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History of Western Nebraska and Its People





   After the loss of his cattle on Rush creek in 1865, John A. Creighton decided to get out of the line of the regular raids of Indians. It seemed that their north and south line of travel centered in the territory east of Court House rock.

   It will be observed also that this line was the path of the buffalo at an earlier date, and it later became the route of the travelers into the gold field of the Black Hills, where Harry T. Clarke's steel lined states went over the old toll bridge. Now the travel is by motor, or over the Burlington.

   Creighton went west up to Gonneville or Pumpkin creek. Then over to Horse creek, and up to the Laramie Plains. Here he built a substantial set of ranch buildings, securing the materials from the Laramie mountains.

   From this beginning in 1867, originally for the protection of his bull herds, the great


History of Western Nebraska and Its People


Creighton ranch was born. He was the first in the work of tying the east and west with wires and electric communication, so was he first in all Wyoming and western Nebraska to go into the cow business. The Creighton ranch operations extended and establishments were built on Horse creek and Pumpkin creek, and his ten or twelve thousand cattle roamed the ranges of the east half of Wyoming and the western part of Nebraska. The half-circle-bar-brand, of the very early days, developed into the quarter-circle-block, generally called "circle-block" in the later years.

   Pumpkin creek ranch became the "Home Ranch" after its acquisition by Bay State, and the name Pumpkin creek, in place of Gonneville creek, rose in usage, as the wild vegetable which provided it gradually disappeared. The range cattle were very fond of the product, and the vine, and the very roots of the vine were stamped out by the cattle trying to get more of the tasty verbiage.

   The "Home Ranch" is woven into song and story by cowboys. It can be made to apply to any Home Ranch anywhere in the universe, and there was a song that had run on the ranges when I came into the west which was entitled "Pumpkin Creek's My Home."

   Bull Canyon is an arroyo that leads down from the Flowerfield Swell to the lower tables at the head of Pumpkin creek, and it was once the rendezvous of freighters' bulls used on the Black Hills route.

   These animals were not always enduring, and they required periods of rest. A man named Creel decided he would make a business of handling the tired cattle until they should be able to resume the burden of the yoke.

   Bull canyon was unnamed and unappropriated, and there was an abundance of water, and the nearness of the range to Cheyenne made it a desirable spot for the purpose. So Creel built his crude cabin and rode about looking after the herd of bulls.

   The Good Book says something about it not being good for man to dwell alone, but I do not think that had anything to do with the fact that Creel, on one of his visits to Cheyenne, brought back with him a woman.

   This woman had no thought of remaining alone in the solitudes. The sight of the great herd of cattle, and the isolation put into her head the thought of independence sudden and swift. She pointed out to Creel that it would be easy to get away with the cattle and out of the country long before the probability of being discovered. The plan failed, and Creel was killed, and Bull canyon became only a name and a memory.

   Tom Kane used to run the ranges of the Pumpkin creek country. Kane was known in Sidney in the early days. One day he had a brush with the Indians, and escaped into the rushes on the creek bank ten miles east of Wild Cat mountain, where he lay three days caring for his wound before he managed to get away.

   And from that fact, occurring about 1874, the point of rock that extends into the valley just west of Wright's Gap became known as Kane's Point. This part of the Wild Cat range is one of the beauty spots of nature, and the long wall of windworn rocks that extends from Kane's point to the northwest, in back of Kelly's ranch, resembles the ruins of a Frowning City built by hands.

   John Wright came to Pumpkin creek from Horse creek in 1877; he earlier resided in Colorado. Finding some rich, unappropriated natural meadows in the vicinity of Kane's point, he settled down and proceeded to accumulate cattle. It was adjoining the Wright ranch that I located a homestead in the middle eighties, and I remember meeting John Wright shortly after.

   He was driving by, and stopped to watch me turn over the sod with my grasshopper breaker. In the course of our conversation I said that it would be a mighty good thing if the grangers and the cowmen could dwell together in harmony. John exclaimed that I was the first granger that he had ever heard say such a thing, and asked me why I thought so. I told him that I thought the cowmen would furnish a home market for the product of the granger, to which he agreed.

   We were marked for good friends, Wright and I, and we always were glad to meet each other. I am sure that is was a sincere friendship.

   About the first event of any consequence that occurred after my coming into the west was a cowboy wedding.

   Miss Alice (Dude) Wright was John Wright's oldest daughter. Ed A. Boots was with a cow outfit for the Bay State, and he and Miss Wright were married at the home of the Wrights, on Pumpkin creek. The event brought friends for five hundred miles.

   Elder Stephens was then located in Sidney, and he was retained to perform the ceremony. "Retained" is probably a legal expression, but when you bring a minister sixty or seventy miles into a country, I take it that it is proper to "retain" him.

   The Wrights had some homemade rhubarb




History of Western Nebraska and Its People

wine, and in the early prodigal way of the west, a dish pan full of this was set out on the table for use of any who desired to partake. It was said that they even insisted that the Elder take some, and that he did touch it to his lips. This was taken as evidence that he did not hold himself above his associations, and there were few boys on the range that would not swear by Elder Stephens. He was a powerful influence for good in the early west.

   The wine was a little light for some of them, and the surreptitiously emptied their flasks into the beverage. The result was that it grew stronger as the evening waned.

   W.J. Kelly, who recently died in Denver, and who was the oldest actual resident of Banner county at the time of his death, was there, and he took Jim Pogue into the kitchen for refreshment. He had Jim put his lips to the edge of the pan, while he tipped it, and Jim let the beverage run down his throat in considerable quantity. As Pogue straightened up, he wiped the tears from his eyes and said: "Bill, I always did have a good time when I was with you."

   The groom was a bit nervous, and the boys would urge him to "take a bracer and buck up. It ain't as bad as it seems," and otherwise "jolly" him. Boots usually was a very brave man, but the boys tormenting got on his nerves, and he wept during the ceremony which filled the boys with glee.

   After a while someone missed Kelly and Al Springfellow. They went outside and found these two worthies playing "andy over" the haystack with their six shooters. This was the regular pastime for these two after that, whenever they met, and were in the proper frame of mind.

   The dance continued until morning, and when some of them were departing, one made a misstep as he meant to swing into the saddle. The horse swung away, and there he was with one foot fastened in the stirrup. The wild bronc made a quick swerve, and the man swung clear out of him and the ground while it ran in a short circle. The quick wit of some other cowboy, and his skill, saved the man. He dropped a rope over the animal's head, and brought it up, head end to the man on the ground.

   "Swing your pardners," shouted that worthy, as he jumped to his feet. The near tragedies of old timers were so lightly held and affairs that ended well were experiences worth while, and compensated fully for the danger involved.

   I often attended the dances given in the old Wright school house, and was also at a double wedding at Wright's when Ed Heard of Texas and Miss Ono Wright were married. The country has changed by that time, and it was more on the order of weddings usual in older communities. Boots now resides at Thermopolis, Ed Wright at Morill, and Henry Heard at Long Beach, California. Thus the ties of life separate and distribute the peoples of the world.


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