In 1896 prospectors combed the Dryhead area of Bighorn Canyon country. Many of them believed that this remote stretch of rugged land - just west of the canyon and east of the Pryor Mountains - held a mother lode of gold. As these groups of prospectors began to file claims, the name of Erastus Ewing showed up on numerous, prominent claims.
Among the unique names given to these claims were: Sun Dog Quartz, Dead Man’s Bar, and Lady Temple. Over the following year, the claims proved to be little more than wishful thinking. Almost all of the prospectors soon moved on to more promising areas in search of the next big strike. Yet Erastus Ewing stayed behind. He had claimed something more valuable then gold in this forbidding high desert - water.
On April 8, 1897, Ewing claimed the rights for 200 inches of water from Layout Creek for irrigation, mining, and milling. Soon afterward, a ditch was dug to divert water from the stream eastward, to where Ewing had settled on Layout Creek. At this point, Ewing had found the place he would call home for the rest of his life.
A Rough And Tumble Life
She distinctly remembered Ewing’s pronounced limp when he walked. This was said to have been caused by a broken leg he suffered while hunting mountain sheep. Ewing was also not immune from the vicissitudes of frontier justice that often settled disputes between ranchers. In one notorious episode, several locals, including Link Hannon., ran cattle that Ewing was ranging to their death in the Bighorn. A shootout ensued, with one man wounded.
The Name Lives On
Did You Know?
The Lockhart Ranch - the best preserved historic homestead - in the Bighorn Basin was owned by noted author Caroline Lockhart. Starting with 160 acres in 1926, she added land until she controlled over 6,000 acres. More...