A Drive with Henry Jensen through Historic Central Wyoming

Henry Jensen, right, and Floyd Widmer, owner of the Waltman, Wyo., store, 1992. Irving Garbutt photo, Casper Journal.  Casper College Western History Center.
Henry Jensen, right, and Floyd Widmer, owner of the Waltman, Wyo., store, 1992. Irving Garbutt photo, Casper Journal.  Casper College Western History Center.

Henry Jensen, 1909-2002 was past president of the Wyoming State Historical Society, the Wyoming Archeological Society and the Fremont County Historical Society, and was a founder of the Wyoming Historical Foundation.

He grew up in eastern Fremont County, attended schools in Lost Cabin and Lysite, Wyo., graduated from high school in Thermopolis in 1926, and later continued his education at the University of Wyoming. In his long career he worked as a sheepherder, sheep camp tender, railroad section hand, foreman of the Sullivan Ranch, now part of the Q Creek Ranch in Shirley Basin, schoolteacher, school administrator, newspaper editor and longtime board member of the Hot Springs Rural Electrification Association (REA). In 1940 he married the former Clara Patterson, when both were teaching at one-room schools in western Natrona and eastern Fremont County. She died on Christmas Day, 1994.

This interview was conducted in the early 1990s by longtime Casper, Wyo. science teachers Dana Van Burgh, Jr. and Terry Logue, as the three men drove about 60 miles on state Highway 220 southwest through central Wyoming from Casper to Devil’s Gate near Martin’s Cove. On the way they pass near Government Bridge, Alcova Dam and reservoir, cross the main ditch of the Kendrick project, and pass near Pathfinder Reservoir. Van Burgh co-authored the Field Guide to the Alcova Area, Natrona County, Wyoming, (Casper: 1974; Laramie, Wyo.: Wyoming State Geological Survey, 2004). This is the “guide” the men talk about from time to time during the interview. Due to the age of the tape and background noise evident, transcription was difficult.

Transcribed by Edna Garrett, Casper College Western History Center, March 2011. We are grateful to the center for preserving and transcribing the oral history, and providing it to WyoHistory.org.

Editor’s transcription notes: In most cases I have deleted redundant ands, ers, uhs, buts, false starts, etc. If I deleted an entire phrase, I have inserted ellipses … Where you find brackets [ ] I have added words for explanation or to complete an awkward sentence. Parentheses ( ) are used for incidental non-verbal sounds, like laughter. 
~Lori Van Pelt, assistant editor, WyoHistory.org June 23, 2015

Henry Jensen: Anytime you want to stop or make any comments why, uh, don't hesitate to tap me on the shoulders, and I will stop.

Dana Van Burgh, Jr.: OK. Hey, been one of those days.

Jensen: Ha! You two are the head honchos here.

Van Burgh.: You just tell us about it and we'll listen.

Jensen: I suppose that you have noticed a number of times that the so-called "Red Buttes Fight" was pretty much misnamed. Because the Red Buttes happens to be a good many miles away from where the fight took place. I don't know just how many miles, but several miles.

Terry Logue [unclear]

Van Burgh: Yeah. Right.

Jensen: If you will notice that place where the [land slipped], I don't recall if you noted in your thing this place where they had the slippage up here.

Van Burgh: Yes.

Jensen: … I really don't know if it has anything to do with what we're talking about, but this whole area along this mountain is just as unstable as it is possible to be, and there is no way that I would ever want to build up a home anywhere in that area. It might be a thousand years, but [might be] tomorrow when the whole thing might slip.

Van Burgh: Yup.

Jensen: That's your Jackson Canyon, isn't it?

Van Burgh: Yes, pretty much, yes.

