Historical Details

Hanson, Charles and Frances

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 02/19/2021


by Charles Hanson

In these days of rapid transit, electronics and all the trivia of easy living, when we speak of pioneers, we go back in memory to those hardy people of by-gone days, who lived off the land, traveled by horse-back or covered wagon and in general did things the most diffi­cult way. I think perhaps this very well applies to the lives of Charles M. and Frances A. Hanson, who for many years lived on the Cheyenne River.

In the fall of 1896, Charlie Hanson and Jimmy Hammell drove 2,000 sheep that belonged to John Wilkinson, of Pine Bluffs, Wyo. to the Bridle Bit Ranch on the Cheyenne, a distance of some 200 miles, arriving about Thanksgiving time. On the trip they lived entirely in the open with only bed rolls and the usual packs on a horse's back; warding off the coyotes and bobcats at night and threatened by day by those who would take the sheep and leave the two of them dead in a nearby ravine or at least so scared that they would not "remember" what happened.

Charlie· actually did not settle on the Cheyenne until the fall of 1901 and at that time he still worked with sheep for the Wilkinson ranch. He lived on the Bridle Bit, a quarter section of land that had been acquired by Wilkinson be­ cause it was a major water hole and was surrounded by miles of free open range available for grazing.

The nearest trading center was the town of Edgemont, S.D. about 35 miles down river. His mode of travel was either by saddle horse or team and wagon.  After he left his own yard, he passed only one place, the Kelley Robinson Ranch, and he never opened a gate on the trip to town. The general store in Edgemont was operated by George Davidson and offered about everything including a place to eat. It was here that he met his future wife, Frances Frazier, who was an employee of Mr. Davidson.

Frances Frazier was born Frances A. Mills, the eldest of three children to William and Asenath Mills, at Tecumseh, Nebr. on May 17, 1869. She was married to William H. Frazier before she was 16 and had given birth to six children before she was 26; had traveled coast to coast by the time she was 30 (much of it done in a covered wagon). She lived in western Nebraska, while the Indians were still free to roam; she was on the Cherokee Strip; she traveled from the wheat fields of North Dakota across Montana and Idaho into Oregon by covered wagon; she picked hops and fruit along the Columbia River and later did millinery work in Cheyenne.   Because of these facts I believe she was truly a pioneer who was able to cope with the problems and conditions of the times.

Frances A. Frazier and Charles M. Hanson were married Feb. 4, 1904 at Newcastle, Wyo. and made their home for a time on the Bridle Bit and it was here that they established a small ranch and lived for many years. When Frances entered this marriage, she brought with her three sons by her previous marriage; Norman, Fred and William Frazier, who lived with them on the Bridle Bit. The boys attended school up the river a short distance and had Alta and Ethel Lindsy for school­ mates. In a very few years each of the boys obtained work on near-by ranches and were soon on their own.  Seven years after their marriage, a son, Charles N. Hanson, was born.

He grew up on the ranch and went to the little schools near-by. Some of his classmates included Robert and Tommy Rennard and Mary and Pat Marchant, Velma Smallwood, Dorothy Stigner, Bobby Bowen and Mary and Eddie Rumney.   He attended high school in Lusk two years and gra­ duated from Edgemont High in 1931.

Frances Hanson passed away at Lusk, on April 5, 1945.

There were some interesting facts about this ranch on the river. The original three house was one of the very first not built of logs or sod but was all frame with a cedar shingle roof and yellow pine flooring.    Underneath the structure was a room walled up with six inch center matched boards nailed onto posts set in the ground. Although at the time it was called a cellar and had an outside stairway, today we would call it a basement. The board stairway had an upper and lower door to seal against the cold of winter and the heat of summer. The cellar itself served as a place of storage for all types of food; garden vegetables and meat in the winter months and perishables such as milk and butter in the hot summer months. It also served as a place to sleep on hot nights. This frame house was built by a carpenter, Bobby Blair, who was the father of Billy Blair and both of their homesteads now belong to Sam Rennard.

