Cattle Ranchers (continued)
Cattlemen's associations were also important to ranchers in Jackson Hole. These associations represented the cooperative spirit of the westering experience. In the 1890s, a number of Jackson Hole ranchers belonged to the Wyoming Stock Growers' Association, an organization formed to promote industry interests. Membership of Jackson Hole cattlemen in this state organization expanded from 19 in 1895 to 35 by 1910. In practical terms, local associations were more important. Ranchers formed these organizations based on common grazing allotments such as the Gros Ventre River or Blackrock Creek areas. Communal roundups and drives to and from grazing ranges required cooperative efforts. Groups of ranchers pooled money to hire line riders to watch cattle on summer range. At least one line shack, built to house hands, is extant in the Sportsman's Ridge area in Teton National Forest. 
Protecting cattle from predators, in particular the gray wolf, seems to have been the major motive for creating livestock associations in the valley's early years. On May 21, 1914, the Courier reported that 15 wolves had killed a cow and four yearlings being trailed to summer range on the Gros Ventre. The cattle belonged to Preston Redmond. The next week Roy McBride and Redmond herded their cattle together to protect them from wolves and hired Jess Buchanan to watch the cattle at night. While at Crystal Creek, Buchanan reported that wolves would harass cattle on one side, while he patrolled the opposite side. Cowpunchers also stated that wolves pursued a "favorite pastime" of biting off the tails of calves. Wolves may have tried this as an alternative to hamstringing the animals, that is, bringing prey down by their hindquarters. In June, Roy McBride set out to hunt down the wolf packs. In July, ranchers formed the Fish Creek Wolf Association specifically to eradicate the wolf population on the Gros Ventre River. They hired Walter Dallas to hunt them, paying him $22 per month. In addition, they agreed to pay a bounty: $62 for a "she-dog," $52 for dogs (males), and $22 for pups. The association offered a $1.50 bounty for coyotes. To pay Dallas's wage and bounties, the association assessed each member 12 cents per head of cattle. This program eliminated the gray wolf in the area by the early 1920s. 
Jackson Hole cattle associations also formed to promote ranching interests. In 1921, valley residents created the Jackson Hole Cattle and Horse Association, which remains active today, though hindered by dwindling membership. Early in 1925, several ranchers announced the formation of a new group called the Jackson Hole Cattle and Game Association. To recruit new members, the association guaranteed that the group would not promote the Yellowstone extension, nor serve as a tool for political purposes. Organizers adopted the following goals: oppose opening new areas in Teton National Forest to sheep; oppose further unnecessary grazing restrictions; and oppose destruction of game and commercialization of forests, lakes, and streams. 
Stories of range wars between sheepherders and cattlemen are entrenched firmly as a violent chapter in western lore. Tales of Jackson Hole cattlemen banding together to drive "woolies" out of the valley date from the turn of the century. One story has it that a sheepherder was murdered at the upper end of Death Canyon, the source of its name. No evidence has been found to confirm this story. Sheepherding increased in the American West in the late 1890s, causing competition and conflicts over grazing range. Confrontations became so violent in Wyoming that historian T. A. Larson rated the range wars between cattlemen and sheep ranchers as "a major theme of the state's history." Between 1897 and 1909, 16 people were killed and possibly 10,000 sheep destroyed in Wyoming. But, like many violent incidents in history, the stories grew bloodier with time, obscuring an accurate record of events. 
As ranchers introduced sheepor cattlemen switched to raising themJackson Hole ranchers became concerned. Sheep appeared in adjacent areas such as Star Valley, Teton Basin, and the Green River country. In 1897, local ranchers reportedly published a notice in a newspaper warning that "no sheep will be allowed to pass through Jackson's Hole . . . under any circumstances." S. N. Leek recalled that ranchers posted signs along the approaches to the valley warning sheep drovers to stay out.
Settlers in the valley followed the general pattern of range conflicts elsewhere in the West; they warned sheepmen that certain areas, in this case Jackson Hole, were off limits, then set boundaries that sheep were not to cross. Confrontation was the most serious phase. S. N. Leek and Lee Lucas remembered that several herds of sheep crossed Teton Pass, but were turned back by well-armed cattlemen at the Snake River. Sheep that had already crossed the river were escorted out of the valley over the Gros Ventre. Specific dates and participants are not known. A. A. Anderson, the first supervisor of the Yellowstone Timber Reserve, drew the rancor of sheepmen when he restricted their grazing rights and drove them off rangelands, where they had no permits. Because Jackson Hole is an enclosed valley, keeping sheep out was relatively easy. 