Jensen: I always had an idea that he was talking about Poison Spider. In his journal and that house or hut that they built, was down near the mouth of Poison Spider. But in recent years, now this is just my own particular theory, I don't believe it was down here at all. Because at the time of the year that [Robert Stuart, with the returning Astorians in 1812] was here, Poison Spider would be dry. It is nothing but a dry wash most of the year. And the only place where there is any kind of water, and good water that is potable, and he spoke of water, was over here at Speas Springs and I think that, and his daughter thinks that, his habitation, if you can call it that, is down on this end, rather than down at the mouth of Poison Spider, ’cause there is where the water is, and there is where the good supply of fuel would be. They're [the trees nearby are] mostly junipers and the cottonwood.

[speaker unclear] You are not gonna tell me who?

Jensen: I am sure that you mention in there, as I recall it about that, this was about where Robert Stuart [Unclear]

[speaker unclear]

Jensen: Have you mentioned in there, I said, I think North of [?] Goose Egg. Have you mentioned John Wayne's picture? [“Hellfighters,” 1968.] John Wayne made this picture of the firefighting.

Van Burgh: Uh-uh. Yeah.

Logue: "The Hellfighters ?"

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: You see, that was filmed right over on that slide right over there. A good portion of it. I had a girlfriend who was going to summer school in Laramie [Wyoming]. And I had the weekend off and they [weren't for it]. I decided the only way I could go see my girlfriend was to cut across country, and so I decided to cut across this roadway and there really weren't any roads here in those days, you know, and so I came to Casper and then came down here. I don't know if you will remember [unclear] I don't even remember the name of this, but down here, about a half a mile, there is an old road that takes off, and that was the road that led to Medicine Bow in those days.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: Pretty well kept now, it is right here.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: I went down and saw my girlfriend and that's it, right there, and here, this one on the left .I can't place exactly to the year, but it was some where between 1946 and 1950, that that slipped. We went to town on one weekend, and when we came back, that Sunday, that had just slipped at that time. And you can see where the whole thing over the years geologically, has done this innumerable times. You can see the bumpy plain all along there where they (long pause) but it's a formation.

Logue: Frontier?

Van Burgh: There's a plain right there. 5240 Road.

Jensen: It doesn't have much to do with your guide. Did you mention this old ox bow here?

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: You did? OK. Yeah, you see you're way ahead of me.

Logue: Do you have a good photo of that?

Van Burgh: Yes, I have an aerial and ground.

Logue: [unclear]

Jensen: Pedro Mountains. I recall the first time I ever saw this, it was in 1946, I had … Who's place is that? Yeah, now that's the Bates Creek coming in from the left. Bates Creek, of course, heads way back up in the Laramie Range. Oh, that's forty or fifty miles up there to the head of it, have you ever been up to the head?

Van Burgh: Yep.

Jensen: When I was growing up, there were no--absolutely no--beaver, and I never saw a beaver and never saw a beaver dam. The beaver had been virtually eliminated from Wyoming by 1900. They just didn't exist; there were maybe a few in the high mountains.

And another animal that was virtually gone … I was born and raised in the country, and I never saw an antelope ’til I was sixteen years old. There were just no antelope, there were a few … there was a little bunch out oh, just about the exact geographic center of Wyoming, south of Moneta, in that area. There was another little bunch in eastern Fremont County, near Bates Battleground, up near Bates Battleground, for all intent and purposes, all the antelope had been wiped out. [Bates Battleground is located in Washakie County, Wyoming, and was the site of an 1874 conflict. U.S. cavalry aided by Shoshone Chief Washakie and 100 of his warriors attacked an Arapaho village, which was defeated.] … literally thousands of antelope, here. [laugh]

And there are also, all along the river here, there are still beaver all along the river here, they are all [bank beavers] but there are beaver all along the river. I wouldn't be surprised but what there's some right in the city limits of Casper. I don't know that there are, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Jensen: You have a comment about the Government Bridge, [where Wyoming Highway 220 crosses the North Platte about 22 miles south of Casper. The old bridge remains nect to the modern highway bridge.]

Van Burgh: OK.

Jensen: Has this been made into a National Historical Site?

