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One of the oldest, continuously operated “Dude Camps” in Wyoming will celebrate a century of existence this month, so we are doing a series of encore “Postcards” concerning the Medicine Bow Lodge, in the Medicine Bow Forest, 18 miles south east of Saratoga.

“Medicine Bow Lodge Will Be an Ideal Place for City Folks to Spend Summer Outing,” reads a headline in a July edition of a 1917 issue of the hometown newspaper.

The article reads:

Very similar in its appointments and purposes to the “dude camps” or tourist resorts, which are found in various parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in the vicinity of Yellowstone Park, will be the resort now planned by Sisson and Moore of Saratoga, to be known as Medicine Bow Lodge, which is situated in the Medicine Bow mountains some 18 miles from Saratoga.

A large part of the timber necessary for construction of the camp has already been gotten out and plans of the various structures are now being prepared. It is expected that the construction contract will be let within the next couple of weeks, and work on the buildings will be started just as soon as weather conditions will permit, the plan being to have the place ready for occupancy sometime in July.

The camp will consist of several large log buildings for offices, dining rooms, a dancing pavilion, store rooms and various other purposes and 30 or more sleeping tents with floor and walls of lumber, together with other necessary structures which to make up a comfortable and home-like camp for the benefit of the eastern tourist or city dweller who feels “the call of the wild” and looks for a place where he may spend a few days or weeks communing with nature among things primeval, outside the danger zone of automobiles, fire engines and street cars.

For those who desire a still less metropolitan outing, the proprietors of the camp will furnish teams and camping outfits, and the city man who is sick and tired of all human companionship may thus journey on into the untracked wilderness and indulge his caveman propensities to his heart’s content.

Medicine Bow Lodge will fill a long-felt want in this section, and it is a foregone conclusion that it will be largely patronized by people from Denver and other points in northern Colorado, as well as from a large territory in southern Wyoming. No other such resort can be reached by residents of this section without hundreds of miles of travel, and but few of even the most celebrated of these camps afford the fine fishing, small game hunting and other sports and pleasures that will be found in close proximity to Medicine Bow Lodge.

The construction work would have been in operation ere this but for the extremely backward season and the great amount of snow which obstructs all operations in the mountains. However, the work will be done with all possible speed and some of the roads are open and some of the snow out of the way, and the resort will be open for the tourist traffic during the coming summer and fall.

After 100 years, the Medicine Bow Lodge remains open today and continues to cater to those who wish to answer the call of the wild and to spend time communing with nature year around but especially the spectacular Indian Summer experienced each fall.

For this week’s “Postcard from the Past,” this writer will steal a few excerpts from the July 10, 1890 “Platte Valley Lyre,” Saratoga’s first weekly newspaper.

More Than 500 People Spent the Fourth of July with Us

Just before sunrise Friday morning, our people were startled by the firing of an anvil at the blacksmith shop of A. Munz, followed in a few seconds by another anvil begin struck at the west side shop of Prosser and McNulty. Back and forth, they had at it, and we have never heard more rapid firing.

Reports of the anvils were heard 15 miles distant. Our residents at once commenced to decorate, and soon, the national colors floated from almost every business house and dwelling in town.

At an early hour, vehicles loaded with people could be seen moving toward town from all directions. Ferguson’s four-horse “bus,” highly decorated for the occasion, brought the Orator and his party to the scene, followed shortly by the Glee Club. The rendering of patriotic songs by the club was very fine. The guitar solo of Mr. Perry was well executed and thoroughly enjoyed.

The Oration was, of course, the crowning feature of the exercise and was eloquent and to the point. After the exercise a number of people remained for the basket picnic.

The Races

Immediately after dinner, the teams commenced to leave for the park, and at two o’clock, a perfect stream of carriages and saddle horses were moving in that direction. Almost 500 people were on the grounds to witness the first races under the auspices of the recently organized Platte Valley Racing Association, and considerable money changed hands on the results.