No violent confrontations between sheepherders and ranchers occurred in Jackson Hole. In the upper Green River Valley, cattle ranchers faced off against sheepherders around the turn of the century; they killed a large number of sheep around 1902. Esther Allan reported that 2,000 sheep were killed in one case and 800 in another. Whether these were the same incidents and conflicting figures, or represent separate incidents, is unknown. Another confrontation occurred when A. A. Anderson received information from Washington, D.C., that 60,000 sheep had been turned loose in the Teton Division of the Forest Reserve. The sheep belonged to four ownersand were reportedly guarded by 40 armed herders. Anderson gathered and deputized 65 well-armed men at a place called "Horse-creek" near Jackson Hole and moved out to confront them. They found 1,500 sheep and several herders and escorted them across the eastern boundary of the reserve. There is no evidence that the sheep entered Jackson Hole. 
Sheep were introduced in Jackson Hole later without violence, possibly because of two factors. In 1909, a group of masked men attacked a sheep camp near Tensleep in the Bighorn Basin, murdering two wealthy sheep ranchers and a herder. Woolgrowers associations put up reward money, while the county sheriff and prosecutor aggressively investigated the case. The sheriff arrested seven men; two provided state's evidence which resulted in the conviction of the other five, who received sentences ranging from three years to life in prison. The Tensleep incident served notice to cattlemen that protecting grazing lands with a gun, a holdover from the free-for-all days of the open range, would no longer be tolerated. Second, after 1919, raising sheep became more attractive to stockmen; sheep provided two crops per year, wool and meat, an attractive prospect during a depression. 
In June 1923, the Jackson's Hole Courier reported sheep in the valley, introduced by J. G. Imeson in South Park. The article stated that sheep might be important in the future, because the sheep market was good while cattle prices remained depressed. In 1926, Lewis Fleming, ostensibly a cowpuncher, reported grazing 450 sheep on his 640-acre stock-raising entry south of the JY. By the 1930s, in the heart of the Great Depression, several Mormon Row farmers and ranchers had introduced sheep, notably Joe May, Clifton May, and Hannes Harthoorn. They grazed sheep on Blacktail Butte and on their own land. Sheep trails to summer ranges also crossed the valley and the Teton Range. In September 1929, Sam T. Wooding, the superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, encountered 1,742 sheep being herded from Fox Creek over Fox Creek Pass to the head of Teton Creek. Since the trail crossed Death Canyon Shelf in the park, Woodring gave the owner, a man named Taylor, permission to pass through park lands, stipulating only that no stops be made. The 1929 enabling legislation for the park grand-fathered in existing livestock drifts and grazing. 
Some resented the presence of sheep in the valley, but limited their hostility to verbal barbs and letters. Joe R. Jones complained to the editor of the Courier that sheep destroyed valuable elk and cattle range and introduced ticks in the valley. Gladys May Kent recalled some prejudice against sheep; as a schoolgirl, during the course of an assignment to write poetry, Mrs. Kent recalled a rhyme dedicated to her: "There's a freckle face girl who lives over the way, her dad's a sheep herder, her last name's May." She also remembered a dog killing sheep on Mormon Row, but could not confirm if it was deliberate on the part of the dog's owner.  In 1932, Dick Winger, the field manager for the Snake River Land Company, reported sheep loose on company lands:
While residents raised sheep in Jackson Hole, they never replaced cattle, nor were their numbers very large. For example, in 1950, four ranchers owned 815 sheep; by 1954 the number had dwindled to 104. 
