Historical Details

Reynolds, William Marcus

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 02/08/2021


by Naomi Reynolds Martin

Among the early day cowboys, cattlemen and Hereford breeders, Billy takes his place as one of the well-remembered residents of the Lusk area. He was born Oct. 17, 1861 on Clark's Creek near Fort Riley and Junction City, Kan. His parents, Thomas Marcus and Elizabeth Ann Massey Reynolds, were residents of Westport, Mo. before migrating to Kansas. This fourth son, a wheelright by trade, became a trader in the livestock industry during the golden days of the famous cattle trail era when Junction City was regarded one of the larger cattle markets where drovers met stockmen.

Billy was seven years old when his father was murdered at Dry Creek, Kan. during the sale of one such herd by a highwayman who attempted to rob his victim, leaving his widow and seven children to survive.

His mother continued to live in the home for one year and three months before she remar­ried. Her second husband was William M. Bradley, by whom she bore three more chil­dren, Laura, Russell and Zona. This family later came to Lusk where William and Russell Bradley operated a blacksmith and wagon re­pair shop.

When Billy was 14 he went to Texas to work as a cowboy and drover, following many large herds of cattle up the famous Texas Trail to points in the northern states. His first drive was for John Sharp, whose range was north of Ogallala, Nebr. That was in 1877. The next year he went to work for the Pratt and Ferris cow outfit who ranged in Eastern Wyoming, along the Republican River near Chauysney, Nebr, Eastern Colorado and Eastern Wyoming, along with those of Western Livestock Cattle Company and their foreman was Frank Lusk, with whom Billy formed a life-long friendship and business associa­tion.

In 1881 he was married to Estella Lizzie Goodwin on Nov. 24, in Cheyenne. Her father was Oliver P. Goodwin, then operating the Horse Creek Stage Station some 28 miles north of Cheyenne.

They moved in to the abandoned ranch on Upper Rawhide Creek, which had been preempted by the Old Newhampsher (New Hampshire) Cattle Company, a firm of New Englanders who had hoped to make their fortune in the cattle business. The winter of 1878-9 had wiped out their large numbers of cattle and left them cured of the cow business. They left without even gathering the survivors of their herd, so Billy had a brand recorded and identified all of the unbranded offspring with a prominent X Cross on the left side of each one. This small windfall was later to become the nucleus of his large numbers of range cattle.

There were seven children born to this union: Thomas Robert, born June 9, 1883 and who died in infancy: William Oliver, born an invalid due to his mother's long illness with Typhoid before his birth: Alanie Miller, the first daughter. These two children were both born on Lower Rawhide Creek to which the couple moved in 1885.    The girl was born May 4, 1887 then Lewis, the third son born Dec. 4, 1888 and George Marcus born Dec. 13, 1891.  Both were also born on Lower Rawhide. Billy sold this ranch and bought the Newton Meadow ranch south of Lusk from Frank Lusk in 1894.  Here was the birthplace of their two youngest children, Naomi Elizabeth, their second daughter, Feb. 19, 1895 and the youngest child, Russell Osborn, April 7, 1898.

After the disastrous winter of 1887, Billy got to reasoning that fewer and better cattle which would net more when sold would be better adapted to fenced pastures, and could be better protected by adequate barn shelter where hay could be raised to be used as feed when drought inflicted shortage of natural grasses on the range. Thus it hap­pened that gradually he selected the best of his stuff, culled out the poorer animals and disposed of them. He also began buying better grade and registered bulls with which to build up his range.

When his herd was totally converted to the full blooded Herefords, he had a spa­cious barn built with ample shed room to cover as many as 1,000 head of cattle at once. His mansion-like home was a landmark at the time it was erected and still stands to house its present day occupants. He had begun buying homestead land while he was on Lower Rawhide, and he continued to annex various places to his original holdings.

In 1910 Lizzie won her many years of suits against the United States Government for her treaty promised allotment in South Dakota. The following year Wyoming suffered a disastrous drought, so Billy moved 3,000 head of his range cattle to the untouched forage of the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Be­cause all cattle grazing there had to bear Lizzie's brand which was the Spanish or half circle five, plus the official ID brand, these Wyoming cattle all carried the three marks-- X Cross, half circle five and the Government ID. Because there was so much untouched forage there Lizzie also bought 2500 Brahma yearlings from Donahue of Omaha branded with her brand and the ID and turned them loose on the Reservation.

It looked like a deal was just tailor­ made for the Reynolds' pocketbook, so since the entire Reservation was fenced against outside intruders, George and his family moved to a rented place for headquarters and hired Ray and Rollo Christian, his two brothers-in-law to help him look after the big herd. All went well until a prairie fire took over and scattered the cattle all over the Reservation.   Billy outfitted a regular round up crew pressing Naomi, Russell, Lewis, Joe Dornham, and Seth Austin in to help him round up the cattle. It was obvious they could not be wintered on the Reservation, so he shipped them to Omaha as fast as possible before they lost weight. Then he began looking around for a local buyer and encountered a man named Horrigan who contracted for the entire herd of Brahmas. He did not pay anything down, but when the round up was finished, there was deficit of 1500 head of doggies.   He then paid for the number delivered and brought suit against Lizzie for the short­age.  So, they not only lost the cattle, but had to pay for them twice--once to Donahue and the remnant to Horrigan.

