Historical Details

Pfister, Richard

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


by Mrs. L. H. Hale

Richard Pfister, son of John and Ella Arnold Pfister, was born Sept. 17, 1885 in a three-room log house located on Page Flats about six miles southeast of what is now Manville. It is probable that "Richie", as his mother called him, was one of the first white babies born in the Lusk area.

The John Pfister family had come to Wyoming in the midsummer of 1884, by train to Cheyenne and by covered wagon from there to their new home. They had lived previously near Junction City, Kan. where John was the first white child born in Geary County·. In 1879 he had married Ella Josephine Arnold and in 1883 he and his brother-in-law, Edward Arnold came to the Lusk area where John found the location for the family's new home.

Five years later the Pfisters moved to a new home three miles southwest of Node, where the winters were a little less rigorous and where there was a school for the children. Richard was the 5th of 13 children.

The others were; Valentine, Maggie (Mrs. Albert Olinger), Jane (Mrs. Andrew Joy), John, Franke (Mrs. Earl Anderson), William, Ella (Mrs. Carl Dean), Vincent, Edwin,  Anne (Mrs. Henry Wasserburger), and Leo and Paul who died in infancy.

There were no dull times in the Pfister household. Securing the basic necessities for the family was a challenge.  Ella Pfister was deeply determined that her children should secure an education. Young ‘Dick' was not particularly cooperative, feeling that more interesting education lay just outside the schoolroom window. When in his early teens he worked for some of the large ranch outfits, getting this experience 
sandwiched in between his mother's efforts in getting him otherwise educated.   He attended Chadron Academy and Omaha Commercial College, where he and Cousin Tom Arnold played football with at least as much enthusiasm as they pursued education.

In Omaha, Richard met Miss Nettie Burney whom he married Nov. 11, 1907. Nettie, a native Omahan, was the daughter of Herman and Josephine Johnson Burney.  The young couple started their married life on the old Box X ranch east of Lusk. It was an enlightening period for the young bride.

The area itself was beautiful. There was a running trout filled stream near the house. Wolves and coyotes could be heard at night and never less than 20 hound dogs were kept to help keep the predators in check.

Mrs. Pfister soon found that skunks like chickens and eggs. She learned that hound dogs are always hungry and that hams and meat are never safe from them. She in­herited the task of holding reins of the high stepping horses while gates were opened and shut and was a lonely and unwilling passenger in at least one runaway. To the true facts of life was added such advice as to beware of the wild goats in the area which had long hooks in their noses to enable them better to climb the nearby, sheer rock walls. She was seriously advised never to cook rabbits with flannel or woolen tails as only those with cotton tails were safely edible.

Herman helped make a rugged and demanding life enjoyable. Sometimes the humor became quite physical. A friendly wrestling match in the house often ended up with broken furniture and the room in a shambles.

Occasionally, one of the six-footers would forget the low doors found in most log
houses and be laid flat by his own neglig­ence. Even as he lay "out cold" the rest laughed and enjoyed the "joke" just as they did when someone was flung from a mean jump­ing bronc. To the distaff side of the family, prayers always seemed more in order.

Wanting a ranch of their own Dick and Nettie Pfister left the Box X and purchased the Ed Wilson ranch on Mule Creek in north­ern Niobrara County in 1909. Replacing the running stream at the Box X were two bar­rels in which alum was used to settle the water, and a water hole nearby in which the water often was thick and full of scum.

Mule Creek which seemed either dry or wild­ly overflowing was not far away. Gradually, through the years, dams were built, lessen­ing the flood threat and evening out the water supply. A cistern held water from Edgemont, 18 miles away.

Four miles to the southwest were good neighbors, the Oscar Jones family. Nellie Jones always seemed to have the ice for ice cream and the milk for cream and butter that Nettie Pfister had difficulty in securing on the Mule Creek place. It seemed a place of "more cows and less butter, more streams and less water.” Valentine (Tine) Pfister worked with her brother in those early days and was deeply appreciated by his sister-in-law as he helped her secure some of the amenities of life. Tine even knew what to do when the chickens feet became hard balls of dried gumbo a day or so after a heavy rain.