Larger land and cattle companies eventually dominated ranching in Jackson Hole, another common pattern in the West. As America moved into the twentieth century, the size of cattle ranches grew as the bigger ranchers bought out smaller stockmen. Two dudes named Moser and Trexler bought a ranch near Wilson around 1900. Moser wanted to buy up land in the valley, believing he would eventually make a killing in real estate rather than cattle. He died around 1914 before he could implement the plan. Consolidation began in World War I and accelerated during the hard decades of the 1920s and 1930s. Around 1900, a rancher could get by on 320 acres and about 100 cattle. By the 1920s, ranchers increased the size of their outfit to perhaps 640 acres, plus a sizable grazing allotment on the national forest, and 450 to 500 cattle. Lee Lucas came to Jackson Hole in 1896 and gradually built up a premier ranch in Spring Gulch. By the 1930s, he owned 640 acres and maintained a herd of 450 Herefords and 50 horses. James Boyle bought a large ranch in South Park around 1917, purchasing 1,214 acres for $17,000. P. C. Hansen bought the Fisk place in Spring Gulch after 1900. Over the years, the Hansen family built up their ranch, until they owned more than 3,500 acres in Spring Gulch by the 1940s. 
Outside entrepreneurs tried to establish two large cattle ranches after 1910 on lands that presently comprise the park. D. E. Skinner, a Seattle shipbuilder, bought land in the Buffalo Fork area, which formed the nucleus of the Elk Ranch. Chester Pederson, related to the Remington firearms family, established the JP Ranch in the lower Gros Ventre River area.
Skinner came to Jackson Hole around 1912 to hunt. Guided by Jim Budge, he was impressed with the valley's potential for cattle ranching. In 1916, he bought the 320-acre Otto Kusche ranch for $14,000; in 1919, he bought Jack Shive's Hatchet Ranch on the Buffalo Fork, about 750 acres for $20,000. Skinner formed a partnership with Val Allen and purchased his property west of Uhl Hill in 1917 for $6,500. Allen managed the would-be cattle empire for two or three years, then broke off with Skinner. Another settler, Tom Tracy, took over as foreman of the ranch and managed Skinner's sawmill. The Elk Ranch Company started with 450 cattle around 1915, and built up the herd to more than 2,000 cattle by 1919. In 1920, Skinner sold the Elk Ranch to J. D. "Si" Ferrin, with the exception of the Hatchet Ranch formerly owned by Jack Shive. 
Meanwhile, Ferrin had begun to build his cattle empire on a homestead west of Uhl Hill. Settling the property around October 1908, Ferrin and his family cleared 50 acres, raised timothy for hay, and built a house, corrals, barns, and other outbuildings. Ferrin valued the improvements at $5,000. In 1914, he secured a lucrative contract to supply beef to the Reclamation Service at the Jackson Lake Dam. Ferrin purchased other homesteads in the vicinity of his ranch, buying the Thompson homestead in 1911, Joe Heniger's place in 1914, Marius Kristensen's property in 1918, the Elk Ranch in 1920, the McInelly's 520 acres in 1927, and the old Thornton homestead in 1928. 
The Ferrins prospered during these years. A large family, Si and Emmeline Heniger Ferrin had five sons before she died in 1904. Ferrin married Edith McInelly in 1905, and they had nine more children, four sons and five daughters. As the sons came of age, they took up homesteads, adding to the Ferrin empire. Curtis Ferrin filed a 160-acre entry in October 1917, just before he enlisted in the army. He later died of influenza in Europe. Leonard Ferrin filed a 640-acre stock-raising entry in 1920, grazing 400 cattle on the tract for two months per year. Cyrus Ray Ferrin filed a stock-raising homestead in 1923, grazing 200 head of cattle and horses on the property each summer. 
After he bought out Skinner, Ferrin purchased 800 yearlings and 1,100 calves. During the 1920s, the Ferrins owned between 1,200 and 2,000 head of cattle. The Elk Ranch was the largest outfit in Jackson Hole during these years. Despite or perhaps because of depressed cattle prices, Ferrin mortgaged his property for a total of $205,362 to finance his operation. According to county records, he paid off the loan, except for $15,000. At the old Kusche homestead, Ferrin installed a water-powered sawmill and constructed frame buildings that included a house, barns, machine sheds, and shops. According to Ferrin's daughter, Ada Clark, the house burned.  Three frame buildings and a concrete spring house remain at the site today. By the time the family sold their holdings to the Snake River Land Company in 1928 and 1929, Si Ferrin owned 1,708.74 acres, Ray Ferrin had 643.57 acres, Leonard Ferrin had 640 acres, and the family owned another 640 acres, for a total of 3,629.09 acres. The company paid them $114,662.12 for their land and improvements. 
