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The Stock Growers

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dick Perue

With the recent 150th anniversary of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and the Wyoming Livestock Roundup this week publishing its “Fall Cattlemen’s Edition” featuring Carbon County, it seemed appropriate to pass along bits of history of my home county and especially the Upper North Platte River Valley.

And, in my experience, the best source for this history is from the writings of the late Gay Day Alcorn in her book “Tough Country.” During the next few weeks while I’m at hunting camp, I’ll let Gay entertain with her writings, the first entitled, “The Stock Growers.” Enjoy.

The WSGA started in Laramie County in 1873 with a chief object of advancing Wyoming livestock. Another aim was to detect, arrest and convict cattle thieves. Money from the organization’s general fund was available for the purchase of rope to hang violators. 

Cattlemen knew when all the terrain in each roundup was covered, the cattle were again turned loose to drift and even though all the area was covered, scores of cattle were still missed. Calves unbranded at the spring roundup were called maverick yearlings the following year and belonged to no one. These mavericks were to be sold by the roundup captains to the highest bidder with the money going to the association. 

Without brands, it was impossible to tell who owned what and the Wyoming Territorial Legislature in 1873 made it mandatory for stockmen to brand cattle, sheep, hogs and other livestock. In 1882, the WSGA published a book with the brands of their members and the locality where each member’s stock was likely to range. 

Cattlemen of the Upper Platte Valley organized at Warm Springs (name changed to Saratoga in 1884) in the spring of 1882, when Barton T. Ryan was “called to the chair.” Spring Creek rancher C. L. Wells was made secretary and Lewis Swan was appointed captain of the spring roundup. Ryan was appointed a delegate to the County Stock Growers meeting in Rawlins.

By the time the 1883 WSGA reissued their expanded brand book, Carbon County stockmen were represented. Upper Platte Valley members whose brands and ranges were listed included the Blydenburgh brothers, Sam Morgan, F. Earnest, Kuykendall, Carr and B. T. Ryan.

From the beginning, cattle theft in the valley had been minimal. B. T. Ryan saw the tremendous herds of cattle moving through the territory from Oregon east and from Texas to Montana as a far greater problem. Some of the wranglers were not adverse to picking up cattle along the trail. 

On a much smaller scale, this same kind of thing happened in the valley when cowboys from the roundups gathered into the herd the milk cows of Warm Springs residents. The irate village citizens were likely to have the family cow returned, but those cattle roaming near the main cattle trails were not.

Gay further wrote, “North Platte Valley ranchers began to take a serious look at the cattle business as they knew it in the mid 1880s. . . . but, then, that’s for Gay to pass along in the next “Postcard” while I’m enjoying the fall colors in the Sierra Madres.

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