Current Edition

current edition

Severe snowstorms during the winter and spring of 1917 were some of the worst ever experienced in the Upper North Platte River Valley of south-central Carbon County. Inclement weather not only blocked roads and killed livestock, it created major problems for the Saratoga and Encampment Railroad, known locally as the “Slow and Easy.”

The March 29, 1917, issue of “The Saratoga Sun” reported:

U.P. Engine and Rotary Snowplow Now Working in the Vicinity of Pass Creek

A determined effort has been made the past few days to open up the local railroad line as far as Saratoga, and reports today are to the effect that good progress is being made, and the probabilities are that the line will be open to this point by tomorrow evening or Saturday, at the latest.

According to telephone reports from Rawlins today, General Superintendent Jeffers of the Union Pacific, who was at Rawlins yesterday, gave assurance that every effort would be made to open the line without delay to supply feed to local stockmen, and President Ira Casteel of the local stock association phoned from Walcott this morning that the work would be rushed with all possible speed, and he looked for the road to be open to this point within a very short time.

Considerable trouble was experienced Wednesday, when most of day was spent in bucking snow in the Crone cut near Pass Creek. Twice the rotary snowplow jumped the track, and from three to four hours was required each time to get it back on the rails. Another rotary was brought to Walcott and placed on the job this morning, and now better headway is now being made. With the exception of a deep cut in the vicinity of Lake Creek, the Crone cut, where snow from 14 to 18 feet in depth was encountered, is considered to be the worst place on the line, and but a few feet of snow remained to be moved at that point when the work began this morning. It is expected the cut in the vicinity of Midway will give some trouble, but it is said the snow at this point is not so deep.

The only uncertain factor about the work, according to Mr. Casteel and others, is whether the S&E track in some places will stand the weight of the heavy machinery employed in breaking up the blockade. If the track holds up under the snowplow and heavy engine, there is no doubt of the road being clear to this point within the next 48 hours.

In Case of War Extreme Measures will be Taken to Guard Transcontinental Roads

With the threat of the United States becoming involved in World War I, this headline topped the front page of the March 29, 1917 issue of “The Saratoga Sun,” preceded by the following article:

In the event of war, it would require a large army to properly patrol the great transcontinental lines of railroad, particularly in Wyoming and many other western states. Military authorities and secret service operatives point out that the topographical nature of the West is such that the greatest caution should be exercised to protect lines of communication between the East and the West.

Speaking of probable measures in case war were declared between the United States and Germany, the Rocky Mountain News says, “Sherman Pass, on the Union Pacific railroad in Wyoming, is said to be another objective at which the government would concentrate troops. There are several tunnels in that vicinity, of which the blasting of any one would cripple transportation indefinitely.

“The protection of railroad lines would be placed under the direct supervision of the military, according to army officials. Whether or not there would be actual fighting in this section of the country, the presence of a large force would be required just the same.

“Secret service operatives from the Bureau of Investigation cooperate with the army in protecting railroad, since the Bureau in charge of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona is located in Denver, that city would become the center of most of the secret service operations in the west, it is stated.”

It is said that the Union Pacific has for several weeks employed a large force of guards in this state, placed at many points along the line, several being stationed at the Edison Tunnel, at the bridge over the Platte River at Fort Steele and other danger points in this section.

Threat of war was a worry to many, but the immediate concern in the valley was a severe spring snowstorm, which had closed all roads in and out of Saratoga and Encampment. “The Sun” noted:

S&E Line will be
Opened Soon

U.P. Engine and Rotary Snowplow Now Working in Vicinity of Pass Creek

A determined effort has been made the past few days to open up the local railroad line as far as Saratoga, and reports today are to the effect that good progress is been made and the probabilities are that the line will be open to this point by tomorrow evening, or Saturday at the latest . . . but, then that’s down the road.

Prior to the invention and use of the refrigerator, food was preserved and kept cool in “ice boxes,” which required chunks of ice cut from local sloughs, creeks and rivers.

The ice was harvested in winter months, stored in sheds filled with sawdust and then distributed to businesses and households during the warm summer days.

Harvesting ice was a necessary and newsworthy endeavor, as reported in a February issue of a Wyoming weekly newspaper in the 1920s.

The annual ice harvest will get under way here the latter part of this week or the first of next, according to Clark Wilcox, who is filing up his saws and greasing up his loading chutes in preparations for a busy several days. He has made tests of the ice on the Davidson slough a mile or so above town, where cutting will be done, and states the ice is of fine quality – clean and clear, and it will average 12 to 18 inches in thickness. There are several inches of snow on the ice, he says, and this is being plowed loose and cleaned off this week.

Mr. Wilcox expects to cut between 600 and 700 tons, about the same amount as last year, and hopes to deliver to the haulers from 50 to 60 tons per day. The ice will all be stored locally, by business houses and individuals, and several local storage houses will be filled to be retailed during the summer.