Ferrin divided the money among his family and invested in cattle, starting a feedlot operation in Sugar City, Idaho. From 1929 through 1933, his son Merritt Ferrin ran the feedlot. Si Ferrin went bankrupt during the depression. According to Ada Clark, he lost everything in the stock market collapse of 1929. Other sources suggest that Ferrin went bankrupt in the early 1930s. Calf prices dropped to $6 per hundredweight in October 1931, then to $4.06 the next year. Ferrin never quite recovered from the blow and this, along with poor health and accidents, "caused Cy [sic] to cease all active pursuits." 
In his last years Ferrin worked for his brother-in-law, Ben Goe, at the Cowboy Bar in Jackson as a night watchman, and a shill at the gaming tables. According to one popular story, one morning he mistook his reflection in the mirror behind the bar for an intruder, drew his sidearm, and shot out the mirror. However, Ferrin should be remembered for his success as a farmer, a game warden and, for a time, as a cattleman. If Jackson Hole ever had a cattle baron, Si Ferrin perhaps fit the role as well as any other rancher in the valley. 
The Snake River Land Company fenced their holdings in this area and continued to raise hay. Thus, the Elk Ranch of the 1930s and 1940s encompassed the Ferrins' land and other ranches as well. In the 1940s, the Jackson Hole Preserve leased the property for cattle ranching to support of the war effort. Today, the National Park Service leases much of the Elk Ranch for grazing, as part of a land exchange made in the 1950s.
J. D. "Ted" and Chester Pederson began consolidating ranches in the Gros Ventre River area in 1909, forming the JP Ranch Company. Ted Pederson's interest in Remington Arms kept him in the East for most of the year; nevertheless, his family formed the JP Ranch Company and initiated an ambitious land acquisition and development program. Beginning with the Joe LaPlante homestead in November 1909, J. D. Pederson began purchasing homesteads south of the Gros Ventre River. The next year, Maggie Adams sold her 320-acre tract to the JP Ranch. "Chess" Pederson received a patent to a homestead entry on Botcher Hill. In 1920 they added the Agnes Geisendorfer and August Romey homesteads farther up the Gros Ventre River. By then, the JP Ranch consisted of more than 1,600 acres south of the Gros Ventre River. 
The JP Ranch also invested considerable sums of money into their operations. Early in 1914, they purchased a new oil tractor for the spring planting season. This machine was responsible for the mysterious noises that echoed throughout the upper Flat Creek area, arousing both fear and curiosity among the homesteaders. In 1920, the Courier reported that the JP Ranch had launched an extensive improvement program. Carpenters built a bunkhouse, tool shed, barns, and remodeled several houses. To improve the irrigation system, five wells were drilled, and ditches were dug to bring water to 1,500 acres of land. Also, the Pedersons constructed a large two-story log home, one of the finest in the valley. 
The family soon got into financial trouble. First, the slump in cattle prices in the 1920s cut the potential income of the ranch. Second, they overextended themselves, buying too much land and investing too much money into improvements. The Pedersons mortgaged their lands in the 1920s, and in 1929, Mr. C. Bakker, a citizen of the Netherlands, initiated foreclosure proceedings for failure to pay a $15,000 mortgage taken out in 1917. The Snake River Land Company purchased the outstanding mortgages, paid off liens on the JP lands, and secured quit-claim deeds from the family and outside parties with financial claims. The company spent a minimum of $17,887.75 in securing the JP Ranch. They certainly spent more, but company records of this transaction are incomplete. By 1927, the Pedersons gave up on the ranch and moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho. The rise of the JP Ranch Company between 1910 and 1920 was significant. The Pedersons could have developed one of the largest ranches in the valley, but their financial collapse was the most notable bankruptcy in Jackson Hole during the 1920s. 
While the JP Ranch failed, there were success stories as well. Gerrit Hardeman immigrated to the United States in 1910 at the age of 19. Born in Teerseen, Netherlands, in 1891, Hardeman was the youngest of ten children. After working in Iowa for a year or two, he came to Jackson Hole in 1911 or 1912. He worked at a variety of jobs for R. E. Miller and others as a farm laborer, teamster, and timber cutter, saving as much of his wages as possible. In 1919, Hardeman had saved enough to buy the 160-acre dryland farm of Charles and Helena Davis for $2,500.
