Historical Details

Nuttal, William Osborn Jr.

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 12/15/2020


by Catherine Nuttall

William Osborn Nuttal was born on Dear Creek south of Glenrock, Wyo. Aug. 6, 1904. His mother, Margaret Hutchison, and her first husband, Vincent Peterson, came to Wyoming in a covered wagon in 1884 from Keokuk, Ia.  Mr. Peterson was a coal miner and worked at Hanna and Glenrock.   They had seven children; Frank, Alma, Alice, Eliza­beth, John, Carey, and Helen. After Mr. Peterson's death, Bill's mother married William Osborn Nuttall, a former school teacher from Kansas.  Bill's younger brother, George Cedric Nuttall, was born in Douglas, Wyo. May 25, 1907. His parents ranched on Dee Creek and La Prele Creek until 1908.

Times were hard and his dad went to Montana to seek work and never returned to his family. Bill's mother had a rooming house and a home laundry in Douglas for 10 years. She filed on a homestead on La Prele in 1916, near the Albert Elder ranch. Her old­ est daughter, Alma, was married to Albert Elder. Her three youngest children lived on the homestead for three years until their mother could make final proof. During the spring blizzard in April 1917, Bill and George had little coal, so they chopped and piled sagebrush near the cabin door so it would be handy to burn. They took their old mother cat and four kittens to bed with them to keep warm.    Later that year Albert Elder died of a heart attack. The ranch was sold to Jacob Jenne; Bill's mother, his brother George and half-sisters, Helen and Alma, who later married Harve Powell, moved to Cali­fornia in 1920.    George enlisted in the Navy in 1923 and made this his career.

Bill's first teacher in Douglas in 1911 was Miss Carrie Roberts, who married John Amspoker. Bill alternated going to the Douglas school and the county school on La Prele. One of his favorite teachers on La Prele was Miss Flora Thomas. In those days, "The Literary Society", was popular in the rural area which was held at the school house on Saturday night during the winter months. In the summer the different ranches had dances in the hay loft of their barn on Saturday night and picnics on the creeks were favorite recreations.

As a youngster Bill always wanted to be a cowboy. Ed Henry of the "88"   Ranch gave him his first cowboy boots. Getting to school on time became a problem for Bill in his sophomore year bf high school when he lived with his older brother, John, on the Bolln place three miles north of Douglas.

He decided to quit school and work for Jake Jenne's sheep and cattle foreman, Barney Wenzel.  The next spring he and a friend Harry Taylor, went to live on Taylor's home­ stead which joined E. E. Allyn on Piney Creek northeast of Douglas. He broke horses for Mr. Allyn and Fred Williams.

A very dry summer in 1919 caused a severe shortage of grass. Cattle and horses on the range were starving to death. The "Humane Roundup" was formed to organize feeding stations on the Harney Meadows near James Edwards ranch; on Walker Creek at the Peg Baughn place; at the Douglas Stockyards near Douglas; and on Duck Creek at the Jacob Jenne ranch.  Hay was shipped to Doug­las by railroad and the Randall trucking firm distributed it to the stations. Fred Williams received word that some of his cat­tle were being held at the Harney Meadows station so he sent Bill over to get them in the spring of 1920. Bill arrived at the Edwards ranch late in the afternoon.  A young colored man told him that Mr. and Mrs. James Edwards had gone to Keeline and would be home that evening. Bill was startled to find that James and Ethel Edwards were black. Ethel. sensed his uneasiness and entertained him by playing the piano and singing.  Ethel was a fine musician.

Ethel's mother, Mrs. Dawson, lived with them. She and her husband used to cook on a river boat on the Mississippi River. When Mr. Dawson contracted tuberculosis they came to Colorado for his health. Ethel and her sister were educated in Denver. When Bill saddled his thoroughbred horse the next morning he began to buck so Bill spurred him. James (Nigger Jim) said, "Kid, if you will throw away your spurs and use a curry comb and a little oats, you will get along better with your horse". Bill never forgot this advice.    James Edwards homesteaded on Harney Creek in 1900.He worked for Willson Brothers for several years.     A year before his death in 1952, he sold his ranch of 18 sections to Otto Bible, Wayne Bible, Roy Pennington and Beryl Fullerton.  He died of suffocation from a burning chicken in a basement apartment in Scottsbluff.  Mrs. Edwards died in 1945.

