#Lookback: Sheriff Charlie Stough

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.

Charles Stough left his father’s home in Ohio at age 17 and arrived in Wyoming in 1880. He homesteaded on the Sweetwater River. As a young homesteader, he witnessed the murder of Jack Cooper, a friend, neighbor, and fellow homesteader by Ben Westfall. Stough and Cooper had gathered up some of their cattle on one side of the Sweetwater River. Westfall had another bunch of cattle on the opposite side of the river. Cooper crossed the icy river to check if some of his cattle were mixed in with Westfall’s herd. Stough stayed on the other side of the river and heard shots. The coroner’s jury called it self-defense, but when Cooper’s body was recovered he was still wearing his heavy winter gloves. Westfall was freed and soon left the area. The real motive for the murder will never be known.

At the time, there was a dispute between small ranchers and larger concerns about overgrazing on the public range. Also, unbranded cattle, called mavericks could be claimed by any rancher who could put their brand on them. Sometimes, unbranded calves besides branded cows were branded and stolen from their rightful owners. Cattle rustling was rampant. The tensions between ranchers culminated in the Johnson County Wars. The lynching of Cattle Kate was part of these tensions.

Stough married Minnie Cooper, Jack Cooper’s widow in 1891 after being elected sheriff of Fremont county in 1890. He raised two of Cooper’s children, and Minnie and Charles had three children of their own.

In the Spring of 1892, Sheriff Stough escorted Butch Cassidy from Evanston to Lander. Butch had been accused of stealing horses and was to stand trial in Lander. In July of 1892, a jury acquitted him and his partner, Al Hainer of the charges. One of Butch’s friends, Eugene Amoretti Jr. was on the jury that acquitted Butch, but soon after new horse-stealing charges were brought against them. Butch was convicted at his second trial, but Al Hainer was acquitted.

In 1894, Sheriff Stough was given the duty of escorting Butch to the State Penitentiary in Laramie along with four other convicts. He took his deputy and two town marshals including Hank Boedeker. It took a week by buckboard to get his prisoners to Laramie where Butch was to serve a two-year sentence.

Stough served as sheriff of Fremont County twice; once from 1890 to 1895 and again from 1901 to 1910. An unpleasant duty that fell to him during his second term was to officiate at the hanging of James Keffer, who had been sentenced to hang for killing the stage tender at Darby. Between his two terms as sheriff, he was elected to the state legislature.

Stough served as county commissioner for Fremont county from 1911 until his death in 1923.

Two of Minnie and Charlie’s sons died before them. Lawrence died in an accident in the Philippines and his son Don was the first young man from Lander to die in World War I. The Don Stough American Legion Post in Lander is named in his honor.Stough Creek above Worthen Reservoir carries the name of the sheriff, legislator, and County Commissioner who served Fremont County for 61 years. The Stough home stood on Main Street until 2002 when it was moved to the Pioneer Village at the Museum of the American West. Today, visitors can tour this old historic home and learn more about Stough.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

Nov 3, 6 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Miseducation of Thanksgiving” By Dr. Victoria Sprague

Wyoming Community Bank Discover Speakers Series

Nov 5, 9-5 pm at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum & Riverton Museum, “First Fridays”

State Farm Lander – State Farm Riverton

Thru December 30, 9-5 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Arapaho Way” By Sara Wiles

Photography on exhibit in the Western Gallery through December

Nov 2021 – Oct 2021, 9-5 Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Hurray for the Cowboy: Engravings from 1867 -1911”

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 2ndRm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.