In 1915, the Davises had homesteaded a quarter section in the eastern portion of today's park, about one mile south of Ditch Creek. Davis filed final proof papers in 1918; his improvements included a one-room log cabin (14 x 16 feet), a stable (18 x 24 feet), a potato cellar (10 x 12 feet), 35 acres cultivated for oat hay, and a three-wire post fence and a three-pole, one-wire, buck fence. Hardeman continued to work at other jobs while he cultivated crops on his farm. He planted a crop each spring, then hauled freight for customers, among them the Reclamation Service, the Sheffields at Moran, Jimmy Simpson, who owned the Kelly Store, and the Kneedys, who established the valley's only flour mill at Kelly. In 1922, Hardeman married Alta Lamar Crandall, the daughter of the Crandalls who owned the old Lee Roadhouse on the Teton Pass Road.
Moving onto the Davis homestead, the Hardemans made the place as self-sufficient as possible. They raised chickens, kept a cow to provide milk and butter, raised a large garden, and canned up to 300 quarts of peaches, and 100 quarts of elk meat per year. Gerrit Hardeman suffered several setbacks in the early years. The drought of 1919 wiped out his first crop. This disaster forced Hardeman to cut native grass from the meadowlands near Moran to provide feed for his teams. In the 1920s, the newlyweds started raising cattle. When they shipped their first steers to Omaha, they expected to realize a tidy return. Instead, Hardeman received much less than he had anticipated and suspected that the commission men contracted to sell the cattle had taken advantage of him. In June 1924, a fire swept through the homestead. A spark from the cook-stove chimney ignited a pile of straw and quickly spread out of control. The fire destroyed the barn, storehouse, and granary; in addition, they lost their chickens and $1,000 worth of grain. Gerrit and Lamar Hardeman could have given up, but they rebuilt the ranch.
In June 1926, Hardeman filed papers on a 280-acre relinquishment located in Section 25, adjacent to his homestead. From 1927 through 1929, he cleared and cultivated 45 acres, raising grass clover for livestock. The improvements consisted of a one-room log cabin (18 x 20 feet) built by the previous occupant, a barn (12 x 16 feet), a corral, and a three-pole, one-wire buck fence. The General Land Office issued a patent for the acreage on June 4, 1930. The Hardemans added to their holdings in 1943, when they purchased the Luther Taylor homestead for $2,600, plus added another 40 acres owned by William Taylor. On their 640-acre ranch, the Hardemans and their sons built up one of the finest cattle ranches in Jackson Hole. Determined never to be dependent on cattle brokers again, Hardeman decided to raise purebred Hereford cattle and sell them locally to ranchers who sought to improve the quality of their stock. The family built a solid reputation in the regional cattle industry for the quality of their Herefords. In 1948, experts from the University of Wyoming proclaimed their cattle among the best in Wyoming.
In 1955, the Hardemans sold their ranch to the National Park Service for $100,000 and moved their outfit to a ranch at Wilson, Wyoming. Their sons, Earl and Howdy Hardeman, continued to operate one of the few remaining ranches in Jackson Hole into the 1990s. They have since retired, selling some of the ranch for subdivisions and renting the remainder of the ranch. Much has been written about the thousands of immigrants who settled the West only to be broken by an unpredictable environment, economic conditions, and growing corporate control of the land and resources. Gerrit and Alta Lamar Hardeman's experience tells another story. A 19-year-old native of the Netherlands came to the United States and through hard work, thrift, and sound management established one of the best ranches in Jackson Hole. Others who developed ranches through individual efforts that were known for the quality of their livestock were Walter and Ed Feuz, James Boyle, Peter Hansen and later Clifford Hansen, Rod and Phil Lucas, Bruce Porter, Amasa James, Boyd Charter, and Jim Imeson. 
