The Cheyenne Club
Although many of the ranch “headquarters” comprised a small log cabin constructed of crude pine or cottonwood poles, daubed with mud and corrals of rough poles, or, in some instances just a dug-out in the side of a hill with a cowhide for a door, no one complained, as such structures were considered adequate for range needs. But living quarters in town were different matters.
Many of the young cattlemen, who headquartered in Cheyenne, were just out of eastern colleges such as Harvard, Princeton or Dartmouth. They came from a home of wealth and had always been accustomed to the best in creature comforts. Some of the bachelor members of the association decided to build a clubhouse where they could stay when in town and where they could entertain their friends.
In June 1880, a small group including two Sturgis brothers, Hay, Thomas, Davis and Kingman formed the Cactus Club, which became the nucleus of the Cheyenne Club.
In sending out invitations to membership in the Cheyenne Club, William Sturgis, Jr., a brother of Thomas Sturgis, wrote the following.
“We expect to furnish to members of substitute for an improvement on the old Railroad House where the butler has lately been promoted and the sprees of the Jones family are growing inconveniently frequent,” he stated. “We shall have rooms for a limited number, a good restaurant for all, billiard room, reading rooms, etc. The numbers are limited to 50 to the end that they may be selected with great care.”
The Cheyenne Club was incorporated on Sept. 22, 1880, by Philip Dater, James Dater, William Sturgis, Jr., N. R. Davis, H. G. Hay, Thomas Sturgis, William C. Lane, C. M. Oelrichs and E. B. Bronson.
According to the articles of incorporation, “The purpose of this association shall be to establish and maintain a pleasure resort and place of amusement.”
The entrance fee was set at $50, with annual dues of $30.
As the membership grew and the plans for the new clubhouse progressed, the entrance fee was increased on Nov. 15, 1880, to $100. All of the members of the club belonged to the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Excavation work for the clubhouse, which was for many, many years a landmark of Cheyenne, was started in the fall of 1880, at the corner of 17th and Dodge Streets (now Warren Avenue), on a lot “at the eastern end of Hay’s block.”
The building of the structure was financed by the issuance of bonds for which it was security. These bonds were defaulted after $2,500 had been paid, a fact reflecting the collapse of the “big” cattle industry after the destructive winter of 1886-87. The structure passed first to the Club of Cheyenne, which assumed the unpaid indebtedness and settled with the bondholders at 20 cents on the dollar, then to the Cheyenne Industrial Club and finally to the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.
In 1936, the old building was razed, and a new streamlined Chamber of Commerce was constructed upon the site.
Today, cow hands from all over the West – riders, ropers and bulldoggers, congregate on the spot each year for the big Frontier Days’ registrations. Their boot heels click on the concrete pavement bordering the building. It is, however, a far different scene from the days when the Oelrichs and Daters, Teschemacher and De Billier pulled up to the grass-covered curb in a tally-ho or “drag” drawn by the four or six prancing horses, and entertained their friends in the club dining room with pickled eels, olives and the finest hors d’oeuvres, Champagne Perrier Brut, Champagne “Giesler,” Rum St. Cruz, Zinfandel Claret, Reina Victorias and Manila Cheroots, and foods obtained in San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.
This article was written by Agnes Wright Spring in the publication “70 Years Cow Country,” Wyoming Stock Growers Association, first edition,Jan. 1, 1942. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.