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History of Western Nebraska and Its People






   Contemporaneously with the establishment of the Powers ranch (about, 1871), Bosler Brothers & Company built their home ranch on the lower Blue, near the present site of Lewellen, and extended their business to include several ranches up and down the North Platte river on the north side, but they always maintained the principal quarters on the Blue. They ran 15,000 to 20,000 cattle and were one of the big firms of the time. B-Bar -and others were their brands.

   About 1872 E. E. Cunningham, surveyor general with headquarters at Plattsmouth, sent Alex. Schleigel to survey a part of the Platte river country between North Platte and Camp Clarke bridge.

   I met Mr. Schleigel a few years ago in Washington, D. C. he was then a draughtsman in the Interior Department, but now lives at Lincoln, Nebraska. He is an old soldier (being under Lt. Beecher in the Battle of Beecher Island), and has been in many Indian battles, and he is an intimate friend of Robert Harvey, our state surveyor, and of John E. Evans of North Platte.

   This territory he was to invade was generally known as the Bosler range, although it was occupied by Boyd brothers, of which ex-Governor James E. Boyd was one; and the other ranches of less importance in relation to size. Schleigel had been at the work two or three weeks, when he took two men and teams and crossed the country to Sidney for supplies. He bought his provisions at the old C. A. Moore supply depot, then a big concern of the frontier town. The Boslers and other big cattle men did not approve of the survey, for it meant the final settlement of the land by homesteaders.

   After the wagons were loaded, one of the drivers of the party failed to show up. When they were ready to depart they made a search for him, and in a cottonwood tree that stood in the vicinity of the garrison at Sidney, they found the teamster hanging to the limb, dead,and on his body was pinned a placard, "Horse Thief." Schleigel's party believed the dead man had stolen no horses, but that cattlemen thought so little of human life, they had hung an innocent man, in order to scare them into giving up the survey. There was no evidence that it was the work of the Boslers or any clue as to the identity of the parties who committed the deed, and perhaps the man had stolen a horse some time and the vigilantes had just caught him. However, a general impression prevailed as to who it was and why it had been done. If so, Alex, Schleigel was built of different stuff than they had calculated. He, the old soldier, continued his work and finished the survey in due time.

   Mark Bouton arrived over the Texas Trail in 1873. He decided that Bear creek, about fifty miles northeast of Cheyenne, looked good to him, and here he went into the cow business. On his way to the north, Mark had taken a side trip into Denver, and there he met his affinity. After settling down on Bear creek he returned to Denver and sought out his "Virginia," and brought her with him to the ranch. The romance of Virginia Bouton, placed upon the range the old and familiar name, "VB" brand."

   One born to the range, cannot change his habits instantly, and while anchored on Bear creek, Mark Bouton traveled much. Mrs. Bouton frequently accompanied him, and at such times he gave way to the passion of


History of Western Nebraska and Its People


jealousy, for his wife was prepossessing, attractive and fond of company.

   One time they were in Cheyenne, and he became obsessed of a fear that she intended to leave him, or to go back to the old wilderness of passion in which he had first met her. He warned her not to leave the hotel, under penalty of death. Sometime after dinner she was gone. Mad with affection and fear, he sought in all the probable places, but failed to find her.

   In the evening, two ladies were approaching the hotel, when from behind a pile of lumber on the west side of Eddy street, a pistol shot rang out. One lady fell dead, and she had much the same graceful carriage as Mrs. Bouton, but proved to be another and an entirely innocent girl. Her companion was Minnie Montgomery, the daughter of John Montgomery, who owned the log stage station on the Black Hills route, at the north end of the Fort Laramie bridge.

   Miss Montgomery did not see the assailant, and whoever he was, he made good his escape. No one knows who fired the shot, but all old timers had their suspicions.

   Bouton finally sold his ranch to Seberry & Gardner, who built a big stone house, and went into business of raising hurdle ponies, for cross-country riding, and other fancy purposes.

   Leaving the ranch, Bouton and his wife went to Deadwood, and by and by there drifted back along the route a rumor that he had found his wife talking to a mining man of considerable prominence, and had started a row, in which he had come off second best. The said he was buried in Boots graveyard at Deadwood.

   Young Gardner, of the new firm, was the trainer for the ranch, and his tiny saddles were the jokes of the country wide. Once, when a number of prospective buyers were at the ranch, young Gardner proposed to give them a demonstration. He had a series of hurdles of various kinds over a given run and he mounted one of his well broken ponies and rode away. The first hurdle, which was an insignificant affair, proved too much for his thoroughbred, and they went down in a heap. A great shout of laughter went up from the assembled ladies and gentlemen, which provoked young Gardner into a torrent of language so inelegant, albeit so expressive of his sentiments, that the party beat a hasty retreat.

