Historical Details

Tyrrel, Walter S. and Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 01/25/2021


by Jane P. (Mrs. W. S.) Tyrrel

Walter S. and Josephine (Wehenkel) Tyrrel, Happy and Josie to their friends, moved to Goshen County, Wyoming from Madison, Nebr. via six years in the Sand Hills. Their move was part of a typical American family trek beginning at Boston, Mass. three centuries before and ending at the Pacific Ocean when his parents and brother moved to California.

Walter S. Tyrrel was born April 6, 1888 on his father's farm just north of Madison, the son of Samuel Parks and Lou Ross (Stevenson) Tyrrel.  He attended a country school close to his home and later went to business college in Norfolk, Nebr., and in 1908 attended a short course in agriculture at the University of Nebraska.

He married on April 27, 1914, Josephine Wehenkel, daughter of Henry and Alice (Utter) Wehenkel. Born May 17, 1888, she attended a country school west of Madison and later was one of the early telephone operators in Madison.

The couple moved at once to their ranch in the Sandhills south of Woodlake, Nebr.

Here their son Eugene was born, July 29, 1916.  During World War I Happy served in the Home Guard at Woodlake.

In 1920 they moved to Wyoming and settled at their present home about 14 miles southeast of Lusk in northern Goshen County.

He had bought the relinquishment on the land in 1919 from Dr. George A. Earle, who had bought it from the original homesteader, William Burch.    The latter had homesteaded it some time between 1912 and 1916.

The ranch still has a link with the old open range days when it was part of the grazing range of John Pfister. The old windmill tower still stands over the original well which watered the Pfister cattle; and when the big wheel was taken down as obsolete after the installation of an electric pump, one felt a link with the past was gone.

While Earle was in the Army during the first World War, William (Scotty) Jack leased the ranch and operated it for a short time. Earle emerged from the war with the rank of Captain.    After selling the ranch he had an office in Lusk for some years, later moving to Casper where he be­ came mayor. Still later he was appointed superintendent of the State Hospital at Evanston; and upon leaving there he moved to Texas.

After buying the original homestead, Happy bought 320 acres from Mrs. Emma Pick who later became Mrs. Earle. The Tyrrels took possession May 1, 1920. In the mean­ time, Happy had filed on an additional 120 acres.

They moved their furniture, milk cows and six head of horses up by immigrant car. Happy was looking for a place to keep their stock overnight when Frank DeCastro came to his aid and arranged for him to. use Tom Bell's shed and corral back of the North­ western Hotel. That was fine, but unfor­ unately his two best mares disappeared during the night and were never found.

Walking down the street, Happy saw a sign, "Otto Koeberlin, Tailor".  To his great satisfaction, it turned out to be that of a man from Madison whom he had known all his life. Koeberlin was later Clerk of the Court of Niobrara County.

After furniture and stock were settled on the ranch, Happy went back to Woodlake and brought Josie and Gene up in their 1916 Buick. They lived in the original four-room log house until 1942 when they built their present house, but gradually improvements were added. Water was piped to the house from the well and lights were installed: first carbide and then six-volt electric lights. The R.E.A. came through after the present house was built.

A barn was built early and a shop, hog house and sheep sheds were built as the need arose. A wash house was placed close to the windmill when the water was piped directly from the storage tank.

Happy says times had changed in work as well as houses. In early days after the crops were harvested and the hay put up, the men made frequent trips to Rawhide Buttes all winter to cut wood for fuel.

"It warms you twice, once when you cut it and once when you burn it".  Now fuel oil and gas are delivered and all you do is turn a knob.

The community of Rawhide extended roughly east and southeast of the Buttes. Old families were the Waldo and Stanley Hoys, Otto Duguids, Oscar Persons, Paul Brozo­ viches, Wilhelm Fjordbaks, Bunt Alters, Rollo Porters, Happy Tyrrels, Frank Dolces (near the present Minnie Butler ranch), Olin Smiths, Sam McCurdys. The Wesley Wolfes and F. E. Eikenberrys were on the Southwestern edge.

At first only a fence-line telephone connected members of the community.  Sam McCurdy, Frank Dolce, Rollo Porters (when they lived on the Heilman place), Stanley Hoy, Fred Snee and Happy Tyrrels were on it in the early "20's.   Later they got on the Hopeville (later the Rawhide Buttes) Telephone Company line into Lusk.

Times were hard, in a money sense, and the weather was hard, too, with droughts, blizzards, grasshoppers, etc.  But there were good times, too. In the winter there were card parties and country dances at the various homes and the homesteaders all  hitched up (or later warmed up their motors) and went. In the summer they got together for picnics and fishing.