Often riders would come from other ranches, presumably looking for strayed stock and would stay for several days. After meals the men would go outside, each to squat and whittle a piece of wood, meantime passing around the news and whatever other bits of wisdom seemed appropriate.

Occasionally, tragedy struck when a transient cowboy would bring lice or bedbugs. Bedbugs in a log house are formidable foes as any early-day house wife could tell you.

Good horses were a necessity in those days. As on other cattle ranches, the bronco riding and racing which went on a­ round the Mule Creek corrals would be of professional caliber today. Some of the boys who worked on the ranch were Frank Rheinhardt who married a sister of former Luskite, Mike Cork, Arch Nequette, later a prominent lawyer, Bud Vivion, an excellent rodeo rider, George Sweat, who had a lovely Indian wife and Jerome (Joe) and Cyril Kane, both of whom became prominent area ranchers. Lawrence (Slim) Danks was foreman for Mr. Pfister for many years. In 1893 Slim’s father, Peter Danks, had worked as a cow­boy on the 4 W outfit on the Cheyenne River, Wyoming Territory.    Slim's uncle, Clayton Danks, was a sheriff of Fremont County, Wyoming and a world's champion bronc rider.

During these years the horseless car­riage became increasingly popular. Mr.  Pfister asked his brother-in-law, Gordon Burney, to bring a car from Omaha. He and his mother spent 5 frustrating days opening gates and looking for passable roads. The Reo car proved itself an asset despite the gumbo and poor roads. A robin's egg blue car, a Stephens, with a wood panel behind the front seat containing a clock was the family's favorite of all the early cars. A trip to Lusk never failed to bring a good heavy rain in the middle of which everyone piled out to snap on the curtains, none of which ever seemed to fit.

The years 1918-1919 were bad ones for stockmen.  Along with many others the Pfis­ter cattle had to be moved to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The winter of 1919 brought severe loss of stock. Mr. and Mrs. Pfister spent years getting "even with the board".

Two children were born to the family, Helen in 1910 and a son, Richard Gordon in 1920.Since there was no available school in the Mule Creek area the Pfisters pur­chased a home in Edgemont where the children graduated from high school.

The depression years of the 30's were underway by the time Helen graduated from the University of Nebraska.  While teaching in Nebraska Helen met and married Lloyd (Sammy) Hale, a Wyoming University graduate. One daughter, Diana was born to the Hales.

Richard graduated from Harvard University in time to enlist in the Army at Ft. Warren in 1942. On returning from the South Pacific in 1945 he joined his father in ranching.

While they were going to school Richard met and later married Audrey Jane Ellis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Ellis. Audrey and Dick are the parents of 4 sons, Richard III, Robert, Ronson and Rodney.

A time of severe trial for both ex­ perienced and inexperienced stockmen came with the winter of 1949. It brought back memories to the old-timers and made many young folks realize that nature at its worst is still as devastating as in pioneer times.

In November 1950, Mrs. Pfister who had been ill for some time, passed away in an Omaha hospital. Services were held in the old St. Leo's Church and burial was in the Lusk Cemetery.

Mr. Pfister married Catherine Mitchell Dill of Edgemont in 1963. Several months later Mr. Pfister was a passenger in a car when it collided with another in a snow­storm.Resulting injuries caused a deterioration
in his health and he died April 9, 1968. Services were held at St. Leo's Catholic Church and he was buried in the Lusk  Cemetery. Mr. Pfister spent his nearly 83 years as a resident of what is now Niobrara County.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Pfister, Richard (09/17/1885 - 04/09/1968) View Record
Obituary Pfister, Nettie (09/16/1883 - 11/10/1950) View Record