Back at Lusk Billy was having other difficulties. He sold the Silver Spring or old Demmon ranch to Fred Rimmington.    Along with the ranch Rimmington bought 400 head of bulls.  They all carried the customary tattoo number in their ears as a brand, in lieu of not disfiguring them with a fire brand.   At the same time, Rimmington bought a sizeable herd of range cattle from Johnny Morton of Douglas. Morton held a mortgage against all cattle carrying the AC brand.

Rimmington proceeded to brand all of the registered cattle with his AC. Rimmington subsequently became insolvent and it became necessary for Billy and Johnny Morton to both foreclose on the cattle they had sold to him. Morton claimed that his mortgage covered all cattle carrying the AC brand.

Billy said he had prior right because they had been branded by tattoo prior to their delivery to Rimmington and he held the mort­gage on the animals described in his mort­gage by the legitimate tattoo brand numbers. A lawsuit ensued and the District Judge decided in favor of Morton, because only the fire brand was considered legal in the State of Wyoming.  He was able to resume ownership of the Silver Spring ranch, but he lost in the neighborhood of $16,000 on the cattle.

In 1915 Billy sold his show herd to a Mr. Rogers, who was then connected with the Wyoming Life Insurance Company, and the Newton Meadow ranch to a Denver physician, Dr. Arthur McGugan.  The doctor paid cash for part of it and traded several parcels of real estate in and around Denver for the balance.   Billy received 310 acres in Weld County, north of Greeley, Colo., 116 acres under irrigation and in a cherry orchard near Fort Collins, 80 acres adjoining Littleton, Colo. an apartment on Capitol Hill containing 46 apartments, a large restaurant and dining room two blocks from the Capitol building, a Terrace made up of twelve four and five room apartments in North Denver, two houses in Denver, one at 500 South Broadway across the street from Union Park, and a small residence on Arapa­hoe Street, not too far from the business center.   He took up residence in the South Broadway property while he was putting it in repair for sale.  This he traded for a five acre truck farm at Wheatridge.

In 1918 Lizzie sold her Bar Five ranch on allotment in South Dakota. Billy traded all of his real estate in Colorado for a large cattle ranch and range cattle near Carlsbad, N.M.  He held this property for five years, then traded it for three ranches in Catron County, New Mexico.This new deal encompassed the old Coleman Ranch on Largo
Creek, and two dry land homestead sections, all improved with living quarters and fences. Billy stocked these ranches and was aided by his son-in-law, Roy W. Martin who became a full fledged partner.   They did relatively well financially for the first two years; then they, with other stockmen, contracted to sell their steers to a cattleman named Thompson. He gave the cattlemen his checks as he closed his deals.     Reynolds and Martin had to trail their cattle a hundred miles to the shipping point, Magdalena. On the day they arrived, Billy received a telegram from Elmetta telling us all that George had been killed in a car accident near White Clay be­low Chadron.  Billy, Lizzie, Naomi, Russell and Verna Mae, Russell's wife all entrained immediately for Chadron.   Billy was paged at the Union Depot with a wire from Roy Martin telling him that the Thompson check had been returned marked "no funds".    Billy stopped off at Denver to try to intercept the ship­ment, but the cattle had been sold. No   trace was ever found of Thompson.The Reynolds-Martin loss embodied 18 cars of yearling steers.

Lizzie sold the New Mexico properties and the Martins took her with them to their remaining home in Idaho. She spent her last years with her children, either in South Dakota, Oregon or California.

This article has been written to cover the business transactions of the one time cowboy, cattleman and Hereford breeder who once operated  the Blue Ribbon Hereford Ranches  two miles south of Lusk. To keep the story within acceptable reading length, all references to personal lives, have been omitted . However a complete story of the Reynolds family with genealogy and pictures are being prepared as a full length book for the Wyoming Museum at the request of Dr. Gene Gressley and it is hoped that a copy shall be available for the Lusk Museum.

In closing it might be well to tell you that Billy made his fortune despite the lack of any formal education above the old Mc­ Guffey fifth reader. He was fair, generous to a fault, understanding and always willing to help when he could. At various times he served as a member of the school board, and the various positions on the local bank board, including the vice presidency. He was a member of Harmony Lodge AF AM Lusk, The Commondry at Douglas, the Consistery at Cheyenne and the Shrine at Rawlins. He helped to fund the building of St. George's Episcopal Church and gave land to the Lusk townsite. He did not drink, smoke or carry a gun. He was witty, loved a practical joke whether on himself or on others. Above all he was charitable, forgiving -- always tending to give the advantage when possible. When he was stricken with total deafness in 1920, and was cut off from communication with his business associates except through writing.  There was no hearing aid made for his type of deafness until a year after his death when the bone conduction aid would have helped him immediately.

In 1929, while he was gathering and chasing some horses, his own horse stumbled at the edge of a badger hole. The cinch was broken by the terrific fall and as the saddle left the horse, the horse also fell upon the rider, breaking his ribs, his neck, both arms and his right leg. He was 68.

He and Lizzie were both buried in the Lusk cemetery.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Reynolds, William (11/30/-0001 - 06/03/1931) View Record
Obituary Reynolds, Estella (06/20/1866 - 12/12/1950) View Record
Cemetery Record REYNOLDS, WILLIAM MARCUS View Record
Obituary Reynolds, William (1885 - 06/16/1899) View Record