#lookback: Going the Distance: Ricker Van Metre

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.


Going the Distance: Ricker Van Metre

While his main home was in Chicago, Illinois with Wyoming Tie and Timber Company’s national headquarters, Ricker Van Metre spent a significant amount of time in Wyoming’s Upper Wind River Valley. He brought his family out for the summers to the camp headquarters at Dunoir and then at Warm Spring.

With the United States’ entry into WWI, the government had taken over railroads for wartime transportation, leaving many private tie companies in financial straits. Wyoming Tie Company, who had taken over operations when Wind River Timber Company went bankrupt, hired a man named Martin Olson, a Norwegian with sharp blue eyes and a no-nonsense personality that helped him take charge of a badly managed tie drive.

It was Martin Olson who convinced Ricker Van Metre, the man who Wyoming Tie Company sent out west to analyze the company’s finances and operations, that the Dubois area logging business could be made productive.

Ricker Van Metre was a boon to the flailing tie industry around Dubois. He bought the Wyoming Timber Company, renamed it the Wyoming Tie and Timber Company and moved its headquarters from Lava Creek to up Dunoir Creek, where it stayed from 1920-1927.

Ricker also negotiated a loan from the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad to finance the 1921 tie drive. With Martin Olson’s logging knowledge and river-whisperer techniques, Ricker Van Metre’s business know-how, and Billy McLaughlin, the man in charge of the Riverton tie yard operations, the company was soon pulled out of debt.

By the late 1920s, Wyoming Tie and Timber was the largest tie-producing unit in the United States, with an average annual output of 670,000 ties and employing about 250 people. After logging depleted the useable trees up the Dunoir, Ricker moved the tie camp headquarters to Warm Springs, its last location in the Upper Wind River Valley.

Peter Van Metre, Ricker’s son, recalls a scene at the Warm Spring’s headquarters in 1946. He, his family, and those of the Olsons, the Tregos, the Dolencs, and the Fishers (who would purchase Wyoming Tie and Timber Company) gathered in the old cookhouse.

Peter wrote, “there was a sense that this was the end of an era, and there were drinks. My father, who could become sentimental, launched into a tribute to his old partner Martin…so deeply felt as to become teary; and when he finally sat down, Martin said, “T’anks, Van.””

Ricker Van Metre also conceived the idea of a tie-hack memorial. This symbolizes his final mark on the Valley as this memorial now sits west of town overlooking the Lava Creek watershed where the first tie hacking work happened.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

May 30, 7 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Dr. Sayman Aryana: The Oil Industry in Wyoming”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

June 1, 4-6 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Grand Opening of the Washakie Gallery”

June 1, 1 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Rawlins, Ft. Washakie Stage Lines/Ferris Mountains”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

June 1, 9 am at the Riverton Museum, “Tie Treating Plant”

Wind River Visitors Council Discovery Speakers Series

June 5, 9 am at the Dubois Museum, “Kids Corner”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

June 8, 1 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Gold Panning”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. In the current economic environment the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years. Please make your 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.