In the following years Charley continued to build more facilities but these were of log construction; being built  from cotton-wood logs gathered along the banks of the river. They included a horse barn that accommodated two saddle horses and a team; a chicken house built in the side hill with a dirt roof over straw to keep it warm; a cow barn; a shop that seemed large in those days, with a bellows forge and blacksmith equipment out in front; and corrals and chute to handle cattle and horses.

In the 60 years or more that Charlie Hanson spent at the ranch on the river, there were many ups and downs but always the continuing determined effort to make a living and to get ahead for later years. In the depression years, although he may have been in debt, he was never in a so-called bread­ line and he worked long hard hours to make a living.

In the years 1904 to 1917 he worked on the ranch clearing away sage brush and timber and building dikes and ditches to create hay meadows. Also in these years he was able to accumulate a small hard of white­ faced cattle and was beginning to be quite comfortable. Then with the advent of World War I prices began to rise. There was demand for more products, and as is the case in war years, people get the urge to speculate. The bank in Edgemont urged him to borrow money to buy yearling steers shipped in from Mexico and get in on the big money.  This venture proved to be very costly, as four years later the steers were worth $10 a head less than he paid for them. As a result the Hansons lost their original herd of cattle, money invested in feed and pasture, all their  labor and in fact were dead broke in 1922. Starting over with two cows; a few chickens; 160 acres of land and a lot of determination, they managed to live through the drought years of the thirties. About 1928, Charlie purchased a registered Holstein cow at an auction and started a dairy herd. With this small start he was able to gradually get ahead and even having to sell some stock for $10 a head in the 30s, he had a herd of about 40 pure-bred Holsteins by the middle 40s.

Not being able to carry on the dairy work and also because of the declining price of products, he turned to pure-bred Herefords. In a period of about 20 years, he accumulated about 60 head of breeding cows and at long last was out of debt.

Because of his age at this time and other factors, he sold all but a very few and began to retire.

Because of injuries received in an automobile accident at Mule Creek Junction in 1964, Charlie was forced to spend his remaining years first in the Edgemont Hospital and then in private homes and later retirement homes. He was able to walk about; eat well; read without glasses; and was alert to the very last. He passed away June 15, 1974 at the Colonial Manor in Custer, S.D. two months prior to his 98th birthday. He was laid to rest in the cemetery at Lusk beside his wife, Frances.

This brief history would not be complete if we failed to mention something about transportation and entertainment in the 'teens and twenties. This was a period when the Model T Ford definitely made a change in the lives of many on the western plains. Almost every rancher be­ came the proud owner of some make of auto­ mobile and Charlie joined the crowd by buying a new Ford touring car, the first in July, 1919. He bought it from the Ford garage in Lusk and had Byron Brewster drive it out to the Brewster Ranch on Old Woman Creek. Byron showed him the basics of driving and after practicing on the prairie for an hour or so, he drove it on home, a distance of about eight miles.

With the coming of cars, one could drive long distances to dances, card parties, dinners with one's neighbors and a one-day trip to Edgemont; for supplies. The Ford gas tank held ten gallons at a cost of about 18¢ per gallon and with no gas gauge to tell you when it was empty, it sometimes stopped miles from home. When the tires went flat you simply drove home on the rim and fixed the tire later, no such thing as a spare.

The recreation for the pioneers on the River in the early days consisted of an occasional dance or card party, summer picnics and an occasional gathering to help neighbor brand livestock, harvest hay, put up a building or just simply help him do a job he couldn't do by himself. In the homes the evenings were spent by the men reading or repairing equipment that was used daily, and by women mending clothing maybe making advance preparation of tomorrow's food, some did "fancy work", and of course, caring for the little ones in the family.