Fireworks

In the evening, displays of fireworks were to be seen on the bridge and from many businesses, homes and other points. The bridge and river presented a beautiful appearance, being lit up for some distance by the fireworks.

Strawberry Festival

After the fireworks were over, people commenced to march in the direction of the new school house, having anticipated a good time there ever since the Guild announced the program. Soon, the building was literally jammed full. Some elbowed their way in, but others went away. Dancing was almost impossible until midnight, when the crowd commenced to thin out.

Strawberries, ice cream and strawberry ice were in demand, and the ladies could scarcely dish them fast enough. Between three and 400 people were present, with an unusually large number of young people in attendance, and two gentlemen who claim to have taken a “Census” state that there were between 40 and 50 young ladies alone.

Altogether, our first Fourth of July celebration was a “howling” success, and the next one will be greater still.

Not only were the hotels all crowded on the Fourth, but almost every private family had a number of guests.

 

Last week, we reported on the loss of three Upper North Platte River Valley folks during the flood of 1917. This week, the search for the bodies continues. A news item in the June 28, 1917, “Saratoga Sun” reads:

Will Patrol the River

Guards to be Placed on Lookout for Floating Bodies of Men Drowned Above Saratoga Last Week 

Preparations are now in progress for the placing of a close watch on the Platte River between the Day Ranch and Saratoga for the purpose of finding, if possible, the bodies of Robert Day, George Day and Garland Gross, who were drowned at the Day Ranch on Sunday, June 17.

The matter is in the hands of the Commercial Club, which has appointed a committee, with William H. Sowder as chairman, to look after the hiring and placing of men to search for the bodies during the coming week.

It is presumed that the bodies will come to the surface within the next few days in case they are not caught in wire fences, drift piles or other debris, and guards with boats will be placed at various points along the river to keep a sharp watch during the next few days.

Also, a crew of men with a large boat will likely spend several days in making a thorough examination of the various islands below the scene of the accident, it being the opinion of many experienced river men that the bodies are lodged somewhere within a mile below the Day Ranch.

The search went on for several weeks, with the first break in finding the victims reported in the July 26, 1917 issue of “The Sun.”

Tie Drivers Find Body

Remains of George Day Recovered a Mile Below Home, Where He was Drowned on June 17

The body of George Day, ll-year-old son of Mrs. R.A. Day, who, with his father, Robert A. Day, and his cousin, Garland Gross, was drowned at the Day Ranch on the evening of June 17, was found late Saturday afternoon by men employed on the tie drive. The boy’s body was found entangled in the roots of a large cottonwood tree which laid in the river at a point about a mile below the ranch house.

The remains were immediately taken to the home and prepared for burial, interment being made in the Saratoga cemetery Sunday afternoon. The funeral was attended by a large number of friends of the family.

The tie drivers are working slowly and searching the river thoroughly for the bodies of the other drowned men, and they will very likely be recovered before the drive is completed. . . and, the search continues next week.

As rodeo season gets underway, let’s pause and recall the history of one of the sport’s first events.

The history of steer roping, according to a program distributed at the “First Annual Platte Valley Steer Roping” held Sunday, July 18, 1948, in Encampment was summarized as follows:

Steer roping began in the early days with the round-up wagon.

In those days, it was necessary to rope and throw steers for branding, as they had reached an age and size that proved them hard to handle otherwise.

Cattle from several outfits would mix and graze on the same range, and to ready the cattle for market, the ranchers would throw in together with their round-up wagons and cowboys. For many days, from dawn to dark, the cowboys would ride the ridges and draws, searching for steers and throwing them in with the big bunch.

These steers, all wild, nervous and restless, were difficult to control, and should one break away from the bunch, there was a cowboy hot on his trail to put him back. Many time, it became necessary to rope and bust these steers to encourage him to stay with the herd. Should an unbranded steer be seen, he was roped, thrown and branded and then returned to the wild bunch.

