The settlement of the Bridger Valley has gone steadily
forward, and it is today one of the most important agricultural districts
in the state.
Soon after the military reservation of Fort Bridger was thrown open three
men named King Durant, Joshua Stewart and S. R. Brough took up land about
five miles west of Fort Bridger. In 1891 a canal was taken out of Black's
Fork under the direction of a Mormon bishop named Ferrin, and homesteads
were located by F. L. Diffendaffer, William Snodgrass and Samuel Gross.
Soon after there moved in a colony from Utah bringing cattle and horses. A
canal that was taken out by judge Carter some years before was purchased,
and at a place about a mile and a half east of the present site of Lyman a
settlement named Minersville, so called from their former home in Utah,
was established. On land belonging to Henry Blumell, one of the settlers,
a town hall was put up, that served as a general meeting place and a
schoolhouse. The first teacher was Mrs. G. A. Thomas, mother of W. A.
Thomas of Mountainview. This district is now known as the Bench.
In 1898 Francis M. Lyman, an apostle of the Mormon Church, organized the
Woodruff Stake, which included this newly settled region. On the loth of
May the following year he and an associate named Owen Woodruff selected
the present town site, which was originally part of the homestead of S. R.
Brough. Lots were laid out and a town hall, built by popular subscription,
was ready for the first religious service the 11th of February, 1900. This
building served its purpose until the year 1914, when the present meeting
house was erected. The first bishop, Mr. Brough, was succeeded by Melville
Rollins. The town, which was originally called Owen, has for many years
borne the name of Lyman.
To the unprepared it is a surprise to find so progressive and well
equipped a town at such a distance from the railroad. There are excellent
stores and garages and good hotels, the largest of which is the Johnson
House. The Farmers and Stockgrowers Bank, a branch of the First National
of Rock Springs, of which Edward Statmiller is cashier, occupies a
substantial building. The Bridger Valley Enterprise, published by Loraine
Rollins, is an excellent weekly newspaper, and has done much toward
building up a fine community spirit A branch of the Uinta County Library
was established in 1915 in a room rented for the purpose. It now occupies
a convenient little building bought for a library. The following
librarians have been in charge: Miss Margaret Guild, Miss Evelyn Brough,
Miss M. Blackner and Mrs. Stanley Rollins. Mrs. Rollins is the daughter of
Cornelius Evans, one of Lyman's pioneer settlers.
The descendants of Watson Rollins have been prominent from the date of
settlement, and Loraine Rollins has represented the county in the state
legislature. Augustus Youngberg, a member of another pioneer family, has
served the county as commissioner. Others who deserve mention are :
William Phillips, the Hollingshead family, Wallace and William Hamlin,
Joseph Wall, several of whose children live in the valley, and W. G. Moyes,
who moved from Lyman to Idaho. Ephriam Marshall, another of the first band
of settlers, was the father of eight children who are well known in the
county, one of whom, D. W. Marshall, is still living at Lyman. Mrs.
Marshall, widow of the pioneer, lives in Evanston with her daughters, Mrs.
Charles Cook and Mrs. George Brown.
The largest canal in this section was taken out by the Biglows of Ogden,
and is known by their name. It supplies water for the Biglow ranch, a
splendid property lying to the west of Fort Bridger, and for many of the
In the year 1891 a sufficient number of people had settled about six miles
above Fort Bridger on Smith's Fork to sanction the opening of a postoffice,
and in June of that year William H. Harvey was appointed postmaster. The
place was called Mountainview from a ranch owned by Mrs. Groshon that was
situated at the foot of a butte overshadowing the town.
Mrs. Agnes Hewitt, mother of William and George Harvey, has been honored
by the title of the "Mother of Mountainview"' and her influence has
outlived the span of her earthly life. The southwest corner of a homestead
owned by her was laid out as a townsite, and in January, 1898, the first
house was built by a man named David Young. The same year the Harvey
brothers put up a store, the completion of which was celebrated by an
all-night dance. Soon after there was built by popular subscription a
community hall that served as a social and business meeting place until
the erection of the hall of the Woodmen of the World in 1907. John
Pfisterer, organizer of this order in Wyoming, built a pretty home on the
edge of town, where the family lived some years before going to Ogden.
