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The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Agriculture

J. B. Okie, Sheep King of Central Wyoming

The vivid, charismatic J. B. Okie raised sheep near Badwater Creek at the turn of the last century, and was so successful he was called “Sheep King.” A businessman with great vision, he soon owned half a dozen stores in small towns in central Wyoming, and eventually an equal number in Mexico. Lost Cabin, Wyo., named for the legendary Lost Cabin Mine, was his base. Okie built an opulent mansion there, a big bunkhouse for employees, bungalows for guests, an office building, a roller rink, a golf course and an aviary full of birds of paradise (left), cockatoos and macaws.

The Wyoming Cattle Boom, 1868-1886

Grass was free and profits enormous in the cattle business in Wyoming Territory — for a while. The business dates to the 1850s, but the boom came after the Union Pacific Railroad connected Wyoming ranges to eastern markets. For a time it seemed as if every investor got rich. Finally, a weakening market and the overstocked range could not withstand two years of drought followed by a terrible winter. The big boom busted, following an economic pattern repeated many times since in an economy still based heavily on natural resources.

The Spring Creek Raid: The Last Murderous Sheep Raid in the Big Horn Basin

On April 2, 1909, seven cowmen attacked a sheep camp near Spring Creek in the southern Big Horn Basin. The raiders killed three men, kidnapped two others, killed sheep dogs and dozens of sheep and destroyed thousands of dollars of personal property. It was the deadliest sheep raid in Wyoming history. Unlike many previous incidents after which raiders went unpunished, however, prosecutors this time were successful and five raiders were jailed, marking the end of 15 years or more of violence between cattle- and sheepmen.

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Encyclopedia | Frontier newspaperman Asa Mercer began the controversial Northwestern Live Stock Journal in Cheyenne in the 1880s, backing stockmen’s interests. But when prominent cattlemen-vigilantes invaded Johnson County in 1892, he attacked them stridently in his paper and later in The Banditti of the Plains, the book for which he’s best remembered.
Oral Histories | Frank Shepperson has ranched with his family northwest of Casper, Wyo., for many years. In this 2014 interview, Shepperson, a former national rodeo champion, talks at length about rodeo, ranching—and airplanes. He is a past president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and former chairman of the Natrona County School Board.
Encyclopedia | Moncreiffes, Wallops, Careys and other Wyoming dealers offered local stockmen high prices for tens of thousands of horses for British and French markets during the Boer War and World War I. After that war, the U.S. Army expanded its remount service to improve bloodlines for horses for military markets.
Encyclopedia | In the early 1900s, Jewish families came from eastern cities to Goshen County, Wyo., seeking a better life in the West. They farmed, raised families, founded schools and worshiped in private homes. Many were discouraged by the harsh farm life, however, and nearly all left by the 1930s.
Encyclopedia | The great Wild West showman, Buffalo Bill, failed as a capitalist leading large irrigation projects in northern Wyoming but succeeded in founding the state’s tourist industry and his namesake town, Cody—where the tourist dollar still sustains life.
Encyclopedia | Passed in 1934, the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 regulated the public range around a system of grazing leases after 50 years of dispute over what to do with public lands in Wyoming and the West. The Bureau of Land Management manages most of the state’s federal lands today.  
Encyclopedia | Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin was still largely unsettled in 1900 when irrigation-minded Mormon colonizers from Utah established the towns of Byron and Cowley, expanded Lovell and began digging the Sidon Canal on the Shoshone River. Their influence settled and stabilized a previously lawless part of the state. 
Encyclopedia | In January 1949, a massive blizzard rocketed through central and southeastern Wyoming and nearby states killing 76 people and tens of thousands of animals and leaving memories in its wake that are still vivid more than 65 years later. 

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