Van Burgh: Not that I know of.

Jensen: Should it be?

Van Burgh: [both talk at same time].

Jensen: You could go to work on it and get a job. (Laughing.)

When was it built?

Van Burgh: 1905.

Jensen: That is what I thought. I was thinking it was 1905. Now the old road, you know, followed the river. In a way it used to be a much more interesting road to follow. Because, the geese in the fall of the year used to come in and feed on those fields down there. I have seen times when there would be hundreds and hundreds of Canadian geese on the fields down here along the river.

Logue: You all know anything about this oil field?

Jensen: You can't tell now, but off on the left of the river a few miles up the ...

Van Burgh: Ninety-three.

Jensen: On the river is one of the early oil fields. Do you have it mentioned?

Van Burgh: Which one?

Jensen: Isn't it Little Spindle Top? Is it mentioned? Do you have it mentioned?

Van Burgh: I haven't added it, but I am going to.

Jensen: And it is still producing, I think mostly stripper wells now, but it is still producing.

Logue: Do you have photos of the angular unconformity for me?

Van Burgh: Yes, aerial and ground.

Jensen: Yes, [unclear] right now. I don't know, if you have mentioned it, … but what we are passing through here now, is a part of the Kendrick Project. The water comes from Alcova Dam and is part of the Kendrick Project, which was one of the dreams of Wyoming Senator Kendrick.

The word alcova is Spanish, and this area was given its name by the early Spanish, or Mexican—was it Mexican sheepherders?—who came in here to bed their sheep in the area, which was a perfect, a perfect shelter for bedding sheep and they called it Alcova, which means bedroom. Alcova is Spanish for bedroom.

Van Burgh: Huh!

Jensen: And that's where the name Alcova came from, and that is where it got its name originally. Back up in these hills is almost perfect shelter for protecting a bunch of sheep. When they are in storms, and this sort of thing, so that they could be protected. But Spanish is their origin.

Have you read the book by Preuss, Exploring with Fremont? [Exploring with Frémont : the Private Diaries of Charles Preuss, Cartographer for John C. Frémont on His First, Second, and Fourth Expeditions to the Far West, by Charles Preuss, published 1958 by the University of Oklahoma Press.]

Van Burgh: Yes.

Jensen: Preuss hated Frémont with a passion, [little laugh] and he certainly wasn't complimentary, but I have often wondered ... we are coming to Alcova now, and of course, the Fremont Canyon is above there, and the reason it got the name of Fremont, is because of the misfortune that happened there, when Frémont lost most of the oil of his scientific equipment when the boats upset--you know, the inflatable boats upset going over some rapids in Fremont Canyon. And, I have often wondered if, when that water is shut off, if you go up to those rapids, if you couldn't find in that riverbed some of that equipment that Frémont lost. It could be there. I have been tempted a number of times to go up there sometime when they had the river shut off, and see if there was any of that material in that river bottom.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: Because there was a lot of it—metal material, compasses and all this sort of thing. Brass.

Van Burgh: Do you want to stop here?

Logue: I haven't any reason to.

Jensen: What comment do you have about the dam? We have a lot of that in the Alcova guide.

Van Burgh: Let me pull off up here.

Jensen: It is served by the Hot Springs REA [Rural Electric Association], which seems a little bit unusual when you consider where Thermopolis is, in relation to this area. [Thermopolis is a town located in Hot Springs County, Wyoming.]

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: The Hot Springs REA also serves Medicine Bow.

Van Burgh: Huh.

Jensen: Did you know that?

Van Burgh: Hu-huh.

Jensen: The Hot Springs REA serves Medicine Bow, the Shirley Basin and that whole area down in there is served by the Hot Springs REA. It's interesting to follow this canal out, it goes through a half a dozen tunnels to get water over into the area along [U.S.] Highway 20-26 [west of Casper], in that area. Some of those ... There is one of those tunnels where it takes it through a ridge in south of 20-26, and I think that tunnel is well over a mile long …(Long pause.)