A branch of the Morman Sunday School of Lyman was started in Mountainview
in l909 but was soon discontinued, and in 1910 a union Sunday School was
opened. Three years later J. C. Whitsett was sent out by the Presbyterian
Board, and under his leadership with the hearty cooperation of the people
a tasteful church building and manse was built on a lot presented by Mrs.
G. A. Thomas. In April, 1916, the Presbytery of Laramie which embraces the
southern part of Wyoming, met at Mountainview, the church was dedicated
and Mr. Whitsett was ordained as pastor. In 1920 he and his family moved
to California. The present minister is Rev. Mr. Edwards, and the church is
prospering under his able leadership.
The Uinta County State Bank, a branch of the Stockgrowers Bank of
Evanston, is housed in a neat brick building, with William Newton as
cashier. Mr. Newton's family consisting of his wife and daughter have a
tasteful home near by.
Thomas Anson, one of the early settlers, has served as county commissioner
for two terms. William Thomas is another of the older residents who makes
his home there. He has long served on the school board and is a prominent
T. A. Megeath came to Mountainview from Sweetwater County, and held the
position of United States Commissioner. His son, W. C. Megeath, bought the
store and home of William Summers, and has a prosperous business.
South of Mountainview is a stretch of land known as the "Bench", on which
two ranchers, Robert Kidman and Andrew Poison, settled in 1896. Poison had
four sons, one of whom, Edward M., is well known in the county. His wife
is the daughter of James Perry.
About five miles west of Mountainview is the settlement of Milburn, where
John Wade, formerly of Evanston, for some years ran a grist mill. A. A.
Davidson is a prosperous rancher here. C. B. Hamilton, son of Richard
Hamilton, James Sharp, and J. A. Fackrel have valuable ranch properties in
On upper Smith's Fork about ten miles above Fort Bridger there is a
settlement known as Robertson, so called from the first settler of the
Bridger Valley. To the west are the ranches of William Smith, S. M.
Hawkins, and Daniel Nash. Wallace Johnson, son of S. M. Johnson an early
settler on Henry's Fork, has a ranch high up on the stream. It adjoins and
includes part of the holdings of "Jack Robertson". The outlines of old
Fort Supply now included in the Robert Coburn ranch may still be traced in
the burned logs and stone chimneys. Adjoining it is the ranch of G. A.
Rassmussen, an early man in the region. Dr. William Carter, brother of J.
Van A. Carter, had one of the largest ranches in the valley.
Other ranchers in the vicinity are T. W. Boam, Morgan Bond, J. W. Center,
W. B. Goodrich, M. N. Hayward, Mrs. John Wall, John H. Overly, and
Gustavus Heder. A figure whose long locks and flowing beard always attract
attention, is that of Dick Jones, who came to the county with Coe and
Carter, contractors for railroad ties for the Union. Pacific. He settled
near Robertston and next to him is J. C. Spencer. Both are unmarried and
are closely bound together by business and friendly ties.
Between Mountainview and Lyman is the ranch of one of the foremost
citizens of the county, H. J. B. Taylor. He is a native of Pennsylvania
and came to Fort 'Bridger in 1881 as government freighter. Mr. Taylor has
been very active in introducing into the valley fine stock, and his
activities in promoting the best interests of the state have been
recognized beyond the bounds of the county. His sons, Edgar and Charles,
are also engaged in ranching.
About the year of 1900, owing to the difficulty in renting or buying
houses in old Fort Bridger, a settlement was made about a mile to the east
and was called Fort Bridger. Joseph Guild, son of the Piedmont merchant,
opened a store ; there was a hotel and the inevitable saloon of that day,
a school was opened and a number of people made their homes there. The
location was unfortunate for farming owing to the alkali that came to the
surface. Neither did it possess the natural beauty of many parts of the
valley, and after a few years the people scattered to more attractive
surroundings, though most of them, including the widow of Joseph Guild,
remained in the vicinity.
Urie consists of a schoolhouse and store surrounded by well kept ranches.
Among them may be mentioned those of J. B. and E. M. Fackrel, Joseph and
Guy Eyre, Mr. Godfrey and Watson. Mr. Watson is the son of a section
foreman who made Carter his home for many years.