Supt. Ainsworth has a crew of men from the fisheries station cutting ice at a location down the river, which is being hauled and stored at the hatchery. He said between 35 and 40 tons will be cut.

Ice crop gathered

Another earlier account states,

George W. Sisson and C.S. Taylor have had teams busy for several days, up to and including Monday, gathering the ice crop.

It was feared that the warm weather, which had been with us since the first of the month, would clear the river of ice, but ice of a very excellent character was discovered just above the dam and 500 tons were cut and hauled in, filling up every ice house in town.

There will now be no lack of ice for the coming year.

As the threat of the United States entering World War I loomed, most newspapers issued a call to arms to former service personnel. The following appeared in the March 1, 1917 issue of “The Saratoga Sun.”

“Once a Marine always a Marine” is the loyal answer of hundreds of “ex-soldiers of the sea” in response to the recent telegrams from Marine Corps Headquarters asking their return to the colors. Many are re-enlisting and others, who are handicapped by domestic or other responsibilities, are, for the present, doing remarkable work in the obtaining of men for their old Corps, according to recruiting officials.

Upwards of 10,000 trained men are discharged from our military and naval services yearly, and under ordinary circumstances, one-third of them immediately re-enlist. Of the remaining, fully 80 percent are eligible for re-enlistment. It is therefore estimated that the United States would have at least 150,000 trained regulars in civil life ready for duty at the first call.

Forgetting that their fingerprints are bound to betray them, many deserters who have adopted fictitious names are attempting to re-enter Uncle Sam’s service, since the breaking of diplomatic relations with Germany. Recruiting officers have been flooded with this class of applicants, who trust to luck or indifference on the part of the military authorities to cover up their misdemeanor, according to Captain Frank E. Evans of the United States Marine Corps.

It is believed that the present patriotic wave has awakened many of these deserters of a sense of duty, but a comparison of their telltale fingerprints with the originals, kept on file in Washington, D.C., proves a bar to their further service.

An editorial in the same weekly newspaper notes:

Pertinent to farmers

Every hour seems to draw the country nearer to war. No man can assure us that he will escape, for no man knows. This year, 1917 may see us shut off from all source of supplies from the outer world, and dependent entirely upon local production.

Facing such a possibility, it is incumbent upon every farmer to cultivate to the limit of his acreage and ability, and the town person who has a vacant lot should do the same.

The time to begin is now. If we place armies in the field, those armies must be fed, and the products come from the farms.”

The newspaper’s assessment of the situation was correct with the USA entering “the war to end all wars” on April 6, 1917. The Encyclopedia Britannica states:

World War I, also called First World War or Great War, was an international conflict that in 1914-18 embroiled most of the nations of Europe along with Russia, the United States, the Middle East and other regions.

The war pitted the Central Powers – mainly Germany, Austria/Hungary and Turkey – against the Allies – mainly France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan and, from the spring of 1917, the United States.

It ended with the defeat of the Central Powers. The war was virtually unprecedented in the slaughter, carnage and destruction it caused.

The following poem is taken from an undated yellowed newspaper clipping found in the Bob Martin/Dick Perue collection. No author was listed, but it could have been written by any cowboy, on any range, at any time for all of us who love America and especially the West at this joyous time of Christ’s birth. – Dick Perue

 

I ain’t much good at prayin’, and You may not know me, Lord.

I ain’t much seen in churches where they preach Thy Holy Word,

But You may have observed me out here in the lonely plains,

A-lookin’ after cattle, feelin’ thankful when it rains.

 

Admirin’ Thy great handiwork, the miracle of grass,

Aware of Thy kind spirit in the way it comes to pass

That hired men on horseback and the livestock that we tend

Can look up at the stars at night and know we’ve got a Friend.

 

So here’s to Christmas comin’ on, remindin’ us again,

Of Him whose coming brought good will into the hearts of men.

A cowboy ain’t no preacher, Lord, but if You’ll hear my prayer,

I’ll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere.

 

Don’t let no hearts be bitter, Lord; don’t let no child be cold.

Make easy beds for them that’s sick and them that’s weak and old.

Let kindness bless the trail we ride, no matter what we’re after,

And sorter keep us on Your side, in tears as well as laughter.

 

I’ve seen old cows a-starvin’, and it ain’t no happy sight.

Please don’t leave no one hungry, Lord, on Thy good Christmas night.

No man, no child, no woman and no critter on four feet –

I’ll aim to do my best to help you find ‘em chuck to eat.

 

I’m just a sinful cowpoke, Lord – ain’t go no business prayin’ –

But still I hope you’ll ketch a word or two of what I’m sayin’.

We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord – I reckon You’ll agree

There ain’t no Merry Christmas for nobody that ain’t free.

So one thing more I’ll ask You, Lord, just help us what You can

To save some seeds of freedom for the future sons of man!