Then, in the twenties the electronic age entered the scene and soon everyone wanted a radio. Many long evenings were spent listening to Fibber Magee and Molly, Amos and Andy, Ma Perkins and a little later the Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven. Thus began a change in our daily lives that took us to television, airplanes, missiles, and the voyage to the moon. These innovations came so fast and were so far away from the understanding of most of the pioneers that they never quite understood or even accepted some. Then, to add a little brightness to life, many installed electric lights, pro­duced by little generating plants in the garage, that generated a full 32 volts.

Along with all this, mothers got new electric irons, toasters and some even had motor operated washers.

The electronic age also changed our transportation; it gave bright headlights and self-starters on the new fords. Then came gas gauges, amp meters, speedometers, heat indicators, windshield wipers and whole instrument panels.

With the passing of 50 years or more and the many changes in our daily lives, there surely must be a lot of history forgotten and lost. There was the Forth of July picnic held in the meadows along the Cheyenne river at the Andy Sedgwick ranch about 1916. There were huge amounts of food, ice cream and cold drinks. It was a long, long day with all kinds of races, baseball, tug-of-war and old-time music. There were many dances held at the Dibble place and later at the Spencer Hall, which previously had been a consolidated school house. There were the monthly meetings of the literary society held mainly in the winter months, with monologues, dialogues, debates, readings and the expose of the latest news in the community. There were card parties, carry-in dinners and housewarmings for the newlyweds. Most of the entertainment was free and required only the fortitude to ride a horse or ride in an open wagon to get there.

Some of the personalities of those early years and who are now nearly forgotten would surely include the following:

W. Bill Pressler, a tall, slim cowboy who always wore a long-handle bar mustache and worked for John Mead, Tommy Turner, Charlie Carlson, W.D. Klein and many other ranchers. He was one of those likeable individuals who knew just the right time to ride into a ranch and be invited in for a free dinner.

Jack Beck, a short stocky man who came here from England, made his living mainly from shearing sheep and id odd jobs around the neighborhood. He was the “Dandy” at the dances and parties and liked to court all the new girls that appeared on the scene. He was a favorite story teller, debater and had a beautiful singing voice.

Lon Ketchum came to Edgemont from Illinois to work on the railroad as a fireman on the run from Edgemont to Sissinton, S.D. Tiring of railroad work he hired out as a ranch hand on ranches south of Edgemont. About 1917 he bought 120 acres on Kelley draw in northern Niobrara county and also filed on a homestead adjoining it. Besides building up his own place, he worked for John Mead, John Phillips, Billie Hanson, the Spencer brothers and many others, he was considered most reliable and was honest all around good hand.

Houston Sowers, who came from Virginia, first worked for the Hogg Brothers on the old Blaine place at the conversion of the Cheyenne river and Lance Creek. About 1917 he married a school teacher and they moved to the U half circle ranch, where he was foreman for John Mead. In the early twenties they lived on a homestead on Bobcat Creek.

Eddie Buchanan came to Wyoming from Missouri and worked for W.D. McKlein. He had a homestead up the river a short distance from the McKlein ranch and at one time had a nice herd of white-faced cattle and a few saddle horses. In later years and after his wife had divorced him, he was known during the prohibition years for his very good moonshine whiskey.

Bill Morrisey, for whom the Morrisey post office was named was once a foreman for W.D. McKlein and had a lot to do with the clearing of land and building ditches to create hay meadows on the 7 L Ranch on the Cheyenne.

Charley VanDyne, a native of Kansas, came to Wyoming by way of the Sioux Indian Reservation. He had worked for McKein and latter Chris Christensen as a cowboy and when they brought their stock back from wintering on the reservation he came along. Charley married at about this time and built a house and barn of logs on a place at the mouth of Hungry Gulch. In the late twenties he met a tragic death while working cattle with Houston Sowers. He was thrown from his horse and landed on his head causing a severe concussion.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Hanson, Frances (05/17/1869 - 04/04/1945) View Record
Obituary Hanson, Charles (08/15/1876 - 06/15/1974) View Record