Invention of the sheep wagon
Prior to reading this week’s Roundup, I had a different Postcard in mind. However, the “Sheep Wagon Show” news item reminded of a past article worth repeating about the invention of “Wyoming’s home on the range.”
A Carbon County blacksmith by the name of James Candlish is credited with building the first authentic sheep wagon in Rawlins in 1884 from an idea given to him by George Ferris, pioneer sheepman, mine operator and businessman.
Born in 1841 in Canada, Candlish was raised in Montreal where he learned wagon making and blacksmith trades. He came to the United States as a young man and was hired as a blacksmith by the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad. Candlish followed the building of the UP tracks in the 1860s and settled at Fort Fred Steele, 12 miles west of Rawlins in south central Carbon County.
At the fort, he entered the employ of the U.S. Government and remained there until the early 1880s when the troops were being taken away. He moved to Rawlins and opened a blacksmith shop of his own and, among other things, built sheep wagons for local ranchers.
For nearly 130 years the sheep wagon, sometimes called a “Home on the Range” or more poetically, “The Ship of the Desert,” has housed the herders who tend the flocks in Wyoming. But, then that’s another postcard.