Logue: Oh, good.

Jensen: Juniper.

Van Burgh: Yes.

Jensen: Which is one of the typical types of vegetation in western ... [lots of noise on transmitter] and obviously, I don't know where the name Seminoe came from, it isn't Seminole, for the Indians. It's Seminoe, and I don't know what the origin of that name is. It apparently has its roots back somewhere in the very early white contact period, but I don't have any idea. I have never been able to find out. Maybe you have.

Van Burgh: No.

Jensen: But Seminoe, when I was growing up, I thought it was Seminole for the Indian tribe, but apparently it isn't. It is Seminoe rather than Seminole. Did you know the Bundys? They had a homestead out here too, you know.

Van Burgh: Which Bundy?

Jensen: Well, I guess they're related to the people [who have] the boat business there in Casper, I think that's the same family …They were early settlers. They had a place pretty close by the Pathfinder Lake on the west side of Seminoe [Reservoir]? … (cough) I am trying to think of something here for ranchers, the Irenes,, but that wouldn't make any ... most tourists wouldn't be interested in those people …

The Miles family was prominent, of course, all of them in this country ran sheep and cattle out there (cough). They are among the early day ranchers.

Logue: What about artifacts?

Jensen: Wait a minute. I really can't think of anything very interesting.

Logue: What about Indian artifacts out in that country? Do you find arrowheads?

Jensen: Well, of course this is a comment that might fit in anything, over the course of twelve thousand years and it has been at least twelve thousand years [since people were first in the area]. You can find artifacts anywhere (laugh). They are everywhere, and particularly along—you will find where there is water and the possibility of game—you are going to find artifacts. And, there are places out in there where it is just fantastic (cough). I am sure that you could go out there and find sites that are ten thousand years old, out in this area south here. Maybe even older … these people … Well, you know this Casper site is almost eleven thousand years old. Were you ever up at the Casper site when they were digging it? [The Casper Site, an ancient bison-kill site roughly where the Natrona County School District headquarters is now on North Glenn Road in Casper, was excavated by archeologists in 1974.]

Van Burgh: No.

Jensen: Well, … there they were dealing with bison antiquus, but I am sure you would find the same thing out here, where you will find the conditions right with water and grazing. You would find artifacts there of that age probably—Hells Gap and Agate Basin [archeological sites in Goshen and Niobrara counties, respectively]—artifacts out there. They are not easy to find, and incidentally, it's against the law to pick them up now. I never could quite understand the theory in back of this, because people who don't pick them up--what happens to them then? If, if ... what good are they to anybody?

Logue: Yeah.

Jensen: If, they are just left? What good are they?

Logue: I don't know.

Jensen: I understand how the BLM [U.S. Bureau of Land Management] people feel about it, they are protecting them, but, if they just lay there, what's the purpose of it? And you know it doesn't make much sense …

I'd like to go back off to the right here over on ...where we went over to that volcano. That's up to you though, and that's something you probably don't have any mention of it either, that there is a cluster of volcanoes. When we get down here a little farther off to the right down here, you might want to mention that somewhere, but there is a cluster of volcanoes. I would like to go where that fault line is. Fault line runs up here east of there. See where that fault line runs through where all those springs are? I just would give anything if I could get out there sometime and take my little Roto Hoe [a rototiller brand] and just make about two shallow passes along through some of that dirt and see what I uncover, because, it is almost certain that with those springs and that water with the game there that were inevitably there, that that was a campsite there.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: I don't need to just go dig something up, but I would sure like to make a pass at it sometime.

Logue: Uh-huh. I bet you would find something.

Jensen: Oh, I am sure you would. But, you see, I am not really interested in the artifacts particularly, but I would like to find out if there were some sites there that might be interesting to enter. You know where I am talking about?

