#lookback: Sheep Wars

    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.

    Many people know Dubois, WY as dude ranching heaven, where cattle graze on public lands and horses gallop across paddocks with mountains in the background. Occasionally, travelers spy a herd of sheep grazing in fields near the roads. Like many western states, Wyoming had its fair share of sheepherders who watched over the bands of sheep roaming the ranges.

    The conflict between cattle ranchers and sheepherders grew during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Another layer to the complex and often-deadly range wars, the “sheep wars” began because cattlemen saw the sheepherders as invaders and their wooly charges as dangers to the fertile rangelands. Between 1870 and 1920, approximately 120 violent encounters between cattlemen and sheepherders occurred in eight different states or territories. Attacks on sheep camps—where raiders clubbed sheep, shot horses, and burned sheepdogs alive—were much more common than attacks on cattle camps. Records report around 54 men were killed and some 50,000 to over 100,000 sheep were slaughtered.

    The sheepherder’s wagon pictured here belonged to Tom Duncan who purchased it from a sheep company in Lander in 1923. The Duncans lived up East Fork where they minded herds of sheep and cattle on their ranch. Sheep wagons came about in the 1880s when a blacksmith in Carbon County, WY built the first ones. These large, versatile wagons allowed shepherds to live up in the mountains or out on the range in close proximity to the herds they watched over. A wood stove, a bed with a chest of drawers underneath it, and storage cabinets were just some of the amenities that these wagons contained.

    Even Dubois, WY witnessed its own variation of the “sheep wars.” Wyoming’s time of being the wool and mutton capital of the nation ended around 1910, but sheep herds were still popular investment choices for people of Dubois in the 1920s. Some families had sheep herds; others had cattle, but very few had both. Several prominent figures in the valley encountered conflict over range rights for their cattle and sheep. In 1927, the Wyoming governor called up a militia force to put a stop to the looming violence and threats between the parties in the Upper Wind River Valley.


    Next up for the Fremont County Museums

    September 7th, 7 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Historic Wagons with Al Sammons”

    Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    September 14th, 2 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Tin Candle Lantern Making”

    Baily Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    September 14th, 1-3 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Apple City Festival”

    Baily Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series


    Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. 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. 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.


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