#Lookback: Frank Sparhawk

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Frank O. Sparhawk was born in Ohio in 1876. His father was an avid sportsman and took his sons on sporting expeditions around their farm in Ohio. Frank learned to love the outdoors hunting, fishing, trapping, and shooting. He became restless and rebellious as an adolescent and left home at age 14 to trap around Saginaw, Michigan. He was drawn to Wyoming and its western culture. There is a family photo of him with his parents and siblings; Frank was dressed in buckskin while the rest of the family was more conventionally dressed.

As a young man, he hired out to gather wild horses in Wyoming, and in another job he trailed cattle from Texas to Montana. He also led hunting parties in the Salmon Mountains in Idaho. He had a homestead in Sweetwater county for a time and hunted to supply meat for the railroad crews working along the Transcontinental Railroad. Frank also worked as a stage station attendant for the Niobrara Stage Coach Company.

He was friendly with the Shoshone Indians, and there is a photo of him wearing leather gloves made for him by Chief Washakie’s wife. His Indian name was Seven Elk Soo Water which referred to him shooting seven elk along the Sweetwater River.

He took forestry classes in Fort Collin which prepared him to work for the Forest Service in Park county from 1906 to 1917 where he used his outdoor skills. Sparhawk also ranched in the area around Cody.

In 1901, Sparhawk had a rather unique experience while working in the Muddy Gap area. He recalls, “I was getting logs for, to build a house with, also a corral and a barn. One night I went to bed in a tent, as usual. I had just closed my eyes and laid down. A bright light shone right through my eyelids. “Then I heard a tremendous hiss….It grew louder and louder. I jumped up and saw it was a meteor. When it passed overhead it sounded like a thousand boilers blowing up all at once. The mountainside was all lit up and sparks flew out of its tail in a great stream of fire. About two and a half miles away it struck the earth with a terrible explosion.” The impact happened somewhere on Green Mountain.

Later, when Sparhawk visited the site he found the meteor had swept through solid timber leaving a swathe 150 feet long and 60 feet wide, but no meteorite was found. He assumed it either vaporized or was deeply embedded in the earth. Sheepherders in the area heard the explosion and thought the Sawmill was dynamiting and the men at the Sawmill thought the sheepherders were dynamiting for a road, but no one saw the meteor like Sparhawk, who told them about the meteorite he saw. When the Depression hit, Sparhawk lost his ranch and returned to Ohio where he had inherited some land from his parents. 

Years later, Sparhawk wrote the Smithsonian about his experience witnessing a meteor strike. The Smithsonian indicated they would like to have a specimen of the meteor, so Sparhawk returned to Wyoming to try and find a sample. He found his meteor. It was believed to have had a diameter of 10 feet before it hit the ground. Sparhawk gathered up about 2 tons of rock believed to be part of the meteor. Sparhawk built a cabin in the mountains around Jeffery City and visited frequently to hunt, fish, trap, and prospect.

Sparhawk died in 1955, and before he died he frequently told the story of his meteor and his days as a Wyoming pioneer.

There was another Sparhawk in Fremont County – Arthur Sparhawk was the countySheriff in the late 1800s, but doesn’t seem to be related toFrank Sparhawk.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

April 7th,6 pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting with the Riverton Garden Club”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 17th,2-4 pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting for Children”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

April 22nd,7 pm at the Dubois Museum “Swift Fox Ecology, Distribution, and Trends” by NicholeBjornlie WG&F

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 24th,1-3 pm at the Pioneer Museum “Sheep Shearing Day”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Joe Scheuerle Art Exhibit: “Native Americans of Wind River Country”, 9-5 Monday-Saturday, Pioneer Museum, Lander, Handle with Care: Art Moving

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum are seeing significantly decreased visitation this summer as a result of Covid-19. As a result, the self-generated revenue we rely so heavily on to make ends meet is not keeping pace. We are counting on private donations to continue to maintain successful and engaging museums during this time. We urge you to make a tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support. 

Photo caption: The Sparhawk cabin on Green Mountain in the early 1970s.

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