If a sightseer at Fort Bridger succeeds in enlisting the aid of John
McGlaughlin he will be fortunate. Mr. McGlaughlin, who is known throughout
the country as "Mac", came to the fort with the soldiers, and is a most
interesting guide as well as an entertaining companion. He will point out
the various government buildings in one of which a store was for many
years conducted by W. A. Carter, and is now under the management of Louis
T. Harding. Another is occupied by an excellent hotel known as the
Rochford. Some have fallen into picturesque ruin.
An attractive home on the edge of town is that of A. J. Johnson, a
prominent rancher. Others engaged in the ranching business near by are
James A. Arthurs, Andrew Dahlquist, G. A. Taylor, the Delaneys, Larsons,
St. Jeors, Bedlacks and Pattersons. Thomas Casto owns the ranch taken up
by Louis Shirtliff, who for many years had the contract for carrying mail
in the valley.
A. J. Valdez, a Mexican, and Louis Wheeler were employed by judge Carter
in caring for his large herds of cattle, and both took up ranches of their
own. Wheeler later moved to Lonetree.
Two miles from Mountainview there lives an interesting character named
James Davis. He is of southern birth, and his father was second cousin to
Jefferson Davis. In 1852, when he was five years old, the family came
across the plains to Utah. Ten years later they returned to Kentucky and
this boy of fifteen entered the Confederate Army, where he served for
three years. At the close of the war he returned to Utah and enlisted
under General Crooks in the Blackhawk War, after which he settled down on
his ranch, where he has since lived. Mr. Davis is full of reminiscences of
past history of the valley, and tells of being engaged in freighting for
Miller, an employee of Russell, Majors & Waddell, from whom the stage
station of Millersville was named.
In 1854, while Fort Supply was in existence, a man by the name of Henry
Perry made a temporary home in the valley. He had been a freighter on the
Santa Fe Trail, and as early as 1851 came out to the Rockies to hunt
buffalo with the famous scouts Joe and John Baker. When Johnson's army
came through he was one of the men employed as government guide. For a
time he settled in Montana, but later, with his wife and several children,
moved back to Wyoming. They were in Evanston and Hilliard from 1870 to
1878, and then went to Henry's Fork and engaged in stock raising. A
daughter named Sarah became the wife of George Hereford, Laura was married
to Thomas Casto of Fort Bridger, and James, who is in the mercantile
business at Mountainview as well as ranching, married Nellie Hendrie, a
member of another old family of the valley. Her mother came to Utah with
the second band of Mormon immigrants.
John D. Watson came west as a government freighter in 1884. Four years
later he was married by Father Fitzgerald of Evanston to a lady who, like
himself, came from St. Louis. They made their home for a time at Carter,
and then moved to the government meadows, at that time a favorite feeding
place for hundreds of wild deer. Mr. Watson died in 1917, but the home
ranch south of Fort Bridger, in which there were ten children, is still
kept up by his widow. A daughter, Mrs. P. M. Mulhall, lives in Evanston.
Among others who deserve mention are Joseph Wall, several of whose
children live at Lyman, the Hollingshead family and James Phelps. Mr.
Phelps settled on Henry's Fork, but later sold his property there and
acquired a fine ranch about four miles southeast of Lyman.
In an illustrated edition of the Wyoming Times of 1911, Mrs. Herbert
Taylor, then superintendent of schools for the county, tells in her
interesting way of a visit to a school in the Bridger Valley that was held
in a one-room building which had served its original purpose as a chicken
house and had been donated by the owner. The teacher and eight pupils
traveled to it on horseback, and hitched their ponies to the rail fence in
front of the building. In looking at the beautiful buildings provided for
the schools today to which autos bring the children from remote parts of
the valley, it is not easy to realize that such a change has been wrought
within the memories of the settlers not yet of middle age. The several
original districts have been consolidated into one known as Number Four,
and the schools rank high in the ever-improving system of Wyoming. The
Lyman School Band has won an enviable place in the annual state
tournament, and many honors have been earned by contestants in various
lines from both Lyman and Mountainview.
The agricultural importance of the region has been demonstrated. In spite
of high altitude there has never been a failure in grain crops, and the
yield per acre of wheat, barley and rye is double that of lower sections
of the country. Vegetables of all sorts have been successfully raised, as
well as small fruits and apples. The work of the university extension
department has received hearty support, as have also the valuable
suggestions of the county agricultural agents. The first director of the
agricultural experiment station at Lyman was A. E. Hyde, who married
Bernice Marshall and now lives in Douglas, Wyoming. A man by the name of
Thomas was the first. county agricultural agent. He was followed by W. C.
