Florence Blake Had Grit
By Rebecca Hein
Florence Blake had grit, and she loved Wyoming. Not even the rigors of a November 1919 drive from Gillette to her prospective claim “through slick gumbo spots” daunted her.
Driving south from Gillette, “We got stuck several times, and all got out and helped push while the driver guided the car over better places.” The passengers were young women who had hired a locator to show them their land and file on it. When they got completely stuck, the locator/driver left them to seek help. This was the beginning of a cold and hungry night, which they were lucky to survive.
The next day, they finished the trip on horseback, another rugged adventure. “[A]nswering the call of nature was out of the question in that cold, so one more burden was added to our already torturous ride,” she wrote. However, “It was so good to reach the spot at last and it looked so beautiful to me, particularly the view of the Big Horn Mountains, seventy-five miles to the west.”
Back in Chicago, “I was hailed as a heroine, an adventuress, a land-owner. ... Everything I did from then on took on a glamorous look, for at the back of each thought and the end of each day was the thrill of possession. I was now a homesteader in the West, and a potential owner of six hundred and forty acres of Wyoming.”
The law required seven months of residence per year and, during her first season beginning in April 1920, she learned how helpful her neighbors could be. She also had to be inventive and resourceful. After discovering how difficult it was to haul water from a nearby spring, once the bucket of water was in her house, she learned that she could “make ten gallons of water do a heap of things. I never threw out my bath water until I had washed a number of pieces, scrubbed the floor, and poured it into an old bucket to settle the suds and dirt when I would pour it over my garden.”
Blake apparently never became lonely, so enraptured was she with Wyoming’s clear, sunny weather, and the generosity of the residents.
Rebecca Hein is an assistant editor of WyoHistory.org.