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: There is a big fault line runs through there, east of that, where all the springs are. The springs are all caused by that fault line. In that area east of those volcanoes. There probably should be some comments made about [unclear].When we get up here, maybe we can talk about them a little bit. If you, I don't know what you've got about them already. Although I have read all that. [unclear]

The Oregon Trail is north of us, and I suppose you will notice that. Not too far, actually two or three miles, maybe three miles north of here, but the Oregon Trail runs parallel to it through this area all the way along here.

Van Burgh: Just before it said parking area.

Jensen: It runs down over there, it is running down what they call Fish Creek, and there again, I've often wondered why that is called Fish Creek. ’Cause I don't know how any fish ever got in to it in those early days, although it is perfectly possible, because there are some alkali streams in Wyoming, which has a variety of fish in them that aren't found anywhere else in the world, and this may be some of those fish. Poison Creek, for example, has some minnows, yet oh about a tenth of the way down Poison Creek over in Natrona and Fremont County, they are about three inches long and they are not found anywhere else in the world and nobody knows exactly how they got there. I guess they are still there. They may be something like the snail darter and be eliminated, but they were there many years ago. I remember seeing lots of them. (Long pause).

Those hills in front of us there, I'm asking now, are a part of the Sweetwater Rocks, aren't they?

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: Northward extension of the Sweetwater Rocks. And the Sweetwater Rocks are a granite uplift, aren't they?

Van Burgh: Yes.

Jensen: From pre-Indian times? If that means they are historic or not, I don't know. Over this … I don't know again, I would be guessing, But, I don't know how many tourists would be interested in this. But you can stand on the end of … and now just a second, I have to get myself lined up here. On the end of Ferris Mountain, on the east end of Ferris Mountain there is a basaltic dike? Oh, it must be forty feet wide that runs right straight through the mountain. And if you face towards the Pedros across Pathfinder Reservoir you can look out fifteen miles or maybe more, maybe twenty miles to the south and see exactly the same dike striking right straight through the Pedros.

Van Burgh: Huh.

Jensen: And if you go on the hollow in between where it is all eroded away, you will come to a place where there is the float. It's all basaltic rocks of one sort or another.

So that dike has gone right straight across, clear from the top of the Ferrises right across through the Pedros, and how far it runs from there I don't know. I know some places where those dikes on further down this way run for thirty miles, just for the basaltic excluded I guess, and you find lots of dikes down here.

Logue: How wide?

Jensen: Oh that must be at least, … well, it’s wide enough that you can stand on that point, stand over in the Ferrises and see it in the Pedros so it must be thirty or forty feet wide and black,black basalt. I don't know how far that runs, but as I say I know in some cases they run for thirty miles across country. What they call Black Rock, which is the exact center of geographical center of Wyoming, it will be off in this area. It is south of Moneta and between Moneta and Jeffrey City is a basaltic dike, a part of a basaltic dike that runs through that country for miles and miles. ... You two are both knowledgeable geologists. But the other type of dike that you are seeing all through here is quartz, of course.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: But, I don't think I have ever known of one of the quartz that extends as far through the country as the basalt, the basaltic dike.

Logue: Wonder if there is evidence that those happened at the same time.

Van Burgh: I don't know. Might have.

Jensen: Bates Creek [Most likely here he is actually referring to Horse Creek]--that's looking ahead here now, down where the trees are ahead of us—was another one of the Sanford Ranches. Now we are getting down in the area where you can see the backwaters of the Pathfinder, extending up the Sweetwater River, and it is at this point, down from below the ranch, which we see off to our left and in front of it, where Bothwell and the Suns and a group of ranchers along the Sweetwater killed—hung Jim Averell and Cattle Kate. The place where they were hung is now under the waters of Pathfinder, but it was just down along Highway towards Rawlins—75 Burtch Ranch that you see right in front of us to the left. And some thought that whether Cattle Kate and Jim Averell were really ever guilty of anything was never proven. Nobody ever proved that they were guilty of anything. Except maybe she was sleeping with him.