The emergence of "gentlemen ranchers" began in the 1930s. These were people who had made fortunes in other enterprises, bought up cattle ranches and other lands for a variety of reasonsbut did not depend on cattle ranching for their livelihood. Many had been introduced to the valley as guests at dude ranches. Stanley Resor made a fortune as president of one of the world's most prominent advertising agencies, the J. Walter Thompson Company. In the 1920s and 1930s, he bought up ranches north and south of Wilson, Wyoming, establishing one of the valley's largest ranches. In the north end of the valley along the Buffalo Fork, the Cockrell family, who earned a fortune in the oil business, bought the Noble Gregory Ranch in 1942 and continued to raise cattle.
Bill and Eileen Hunter purchased the old Jim Williams ranch from Ida Redmond in 1946. The Hunters retired from the retail auto sales business in 1950 and moved from Kemmerer, Wyoming, to their ranch, "where they planned to spend the rest of their lives enjoying a well-earned vacation." As a hobby, they decided to raise Herefords and purchased some from Gerrit Hardeman. Most of the present buildings were designed by a Salt Lake City architect and constructed in the late 1940s. Bill Hunter died in 1951, scarcely a year after retirement. Mrs. Hunter sold out to the National Park Service and spent summers on the ranch until her death in 1985. 
Cattle ranching has declined in Jackson Hole over the last 30 years. Land values skyrocketed as the town of Jackson developed a tourism-based economy and the community has pushed to expand the tourist season from three months to year round. In particular, the construction of Teton Village in the 1960s accelerated this trend. Coupled with difficult economic times for agriculture, escalating land prices have proven irresistible to ranchers, who have sold all or portions of their ranches for resorts or residential subdivisions.
Over the long term, the future of cattle ranching is bleak in Jackson Hole. Earl Hardeman summed up the current state of the cattle business succinctly. He believed that Jackson Hole ranchers raised "cattle as good as you'll find anyplace in the world . . ." but cited the high overhead of ranching caused by the need to feed cattle six months per year as a cause for the decline. Further, as ranchers sold out, mutual support declined. Hardeman believed this made it more difficult for ranchers as "you kind of need to be in a place where there are all cow people. You know, it's just better if you all have the same kind of problems. Now, we're ranching in a subdivision really, and it creates a lot of problems." Moreover, ranches no longer are as self-sufficient as in the past. "We once had more ways of really trying to make it. We had the garden, we had the milk cow, we had the pigs. Now we go to the supermarket," Hardeman observed.
In 1986, Hardeman predicted that "in 20 to 25 years, there won't be another mother cow raised in Jackson Hole." 
Ranching also had a significant impact on the ecology of Jackson Hole. Cattle ranching represented an adaptation to the land west of the 100th meridian, as ranchers introduced techniques such as irrigation and dry farming, as well as domestic livestock and plants. Grazing affected the native vegetation, while overgrazing depleted range land. Settlers displaced or eradicated wildlife. Wolves were exterminated systematically to extinction. Settlers plowed and fenced lands that served as migratory routes and winter range for elk and pronghorn. Today, the Jackson Hole elk herd survives on one-quarter of its historic winter range, and must be fed during the severest winter days at the refuge. Up to 1906, settlers reported an annual migration of pronghorn, more commonly known as antelope, into the valley. W. C. Deloney recalled that hundreds of antelope migrated into Jackson Hole from the Green River Valley via the Hoback. At Granite Creek, the herd split. One group crossed the divide into the Cache Creek drainage; the other herd followed the Hoback into Jackson Hole. Deloney described the migration as a string consisting of thousands of animals that took several days to pass his store at the Jackson townsite. Although accepting his estimate of numbers takes some credulity, other accounts confirm Deloney's story, with the exception of his estimates. The antelope failed to return in 1907. Only strict protective regulations restored the antelope to Jackson Hole in the 1950s. In 1906, the Wyoming pronghorn population was 2,000; in 1952, it numbered 100,000. In 1958, the Grand Teton National Park Superintendent's Report for June confirmed antelope sightings in the Antelope Flats area and near the Jenny Lake Store. 
Cattle ranching is most important to the valley's history because it anchored early settlement in the valley, providing an economic base and the stability needed to establish viable communities. Ranching became and remained the economic mainstay through the World War II, when the tourist industry displaced it. The rancher and cowpuncher left a tradition that continues to be an important element of Jackson Hole's self-image.
Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004