Last updated: May 15, 2020
May 14, 2020
While living near Woodlake, Nebraska, Walter S. (Happy) Tyrrel noticed the fat condition of the cattle coming through on the railroad in late summer. The Nebraska cattle weren’t getting fat by this time so Happy asked where these cattle were coming from. He was told the short grass country in Wyoming.
Intrigued, he spent a winter in Manville WY working in a drug store as a soda jerk.
The oil fields in Lance Creek were booming and Happy couldn’t believe how much money the oil field workers were making. He remembers their wives coming into the drug store and buying boxes of candy. That spring he was shown the ranch which they purchased from Dr. George A. Earl in 1919 and in 1920 Happy left their ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills and began the move to northern Goshen County.
When Happy arrived in Lusk by train, the railroad wouldn’t accept his check to have his immigrant car unlocked. The train car contained his family’s furniture, milk cows and 6 head of horses.
Walking down the street, Happy saw a sign “Otto Koeberlin, Tailor”. To his relief this was a man from Nebraska who had known Happy all his life. He arranged for the cash Happy needed to get his train car unlocked and unloaded.
A local man helped Happy find a place to keep his livestock for the night in corrals owned by Tom Bell. When morning came,his 2 best mares, which was also his team, had been stolen and were never recovered. Short 2 horses, Happy traveled to the ranch, settled the livestock and furnished the house.
He traveled back to Woodlake, NE to bring wife Josie and son Gene to their new home.
The family lived in the original 4 room log house until 1942, when a new house was built, complete with running water and carbide lights. The house was built according to plans drawn by Josie. To date, 5 generations of the Tyrrel family have called this house and ranch home.
Early on, various barns, sheds and corrals were built as the need arose and money was available. Unused homestead shacks from purchased lands were utilized as granaries and sheds. A wash house was built next to the old windmill that had supplied water to the cattle of John Pfister during the days of open range.
As time passed, an adjoining homestead was purchased and Happy filed on an additional 120 acres.
Originally strictly a cattle ranch, sheep were added and eventually phased out the cattle. Corn and potatoes were grown in the early years until the drought in the mid 1930’s brought farming to an end.
Known for a large evergreen shelterbelt protecting the buildings and corrals, the trees planted by Happy and Josie’s son Gene as a 4-H project in 1925 are still alive and serving their purpose today.
With the passing of Happy, Josie and second wife Jane, the ranch has passed down the generations and is now owned by three of the Tyrrel grandchildren who have many fond memories of time spent at the ranch with Happy and Josie.
Today the land is leased by a great granddaughter and her husband.
The Tyrrels’ were known for their hospitality, taking in people with no other place to be during the Depression era of the 1930’s and later always hosting friends, neighbors and family parties in their beautiful yard.
Happy was active in his community, serving for 21 years on the Goshen County District 6 school board, Chairman of the Royal Valley Community club for 15 years and held office in the Rawhide Buttes Telephone Company. He was also treasurer of the Niobrara County Farm Bureau and a lifelong member. Happy was an avid hunter and fisherman who also enjoyed woodworking and collecting Native American artifacts.
Josie was a 4-H leader for 20 years, and a member in the Royal Valley Club where she was an active worker for betterment of rural living. Her hobby was the growing of flowers which she shared freely for others to plant in their yards.
Jane, whom Happy married after Josie’s passing, was a school teacher, librarian, pilot and an avid historian and genealogist.
Since the Tyrrels’ arrival in 1920, they’ve been fortunate to have had as adjoining neighbors-Boynton and Anna Alter, their daughter Ione Turnbull, granddaughter JoAnn Downing and now great grandson Jim Downing. Together as friends and neighbors the generations of both families have endured blizzards, drought,prairie fires and good years full of green grass.
In 2019 both families ranches celebrated being recognized as Wyoming Centennial Ranches together.
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