Van Burgh: Milepost 75.

Jensen: Which was quite common among men and women, even in those days. But they have never proved that they had ever stolen anything. And I think, and you can correct me on this, but I think this is about the only example in American history of a woman literally being hung. Although they did burn some witches, I think, didn't they?

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: But it was a case of a group of people taking the law into their own hands.

You don't need too much editorial comment anyway. (Laugh).

Jensen: And the Suns are still a very prominent family in this area. Did you know old Tom Sun?

Van Burgh: No.

Jensen: Over the years, we got to be pretty good friends. They were nice people.

Have you been out to that volcano since the abortive attempt that we made … I'd like to go up there again sometime. Now, you have got to comment about this Oregon Trail coming in here. Coming down Horse Creek and coming in to the area here. Do you know who owned this ranch at the time they hung Cattle Kate?

Van Burgh: No.

Jensen: I'm going to see if I can find out, I don't know either who owned it right at that time. And, I am sure that it was a ranch. Because there isn't this much hay land that they would let sit here and not be used. But, in my life, the Sanfords were the owners for the biggest part of the time that I knew.

Logue: Bothwell was back down in here someplace?

Jensen: Huh?

Logue(?): Bothwell--was that back down here?

Jensen: I'm not sure it coulda been Bothwell that owned it. I don't know who owned it. It could very well could be Bothwell's ranch, but I say, I don't know, I am going to see if I can find out. Well, actually Bothwell was an absentee owner. He only came here probably during the summertime most of the time, for awhile. And a lot of those people though, were the most violent. That was true here, in the Johnson County War, too. Some of the absentee owners were the most violent against the homesteaders and the so-called nesters. And, I think that was probably true of Bothwell. He basically was not a native, well, as a matter of fact, I don't know any people who were really natives. But, I don't know--this may have been his ranch. I don't know for sure. I am not much help to you because I don't know for sure. [Logue is correct. Albert Bothwell, one of the lynchers of Ella Watson [Cattle Kate] and Jim Averell, owned the ranch nearby. Sanfords bought the ranch from Bothwell in 1916.]


Jensen: Did you ever go to the county records to see? We are still in Natrona County now.

Logue: Yeah.

Jensen: Was Natrona County established early enough, when was it established? South of us also, there is lots of Wyoming jade [that] has been found out in this country and south over …

Van Burgh: Sixty-nine. [What was the]

Jensen: … the Seminoes and along the foot of the Ferris Mountains. There has all kinds of jade been found there. Halsey Kortes found mostly all of his jade in that area and bearing from almost coal black to some of the prettiest apple green you ever saw, all through these areas. You know Halsey Kortes? Well, Halsey Kortes got into the rock- cutting business and became good friends of J.O. Pratt. Was one of the biggest jade factories they ever had in America. J.O. Pratt would come out here every summer, and would spend … oh … Sometimes he would spend a month in the summer. “Working with J,", is cutting jade, hunting jade. He just loved jade. He had one of the finest collections of jade in the world. It's in a museum back in Chicago, but I can't tell you which one. But the whole country has jade in it.

Do you wanna go up to the volcanoes this morning? (everyone laughs). The volcano north of us here is only one of a whole cluster of volcanoes that is out in this area.

Logue: If you fly over them you can see them.

Jensen: If you fly over them you can see them? That is what he told me a number of, or several years ago, after we were up there. That was only one of several volcanoes that was in the area here. Of course, I know you have comments about Devil's Gate, so there ain't much to say about that.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: My grandfather as a seven-year-old boy came over the Oregon Trail, over the Mormon Trail rather, and they stopped at Independence Rock on the way. That was one of those ancestor brigades [apparently a reference to the well-organized Mormon wagon trains of the 1850s and ’60s].

Logue: When was that?