There were originally two one-room school, one near the Waldo Roys seems to have been called Rawhide and another was in Sunshine Valley, near Frank Dolces. In 1924 these were combined to form the Rawhide School.There was another Rawhide school,  a more or less temporary building just south of Dry Rawhide, so this one was on the coun­ty record as Rawhide Buttes.

The first teacher after the schools were combined was Mrs. Charley (Gertie) Cal­houn . The second was Mary Blair and after that there were two teachers at a time until about 1936 when they went back to one teacher.

Several years after the schoolhouse was closed, which was, I believe, in 1942 or 1943, it was sold and moved to Joe Pfister's land southwest of Frank Podolaks.  It was used as a shed.

In the Rawhide and Royal Valley com­ munities Happy and Josie Tyrrel took an active part.  Happy served on the school board of District 6, Goshen County for 21 years; was chairman of the Royal Valley Com­munity for about 15 years through the 20's and early 30's and held office in the Raw­hide Buttes Telephone Company.  He was treasurer of the Niobrara County Farm Bureau in early days and is still a member.

Josie, who died in April, 1948, was a 4-H leader for 20 years and was an early and active member of the Royal Valley Club. Her hobby was the growing of flowers and many a bloom in homes and yards of her friends still bear witness to her generosity. She was a beloved member of the com­ munity.

Their son, Eugene was married in Feb­ ruary, 1936, to Mildred Upton of Moore Springs, daughter of Thomas and Maude (Allen) Upton. He attended both the old and the later Rawhide schools and she went to Moore Springs but later they both graduat­ed from Lusk High School.  During the war they lived in Denver where Gene worked in the General Iron Co., then moved to Torring­ton. In 1952 they came to Lusk and bought the Lusk Cold Storage from Stanley Hoy.  In 1956 he was elected to the Town Council.

Eugene was very active in 4-H both as a teenager and later as a leader.   His inter­ est has come down through the generations. Carmen, the oldest daughter, was especially outstanding in her 4-H record: was presi­dent and junior leader in the Up-and-Corning Club and won a trip to Chicago on her junior leadership record. She married Jim­my Shane, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Shane, who also was a 4-H leader.  Their daughters, JoAnn and Brenda, seem likely to follow in their parents' footsteps.

Claude Tyrrel, the son, married Bonny Anstey, daughter of Ord and Fay Anstey of Harrison and they have two sons, Bryan and Kelly. Claude is a pilot and is presently (1972) employed at the Worland, Wyo. air­port  Karen, Eugene's second daughter and also active in teenage 4-H work, was mar­ ried in 1961 to Kenneth Gaukel, son of Mr. and Mrs. Emery Gaukel of  Keeline. They have two sons, Kevin and Kurt.    Susan, the third daughter, is taking nurse's training.

In October, 1949 Happy Tyrrel married Jane R. Patterson, daughter of Henry R. and Bertha (Rothrock) Patterson, who was born Sept. 9, 1901.   She had come from her native Pennsylvania in 1935 and taught school at Jay Em and Rawhide for five years. Later Miss Patterson, a graduate of the Library School of Drexel Institute of Tech­ nology, served five years as first assistant in the Natrona County Library and after that was head librarian at Wheatland. After their marriage she was employed by the Niobrara County Library Board to reorganize and modernize the local library.  In 1957 she was placed in charge of it until her retirement in 1966. During those years the library continued to expand and increase its services. She was appointed to the Library Board in October 1966.

She is a member of the Royal Valley Club and was for several years a member of the Lusk Business and Professional Women's Club and the Moore Springs Extension Club.

Although the Tyrrels ran cattle exclu­ sively when they first came to Wyoming, after 1930 they began to raise sheep and gradually increased their flock until in the fall of 1954, they sold the last of their cattle. Farming was continued from the beginning until the drought stopped it in the middle 1930's..

About 1965 the Tyrrels retired from active ranch work and now rent their pastures.

But their retirement should not be taken too seriously. They still pursue their hobbies vigorously. In their basement is a room where Happy can enjoy his collection of Indian artifacts and guns; prepare his fishing tackle and work at his wood polishing and cane making. Jane enjoys her books and scrapbooks, also her historical and genealogical research and writing.

Happy takes frequent fishing trips and enjoys the hunting season each fall.

 Jane dropped her earlier hobby of flying when she left the East where she had been the first woman pilot in central Pennsylvania.

They enjoy their ranch home but also enjoy "gadding" around. In fact, their friends complain that they rarely can find them home!

Happy passed away Sept. 26, 1975.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Tyrrel, Walter (04/06/1888 - 09/26/1975) View Record
Obituary Tyrrel, Jane (09/09/1901 - 06/20/2004) View Record
Obituary Tyrrel, Josephine (05/17/1888 - 04/22/1948) View Record