Carrington, now a resident of Colorado, and he by W. R. Smith, who is
building upon the foundation laid by his predecessors and is alive to the
needs of the various communities. A great event in the county is the
Bridger Valley Fair, held successively at Fort Bridger, Lyman and
Mountainview. Besides the usual exhibits there have been presented
beautiful and instructive historical pageants that have been of great
One of the very early settlers in southwestern Wyoming was Philip Mass.
The story is told that he was once called as a witness in court in
Evanston, and that in response to the question as to his nationality he
answered that he was a Mexican. The next question, "When were you
naturalized?" received the reply, "Never." It was then learned that the
United States had acquired Phil Mass with the Mexican cession of 1848. He
was well known in Evanston, his base of supplies. Among his interesting
characteristics was his ambition for his children, for whom he employed a
private teacher in the home on Burnt Fork.
Elijah Driscol, Shade Large, W. A. Johnson and Charles A. Davis, all
cattle owners, were on the same stream in 1870. Bryan, then the end of the
division and the most important shipping point in the region, was their
trading place, to which they traveled fifty or sixty miles on horseback.
Johnson, as well as Large, was a squaw man, and his wife, who was known as
"Jonny," was said to be the most beautiful Indian ever seen. Their ranch
was in Sweetwater County, but their cattle were driven up the valley in
the winter. There was the usual dead line against sheep, and the cattle
men were successful in keeping them out without much trouble. The cowboys
were popular with the ranchers, for whom they did many kindnesses.
In the early '70s a rancher named John Forshay took up land on Henry's
Fork, a short distance west of the present site of Lonetree. This ranch
now belongs to Eugene Hickey, one of the largest cattle owners in Uinta
County. Mrs. Hickey, who was the daughter of Robert Hereford, cattleman,
schoolteacher and book lover, died in the influenza epidemic of z918. The
home, a fine two-story residence, breaks upon the view of the traveler
from the west as he emerges from the grotesque and barren bad lands, and
the scene cannot fail to arouse a feeling of pleasure. To the south rise
the snow-covered peaks of the Uinta Range, with forest-covered foothills
in the foreground leading down to a well-watered valley dotted with
ranches, where brouse contented cattle and horses, for here every one owns
cattle and every one rides. Rail fences as well as those made of barbed
wire divide the fields.
The nucleus of the settlement of Lone Tree consists of a neat little
schoolhouse with two rooms, the meeting house of the Mormon Church and a
store, in which the postoffice is located. J. H. Gregory, the storekeeper,
who came here in 1898, is a cultured gentleman and the father of an
interesting family. The first settlers were Mr. and Mrs. Jonathon Hoops
and two little daughters. They had traveled by ox team by way of Echo
Canyon and Evanston and brought with them all of their earthly goods, the
most valuable being a small herd of cattle. They had stopped at Robertson
to take advantage of the fine summer range, and arrived at their
destination at the end of October, 1872. In a letter dated September 10,
1922, the daughter Annie, now Mrs. Summers, describes the early days in
this isolated valley, the dependence of the scattered settlers upon each
other, and the all-night parties to which they would gather from far and
near to dance to the music of volunteer fiddlers. At the age of sixteen
she was claimed in marriage by William Summers, who had settled in the
neighborhood in 1877. An election occurred soon after their marrige and
she was taken to the poles to vote, and although she protested that she
was not of legal age, she was silenced by the argument that any one old
enough to marry was old enough to vote.
At first mail was sent out by J. Van A. Carter from Fort Bridger by any
reliable person who chanced to be traveling to the valley, and as much as
six weeks sometimes elapsed between deliveries. In 1888 a postoffice was
established and Mrs. Summers served as postmistress for four years and
three months. During her term of office there was an advance from weekly
to tri-weekly and then to daily delivery.
Only once in Mrs. Summers' life at Lonetree was there a genuine Indian
scare. In 1879, at the time of the Meeker massacre in Colorado, a runner
came across the mountains from the south with the news that Indians were
headed for Henry's Fork. Mr. Hoops happened to be at the Summers' place,
and he mounted a horse and started for his own home up the valley, five
miles away, after giving directions to the others where to meet him.