Jensen: That was, I believe, the summer of 1858. He and his family. brother and sister, and mother and father left Benson at Omaha and came over the Mormon Trail on their way to Utah. I have often wondered how much of that motivation was religious and how much of it was economic. I know that my grandparents’ people were peasants and I know they didn't have anything in Denmark, and I think that they did that all for their security. [unclear]

Tom Sun told me that when he was growing up that there was practically no trees anywhere on the Sweetwater. He said that there were two factors that caused that. First of all you had the spring floods every year, and mid-summer floods, cloudbursts, which washed trees away. And then in addition, he said in the winter the elk moved in onto the Sweetwater, migrated to the winter feeding grounds by the thousands. There were thousands of elk along the Sweetwater in the winter and if any cottonwood sapling got started it never survived the winter. That they were eaten up by the elk.

And you see then, now the people coming over the Oregon Trail never saw those elk, cause this happened in the wintertime. The elk moved in the winter and then in the summertime they were going back to their summer ranges, so that they were never hunted to any great extent by the people traveling the Oregon Trail because those people were here at a different time of the year. But he said the elk came in along the river, literally by the thousands, in the early days. In his father's time. You see in later years though, those migration routes were cut off by means of fences and just people so that the elk no longer moved into this area and into the area on the desert south of the Seminoes, and the Ferris' and in that area. There are no elk at all on the desert, anymore you see.

Now you can look up there in front of us, now and see evidence of several of those dikes, some of them quartz. This one right straight in front of us, I think, just off a little bit to the right, there is probably quartz. If you go up and examine it at the foot of it there is quartz all over there ... But you can see the black ones which are basaltic, you see there's a half a dozen of them just right there in a short space on that granite hillside there. I have often thought I would like to get one of these modern metal detectors and go up to the remains of one of those quartz dikes and see if it might be mineralized. When do you want to go with me? (Laugh).

Van Burgh: He's the prospector.

Jensen: Well, I'm not sure but what there might be some mineralized quartz dikes.

Van Burgh: Could be.

Jensen: You commented on that Dumbell; it is one of the early day ranches, Grieves owned it. (Long Pause). [The Dumbell Ranch is at the northeast opening of Devil’s Gate.]

But, in the United States at least it's been eliminated it doesn't even exist anymore. But strangely enough the cholera along the Oregon Trail, which killed literally thousands of people began to abate from the time they hit the Sweetwater and by the time they left what is now Wyoming just practically was gone. I suppose due to the fact that they had better water, and I don't know what else, but any rate the cholera just quit. About the last known cholera death that I know of, where there are graves that are known, is in south, or ... north of Kemmerer where this a ... oh ... there's a grave there upon the Hams Fork where a girl died of cholera, and that is about one of the last graves that you will find. For some reason or another, when they got over this far, the cholera just quit. Of course, most of your tourists never get down this far.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: Some of the buildings, one of the buildings right in the middle of that structure,

is one of the original parts of the original Tom Sun Ranch which was established in the [18]70s, and it is still in use every day. I think as a matter of fact I think it's a dining room for the ranch. The original buildings were built of logs down here, as I say a part of that original building, is still, have you ever been in the museum? It's closed up. [The Sun Ranch, headquartered at the southwest opening of Devil’s Gate, was owned and run by the Sun family from the early 1870s until 1995, when it was sold to the Mormon Church. The former ranch headquarters is now the Mormon Handcart Visitors Center.]

Van Burgh: Huh.

Jensen: It's closed. Yeah. Thomas died. After Thomas died, why they closed the museum up. Were you ever in it?

Van Burgh: No.

Jensen: Probably, sometime Bernard would probably take you, let you go in there sometime. Thomas, you've got comments about the old man the original Tom Sun.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: That was a good deal for work of Thomas he was the third, the third Tom Sun. And when Tom, Thomas died, why that kinda ... Bernard got tabs. Bernard's a rancher and he doesn't particularly have that much interest in it. Now old Tom Sun told me that he had, back around here, where these people all froze to death, now he told me he had been up there a half a dozen times with the Mormon people, and they have never been able to find the exact site of those burials.