After years of such round-ups, these cowboys became proficient in their work of roping and tying, and some were naturally more skillful at the work. Thus, it came about that each outfit had its top-hands, and when outfits gathered for the round-up, these cowboys, stirred on by the spirit of competition, would challenge each other in a match roping.

These matches became so popular that in 1883 at Pecos, Texas, the first cowboy contest was held, and the public was invited to attend. In 1888 on the Fourth of July at Prescott, Ariz., a cowboy tournament was held.

The official program further states:

Cheyenne Frontier Days was born in 1897. For many years, the only roping event was steer roping, and it was always a most popular contest among cowboys, as well as spectators.

As these cowboy gatherings became popular and a few of the top hands picked up some extra cash, they began to practice and develop new techniques to enable them to out-rope their competitors. Many a boss has ridden upon a steer with either a broken leg or a broken horn resulting from the practice of a would-be champion.

Steer roping is a popular sport today (1948) in most western states, including Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada and Oregon. Today, the contest is carried out in such a way that very seldom is a steer injured. Good ground, picked steers and good rope horses are the most important factors in a clean steer roping contest.

One hundred years ago, the worst flood in history rolled through the Upper North Platte River Valley between Saratoga and Encampment in south central Carbon County. Although water levels in 2011 exceeded that of 1917, tragedy was adverted. That wasn’t the case in June of 1917.

Headlines in the June 21, 1917 issue of the “Rawlins Republican” screamed:

Commissioner R.A. Day Drowned

Popular County Commissioner with Son and Nephew Drowned in Platte River Sunday – Bodies Not Yet Recovered

Last Monday, the people of this city were both horrified and grieved to learn that last Sunday afternoon County Commissioner Robert A. Day with his 12-year-old son George and his nephew Garland Gross, 19 years of age, had been drowned in the Platte River.

At the Day Ranch, which is about 10 miles above Saratoga, there is a footbridge across the river. This bridge is supported by two heavy cables. On one side of the river, the cables were fastened to an exceedingly large tree. On the other side, two trees were used to hold the cables. The bridge was considered to be absolutely safe.

Sunday, the telephone line, which crosses the river right at this bridge, went down. Mr. Day, assisted by his son, nephew and an employee of the ranch, Edward Goggrin, went on the bridge to take up this phone line for the purpose of repairing it and fastening it along the edge of the bridge. The bridge was then several inches above the water. The weight of the men on the bridge caused the structure to lower until it hit the water. When the bridge rested on the surface of the river, the force of the current caused the bridge to turn sideways when the entire strength of the river current, against the flat side of the bridge uprooted the large tree. The bridge then swung out into the river throwing all four men into the water.

Mr. Goggrin, who was the nearest to the edge of the river where the bridge was still held, grabbed the cable and pulled himself to shore. It was only by a supreme effort that he managed to save himself. However, he was unable to swim, and he knew that if he ever let go of the cable, he was lost.

The 12-year-old son of Mr. Day also grabbed the cable, but his strength gave out before he reached the bank, and he went down. Wm. Kenneday was on the bank at the time and witnessed the accident. He saw Mr. Day and the Gross boy swimming down the river in an apparently easy manner and felt no fears for their safety. He saw George Day go down once and started to the rescue of the boy as he saw him working his way toward the bank.

In going to the boy, it was necessary for Mr. Kennaday to pass around a clump of willows. He saw the boy as he reached the willows but upon coming out from behind the bushes, the boy had disappeared, and although search was made for him, there the little fellow was never seen again. It is believed that his strength gave out and he was dragged under the water by the cable.

Realizing that the boy was lost, Mr. Kenneday started down the river to locate Mr. Day and the young Mr. Gross whom he was sure had managed to reach the bank. When he failed to find them, the help of the entire section was sought and a thorough search started.

Join us next week as we search for the victims of the tragic flood of 1917.