   John Montgomery, the father of Minnie Montgomery, who was with the unfortunate young lady who was murdered at Cheyenne, after the passing of the Black Hills stage, sold his location and buildings and buildings to Whipple & Hay, who put some cattle on the range, and established the 4J brand. The same brand is now (1919) owned by Ed Covington, whose range is in the Pine Ridge and Hartville mountains.

   One of the brands acquired by the Bay State Land and Cattle Company, was the 4J, but it was of another herd, and of less importance. Just east of Wild Cat mountain, in the northern part of Banner county, is a spring that adds its flow to that of Pumpkin creek. This was located by a man named Brown, and the forty acres on which it was situated was sold to the Bay State. This spring is known as the "Four-Jay-Spring."

   Ed Bouton, a brother of Mark Bouton, of the VB, followed from Texas soon after the location of the VB ranch on Bear Creek. He also had a temper and an inclination to homicide. A sister arrived and in due time was married to one of the early men, Ed Bryant.

   Bryant had a house in Cheyenne on Sixth street, but he was out at the ranch considerable of the time, while his wife lived in the city. One day Bryant had an altercation with Ed Bouton, and came off second best.

   It was thought best to send the body to the widow, and it was accordingly placed in a spring wagon, and a Teutonic employee was told to drive with it to Cheyenne. Two cowpunchers were delegated to ride along, and see the safe delivery of the remains.

   Reaching the city late one evening, the punchers went into an emporium for a bracer, before going to break the news. The Dutchman waited some time, and being thirsty, and also rightly sensing the boys were taking several before returning, he decided to make the delivery alone. Mrs. Bryant heard the knock on the door, and answered the summons. The Dutchman said simply:

   "Mrs. Bryant, Ed is here."

   "Ed who?" asked Mrs. Bryant, not knowing if he meant her husband or brother.

   "Well, why don't he come in?" she asked.

   "Why, damn it, he's dead," was the gentle way he finally broke the news to her.

   But the sudden and melancholy end of men, and the sudden widows of the early west, had no discouraging effect upon matrimonial events and ventures.

   I have mentioned John Montgomery, the keeper of the stage station at the north end of the Fort Laramie bridge. Montgomery had a daughtet-most everyone has a daughter for that matter - and Miss Montgomery was like other daughters of the early west. She liked to ride, and frequently met the "birds of passage," the early cowboys, and the



History of Western Nebraska and Its People

other cowmen that settled down and anchored themselves to the soil.

  Among her admirers was a foreman of the P.F. Ranch. This foreman used to make periodical visits to Deadwood, taking from the ranch some of the fat cattle for Deadwood markets. The P.F. people were not receiving the liberal returns that they had been led to believe was in the ranching business, and grew suspicious of the foreman. An examination of the books seemed to give an impression that all the cattle sold in Deadwood were not accounted for, and they had a warrant out for their foreman. Officers went to the ranch in search of the alleged criminal, but not finding him, were returning to Cheyenne. As they reached Horse creek crossing they met him in company with John Montgomery's daughter, Minne. They had been married in Cheyenne the day before, and were on their return home.

   The Bride's Day may have been fair and clear, but it was "dark in the east and west" for the groom. I never learned what came of the trial, or of the principals in the little romance, but I hope big John Montgomery took a hand, and that they lived happy ever after.

   We lack interest in history and the older events, frequently because we have no intimate relationship. Yet to know that this new land of ours had its loves and romance fifty or more years ago, attunes our hearts to the reception of stories of the days so long past. We travel about and find places named; and they are of mountain or plain, or city or valley, and we seldom stop to think what it was that named it. For instance, a mark has been left on Horse creek in the name LaGrange. Yet it has no significance to the ordinary settler or tourist or individual. There are perhaps a few dozen living people,that a reference to LaGrange will interest. With them a recitation of the little intimacies, and memories of experience, or a word of the personnel of the old times, will arouse a train of memories that will trail by with their pleasant recollections for a number of hours. And it might interest some of the newer people of the community.

   All the cowboys of the time knew Kale LaGrange, as a "squaw man" along with Hi Kelly, Nick Genice, and Frank Vallet. It was over a score of years ago that LaGrange quit the western range and went back to his old home in Iowa, and afterwards married a white woman.

   Kale's mother, old timers all remember "Aunt Della," was a much married woman. I think she had buried a round half dozen husbands, before she met Tommy Chanavierre (Shunover) and in the late eighties Tommy was her spouse - the one we knew. Tommy was the one whose pride of ancestry runs back to the time when Marchioness La Pompadour was spreading the French Empire over the western world, but to us he was merely a jolly old Frenchman, who liked to talk with his hands, his shoulders and otherwise, and who merely for the love of activity and society, went visiting about the country in "dat old buckboard," with "dem old plug." "Shunover" died in Iowa. I am not advised if "Aunt Della" survived to marry again.

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Contributed by Sandy Smith

© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Sandy Smith, Ted & Carole Miller