While breaking horses for Bill Lindmeir and Eugene Willson in 1925, Bill and Frank Vanderwalker conceived the idea of putting an ice cream chair on a bucking horse in­ stead of a saddle.    Bill rode a bucking horse in this chair as an exhibition at the 4th of July celebration in Lost Springs.

He did this later in the summer at the Lindmier picnic and rodeo and again at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas.     That fall Bill and Cecil Sims got jobs near Midwest driving horses on construction of a dam on Salt Creek.  They worked for Shyrock and Whitie Pursell.

The three-day blizzard in May 1927 found Bill herding sheep for J. Walter Williams on Walker Creek.    In spite of the freezing rain, high winds and deep snow, he was able to save most of his band of ewes and lambs by drifting them into timber on Piney Creek. When the storm was over he was four miles from his sheepwagon.   The foreman, Ross Barnes, and Ralph Scott finally located him and helped him bring his sheep back to camp.  That fall his lambs weighed better than average so his boss, "Mike" J. Walter Williams, gave him a new suit of clothes as a bonus.    During the winter Bill went to work for Charlie Hit­ shew in Lost Springs.         He carried the mail for six months on the route out of Lost Springs. It took two days in the winter to drive the route. He drove a team to the mail buggy, which had side curtains of canvas and a stove made out of a powder keg, with two-inch pipe for a chimney through the top of the buggy. He stayed all night either at the Clint Dern ranch or the Albert Sims ranch, then back to town, making a round trip of 60 miles. In the summer in real good weather he drove a Model-T Ford, but if the roads were in bad shape he rode a saddle horse.

In the fall of 1928, after Walter and Effie Reed and family had moved to the Cheyenne River ranch, Bill helped them trail their cattle to their ranch from the Card ranch south of Lost Springs. He broke horses for them and did regular ranch work. Some of the other boys working for Reeds that year were Bud and Charlie Sylvester, Pat Marchant, Slim Judd and their own sons Joe, Ray, Jim and Walter. A big flood on Cheyenne River almost caused a catastrophe. Jim and Joe Reed and Bill were swimming their horses across the river when the cur­ rent caused Bill's horse to tip over. Bill was thrown from his horse and found himself sinking in quick sand. Jim and Joe threw him a lariat rope and pulled him out.

The highway between Manville and Orin was constructed by fresnos and teams of horses during the summer of 1929-31. Bill worked for several contractors on this road driving teams for Asa Wiggins, Ray Baugh, Dan Gilford and Slim Hildt.

In 1932 Bill helped feed cattle for Fred Williams and then worked at the Bill Lindmier ranch. He and Catherine D. Snyder were married on Aug. 14, 1932 in Douglas at the Methodist Church. They moved to Cathe­rine's homestead and have lived on this ranch for 40 years. It is located 15 miles north east of Lost Springs. Their neighbor on the north and west was William Howard, nicknamed Johnny Bull.  He was born in England in 1880 and came to the United States with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Howard in 1882.             He worked for Ad Spaugh in 1900 and had his brand Rocker H, recorded in 1911 when he bought his first cows.   The Howard ranch was sold to Harry Manning. Sam Joss was their neighbor on the east and James "Nigger Jim" Edwards joined them on the south.      After Sam Joss' death, his grandson, Artie Joss, raised cattle on his land and also on the Edwards place which he purchased from Beryl Fullerton's daughter, Mrs. Bennie Coon.

Bill and Catherine bought their first cows from Bill Dieleman and Earl Dunham in the fall of 1932. Their brand is three quarter box K (5). The drought years in the 30's were tough so Bill broke horses for Sam Joss and helped Eugene Willson put up hay.

Eventually they were able to buy and lease 4,000 acres and raise hereford cattle. Their ranch is a meeting place for many eastern hunters each fall.

Bill's mother, Margaret Hutchison was born Dec. 10, 1861 and died August 1959.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Nuttall, William (08/06/1904 - 02/12/1995) View Record
Obituary Nuttall, Catherine (05/31/1907 - 09/23/1993) View Record