles Leslie Gautschi and Laraine Mae Gautschi. They will be included in the Sparks family history.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Gautschi, Hans (05/14/1883 - 04/26/1966) View Record
Obituary Gautschi, Jennie (04/06/1882 - 09/07/1962) View Record