Van Burgh: Huh.

Jensen: Even with metal detectors, because when most of the people when they buried them they didn't have any metal on them, they just ... but they buried them as quickly as they could. It's all they could do. But, old man Sun also told me that there was some exaggeration about the exact number of people who died at this cove. He said they had been dying before, and they died afterwards. So that the total number was right, but the complete number that died right in that cove at Martin's Cove was a little bit exaggerated, somewhat exaggerated. Now that was just his comment. The old man Sun and his wife, you know, they lived in this house down here and I believe died there, both of them, I think. That's Bernard's house up there not very far. If you want to, tourists aren't going to be getting down here for any reason to see this anyway. Have you ever walked around the overlook up here?

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: I think it is a good idea. They've done a good job. You have permits over on the overlook on this so people will stop?

Van Burgh: Yes.

Jensen: (long noisy pause) I wish I was at home [unclear] in front of us. (Van Burgh speaking in the back ground at the same time unclear.)

[Logue?]: You don't see that very often anymore.

Jensen: That's pretty good shape.

Van Burgh: Yeah.

Jensen: I have at home and I can't recall the man's name, but I could look this up, a proposal that a man, I think he lives in Canada now, but, he sent this proposal to me to present to the Historical Society, and I presented it at a meeting in Green River quite a number of years ago, and what he proposed--when I get up here on the highway I can tell you what I am talking about. He was proposing a bas relief statuary of somewhat similar to Mount Rushmore, and--I need to get up here so I can show you what he is talking about. But you see the Oregon Trail went right up the Sweetwater here.

Van Burgh: Yeah. (long pause).

Jensen: Is there a turn off up here?

Van Burgh: Yep.

Jensen: Now Martin's Cove, a lot of people think that just right up in there is Martin’s Cove, but, actually it's Martin's Cove, there. Martin's Cove is another little cove off of this road where these people had taken shelter. It's off to the right of ... this just this opening out here isn't Martin's Cove.

[Logue?]: On the east side?

Jensen: I think maybe when we get right up here, I can point out what this fellow's proposal was. What he was talking about doing was having on one of these bare rocks, and I will point it out to you up here. A couple in bas relief, in deep relief, a couple of Conestoga wagons with oxen headed towards the west with human figures, and these were to be gigantic in size, these wagons would be fifty to seventy-five feet tall so that they would show up from a long distance away. I'll tell you what his burning proposal was in just a minute. What he proposed to do was to excavate the rock and make a bench straight up and down and then have these figures carved into the tall granite. And they would be, he proposed, at least two of these wagons with oxen and human figures and so on.

Now you understand this would cost you money to do this, and what he proposes on this bare rock right over here, would be where the emigrant train would be. And then on the rock off to the … there is another bare rock off to the west there, from coming down from that carved the same way ... would be a group of Indians coming on their horses as a wild ride, to attack the wagon train. I have ... He actually sent me blueprints and then drawings of the whole thing, course I have them all at home. But, you see, you would be able to see that work the minute that you came into the gap up here, and I suppose probably it would cost now a days, it would cost fifty million dollars to do it. But, I made the proposal to the Historical Society as he had asked me to do. And there was a good deal of discussion about it, no hurry at this session but, just talking about it, but it would make rather an outstanding display.

Logue: Martin's cove is back up in there?

Jensen: Martin's Cove is back up in there.

Logue: To the east?

Jensen: Yeah.

Logue: OK.

Jensen: [unclear] [conversation unclear].

Jensen: Yeah. Got a bank of sand here.

[End of Tape and Transcription]



  • Irving Garbutt’s Casper Journal photo of Henry Jensen and Floyd Widmer is from Garbutt’s article "Hole in the Wall Still Great Cattle Country," August 22, 1992, in the collections of the Casper College Western History Center. Used with permission and thanks.