#Lookback: Ranching

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.

If asked to invoke images of Wyoming, many people picture wide open ranges full of cowboys and roaming cattle, and it is not surprising, because the cattle business has long been a part of Wyoming.

Two initial factors were integral in bringing large-scale cattle ranches to Wyoming: The American Civil War, which disrupted access to markets across the southern states creating a surplus of cattle in Texas; and the building of the Union Pacific Railroad through southern Wyoming, which could more efficiently move crews of men, herds of cattle, and any needed supplies. Lured by untapped markets, seemingly boundless grasslands, and a newly established rail line, cattlemen organized trail drives which were first established in southeastern Wyoming but eventually moved into Fremont County.

Tremendous profits were waiting to be made in the cattle business, especially in the 1880s. An estimated $45,000,000.00 was invested in the American cattle industry by foreign interests, specifically from England and Scotland. However, the market eventually became flooded with cattle and a steady decrease in prices began late in 1884, followed by a drought and devastating blizzards in 1886-1887.

The pioneer cattle ranchers of Fremont County learned lessons from the ranchers in southeastern Wyoming, especially after the winter of 1886-87. As a result, they began to turn away from true open-range ranching and did not coalesce the industry around a few wealthy ‘cattle barons’, favoring an industry built around many small and moderate-sized cattlemen instead. In addition, early Fremont County cattle ranchers were much more likely to be jacks-of-all-trades who often began their careers as miners, laborers, freighters, or merchants who gradually evolved into stockmen. This often resulted in diversified ranches which, in addition to raising cattle, also raised sheep, grew hay, and fenced pasture which could be used for any number of purposes.

Cattle ranchers in the Wind River Valley had access to three major local markets: the South Pass mining population, the Wind River Indian Reservation and Agency, and the military installation at Fort Washakie. In fact, the annual government beef allotments for the Shoshone and Arapahoe Indians as well as the military provided a reliable source of income for many early cattle ranchers until well into the twentieth century.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

September 26th Noon at the Pioneer Museum “Apple Pie Baking Contest”

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 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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