Getting into lumber wagons, they drove from one ranch to another,
gathering up the women and children, but nothing besides, for, in Mrs.
Summers' words, "We wanted nothing but our lives." Others followed and
that night formed a camp down the creek, where they were joined by hunters
and trappers from all the region around. On reaching Fort Bridger, Judge
Carter put at their disposal an old building and the same night he went on
his mission to Washington to urge upon the government the right of the
settlers to military protection, with the result that Fort Bridger was
again manned with troops. For five days the terrified ranchers remained at
the fort, and then, upon hearing that the Indians had gone south instead
of north, they returned to their homes, but the writer says that not until
winter set in did they got over their nervousness, always fearing the
return of the red men to the war path.
There were two schools on Henry's Fork about three miles apart, to which
the children rode on horseback. Rev. F. L. Arnold, superintendent fur the
county, made welcome visits to them once a year. One of the early teachers
was William Moss of Evanston, and another who was remembered by many was
J. T. Corns, a fine educator and a man of influence, who later moved to
Seattle, Washington. The only church in those days was the services held
by Mr. Arnold in the schoolhouse, and they were attended by all the
At the junction of Beaver Creek and Henry's Fork lies one of the prettiest
of mountain ranches belonging to Joseph Steinaker, who, with his wife,
came here from the old Utah agricultural settlement of Vernal They have
two suns, Elbert and William. The ranch was originally pre-empted by
Joseph Pierrot, who, with Mr. Hickey, came from Canada to Piedmont in
1872. He accumulated a goodly number of cattle and for many years lived
alone in a cabin surrounded by pine and cottonwood trees in the midst of
his fertile fields. Throughout the county, where he was well known, he was
commonly called "Joe Parrot". He died in Evanston in 1919.
Following the valley to the east we come to the Workman, Hanks and Stoll
ranches. "Grandma Stull", who died in 1918, was the beloved Mrs. Louder of
the "Letters of a Woman Homesteader" and other books of Elinor Pruitt
Stewart, who lived a little farther to the east. 'Both heroine and author
were much loved and highly honored. The Episcopal Church has a mission
just across the Sweetwater line, and conducts a prosperous Sunday school.
To the east of the old Pierrot place are the ranches of Frank Workman and
Eugene Hickey, Jr. On Beaver Creek we come to the Wheeler and Wadsworth
ranches. The Ray Johnson, Smith, Bullock, J. J. Johnson and Phelps
properties lie between it and the town, and above it Wright Johnson and
Jed Bullock have fine ranches.
The Lonetree country has not been without its tragedies. With the many
splendid men and women who came here to make their homes there were some
lawbreakers who sought this isolated spot to escape justice, and who did
not leave behind the traits that had led to a change of residence. One of
the most flagrant cases was connected with the disappearance of a man
named Sam Smith, a kindly man and much loved. With a companion named Jacob
Heyse he spent his summers excavating on the bad lands for Professor
Marsh, and as his wants were few he accumulated quite a sum of money. Both
were squaw men, and Smith had two children, whom he sent to "the states"
to school after the death of his wife. In the summer of 1887 he
disappeared, and when some weeks later his body was found it gave evidence
of foul play. It was said that there were honest people who knew more
about the mystery than they dared tell, far removed as they were from
courts of justice, and the truth of the affair never came to light.
There appeared in 1921 a book, the plot of which was laid in this region.
It is called "Judith of the Godless Valley," and contains some beautiful
word pictures of the scenes on Burnt and Henry's Forks. Had the gifted
author, Honore Wilsie, been content to put forth the work as fiction it
would have passed for one of the fanciful tales woven about some
interesting threads of facts. When, however, both editor and author
protested that the story was literally true, a storm of protest rose not
so much from the region itself as from the neighboring communities, where
it was felt that an injustice had been done to a section of the state in
which we have reason to take pride. It is doubtful whether there is in
America or in the world a community more unique than this. Ambitions for
their children and making every effort to supply them with the best of
educational advantages, they are content to live in this beautiful valley,
and they ask nothing better than to be able to hand down to their
successors the possessions that they have wrested from the surrounding
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