Historical Details

Jack, William "Scotty" Maxwell

Courtesy of Niobrara County Historical Society / Stagecoach Museum, 10/05/2023


William was born on the 5TH March, 1892 in New York City, USA. son of William Maxwell Jack and Jessie McDonald Gall.

His parents, who were both from Edinburgh, Scotland returned there shortly after and William spent his childhood there. He left school at the age of 12 to assist his mother in the operation of a small neighborhood grocery store that was the only means of support for his mother and her six children.

In the month of October, 1910, he arrived in Lusk, Wyoming, wearing a thin coat and derby hat, and carrying a cane. He had been warned by a Lusk banker who had traveled with him on the train from Omaha that Wyoming was no place for a five-foot-two-and-a-half- inch 18-year-old with no ranching experience. Williams’s father was supposed to meet him off the train, but had been waylaid by some of his drinking friends and failed to appear.

A kind Scottish-born rancher named John Storey (Storrie) found him sitting in the lobby of the local hotel and took pity on him, buying him his first Wyoming meal and took him in his wagon to his ranch, 18 miles away.

Scotty, as he was always known in America, stayed there for a few weeks the for the next year wandered from ranch to ranch, doing odd jobs here, a little sheep-herding there, and trying desperately to lean the work of a ranch hand.

The bleakest day of that year - and the loneliest he ever experienced-was New Year’s Eve. That day, a blinding blizzard was raging and Scotty was sent out with another man to find a bank of sheep that were bogged down in the storm with a sheep-herder. The horses plunging in the snow broke the wagon tongue, leaving the wagon tilted at an angle. Leaving Scotty with instructions not to dare leave the wagon, the man left on foot to find the band of sheep and the herder.

Alone in the wagon with the blizzard whipping around it outside at some 40 degrees below zero. Scotty tried to fix some supper, but the canned food was all frozen. He had to heat a can in the oven before he could even get the food into a skillet. He propped up a lid on the stove to keep the skillet level - but billows of smoke filled the wagon, smarting his eyes and choking him. As he ate a cold supper, he started thinking of the fine New Year’s Eve celebrations his family would be having back in Scotland that night.

With all his clothes on, he went to bed and cried like a baby. It was the last time he ever entertained thoughts of returning to Scotland though.

At the end of the year, he was back at Lusk, but he found times were hard and there was no work. During this time Scotty lived on fried potatoes and only then when they “fell off the back of a freight wagon!”

During this period Scotty drove a dray wagon, took janitor work at the saloon and washed dished- anything he could find for his board and his room.

Finally, he went back to sheep-herding. For a time, he worked at the Agnew and Ord ranch at the Rawhide Butte.

In 1913 Scotty homesteaded near Jay Em, using money he had been left by family to buy some cattle and horses. He supplemented his income in the first years by freighting timbers out to the Lance Creek oil field.

Scotty was drafted during World War II, and was sent to American Lake, issued a uniform, then promptly discharged. He found out many years later that he was discharged because of his poor teeth.

He then worked for a time at McMinnville, Oregon, but the lure of Wyoming brought him back after three months. Having sold his homestead when he was drafted, and recognizing that ranching was not for him, he commenced employment at the Continental Oil Company as a salesman and later at the Texas Company as a bulk plant agent.

On the 1st June, 1920 he married Huldah Theresa Thompson, in Lusk, Wyoming, USA.

Huldah was born on the 2nd June, 1893 in Pocatello, Idaho, USA and the was daughter of Leon Abry Thompson and Theresa Husslein Theresa came from Bavaria when she was 14-years-old. Huldah was school-teaching in Lusk when she met Scotty.

The couple had five children: Dorothea Maxwell (1921), William Maxwell (1922), Robert Leon (1926), Phyllis Catherine (1930) and Beverly Ann (1935).

Soon after his marriage Scotty went into politics, choosing the Democratic Party after two years’ deliberation. He did not succeed in 1922, but in 1923 he was elected as the Democratic County Chairman.

Scotty was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1924 and was returned in 1926.

In 1926, his policy of “quality of quantity” paid off and Niobrara County went Democratic, carrying the court house and sending a Democratic delegation to the Legislature. After serving in the Legislature in 1927, he was transferred by the Texas Company to Casper- where he found a unique political situation.

Although Natrona County could always elect a Democratic County slate, it had never sent Democrats to the State Legislature. In fact, the Democrats had almost given up trying until Scotty arrived. He was told not to run. However, Scotty’s Scottish stubbornness came to the fore and he borrowed $500 from a local bank and convinced others to run with him, promising to foot the campaign expenses.

They lost that year, but in 1930 three members were elected to the house (Scotty included) and by 1932 Natrona was sending a full slate of Democrats to the house and had elected one Democratic Senator.

In the 1933 session, Scotty was elected as the first Democratic Speaker of the first democratic house in the history of the state. Two years later he was elected as State Auditor a post to which he was re-elected twice.

In 1944 he was asked by Governor Lester C. Hunt to resign as Auditor and take up the position of Secretary of State. Scotty agreed.

In February, 1946, Scotty announced he would retire at the end of his term to devote time to his family and their education. He went into the investment business for a few years, then took on the added responsibility of public relations work for the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association.

In 1954 the opportunity and appeal of representing his party in the race for governor was too great and he re-entered politics. His defeat (by a scant 1,1112 votes) left him with not regrets. In 1957 he was appointed by Republican Gov. Milward Simpson- the man who had defeated Scotty in 1954 – to sit on the dual Public Service Commission and State Board of Equalization. The board was then composed of two Republicans and one Democrat-Scotty. But with the shift in political winds in 1958, the board then boasted a Democratic majority. 1962, Scotty campaigned again in the race for Governor, but lost in the primary. He wanted the post badly, as it as it would have been the culmination of a brilliant career in public service for a man who had given many years of his life to the people.

He was then named Director of the Small Business Administration, a post he held until 1969. From 1967 he was also a member of the Government Reorganization Commission until the time of his death. The Governor at the time, Stan Hathaway, said of Scotty “he was a man whose enthusiasm for life, people, and his state was evident in his public and personal life through the many years of his colorful career in Wyoming. He was always on hand to undertake and accomplish any task he may have been called upon to perform.”

Scotty died in Casper, Wyoming, USA on the 14th
April, 1970. He is buried on the Highland Cemetery in Casper, Wyoming, USA.

Huldah died on the 30th May, 1970 in Casper, Wyoming, USA. She is buried with her husband in the Highland Cemetery, Casper.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Jack, Huldah (06/02/1893 - 05/30/1970) View Record
Obituary Jack, William (03/05/1892 - 04/14/1970) View Record